Tuesday, December 29, 2009

upside down

New person: They came into your life and turned it upside down. Who is your unsung hero of 2009?

I have to say that the newest and most influential "person" in my life this year is: Swedes. The ones I met and befriended, all of them. Although I know they aren't exactly unsung, at least on this blog. ;)With the first one I met and then it continued with every consecutive one I got to know, I discovered how well we got along, how much I loved their various perspectives, was amused by their observations, intrigued by their language, delighted by their customs, and blessed by their real friendship. One of them told me when they were doing intercultural training to prepare for their year in America that they were told, "It's really hard to get close to Americans. You will have a hard time knowing if they mean it when they say they want to hang out or follow through with you. 'Let's get a beer/pizza' or 'Give me your number, come over to my place next week!' These phrases can just be niceties, not as meaningful as you might expect. They are so friendly but the connections they make can be more transient."
When I heard this, everything in me wanted to be different. I already knew that I had proved that it was with me, but I knew that these friends were ones I was absolutely going to see again, and hopefully again, someday. They laugh and dance and wonder and plan and believe and challenge me and care in ways that make it seem like I was always supposed to be friends with them, and in 2009 that time arrived.

Puss och kram, min svenskar.

Saturday, December 26, 2009

whimsical christmas

On Christmas night I step out into the below freezing air. There are so many stars in the sky, many more than I can usually see in Santa Barbara. Dark trees stretch their triangular shapes up into the night. I take each step solidly, being sure that my wimpy southern California boots don't slip on the ice patches. I'm heading away from the house on the side of the mountain and into the surrounding forest. I come to stairs carved into the hill, set with logs carved in half. I head down into a ravine and a strand of brightly glowing green christmas lights illuminate the path. It's an unnatural glow, ethereal, but it doesn't seem out of place here.

Halfway down the path a glass and metal lantern hangs from a low branch, a tiny candle burning inside. The path leads to a wood platform. It stretches out over the ravine until it's over twenty feet above the ground. Huge beams are in place, holding it up securely. I walk out to the furthest section. A thick, twisted twine rope stretches around each edge, waist high, the only thing that really is supposed to keep anyone from falling off. A firepit sits in the center, logs packed in tight, flames lighting up the deck and bringing us in with their warmth. I sit down, pull in close, and sit quietly around with my brother and sister and dad. It's been a long day, and the day will be long tomorrow too, so we don't say much, just look up at the stars. I couldn't see as many from this place as I could before I descended the path, now the moss covered trees obscured many of them. I've always loved that moss... when we were younger and played pretend games on the other side of the hill we would collect that moss to create our forest beds. It always made the forest look more mythical and mysterious, hanging gently from a majority of the trees, so very light green. So even though less stars were visible, the moon was still clearly seen and bright, perfectly halved, claiming the top center of the night sky. I stayed there, warm by the fire, and loving the reminder of just how lovely the cold weather and wilderness are. I don't get enough of either. I want to stay all night, and come back the next day and the next... but my life thirteen hours away demanded me back, and I had to reluctantly answer to it.

I rose and passed a massive, reinforced tent/house. On the other part of the platform. My dad's treehouse. He lives there, most of the time, for now. Instead of down in town, and usually instead of with my grandma up on the hill where I was staying. He built us a treehouse when we were kids. Now we sat around a bonfire with him in his actual tree House. I walked back along the magical greenly lit steps to go to bed.

Some have wondered where I get my whimsy from... much of it is from what happens in the forest in Oregon.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

growing up and away

Learning experience: What was a lesson you learned this year that changed you?

I learned other lessons that were more important than this one, but I've touched on them before and will mention them again in my year wrap-up.
But this lesson was hard, sad, and instructional. I wish to mention it once, briefly, and no more.

It was that the friend you trust with everything, all your secrets and contemplations and desires, when you are 26 may not be who you can trust with all those things when you are 27. And it's not because of some explosive dramatic event. It is realized slowly, painfully. A morning in May with thoughts tripping over each other in confusion and hurt. A night in July where I think maybe I'll try to untangle it all, and decide that I don't know how. Not sure if untangling will be possible or help, or if they will really understand themselves enough to know what to say. An afternoon in October where I realize I've mostly forgiven but that it won't ever be the same.

This sounds dramatic and it wasn't really. In a life so blessed and rosy as mine, it was just a low point to learn that not all relationships can be kept the way I want them. That was obvious when I was younger, but hasn't been during my twenties when one assumes that friendships have become static and stable. And it's possible I've let people down in similar ways, and for that I am sorry.

the beacon

"The best place: A coffee shop? A pub? A retreat center? A cubicle? A nook?"

My loft. The one just underneath the slanting wood beam ceiling in my cottage, that holds my bed and some books and my favorite wood and paper lamp. I looked forward to this element the most when I moved into my cottage back in January. It seemed romantic and private and wintry cabin-like. And it is. If it was mine as a kid there would have been no limits to the pretend games I would have created up there. However, I have cursed it many times... when I have to gingerly climb down in the middle of the night if nature calls, which totally wakes you up because if you aren't totally alert you will fall and die. I've also cursed it for being the place where I have to sleep in summer heatwaves because the hot air collects up there like crazy. I curse it when I have to change my sheets because that job is awkward and takes forever when your bed is on a wood floor but the ceiling is just above your head while you're kneeling.

But mostly, I think it is cozy and I will miss it the day I don't have it anymore. It is a place where you sleep and the rain will beat down just feet away from you. It's a place where I become drowsy while I read too late into the night, although I actually don't do this enough. It's a place to lay under my silk comforter and talk to someone next to me about what the future looks like, about history, about music, about growing up, and so many things. It's where I fall asleep sometimes to my ipod. It's where I couldn't sleep and sometimes cried at various points. I've sat there and thrown pillows down at people. I've sat there with some favorite friends and talked about love and life. I have felt the most alone there, and I have felt the most companionship there. There's been lots of kissing there. You can hide in the loft... sit on the bed against the wall and reach your feet out to rest along the beams of the ceiling and pretend there is no responsibility or things to do, and just dream.

The light up there has been named the beacon, and sometimes I go up and light the beacon just so that later in the night when I'm downstairs it will call me to bed earlier. I actually don't spend as much time there as I would like. I plan to do more, as long as it is mine.

Sunday, December 20, 2009

leave the world behind

"Rush: When did you get your best rush of the year?"

Best rush... well, I went over some Class IV rapids in the rain on a boogie board in a foreign country. But that wasn't what I would call a rush for me... It was terrifying and character-building and is a whole other story.

I stood in a sea of people in front of a huge stage. Lights flashed and the crowd around us pulsated to the beat. Fists raised and pumped the air along with the bass. On stage was a DJ, working up a sweat, smiling a mile wide, nodding his head to the music that he was creating. House music. Dance, electronic, club music... remixed... blended together... 80's songs blended in with the climaxing beat. I had never really known what house music was until three months before. And then it still took me awhile to understand it and realize the good, the great, in it... how you can dance mildly without thinking for most of it and then when the beat really hits you can jump and punch the air like your life depended it. It's feeling the music in a way that can be sustained longer than your favorite hip hop jam, in a more physical way than your favorite acoustic melody. So there I was, in the heart of Hollywood, under a Swedish flag, with friends all around, the guy who introduced me to this music stood behind me, hands on my shoulders, smiling a mile wide as well, it was 3 a.m., in high heels that didn't hurt after dancing for 5 hours, with the incredible rush of this new music experience. The rush of being somewhere and doing something I never imagined being or doing. Something told me that I should feel like being up that late, dancing for that long, pumping my fist toward the stage was somehow too edgy and wild. But it really was an experience I knew I'd always remember, that set me free in a tiny way.

My arm was sore the next day from pumping to the beat. In the months to come my legs would be sore from the running that such music would induce. Such a rush... and certainly in a way, one of the best of 2009.

Friday, December 18, 2009

forks and spoons

I just discovered this challenge a couple days ago, and I'm just going to use it however I want to in order to inspire my writing for the rest of the month...

"Restaurant moment: Share the best restaurant experience you had this year. Who was there? What made it amazing? What taste stands out in your mind?"

It was such a culinary and social year, I have more than one...

1) The air is warm and slightly breezy. The evening is waning but the sun is only slowly making its way down to the water, dodging the sail masts that cover the horizon. Stephen and I each had a beer, and it tasted like lifewater at that moment. Our dishes were incredible, fish with some gourmet mashed potatoes... we laughed as we realized that in New Zealand "entree" meant "appetizer", so we ended up ordering a few more starters to fill up, some sweet potato fries and shrimp cocktail. There wasn't too much to say, we just reveled in our first dinner in Auckland and the soothing jazzy live music accompanying our meal. We'd soon find out that live music at dinner seems to be the law in that country, and we would delight in it the weeks to come. The singer, with his long dreds and lilting voice, sang Sting's "Fields of Gold" and I thought about how I'd made my dream come true by being there.

2) There are old and new friends around me and some that I've just met. The smell of meat and tomatoes and fish is heavy in the air. Candles are lit and sitting everywhere. To us Americans many of the dishes looked odd and questionable, to our Swedish friends they looked like Midsummer dinner, Christmas dinner, Mom's table at home. They had been preparing for hours to give us and themselves a taste of home. Their special brands of schnaps sat on the table. We dove into the meal... I loved every bite. The herring in the mustard. The meatballs. The little sausages. Then we picked up the folded lyrics by our plates, poured ourselves shots of schnaps, and sang Swedish toasting songs together. In Swedish. We attempted them in a rough English translation. We all laughed and laughed and laughed. I marvelled and drank in this culture that loves to create a meal together, insists on wearing their nice clothes to sit down and enjoy it, sings silly songs afterwards while they enjoy wine, and believes that the night is just beginning at 11:30 pm when all that was done and it was time to go dance.

3) It was the Fourth of July and I sat across from the beach at the Fishhouse with my mom and stepdad. Our table was next to the bonfire on the patio. My salmon was amazing, as salmon always is. The wine was light and crisp. People were flooding the beach, the pier, the streets, the grass... I was overwhelmed at all the people out in my beautiful town for this holiday. As it got dark and the first firecracker lit up the sky, everyone hushed up, and we turned away from our table to watch the gold, red, white and blue explosions in the sky, framed by silhouetted palm trees. I had never before been so achingly in love with my city. And it was that weekend in realizing how great my love was, but confronting the fact that I was still faced with this growing, undefinable desire to experience something new and far away, that I made plans for 2010 that will likely take me away from this beach city I'm in such a deep relationship with.

4) We sat around a table, drinking sangria, in the city that never sleeps... the city of lights... Las Vegas. I had turned 27 that very day. Friends surrounded me, ones that I've known for years and a couple that were brand new but already had fastened themselves to my heart. The tapas were the best we'd ever had. The paella met every expectation. When the servers brought out the tiniest little slice of chocolate torte, with a lit candle stuck in it, and everyone began singing happy birthday, I was smiling so very very hard, harder than I could remember smiling in a long time, I couldn't wipe it off, it was so hard I thought I'd be sore... I was so very happy, the moment was perfect, I loved my friends so much, and I was so grateful for the year that was 26 and thrilled for the year that would be 27.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

some rest for the weary

My grandma got on facebook earlier this year. She spent some time looking through my photos from the first few months of 2009 and then sent me a message, saying, "Your life makes me dizzy!" It does the same thing to me, but I almost always enjoy it, pushing for more, never saying no to anything. It's almost impossible for me to say no to fun, to being social, to spontaneity, to people...

And then my Introversion creeps in. Every couple of weeks when I haven't had the standard amount of hours spent at home alone in my personal space, thoughts, song lyrics research, writing, etc I can feel myself build up a bit of a wall. Ignoring calls, neglecting errands, just aching for some quiet time. I can hear the edge in my voice if a friend or family member asks something of me or tries to get me out somewhere. This fall roared in like a lion, and is going out in the same way, and I am weary. I have had too much of everything, and been enjoying it, but have sensed this week that the holiday break away from my life couldn't come soon enough.

So while a 12 hour drive up to Oregon (which I plan to split over two days) is usually daunting and unfavorable, right now I am positive that what awaits me there is so exactly what I need that I'm looking forward to the journey. Some quiet in the middle of the mountains and forest. Cold and maybe snow. Big jackets, scarves, some quality reading, and soup made by loving relatives. Some tree chopping with my dad. A peaceful chat with my Grandma on the couch, overlooking the view with no houses in sight, sharing the endless amazing crazy stories of this past year... so happy that they happened, but definitely glad to not be in one of them that moment.

All this dizziness... I need to get my head on straight.

Sunday, December 6, 2009

everything leaves a mark

at least with me, it does.

more on that later... but first, it's strange, this feeling that grows, month by month... that I just don't want to feel attached...emotionally... to anything that has the potential to a) hurt me b) make me feel crazy or c) tie me down.

because a) i've been there, too recently, and i'm not up for it right now b) this moment, my right now, has been so wonderful lately that i don't want to be wondering about anything, anyone, waiting for my phone to light up, my email inbox to fill, my thoughts to settle down. and c) i have plans. exciting ones, that feel right, and have pushed me to action and to dreams of great things. and i'm afraid of something happening that i won't be able to turn away from in order to press forward.

there are so very few things that cause the former a, b, and c to happen. the main one is a boy. and because i know that, i can feel just how protected i've become. i'm bolder, more laid-back, yet more straightforward... all these things laid layer after layer over the part of me that can hurt. and i hear myself say things i have never said, like "well you live out of town, and i don't want to be thinking about you when you leave. i don't want things to be complicated for me." it doesn't sound like me but i meant it.

and the next day i wonder if i really did mean it. i remember the delight that came over me when i felt a tug on the back of my white winter coat, and turned around to see him. i'd thought all day about him, wishing that i'd gotten more than his first name after talking to him for so long with my friends the night before. i knew he was only here for a day or two and then was going back up north, and i really doubted he'd be at the same place, same time, two nights in a row. and three seconds after walking in, there he was, behind me, towering over me, grinning. laughter, cigars, each others' friends, dancing, racing in shopping carts, wine and youtube videos, and then we were alone. and i say what i said, that i don't want complicated. and even though that's true, with me, nights like that leave a mark. doesn't really matter what happens afterwards, but people have never been dispensable to me, and really great moments aren't either.

so today i have been wondering what to do with all that. wondering about when feelings contradict each other. and when you wish you didn't feel at all. and worrying about the increasing moments when i'm not allowing myself to feel, when a, b or c are threatened.

"And we are so fragile,
And our cracking bones make noise,
And we are just,
Breakable, breakable, breakable girls and boys."
-Ingrid Michaelson

Monday, November 30, 2009

the force behind you

A parent of a student I work with the most wrote to me recently, and commented that it seemed that my method of getting students to respect me and get work done and do what I ask can be most closely related to "talk softly but carry a big stick."

I stopped to pause on that, and my first reaction was really, "But I have no stick!"

I don't have anything that I can use to discipline the teenagers I work with, no major consequences for them to hold up behind me as I speak gently to them face to face. I also don't have some sort of quiet rage or passive aggressiveness that might guilt others or put fear into people so that they act.

So if that impression has been made, that my approach is to talk softly and carry a big stick, I must have some sort of proverbial stick. I don't like the forceful and potentially physical connotations of that, and I know the parent meant it in a positive way. So what is my stick, the force behind whatever authority and respect and productivity that comes from the students I work with?

It's something I've been thinking about. I think it has to do with confidence, instilled by my parents and the fact that they commanded respect and taught me that I deserve it. It has to do with conviction, my belief in what is right and what is necessary and what is true. It is not true to tell a student it is okay that they have not kept their word, to just sit by while they offer meaningless excuses. And it has to do with my pride, in both good ways and bad, in ways that I will keep thinking about.

I wonder if you feel like you have a "stick", and if it has any effects on others, either positive or negative, and what forces created the stick and keep it in line behind you, whether you speak loudly or softly...

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

but i do.

Starbucks holiday decor this season...

But I remember. Don't you?

Not just vague memories, but actually what it was like...

Four years old, riding my tricycle around the court I lived in, yelling at the top of my lungs, "I have a new baby brother! There is a new person in this world!" Elated and mystified.

Seven years old, in second grade, going into the kindergarten class at lunch to help the teacher with the "little kids". I remember that I recognized the sound of my mom's keychain clinking when she arrived at the playground to drop off my younger sister, and ran out to give her a hug.

Nine years old, the first signs of a girl who would for years into her adulthood get crazy private and embarrassed about boys... I sat across the table from a cute sweet boy named Jacob in Mrs. Schafer's class, and one day he held up a composition notebook in front of his face towards me, open to a page where he had written "It is true. I like you." I turned away, a deep shade of red, and didn't speak to him for weeks.

Eleven years old, straddling the brink between childhood and adolescence, playing pretend games in a treehouse in my backyard with my best friend but at school discussing how many boyfriends Katrina had and having my first boyfriend for three days, dumping him after he told everyone in P.E. that we were going out. I do remember being aware of the tension between the two different sides of my growing up self.

Thirteen years old, so much happened that year...I remember most of it...being tremendously upset that in the final semester of eighth grade I was to get my first B+ in a class, Algebra, my perfect A streak for all of middle school, ruined...the hours after school divided between marching band practice, soccer games, and babysitting... the moment I sat with my family in the living room, face stone cold, as my parents said they were separating and we were going to move out of my childhood home.

And then, when would you say being a kid ends? When you stop playing Marco Polo and lay out by the pool instead? After your last pretend game? When you get your license? When you move away from home?

I don't think, for me, it will ever truly end. You can't say you aren't at least still part kid, when you are twenty seven and on a Saturday night you skip along the streets as you head downtown, singing Disney songs in a round with your friends... high heels, nylons, and laughing bystanders be damned.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

grey sweatpants

It was a lazy Sunday in November. My friends in my dorm suite and I were lounging on bunk beds, chirping away about the details of our group date the night before, where we'd each been set up with a guy our roommates picked. There were so many things to discuss, but we were tired, a few of us had been up until 5 am. Casey was playing her new favorite singer in the background, whom she'd been declaring her love for all week. I thought his name was so boring, I didn't pay attention. But that mellow Sunday, where we were unable to be productive and could only just be, I could hear the lyrics and absorb the melody of the song she loved so much...

"I loved you
grey sweat pants, no makeup, so perfect

Our love was, comfortable and
so broken in
she's perfect, so flawless
I'm not impressed, I want you back."

That day, eight years ago, is when I fell in love with John Mayer. We didn't want to leave him in the room when we went out that night to watch the meteor shower, so we brought a cd player as we lay on blankets on some Montecito hill under the stars.

Since then, each time a new album of his comes out, it goes like this... I have been awaiting it, had some clues about the content, and then when I finally have it, I listen to it over and over again... and over again... on long drives, as I go to sleep, as I clean my house. I have to get to know it, get past my first and second impressions, and the songs become like friends and a part of my life's soundtrack. I don't always love every song, but I always have a relationship with each album, particular to its scope and the feel that the sequence of tracks gives me.

I've hardly felt more content than in the quiet moments spread throughout this past crazy week where I've listened to bits and pieces of Battle Studies, looking up the lyrics and writing my thoughts about them to a friend who loves him equally if not more. The album is officially available today. My love for John... it's so... comfortable. Broken in, really. And wholy unconditional.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

in the middle

It's known that I like to guess people's Myers Briggs letters... I can't help it, it is subconscious really, happening under the surface of my in-the-moment interactions with each new or not-so-new person I meet. It's not with everyone, everytime, but often. But I can be pretty wrong sometimes. Meanwhile, I'm trying a new method of understanding people a little better... much simpler, easier to figure out immediately, and doesn't reveal how much of a psychology nerd I am...

He stood by the entrance to the dressing room, among the headbands and necklaces of the girls section. He was so patient, waiting around for us girls as we shopped and tried things on. Very much a gentleman, this guy, also extremely stylish, but with an ever-so-slight air of being out of his comfort zone, laughing a bit at the girlishness all around him. I paused whatever else we were talking about and asked him, "Do you not have any sisters?"
"No," he laughed. "I don't. I have two brothers, and my mother is not very girly at all."
"So there's three boys then," I confirmed, and he nodded. "So, are you the middle brother?"
He tilted his head in a bit of surprise, and said, "Yeah, I am! How did you guess?"

Then I felt a little hesitant, I haven't really done such a direct and accurate guess before with someone I have known such a short time. I didn't know how to answer without giving away that I am maybe too observant and then too quick to categorize my information. But he had some really precise personal qualities, ones that didn't only speak to being Scandinavian. He was very neat and organized and disciplined and driven but laid-back and somewhat spontaneous. He was a friend of my friend, and had been the best host to four girls he didn't really know...preparing amazing cocktails, buying magazines in case we wanted to read by the pool, and making gourmet sandwiches for everyone at 3 am.

"Well, I don't know, I just kinda like guessing sibling order, it's a thing I do," I tried to shrug off the responsibility of an answer.
"No come on, you must have reasons behind your guesses! Why did you say the middle?" he pushed. I tried one more time to evade him, he wasn't having it.
"Okay, well you are organized and put-together, ambitious I think, and are good at directing a group. The youngest sibling tends to not have all those qualities, but the oldest would have more of a bossy element to them, less people-pleasing, not quite as mellow as you. So that's why I wouldn't have gone for oldest either."
"You are pretty right, I would say," he said with an amused smile. I don't think everyone likes the feeling that someone is looking deeper than the momentary interactions with them. I know not everyone does. And I know I will be wrong as often as I am right. But I love that moment when someone is pleasantly surprised by it. To those who feel unsettled by feeling known, even a little, I'll try to keep my mouth shut.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

November on State

I don't know what to say about this one, really. I don't know what I think. I can tell a bit of the story though...

It was Saturday night. I had a great new dress on. Karen was by my side. I never play poker, I hate it, but we were at a fabulous Casino Night Fundraiser, and three drinks in, having a blast at the blackjack table. I didn't really care if I won or lost. We stayed at the table for a long time, people we knew and didn't know coming and going from the spots around us. I was aware that a man had come to my right, between me and one of my friend's husbands. A few minutes later, my friend's husband motioned to me, saying to the guy, "Talk to her about Sweden, I think she might even speak a little Swedish!"

The man looked at me curiously, asking if it was true. And there was that familiar accent. I nodded with an embarrassed smile and replied:

"Ja, jag pratar lite svenska." (Yes, I speak a little Swedish)

I thought the guy might fall over. "Är du svensk?!" (Are you Swedish?!) he questioned.

"Nej, jag är amerikan," I said, secretly proud that he couldn't hear my accent, for those phrases at least. We started talking, discussing what he was doing here, my connection to Sweden, and whatever else came up. Our chips lay on the table, bets lost and forgotten, at least for the moment. He was older, that was clear, how much older, I couldn't tell. Wisdom lines around his eyes told me at least that I likely wouldn't have been even thinking about college while he was attending it.

By the time we parted ways later, after my friends and his were all mingling and eating and drinking at Joe's after the event, he'd made it clear that he wanted to see me again. He was here for business, and was going to be gone again in a few days, to maybe return in a month or two. I wasn't sure what I thought about him, but I was intrigued, so I knew I probably agree to hang out again. We said goodbye, and I laughed to myself. State Street in November, you've done it to me again, a different Swede, a new year.

And now, on Thursday, after a couple long dates, and he's gone on a plane back across the world, I can see three missed calls from him. From right before his flight took off. And I just keep thinking about what he said shortly before we said goodbye, he was describing me, to me..."This is what amazes me... You are intelligent, in a scary way. You are strong, and very competitive. You're curious and interesting. And, you're fragile."

"Fragile?" I said, confused.

"Yes, fragile. You care about things, people, deeply. You let them in, and that makes you vulnerable. You're delicate in that way, fragile."

Okay, so... fragile. I am trying to reconcile this with what I was told by a best friend this year, that I'm emotionally strong. I proudly agreed with her, that I'd come a long way and considered myself to have a heart of steel, soft inside but protected and direct on the outside. Am I more vulnerable than I ever admit? Fragile but lightning quick at covering it up? And how did this guy pick up on that?

And what do I do about him, especially when I don't want anything from any man right now? And why do I feel I need to decide what to do... can't I just...be?

Thursday, November 5, 2009

the most important meal

I was finishing a run in my neighborhood today, and was coming around the last charming rectangular block before the home stretch. A couple houses in front of me I could see a white-haired old man make a turn up a driveway in his motorized wheelchair. He stayed in place as I ambled by. My ipod was playing the song I plan to use as the soundtrack for my year-end slideshow in a couple months, and I had the volume so loud that I couldn't hear a word from him as I passed by and saw him saying something to me. I was hesitant to know what a possibly senile and fragile man could have to say to me while I was trying to mind my own aerobic business. I stopped and pulled one earphone out.

"What?" I said.

"Have you had breakfast yet?" he asked.

I was surprised by the question, and instantly a tiny bit defensive, like, I don't want to be given a lecture by this grandpa. The truth was, I hadn't yet, which was rare, since it was about 11:30 am.

"Uh, not yet, I'm doing that when I get home!" I responded

"Well here!" he motioned over and fished around in a plastic grocery bag he had in his basket. He pulled out a NutriGrain Bar. I came forward, stunned, but trying to only show polite gratefulness. Once I was nearer I could see just how much he looked like my Great Uncle Bill, who passed away a few years ago.

"Thank you, sir!" I said with a smile. He smiled back. And that was all he wanted to do, just give me breakfast. I wondered how long this whitehaired man hadn't been able to just walk to the store, instead needing this motorized chair. "Have a nice day," I added.

I ran the last block home and ate the bar immediately. Mixed Berry... it's always been my favorite.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009


I never do Facebook applications. But tonight I did, because the History of my Status Updates was a bit intriguing to me...
And this is one of the things that I learned from it:

Corinne's Most Used Words Are:
#1: night
#2: summer
#3: beach
#4: stars
#5: warm

If that doesn't nail the life I lead and love, I don't know what does. Maybe #6 would be dancing, or friends.

Heaven, I imagine, will be #1-6, all at once.

Sunday, November 1, 2009

ten twelfths

So it's November now.

The days are so much shorter. You can feel the crisp air of autumn when you stand in the shade or in the night air, even if the daytime temperature is still so ridiculously Southern Californian.

Another year is in its final months. Time flies, and just how fast it goes amazes me more every year.

I'm still reeling from those 31 days of October. It was one of the most fun months of my life. The weekends and weekdays were filled with San Francisco, College Reunion, Las Vegas Birthday, Halloween, Kickball, Downtown...I think I spent maybe five nights at home the entire month...it's always a hypersocial month but this year it was absolutely relentless. And even though it's been a crazy fun relentless year, I am now seeing it all and my current experiences with more perspective, a larger grasp on what's going on with me and my relationship to good times, to the place I'm at in life, and to my understanding of myself.

The year of being 26 was truly transformational, and while I love to do yearly reviews at the New Year, and it was hard to not want to do one around my birthday. I'll save a more in-depth and less vague review for two months from now, to keep the pattern.

But there is change going on inside me.
I'm seeing myself in a new light, remembering parts of myself that have lied dormant, coming back as I make plans for the future and do the work to get there.
I've been learning that I need to revise the way I see and describe myself. Some things that I would have said before are becoming more the exception than the rule.
And somewhere along the last 365 days I have let go of the reins, with at least one of my hands. My grip on my desire for a purposeful and amazing life remains tight. But with the other hand I have let go of so many expectations, fears, and mental frameworks for what things I do and do not like, should and shouldn't do, things that are and are not possible... the collection of moments where I've found myself doing things I never imagined or considered doing before has had an indelible impact on me.

To quote a friend, and know I will quote her again at the end of the year, "There are years in our lives that will always stand out as a year of years. A year you came into with one life, and walked out of with another." In a much less dramatic way than my friend, my year as a 26 year old felt quite like that. I keep picturing that scene in Garden State, but instead of Natalie Portman it's Time, saying to me with a winking smile "26? It'll change your life I swear."

Saturday, October 31, 2009

wild thing

I hadn't seen her in over a week, and we were so off track with her studies. It had been a painful process to get her to finish that research paper... disappointment, broken promises, frustration, late nights, excuses... and then she went on vacation. And then she came back and couldn't come in the next day since her mom was sick and couldn't bring her. And even though it was Friday of Halloween weekend, I was determined to get her in that day so we could get some momentum. I never do this, but I offered to pick her up. "That will work," she texted around 12:30. "Great, I'll see you at 2." I wrote back. I added on before I sent it, "you should be in costume, btw." Just to be fun and lighten the mood. It's better with us when the mood is light and she feels like things are okay.

At 2 I pulled up and texted that I was there, and she sent back that she'd be right down. The car was in park and I sat fiddling with my phone as I waited another couple minutes for her. I was still looking down at my phone as she came to the door, opened it and sat down, and I said hi and reached to put the car in drive before I looked up.

She was a Wild Thing. Furry goat-like costume, brown animal ears, face makeup, ripped tights and brown boots. Her sheepish anticipatory smile on top of it all, waiting for me to react. I burst out with laughter, genuine delight and surprise, and she started laughing too... I hadn't expected her to actually be in costume, and I don't think she had much reason to be for a couple hour tutoring session... She did it for fun. And, I think, to join me in wanting to lighten our mood.

The short car ride was fun and full of stories. Something about sitting side by side in a car lessens your boundaries and pushes you towards camaraderie. I wasn't in costume for work but I put on my short choppy black wig I'd had in the car once we got to the center. And then we had one of our best sessions ever.

Inside both of us, a young and younger Wild Thing, is hope. Keep your fingers crossed.

a beer maid's reflection

Best phrases from this past week:

"I have a thing for lions!"

"How can you not kiss me, I'm Superman!"

"You don't even want to know how much I spent on these legitimate Where's Waldo glasses."

"Ugghhhhh... well what color pterodactyl do you want to be?" (exasperated guy on phone behind me at craft store)

"I have a thing for sailors!"

"I just got the stink eye from the other beer maid at this party."

"I just started gluing feathers to clothes that I was wearing sometime around midnight last night. Yeah I'm super tired."

"I went to the Virgin Islands for vacation last week. Now they're just called the Islands." (Chuck Norris on State St.)

"I was sick all last week so I figured there was nothing else to do except make a Buzz Lightyear costume."

"You should probably not wear a mustache that matches your hair so perfectly again. It's frightening." (one girl to another girl)

"How does she even sit down? What if she meets someone she wants to hook up with?"
(bystander on State St. about girl in nothing but thick body paint all over a la Rebecca Romign in X Men)

"It's a $3 charge to get in if you're in costume. $30 if you're not, asshole."

"We should for sure play kickball in costume."

"Is she dressed as a cougar or is she just herself?"

"She was dressed like Pretty Woman, in the early part of the movie, and she was the least slutty girl there."

"Is that a real person?" "I'm not sure." (This dad I don't know and I look closely at the figure on the ground in front of a house while out with the kids trick or treating, we lean down closer to see breathing but it could be some prop connected to the blow up ghost right next to it) He says,"Poke him in the butt!" "YOU poke him in the butt!" I say. "I'm kinda scared. The legs are too skinny. He's not real." (the dad pokes him. no reaction, movement) "Feels lifelike, but could be fake, I don't know!"
Annoyed mom at doorstep, just noticing what's going on, "That's my son." "Oh sorry," we say and creep away. Weird.

"More importantly, however, is that we don't lose sight of what makes us human. Like waking up in an ivy patch off of Milpas wearing a Tarzan costume. Or trying to find a place to put your keys while wearing your French maid costume. There is no place." (on a Halloween party invite)

"Dear Principal: I would like to be a rollerskating waitress for Halloween this year. Can I please have permission to wear my rollerskates at school on Halloween Day? I promise I will be very careful. Thank you."
(This one is not from this week, it's from a letter I wrote to the Principal of my elementary school just after I turned nine in fourth grade. I got permission. That was the best day ever. My teacher even let me be the one to pass out papers in class just so I could skate up and down the aisles. Halloween is the best.)

Monday, October 26, 2009

monday my day

Mondays are quiet. I like them.

I'm usually still tired from a fun weekend, possibly sore from Saturday's soccer game. It's usually a day where I wash my hair, take time to cook dinner, catch up on the news, clean my place. Lately I've had a regular tutoring session with one of my favorite students from 6 to 7:30. This year she's in American History, so my Monday nights mean discussions about the Stamp Act, Samuel Adams, Ben Franklin, the shifting perspective of the colonists towards the Brits and vice versa after the French-Indian War, and how the Ivy League East Coast colleges were born in 1600s and 1700s. I love it. We pepper the hour and half with fun comments about our friends or our travels or short youtube videos that pertain to the history topic. I come home, have a drink with my neighbors...then I head back to my place and catch up on The Office or Gossip Girl.

It's the night that I'm most aware that I live alone. Every other night has some other regular social or sporty activity going on. But Mondays are just for me. They are serene, rejuvenating, certainly not a bad way to start the week.

I don't know what life will be like the day that I share the house with a partner and then kids who will want more from me than to let me be quiet on my sofa with the computer and some music and a tuna melt for dinner. I'm sure I'll love Mondays in a different way that day, but I like them just as they are for now.

Sunday, October 25, 2009


Of course there were the fabulous moments, the ones that the pictures will show and that will come up first when asked about the weekend in the future:
Our surprised delight at being swept into the major clubs, escorted to private tables to enjoy free bottle service, dancing on catwalks and tables...
the laughter that followed our walk through the casino and hotel lobby and into the cab holding open champagne bottles and balancing on four inch heels...
the delicious tapas and sangria toasts for our main dinner together...
enjoying the perfect hot dry weather as we laid by the hotel's lazy river...
the magnificence of "O" at the Bellagio, where the world class acrobats, divers, dancers, and swimmers had us spellbound...

And then there were the ridiculously goofy moments that come when you combine six fun-loving girls with Vegas and alcohol and very little sleep:
Diving on the bed, trying for the perfect mid-air photo, during our elegant and mature hotel room preparty...
lipstick marks found on one girl's hair, that could only have come from one other girl's red pouty lips that night...
rolling over hotel walls into the planters, purposely, for reasons unexplained...
glasses dropped between dances moves on cement tables, and trying to take a turn in the flower petal laden bathtubs in the club...
trying to suppress the giggles as two of us ate everyone else's leftover chicken paella on the bathroom floor at 5:30 am while they slept...

But sometimes you have that one perfect moment, that one instant you didn't know was coming but completely collects the joy of your surroundings, friends by your side, and the promise of more greatness ahead. It's not necessarily better than any of those other moments, but will forever be more lucid and present in your mind than the rest.

We stood, as the sunset finished, in front of the lake at the Bellagio. Those breathtaking fountains and lights were performing to Time to Say Goodbye by Sarah Brightman & Andrea Bocelli. The streams of water shot sky high, the music played loud, both serene and stirring, the moon shone down, and my heart swelled with gratitude. My 27th birthday, with friends old and new, could not be more amazing, and the water show was still more wonderful than I remembered. I was so completely and utterly full of happiness, I felt I could cry. As the show ended with a spectacular finale, I had the wish that my friends beside me who had never been to Las Vegas had loved the show like I always have. I had talked it up to them, said it was one of my favorite things in that town and anywhere. Hoping it had lived up to expectations, I looked at Emilia, and said with thinly veiled eagerness, "So, what did you think?"

She had tears in her eyes. "I loved it." Moment perfected.

27 was an unbelievably fabulous birthday. And as I told a fresh faced young guy we met at the club who turned 21 that weekend, life only gets better with every year. Believe it and it will be true.


The first thing I did that morning was wash dishes. I came out of the cabin, all bundled up, and joined the others at the eating area, and was assigned the job of cleaning those ubiquitous red bowls. Once I did that, I was then switched to a different station, to serve hot cocoa into said bowls for the thousands of European teens and twentysomethings that were barely awake and freezing early on this French October morning. It was a kinda fun job, actually. Then something magical happened... magical for me at least. It started snowing. Sweet little snowflakes, shy and infrequent, landed all around me... on the hair of the girls passing by, on the benches, and onto my hands as I scooped the cocoa. I laughed out loud at the surreal place I had found myself on my 21st birthday: an ecumenical community in the countryside of France, surrounded by youth seeking solace and affirmation in all matters of Faith and God, trying to keep warm in a cold like I've never known in my inadequate jackets.

It was a very memorable and beautiful day. The small group I was in with some earnest kind German girls gave me a birthday card, I frolicked in a field and watched the sunset with some of my dear friends that were on this European adventure with me from home, and during dinner had Happy Birthday sung to me in four different languages. And then that night our group gathered for our last night in this community and invited all the friends we'd met to meet us there to sing guitar songs and praises. Dozens and dozens came. I was pulled to the center to be by the guys playing guitar to help lead the songs. The lyrics to the songs our group knew so well from home were passed out to the young Germans, French, Polish, Dutch, and Italians.

And then we sang. We sang and sang. Some of our new friends sang along, some watched in awe, and some were crying. Some from our group had cheeks shining with tears too. It was truly, I would say again, magical. A better word would be heavenly.

By the next night we were in Paris. Some said to me that we could then celebrate my birthday in true 21 year old fashion. But I knew that I'd already had the most memorable 21st birthday anyone could ask for, and that I would remember it sweetly forever.


I dashed into the house, hurrying to change my clothes and throw on some make-up to head out for some frozen yogurt with my mom and brother and sister. I'd been in the same clothes all day, from school to watching the varsity boys' soccer game to a friend's house, so I couldn't wait to switch outfits. Running past my mom by the front door, promising to take only a minute before we could leave, I headed through the house to my bedroom. I had but one foot into the living room when-


A chorus of dozens of voices had aimed their shouting towards me, and I was startled to the depths of every cell. I jumped and had my hand over my mouth for the next five minutes, hardly able to believe what had happened and still dealing with the adrenaline rush from the shock. It was a couple days before my birthday and the last thing I'd expected on this typical schoolnight was to run into my house and collide with a huge party for me. Almost all of my good friends from my high school, various groups, different ages, some family mixed in... they were all standing in my house. On a Tuesday night. And there were streamers. Cake. Presents on a table. Cameras were flashing, capturing my joy and disbelief. It was the biggest gathering of my friends I'd ever had in my honor and at my house. The boy I had just started dating was standing back at first to let my best girl friends rush to give me hugs and bubble over with the story of how they pulled off the surprise, then came towards me with a sly smile and gave me the longest ilikeyou hug. A sign hung up on the wall declared:

Happy Sweet Sixteen.

Still one of the best birthdays of my life, and always will be.

Monday, October 19, 2009

forever young

Favorite scenes from the Westmont Class of '04 Five Year Reunion...

* a husband playing with his wife's ponytail as they chat with an old friend. they've been together for about seven years, married for four.

* a single fellow alumni guy gingerly holding a baby... the one that was born so premature, that so many prayed for and fretted over... he was finally seeing this little daughter of his good friend and had no idea how to give her a bottle, but did his best anyway because as we were all so aware, the world is so lucky that she made it and is healthy and flourishing and is here to be able to take a bottle at all.

* my conversation with a dear friend, one who lives in town, who i get to see all the time, about what three things we would tell our college selves. i thought at that moment that i was so very happy that because i chose to stay in this paradise town, i get to see more westmont friends regularly than so many others.

* the sunset as it put on a fantastic performance, sending plumes of pink and purple throughout the sky and complementing the glassy turquoise ocean. this and the hot weather made it seem that santa barbara was saying to everyone, "glad you are back, i missed you, and didn't you miss me?" and it seemed that the collective answer was Yes.

* seeing my freshman year roommate, now a doctor, with her lovely husband, also a doctor, and delighting in how they've realized their dream together that i watched hatch as they met each other nine years ago as freshmen and started studying together for their first pre-med course.

* the scattered little clusters of Europe Semester alumni, reminiscing about hikes on Scottish islands, injuries on the Acropolis, awkward moments with the professors... when we see each other there's still a tie that binds, a deep familiarity in each others' faces, from 3 1/2 months filled with a lifetime's worth of memories in faraway places.

* the football huddle the guys made, for reasons still unknown to the girls, reminding us that Westmont guys always were a mysterious and special breed, but we love them for it.

* how we stayed past the closing of the restaurant, for hours after dark, unable to cut off conversations with the friends that, for all the years that have passed, for all the wedding rings and babies that were present, for all the respective doctor or lawyer titles that have been earned, still look and seem young and fresh and like they still have the whole world in front of them.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

you can see it in her eyes

Because it is a desire of my heart, I want for my friends to find it too, and I'm overjoyed when they do.

I want, for all of us, to find a love that, while imperfect, brings great joy and passion and depth to life. And it would be even greater if we all had what one of my dear friends has found in her love...


"You know what I didn't expect?" she said, coming to the end of her story, her eyes shining with happiness and emotion. "I didn't expect him to say all those amazing things, and in hearing them, to feel so completely known. He gets me, more than anyone ever has. It's more than I could ever ask for."

In so many years I'd never seen her like this. She was glowing. She was a woman not only deeply loved... but known. How absolutely fantastic.

Friday, October 16, 2009

i love you so

My love for the movie will probably always have more to do with the idea of it and the words describing it's vision than the film itself, as much as I loved it.

I was beside myself when I first saw the preview for Where the Wild Things Are. I didn't particularly love the book as a kid, but the preview was magical, mysterious, enchanting... especially, for me, the verbiage in it.

"Inside all of us is hope.
Inside all of us is fear.
Inside all of us is adventure.
Inside all of us is a wild thing."

You know I love that kind of talk. Well I waited and waited for the movie, and in the past couple months more interviews and then reviews came out about it. A deeper picture evolved of what I was waiting to see.

One reviewer was so poetic in his description, that I want to save some of his words forever...

"This is not a film defined by bits and bytes and the clicking of a thousand computer mice; it is a world of wood and wind and wave, of sunlight and stone. "Where the Wild Things Are" feels, for lack of a better or less ironic term, handcrafted, and that makes it something quiet and true, like a campfire song played on acoustic guitar."

"a world of wood and wind and wave, of sunlight and stone." I want that to describe my world. More natural, more handcrafted, more true. I couldn't wait to see the movie even more.

Then in a GQ article, an interview the Spike Jonze, the director, he had this to say about his realization of the concept he could center the movie around:

“It just hit me that wild things could be wild emotions,” says Jonze. “It was that simple of an idea. And all of a sudden, it seemed infinite where I could go from there.”

“As a kid, that was really scary and confusing—both the wild emotions in me and the wild emotions in the people around me,” he says. “Unpredictable emotions, positive or negative—you don’t know where they’re coming from, you don’t know what they mean. Especially negative emotions. Your own behavior—you don’t know why you’re acting a certain way and it scares you, or you don’t know why somebody else is acting a certain way and it scares you. Big emotions that are unexplained are really scary. At least to me. I guess it’s anger, or sadness, guilt—or guilt for being angry, you know."

He nailed it. Wild emotions... they are incredibly scary. My worst memories as a child are the confusion and sadness that came from the occasional intense and unpredictable emotions of the adults around me. My worst memories as an adult are moments of dealing with overwhelming sadness, loneliness, and despair... these emotions in great doses are terrifying. You cry and it's not better. You drive and yell and hit the steering wheel and it's not better.

How lucky are we that there are brilliant creative minds working who can put vision and art together in such a moving and beautiful format; a format that communicates to both children and adults everywhere the things we can't always express by ourselves. The movie, as promised, was lovely, mesmerizing, genuine, and very scary.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

this is how it happened.

a month or two previously the topic had come up as a few of us sat on stools by the outdoor bar built into his backyard.
"seriously stephen?" i asked. "new zealand is the next place i want to travel to as well. it's been on the top of my list for four years."
"really?" he replied with interest. "i haven't really ever traveled, and i just hear so many things i would like about that country so i want to go, for like a couple week trip or something."
"same," i said. "i've been saying i am going to plan it for over a year now, but i told myself a few months ago that in 2008 i would plan it or go for sure, maybe this winter while it's warm down there."
i really don't think there was much more said about it than that. maybe a casual joke thrown out by him a week or two later, something like "new zealand! let's do it!" between bottles of red stripe.
then one october sunday, a year ago, i was having a leisurely shopping day with some girlfriends. i think i was in the forever 21 dressing room when i got the text message.
"let's go to new zealand together. how about february, it will be their summer. let's make it happen." - stephen.
i read it and laughed in surprise. i got quiet and stared down at my phone. i just knew that he meant it. i knew that february would be great timing. i also realized that i'd been putting off booking the trip since i didn't know what that kind of adventure looked like as solo traveler, and i was hesitant to find out.

this was it. i got a flash of adrenaline and nervousness as i stood there with discarded dresses all around in the stall. i was going to go to new zealand. i had a friend to go with. not a close friend, but a friend who was fun and laidback and would follow-through. this is how it's supposed to happen. i'm going to new zealand, finally.

three weeks later we bought our plane tickets. three months after that, we were staring out the window of our bus as it rolled down the main streets in auckland after an early morning flight arrival, and we shared ipod earphones as stephen played band of horses to go along with our first views of the country we'd been dreaming about.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

a season on the fence

of course I have always loved October for being the month of my birthday. when your birthday is near the end of the month i feel like it's easier to feel like the whole month is yours, the anticipation stretches out from the first day you flip the calendar. growing up i loved that my birthday was where it was during the year for several reasons... close to halloween so i could have dress up party if i liked, enough into the school year so that i knew the kids in my class and that it wouldn't be awkward to bring cupcakes and be sung to, and not too close to the holidays.

one of my favorite reasons for having a late october birthday was/is this: this month, while containing the best of autumn in the form of pumpkin carving parties, nights by the fireplace, and the promise of holiday candy, could still act like a card-carrying member of the summer season, at least in california. the days are still often warm. you can still sport shorts and tank tops.

and that meant that my birthday parties could also be pool parties.

one of the greatest glories of my childhood was belonging to the local pool club. you had to live in the neighborhood or be friends with someone who did, so that meant that almost all of my middle school and junior high friends could go. for weeks after school started we could say after the last bell of the day, "see you at Treeview? in an hour and half?" and everyone would be there. we girls would stake out spots for our towels on the grass near the shallow end, so we could have the best view of all the action, and dip in and out for games of marco polo. i remember when one pieces started turning into two pieces by the end of one adolescent summer. these get-togethers were somehow more social than the summer ones as i recall, since many friends would be scattered over the vacation months with family or at camps. we would soak gloriously for a couple afternoon hours in the chlorine and the flirting that never culminated in much of anything, and head home for dinner and homework when we'd had enough. even if i was having an actual birthday party in some other form, it would still work out to casually rally the friends together for an afternoon of canon balls and underwater leapfrog that third week of october in honor of my birthday.

those wet days would end after halloween, not to be seen really til the spring. those times, where you could care less about your hair getting wet and maybe too much about what the boys were doing, and the chlorine would discolor your suit by the end of the year... they are something i miss the most about childhood.

Monday, October 12, 2009

for tomorrow...

She sat down, not wanting to look up at me. She knew she hadn't done the work she promised to do, had made excuses, and sat here now after a couple days of avoidance knowing that she'd disappointed me.

"Look at me." I said. She looked up then down again. "Look at me." I repeated. Once I held her gaze, I had to do everything I could to keep my voice from cracking, especially as I saw her start to tear up.

"You haven't done the work. We both know it. But I refuse to create an unhealthy dynamic between us. I care about you too much and I just will not stand for unhealthy relationships in any aspect of my life. We will have a good, straightforward, trusting relationship of client to tutor. I already know you want to do the work, that you want to get through this class, that you have good intentions. You have to know I know that. What we both know is that we need to get you to take more action. Don't be fearful that I will get mad at you when you don't get things done. You let that fear paralyze you from actually doing it. Just do it, and if you don't, let me know without excuses, and then start again the next day. I care about your success today, but mostly I care about your well-being ten years from now. I do not want you, in your mid-twenties, to not be where you want to be and still be wrestling with the devastation from your lack of self-discipline. I know what its like to be a procrastinator. I know what it's like to be a play-first-work-later type of person. Believe me. You will have to fight this. I am on your side, fighting with you. Fight now or the fight will be harder later. The consequences will not come from me, they will come from no high school diploma, they will come from having to enter the workforce with no skills of follow through or self-discipline. We're doing good, you and me, and don't let this huge paper create a dynamic of fear with us. There will be no element of mistrust or manipulation between us, I will not stand for it."

She nodded. "Look at me again," I said one last time. "Do you believe we can have the kind of relationship I'm talking about? Do you trust me? Can we move forward together, no fear?"

"Yes." She wiped a tear away and gave a half smile. "Wonderful," I said. "Let's get to work."

I think about her every day. I fear for her, for her present, for her future. I'm literally one of her last options for getting through high school. Her private, imaginative, bookish, passionate, procrastinating, achingly perfectionistic nature tied her to my heartstrings from the beginning, I could see myself in her strengths and weaknesses. But she has other things holding her back, things I didn't have, her issues are deeply rooted, and I can only hope and instruct and affirm. And hope some more.

This conversation was today. Cross your fingers for tomorrow.

always raspberry

I love being by myself. I'm compulsively social, but time alone energizes me and gives me some of my most memorable, creative, and peaceful moments.

One of the best alone days I've ever had, one that I will always vividly remember, was one early October day in Florence, Italy.

We arrived in the city as I was listening for the first time to John Mayer's Heavier Things album, which is still probably my favorite of his. The bus pulled up and it was lightly raining outside and I was charmed by our hotel by the river. It was maybe two days later that I got the chance to wander the city alone for a day that turned into an evening.

I was happy to be on the trip, with my friends, in Italy... but the dull ache of missing my boyfriend would often persist when I was alone, more than at other times. That day I didn't feel the ache, I slowed my usual fast pace to a saunter along the cobbled roads and delighted in the moment, in the sensations surrounding me, in my own solitude amidst a pulsating artsy breathtaking town. I went to the outdoor market and picked out silk scarves for my mom. I passed through quiet alleys and ended up in an old jewelry store, talking to the old owner who told me stories of all the famous people that had entered his doorway and touched his necklaces and rings. For a little while I sat in a cafe across the square from the Duomo Cathedral and was spellbound by the most phenomenal peoplewatching I'd ever encountered. I took a hike up to the Piazza Michelangelo and at the top bought two flavors of gelato, raspberry and lemon, a refreshing reward for all those stairs climbed. I walked down and walked along the Arno River, admiring the painters' canvases spread with flourishes of color as they stood and did their best to express the scene as they saw it from their easels. The sun set, I crossed the Ponte Vecchio bridge, and came upon a little handmade pizza eatery. It had mostly outdoor seating, was pretty empty, and looked like exactly the right place to sit down, eat, and write some postcards. So I did. And the most vivid part of the memory of this day is the sensational prosciutto and artichoke pizza I had there. It was just the right size, the crust was crispy and thin but not too thin, and the flavors were fresh and aggressive and amazing. I wrote family and friends postcards, truthfully telling them that I was having one of the best moments of my life in a little Florentine restaurant on a warm October night.

Then I walked home and on the way, got gelato again, raspberry and chocolate this time.

And after such a memorable and refreshing day alone, I was so happy to arrive back at the hotel, to a room full of the silver laughter of all the fun girls on the trip, and compare notes about our day in Italy and just how much gelato we'd each had, and how much more we planned to.

Friday, October 9, 2009

ears to hear, a heart to listen.

one of my students is deaf. he was born without any ability to hear whatsoever. this was discovered as he approached one year of age and was unable to make any coherent sounds and had issues with sleeping and other milestones. but at age two, he was set up with special hearing aids that allowed him to hear to some degree, and a couple years later received a cochlear implant. this is basically a bionic ear. he can hear and converse to a significant degree like a normal hearing person can, but there is evidence in his tonality and pronunciation that he isn't hearing things as clearly, and he can't always pick up on subtleties of speech in regards to tone or nuances as others might. still, its remarkable to think that without this technology he would be living a very different life. he participates in a regular classroom and has never had to learn sign language.

on the first day we worked together the topic of ancient sparta came up. it was related to what we were talking about in the novel "The Giver". he said he had recently learned that in sparta babies or toddlers who weren't functioning normally, who seemed weak or sickly or had developmental issues, were left to die in the wilderness or thrown off cliffs. we marveled for a silent moment and how outrageous that was. then he said, very matter-of-fact, "i suppose that i wouldn't have made it in sparta, i would have been a throwaway baby." i was startled by his thirteen year old insight, and easy observance of a heartbreaking realization. he was right, and tears stung my eyes. i hid them well, and responded back to him about how incredible it was that he was born in this time and place, where he has the opportunity to actually stay alive and thrive and hear and speak. as we got back into our work, i said to him, "keep proving the spartans wrong."

he had a latin test today and so yesterday as a study method he taught me all the vocab and lessons that he needed to know for the test. he made jokes about romulus and remus, mimicked a professor that paces back and forth in front of the class, and just generally blew me away.

i love my job.

Thursday, October 8, 2009

in like a lion

(during the lovely month of october, one of my favorite months of the year, i will write a series of short true stories, and try to do one every day, a maybe less committed version of my photographic july)

"Pardon me, can I persuade you to leave the dancefloor and step outside with me for a bit?" The voice was low in my ear, and startled me. I lowered my arms, I had literally been mid-dancemove. I said sure without really considering it, since for one I was so surprised by the bold request and also because I'd noticed him already, tall and dressed sharply, crossing the dancefloor a couple times earlier. We walked out to the patio, both comfortably confronted with one of those odd moments where you know the only reason you're speaking with someone is because of attraction and a bold move. With new drinks in hand we sat on a bench. Those conversations are fun... you gather a semblance of an understanding of this new person with personal and random questions. His accent was a proper British one, it seems he was a classic Oxford snob. I revealed myself as a local, and explained why I had been dancing with an assortment of Scandinavians and Germans. He has an older sister, "his best mate", and watches Gossip Girl on occasion with her. He likes Coldplay but not Phoenix, and works in banking. I was older than he guessed, and also the oldest sibling, which he also misguessed, and a fan of quite a bit of music that he wasn't.

"So are you just traveling through here or do you live here?" I asked. Was it really almost a year ago now that I posed the same question and got a very different answer in a very different accent? The Brit was only passing through, just one night to spend in this American Riviera.

After a few minutes he asked, "Had you seen see me hovering, pacing past your group, trying to decide if I was going to talk to you?"
"No," I lied.

A short time later we found ourselves wandering up State Street, I hadn't had my phone on me at closing time so I had lost my friends. His friends had seen us talking and lost him on purpose. We walked along, humored some people shouting at us from across the street, dashed into the plaza by the old Acapulco restaurant and played with the statues that sit there. He sat on Ben Franklin's lap and we posed the musician statues' movable arms in position to play their instruments. It was a carefree way to spend the first night of October, a mischievous month that never fails to be full of stories.

I asked where exactly in London he lived and he tried to explain to me which underground stop his flat is next to.
"I love the Underground!" I exclaimed. "I have a map of it framed in my house actually."
"Prove it." He said.
"Well I'm not falling for that," I laughed.
"You don't have to," he responded.

The wandering continued.

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Blue Dress Yellow Shoes Green Purse

A student I work with just finished reading "The Giver". Though I was in junior high, like so many others when they have to read this classic, I still remember how that book creeped me out. I've always been obsessed with memory, what it means, how to preserve it, how it teaches us, so The Giver sounded like my idea of hell. A society that lets only one person remember pleasure, pain, the feel of snow, the rush of a first kiss... hell.

But I forgot one of the other main ideas in the Society of "The Giver". The concept of choice. It comes up when Jonas, who is the next person chosen to keep all the memories of the community, learns about color. In his Society there is no color. He wishes that "colors still existed so that people could have the pleasure and freedom of choosing between them."

He thinks about it some more, and, since it is still early in the story and he has not quite realized how twisted the Society is, he comes to this conclusion: if people were allowed to choose between colors, they might get so used to making choices that they would want to choose their jobs and their spouses. These are decisions that will have a serious effect on their lives and on the life of the community, and a wrong choice could be disastrous. He then says “We really have to protect people from wrong choices." His community teaches that wrong choices are to be avoided at all costs to protect the Society from disruption and damage. The citizens accept this and allow designated knowledgeable people to make choices for them.

I've made dozens of major decisions in this past year that have had a significant impact on my life and sometimes on those around me. I think I live in a time and country where I'm afforded the opportunity to have more choices than in any era previous, in regards to finance, work, school, love, travel, media, clothes, beliefs... The overwhelming options for my generation, in some ways, can be a hindrance, with so many directions to go it can be difficult to choose just one, and then be happy with it.

But again, a society that left me no option but a grey dress to wear, every day, to save me from the responsibility of continually having to choose and possibly do it wrong... that is hell.

Be there disruption, damage or error, give me a wardrobe filled with every color of the rainbow.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Gold Thread

There are a few messages in my voicemail that I can't delete.

One is from almost two years ago. I remember picking it up for the first time, I was driving home from work, distracted, but my dad's rich voice stilled my frenzied thoughts...

"Hello my daughter! I was just talking to a young lady I met today about you... she is young and unexpectedly pregnant but in a serious relationship- basically the mirror image of what your mother and I went through. Anyway, I was telling her about how I found out about true love, when I saw my daughter for the first time. I love you, Corinne."

There's another message I keep, it came the day after he found out about my major breakup with my longtime boyfriend...

"I just called to say i love you, I called to say I've been praying for you. Today is a great day Corinne, it's a day the Lord has made, I love you my daughter, keep strong."

The third one from him that I can't delete, that came just a couple weeks after the second one, completely summarizes the message he's been sending me, without end, unconditionally, my entire life...

"Just called to say I love ya, thought I'd call you and see how you're doing, you rock, my daughter, you're young and beautiful and successful and you've got the whole world by the tail. I love you."

Twenty-seven years ago today my dad celebrated his twenty-second birthday. A month later, I was born. As young as he was when he became a father, as much as he's gone through since, he's made his love and admiration for me so evident, so constant, that it's become part of my narrative of how I've become a confident young woman, even when I haven't displayed the qualities that he's always used to describe me.

He is not perfect, and neither am I. But I'm one of the lucky girls, I know.

"There's something like a line of gold thread running through a man's words when he talks to his daughter, and gradually over the years it gets to be long enough for you to pick up in your hands and weave into a cloth that feels like love itself."
~John Gregory Brown, Decorations in a Ruined Cemetery, 1994

*a daddy/daughter-made sandcastle, 08/2008

Tuesday, September 8, 2009


Since I first met this quote so many years ago in Rhetoric class I have never forgotten it...

"The heart has its reasons of which reason knows nothing."
-Blaise Pascal

Saturday, August 22, 2009

photographic friday

i had one of those friday nights where not much was planned, and i didn't feel anxious about having not much to do because i knew saturday was going to be good and full. and so i let the evening stretch out, taking as much time as i felt like taking to walk around downtown after work, go for a run, make dinner...

and the run went on endlessly because i couldn't bring myself to go inside. the air was warm and the fragrance of the sea was strong. i was playing sigur ros, and i don't know why i've never run to that music before but its certainly a great thing to do. and then the sunset went on forever. the clouds were tangled throughout the sky, fog spread around the horizon, and the purple and orange and golds would change and grow and move to other spots and back again. on the hill of city college overlooking the ocean with that music and that sky, it was downright ethereal.

there is a spot at city college that i love to stand at in the middle of workouts, it has stones planted in the grass to sit on, a fountain, and quotes on metal pieces set into the ground. i love this quote below, it seems to prove true again and again, and i think of it whenever something seems to difficult to achieve.

so then i came home from my run, and checked the mail. best mailday ever... a postcard from j in sweden, another from my sister in uganda, and a small package and card from my mom because she's about to leave for prague! happy friday to me!

the card from my mom is from a line of cards that highlight unique words from dying languages.
this word is from the native american huron language, and it means, "Stay in Touch With Your Dreams."

thank you mom, i am. :)

Sunday, August 16, 2009

maybe not again for awhile

i think it's kind of like christmas.
most everyone loves it, we look forward to it all year long, and there is always something to say to someone in coming or going...
"viva la fiesta!"

the atmosphere, the spirit, the vibe of the town is so celebratory. the buzz is everywhere, even days beforehand. parks and venues all around town prepare for the part they will play in the five day party. businesses downtown post signs in their windows the weeks beforehand giving notice that they will close by noon that friday for the parade. and the people i celebrate with, they get ready by making sure they have at least one fun colorful outfit to wear out during the week, they pull cash out so they can buy churros to their hearts' content, and they coordinate with friends as to just where they will meet up to watch the parade, catch the flamenco dancing, or enjoy the nighttime craziness.

fiesta is one of the best times of year in santa barbara.

this year was one of the most incredible ones yet. each fiesta stands out for particular moments... last year had highlights like overlooking the carnival lights while enjoying churros on a hillside with my mom, the year before that was most memorable for the free mat kearney concert under the stars that turned into a spontaneous dance party once a dj got on the stage afterwards, with all the twenty-somethings who'd come for the concert prancing around the dancefloor in goofy ways that would not be seen in indochine.

this year will be marked by the collision of so many dozens of friends from all over on thursday night at dargans and saturday night at blush. friends from way back, friends from now, all reunited serendipitously on this weekend of all sb weekends. i will also most certainly remember how we ended up watching the parade next to the most amazing family of goodtimers ever, who'd drawn circles in the street to take bets on where the horses would do their business, who had a keg out in broad daylight, and who cheerfully ran to buy trays and trays of confetti eggs to battle with the children who were pelting them from an office window above with the same. and when the day comes that i am away from santa barbara on this first weekend in august, like i haven't been in 7 years, i will remember how when you look around during those five days, as i most noticed this year, you see spontaneous dance parties to mariachi bands, strangers cracking eggs over other strangers and everyone laughing, boyfriends and girlfriends sharing their churros with each other as they sway to the cover bands that play in the plaza, every girl with a flower in their hair, and the dancefloors everywhere so packed while thousands line the streets, all there because of a desire to be a part of that VIVA spirit.

i'm not sure, but fiesta might have been so good to me this year because it knows i may not be around for it again next time...

Friday, July 31, 2009

july bride

and to cap off july, a fabulous wedding... a former roommate tied the knot, and we celebrated the day with raspberry cocktails, croquet, swing dancing, more dancing, nonstop laughing and stolen slices of wedding cake.

Thursday, July 30, 2009

two years today

happy birthday to outnumber the sand. this page is two years old today...

i started a weblog because i wanted to get my thoughts down about people and how they work, to practice my writing in general, to have somewhere to occasionally record travel memories, and to share a little bit of life happenings. i am happy to say that i feel satisfied with what i've done so far. i didn't plan for this month of daily photos to coincide with this anniversary, but i think it's quite perfect, i've truly become so grateful this past month for the people and places in my life, and i'm glad this page helped me get there. and i love having a place to type things out, review, revise, and publish every so often. i'm challenged by the fact that this is public and available to any who stumbles across it, found it on my facebook when i used to have it linked there, or have had it passed along to them. family, friends and others can and do read it, and it will always be an ongoing process for me to decide how much i want to share about where life takes me. at the beginning i didn't intend to share as much of what is going on in my own life currently as much as i have. sometimes i want to share it all. then i think, "maybe i will be embarrassed later. maybe they won't agree with how i portrayed them. maybe they will be hurt. maybe they will be put off. maybe they will know too much and stalk me. maybe they will think i'm a bad/annoying/emo family member, friend, girlfriend, ex-girlfriend, stranger, prospective employee, etc."

but then i think "maybe i will get to look back at this in ten, fifteen, or twenty years and have this wonderful journey recorded. maybe i will still remember what it was like to be in my twenties and though i try to keep my entries subtle and inexplicit, i'll be able to read between my own lines and recall all the sheer joy, the wondering, the heartbreak, the hopefulness, the love, the learning... maybe it will show me how i've grown. maybe someone i care about will read it and understand me better for it. maybe putting down my goals and plans will keep me accountable. maybe it will be for someone else what several blogs are for me, something i get excited about when there's a new entry, for i get to be drawn in momentarily to the ongoing novel of someone's real actual lovely life. maybe this is becoming just that: a novel, written in short bits, of the story of my life... the collection of yearly reviews, photos, flashbacks, encounters, thoughts, feelings, plans... it is the "adventures of corinne."

my life is wonderful and an adventure indeed. and i wholeheartedly believe that the best and most incredible is yet to come.

endless summer

On Wednesday nights in July the Santa Barbara Zoo hosts a movie shown outside on a huge screen under the stars. If you get there early, you can just relax on a blanket while the sun sets, watch the boats go by, throw a frisbee around, see the animals, and get some hot dogs or bbq ribs, wine or beer, and of course popcorn. I've been wanting to do it for awhile, and when I saw that they were showing Endless Summer on the final night, which I've always been meaning to watch, I knew I'd have to be there.

It was fantastic. The movie, the night, the setting... Wow.

In the photo below you can see some of the ocean view, and a boat going by.

And here's the moon and the surfers, chasing the perfect wave around the world...

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

the perfect bag

i've found it. been wanting one for months, to carry my things in while i bike, to fit my computer when i go to a coffee shop, to carry all the notebooks and textbooks i have now for tutoring, and for the newest reason, to hold my GRE study materials. it's my favorite brand. soft buttery brown leather. pretty pattern inside. pockets. large and small straps.

i discovered it in a consignment store. and they even gave me a generous coupon to use before i bought it.

what a steal. i can't wait to fill it and use it for years.

Monday, July 27, 2009

reason #1: it's cheap again.

I feel bad for these teenage boys studying for the SAT sometimes. Mostly in regards to the reading comprehension section. The passages are so boring to them most of the time. They have to read them and answer intricate and tricky questions about content, inferred meaning, tone, metaphors used, etc. There are passages about Japanese ants, a daughter's resentment-riddled memories of her mother, and about what it's like to be a senior citizen. They boys I tutor could care less!

Finally I thought today to try beginning one student's reading comprehension test prep with a more interesting first passage. Not from the CollegeBoard book or official online SAT study guide. But from one of my favorite magazines... GQ.

I assigned two different short articles for him to read, each one excerpted from a feature on "47 Reasons to Rediscover Europe". They had a much more relevant voice, interesting details, and it was much easier to discern the "tone." I know he preferred this to the ants passage.

After that, my student said, "You must really be into travel and Europe right?"

"Oh you know...a bit," I downplayed.

Plus, the other articles in this particular GQ were about a high school sex scandal, the greatest gory movies ever made, a top surfer who loves to get laid, and a lengthy piece about the atrocities of Khmer Rouge. Not my favorite issue ever, so certainly the travel feature was the best option, despite my particular bias.