Tuesday, December 15, 2009

why I do what I do.

I just got done reading about 60 ten page term papers. It nearly killed me. Here are just a few of my favorite lines.

"The remnants of the buildings seem to resemble Roman architecture, the very culture that Americans had been emulating so effeminately"

"Labels and classifications are used where without culture and society every man would be living as he pleased content to him and not labeled by any besides that which he may reflect on interpersonally."

"He was involved in a lot of huge political things including the Declaration of Independence"

Ben Franklin "knew that if a person was in a wet t-shirt on a hot day they would stay cooler than being in just a dry t-shirt".

Sunday, December 6, 2009

dance dance revolution

I used to really hate dance. Watching any kind of dance bored me. I couldn't understand the point of the arbitrary motions, which so often felt cheesy and ridiculous. When I taught Humanities 101 I knew that I would have to have a unit on dance, and I also knew that the fact that I hated dance so much would make it difficult. So I decided to try a little harder to appreciate dance, to learn from what I taught my students. It's been a slow process but I think I'm beginning to really love dance like I've never loved it before.

Tonight I went to BYU's Christmas Around the World, a folk dance show that they've been doing for the last 50 years. BYU has the biggest World Dance program in the world, and the dancers are extremely talented. I hate saying this, but I was moved to tears at the very first number, and it was not the first time this has happened. Since I've been trying harder to understand and appreciate dance, I'm finding that I can't help but cry when I watch a dance performance. The energy they create is palpable, and I'm so impressed with the talent that I just tear up. I hate even more saying this, but I cried when I watched the finale of Dancing With the Stars last week. I couldn't help it. Kelly Osborne was so beautiful and had worked so hard, and you could tell how happy she was with herself even though she didnt win. Her experience was life changing and it was really incredible to watch her dance. And Donny Osmond was so humble and wanted so much to have that trophy that he worked his hardest while still being incredibly supportive of the other competetors. It's true he's been a performer for some time, but to dance ballroom like that he had to force himself to change a lot of his habits, and he was incredibly graceful in doing so. I just loved watching these people have so much passion in their dances. I wept like a baby. And then tonight it happened again. I don't know what's happening to me.

One thing that I thought was particularly interesting during the Christmas performance tonight was the Irish dancers. I recognized one of the soloists and as I looked at my program, sure enough she was one of my former 101 students. AND, this is what I love the most, the program said that these soloists were champion level dancers. I had NO idea that this girl was a champion level Irish dancer. Even though she did mention that she danced and that dance was a huge part of her life, she said nothing about this fact every time I talked to her about dance. Such a funny girl.

After the performance we watched Strictly Ballroom, which I thought was pretty appropriate. I loved it so much more this time than I did the first time, and I almost teared up again when the couple was dancing the Passo Doble, one of my favorite dances.

So who would have guessed? It looks like I love dance. I love the energy and the passion. I love how light the dancers are on their feet and how watching them makes me feel lighter. I have been kind of depressed a little lately, distracted and stressed, and I realized today that I'm losing sight of the things that could lift me out of my funk. I decided to watch some documentaries on contemporary 21st century art, and I got that light feeling as I saw these artists create and as their art challenged me and made me feel alive. I'm focusing so much on all the things I have to do, all the research I should be doing, the books I should be reading and the movies I should be watching, that I'm forgetting to have aesthetic experiences with other forms of art. And this bothers me because as a Humanities teacher this is what I try to get my students to understand, that aesthetic experiences are necessary for a balanced and happy life, and here I am neglecting these things, the things that I love so much and that lift my soul. I'm glad I learned this lesson today, and I hope I can make a point to have more art in my life more often.

Saturday, November 28, 2009

perpetual liminality

I'm at an inbetween time in my life right now that I don't particularly like. I don't want to feel like life will be good once [fill in the blank] happens, and that I will finally be happy on that day. I want to avoid that perpetual state of liminality, where one is always becoming something, always stuck in an inbetween stage, and never getting to where one wants to be. I want to be who I am now and find satisfaction in myself and what I do today. It's a nice idea, but hard to implement. Right now I am applying to go to graduate school in the Fall. So I feel as if my life will begin in 10 months from now, provided that I am actually accepted into a program. And what I do from here until then is survive. I'm not making enough money to do anything I'd like to do, such as travel, but I can't get another job right now because I have plenty to do with my applications, with planning for the conference I'm attending in the spring and with finishing up my thesis. I also should be trying to get myself published, and so there is more than enough to do and finding another job right this moment would be distracting. So I'll push through until spring and hopefully will know if I have a spot in a PhD program or not, and then I can continue on with my life.

I spoke with some professors this week about writing me letters of recommendation, I worked on my personal statement and I'm feeling optimistic. I'm applying to six schools, so I hope one will accept me, and I hope I'll be cut out for more graduate school. This is something I always wanted to do and realized in the last year that it's something I can do. I just wish I could do it already and not have to jump through these hoops.

Saturday, November 21, 2009

oh well!

It's so late and I am so tired that I cannot fall asleep.  Today was a little crazy and my brain is still hurting.  I took the GRE and got a full 10 points more than I did three years ago.  You would think after attending graduate school and learning copious amounts of information and new vocabulary words for three years that I would make a vast improvement.   But no; it was instead almost the exact same score.  So what is this test measuring anyway? I think it must only measure how well I take tests, which apparently is not well at all. 

I'm starting to think more seriously about beauty school.  I come from a long line of beauticians.  Both my grandmothers were hairdressers.  And my great grandmother and all of one of my grandma's sisters.  I have an eye for makeup and hair and I love doing it, so why not? Well...it may end up being my only option if academe decides it doesn't want me.  I've got to find some way to pay off all these student loans.  It may also be a life with less pressures than academia, and I can continue learning on my own.  As I said in my last post, maybe now I have to realize that life really is about survival, but I think there is something noble in that.  Surviving and helping others survive, easing their suffering and building them up, is pretty important.  I thought writing and teaching people about art and beauty was what I was meant to do to help make the world a better place, but who knows, maybe there's another way for me.

So, even though this week I've had some set backs, I'm not going to let them keep me down.  The universe has a way of setting things right and I'll find my place somewhere in it. 

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

the angsty meanderings of a twentysomething

Warning: this blog post is quite angst ridden and kind of disgusting, but I'm posting it anyway. You don't have to read it.

I spend a lot of my time feeling disappointed or upset with myself. I'm not necessarily who I would like to be, but at the same time I am very stubborn about being myself and not conforming to every arbitrary social norm out there. It's the same sort of thing that I hate and love about my mother. She won't conform to any social norm, reasonable or not. She is who she is, and this is good in theory, but I don't think she is very happy and she tends to make other people feel awkward and unhappy. Will I do the same? Will I lash out at every thing telling me I should be a certain way and be miserable for not fitting in and for finding myself always alone and frustrated? I mean, if I choose to not conform to people's expectations, I can't possibly expect people to conform to the way I do things.

Part of me thinks that conforming may be a reasonable sacrifice, and another part tells me over and over again that I have to stay true to myself no matter what and if I am always true to myself life will be hard but I will be happy.

I have a feeling life is always going to be hard and that the things I expect and hope for will not happen simply for the fact that I hope for them. I remember learning this lesson when I was a child. Whenever I had an idea that something good was supposed to happen I would stay up all night thinking about every single detail of the coming day and how wonderful it would be. Soon, I realized that nothing ever turned out how I imagined it and that if I wanted something good to happen that would mean for a fact that it would not happen. This continued to prove true over and over and over again as I grew up, and I stopped imagining the wonderful things I hoped would happen to me. Then my imagination turned to disasters. If I stayed up all night thinking about the horrors of my house burning down, it would surely not. Nothing expected actually happens, good or bad, and I could only count on unexpected happiness. The problem is that now I expect the unexpected wonderful thing to happen: does that automatically mean that it won't? I mean, I can't remember the last unexpected turn of fortune that occurred.

Oh, I'm getting old and realizing just how hard life is going to be. I'm going to continue to be rejected, from men and schools and jobs and scholarly journals. I used to believe that I was amazing, that any one who met me would realize how amazing I was and hire me or fall in love with me on the spot. All they had to do was talk to me and see my goodness. I don't really believe that anymore. There are a number of better qualified, smarter and more attractive people out there and now I feel like all I can hope for is to eek out a meager subsistence, just survive because I have a survival instinct built in.

I'm setting myself up for disappointment now. On Friday I will take the GRE and hope against hope that all my studying will actually pay off and that I won't screw it up. Then I'm applying for 6 grad schools, hoping again that one, just one will deign to let me attend their school. If they don't I'm going to beauty school and embracing all that beauty school represents.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

eyes or ears

I am weird when it comes to reading. I have a hard time focusing on words on a page and so I've started listening to books on tape recently. Right now I'm listening to A Tree Grows In Brooklyn, and I like it. My problem is that I don't read often so when I do I can't stop. If I stop I often don't start up again and then I leave the thing unfinished. I want to finish it in one sitting and so I'll read, or listen to a book, until I'm sick. I listened to four hours today of this book and I have a headache and a backache and my brain feels numb. I noticed my own inner dialogue is starting to sound like the reader's voice. But I have to get through it. There is not time enough in the world to read all the books I want to read, so I have to just suck it up and listen to it as much as I can. I just downloaded Whuthering Heights and I think I'll start it tonight when I go to bed. I'm considering getting something huge like the Brothers Karamazov, which is 34 hours long, because I don't think I could get through that book otherwise. An hour a day of that and it will only take me a month to listen to. It's tempting.

I've been wondering, however. Is listening to a book on tape and forgoing the act of actually reading bad? I have to admit that sometimes I just want to pick up a copy of the book I'm listening to and read it. I'd probably get through it faster. Am I losing something in doing it this way?

Monday, November 2, 2009

halloween zombie fresh

One of my favorite times of the year is Halloween, and this year I tried really hard to get into the spirit of it. I partly love the season because it gives me an excuse to do one of the things I love doing the most: watching horror films. I watch horror films regularly throughout the year, but this is the time when its easiest to get people to join me, especially if they too are in the Halloween spirit. I also put in the time, money and effort to make my own costume. I decided I would make a dress from a film I love, True Stories. If you go to 1:45 in the video below you'll see the big blue poofy dress.

I couldnt find blue tulle, so I chose red. 35 yards and a week worth of sewing, this is what I ended up with:

When people asked I told them I was a giant shower loofah. The costume was a big hit. A lot of people expected me to be a zombie, but instead of me being a zombie, my friend Brittany had the pleasure of me dressing her up as one. We bought a cheap prom dress at the thrift store, tore it to shreds and dirtied it up, then I made some wounds out of tissue, latex and marshmallows and made her into one disgustingly lovely prom queen zombie. Her costume was also a hit, and I am very proud of my work.

It was so much fun to make my friend a gory zombie mess that another friend and I started thinking it would be a really interesting project to make up as many people as I can as zombies and take photos of them. I'm hoping I can build up quite a collection.

I also wanted to add these wonderful things I found: some terrifying vintage Halloween costumes. The paper masks give me the creeps, especially this one:

Scary, no?

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

old pregnant hags, love and life

I am becoming an expert in zombie culture, and horror is my thing. I can work with horror. I can read it and I know a lot about it. Sometimes I forget that I know it so well and I feel like I don't have any particular knowledge with anything else, and sometimes I think "Great job, Jasie. You've become a horror expert. Now people will take you seriously"--all thought in quite a sarcastic and cutting tone. There's so much to learn and know and I feel like I'll never get it all. But that is why I have also been trained as an expert student. I don't have to know everything; I just have to be able to understand what other people say and know and be able to use their knowledge to support my theories.

I kind of like being an expert in horror films because now when I watch them they are so much more enjoyable. I've been trying to verse myself in all the antecedents of Shaun of the Dead because it is a film that takes cues not only from Romero's films, but also from movies like Evil Dead II, American Werewolf in London, Reanimator, and Dead Alive (aka Braindead). The Halloween season is my favorite because it makes watching all of these wonderful horror films feel a little more appropriate. I've watched Dead Alive twice in the last two days. It was done by Peter Jackson in 1992, and it makes me have an immense amount more respect for the guy who did Lord of the Rings (a series that I have to admit bored me to tears). The man is clearly a visionary.

Dead Alive is a film about a boy who lives with his mother and who falls in love with a girl and has difficulty cutting the apron strings, even after his mother has turned into a zombie, even after his zombie mother has tried to kill him and his girlfriend, even after his zombie mother has turned the entire town into zombies. The film is a melodramatic slap stick love story that becomes more and more believable as the two lovers become more and more drenched in blood and viscera. I kept thinking of Buster Keaton being attacked by zombies. There is one point when our hero, Lionel, is trying to run from a horde of zombies. Only, the tile floor is drenched in blood and he simply runs in place as he slips on the blood. This lasts for a good long minute and is hilarious.

I also kept thinking of Mikhail Bakhtin and his theory of the grotesque and the carnivalesque. For Bakhtin the medieval carnival was an opportunity for order to be restored to communities through the state sanctioned disorder of a carnival where social hierarchies would be undermined and people would be free to express their most carnal drives. After the big party people would go home feeling satisfied and regenerated and continue life without any thoughts of rebellion nor any bit of mistrust or dissatisfaction for the state. All would be back into its proper order. The grotesque played a big role in this because the carnival was about the body and physical desires and it was also about rebirth. Thefore, the lower parts of the body were emphasized: the loins, the stomach, the womb; sex, consumption and defecation, and menstration, birth and death. When we think of grotesque we usually think of one or more of these elements. Because so much of the essentials of life are focused in this area and carnival was about all of these elements we find that grotesque language and imagery is essential in the regenerative effects of carnival. For instance, Bakhtin points out that one of the images often seen were little carved figurines of an old, pregnant hag. She represented pregnant death; the opportunity for birth and life to come out of something old and dead; life not yet formed but promised.

Dead Alive is a grotesque carival. There is a strong emphasis on the oozing, bleeding, and consumptive parts of the body. Blood and viscera abound; zombies have sex (which in all of my zombie research I have never seen before) and and procreate, actually making a zombie baby. Then of course the zombies eat human flesh. The most grotesque and fascinating part of the film, however, is when Lionel's mother actually turns into Bakhtin's old, pregnant hag. She mutates into a 20 foot tall version of these carvings with sagging breasts and overaly stated tummy and thies. She is the grotesque mother goddess, and she literally consumes her son back into her grotesque womb. He has to break through her flesh and become in a very literal sense reborn, and it is in this rebirth that Lionel becomes a new man and can finally let go of his mother.

With the comedy, the grotesque images and the love story I found that the carnival in Dead Alive accomplished just what Bakhtin said it would. I felt good after the film, regenerated, happy and better for watching it. This is why I believe horror films are not evil and are worth looking in to and experiencing. Life is tied up in death. Life begins with blood and viscera and pain and often times it ends that way. I think its important to remember this and try to see what lessons we can learn from experiencing it again through the medium of art. We may just become better people.

Monday, October 19, 2009

On Friday my mom came and picked me up and we went to my grandparents' house in Tabiona. That's two hours North-East of Provo. It was a nice time, but weird. My grandma has Alzheimer's and its in its early stages, so she's still quite lucid. The sad thing was that she was not herself. The even sadder thing was that I liked her better. All my life she scared me a little. She had control of every person and every situation and she would manipulate the room to her liking. She would manipulate lives to her liking as well, and I blame many of my mom's and uncles' problems on her. Now she's just a sweet little old lady. She's kind of like a child, which is hard, but she's always happy. I'm sad that Patsy is gone, because I always saw a bit of her in me and even though she made me uncomfortable I was never really scared of her like I think other people were. I wouldn't let her manipulate me. My sister and I loved to be mean to her. We used to lock her in the outhouse when we lived on the ranch. It was all good fun, and I was certain that she would some day get back at us in a very evil way. I don't know if she has, and I don't know if she can now.

Patsy's gone. On the other hand I have a nice, happy, funny little grandma that I enjoyed being around. And who knows how long that will last?

Thursday, October 15, 2009

me me me me me

Tonight is Teevee Night. At 7:00 I'll settle in to my pal's sofa and enjoy an evening of The Office, 30 Rock, Project Runway and of course Bones. A nice three hour block of television. Although it seems like I'm watching a lot more tv these days, I actually feel quite restrained. I have 6 shows that I keep up with (the other two are ANTM and Mad Men), I don't have cable so I'm limited anyway, and I try to watch things that are well done or grab on to a particular interest. My only real guilty pleasure is America's Next Top Model, but it does conform to my interest in fashion, so it's ok. I'm feeling quite satisfied with my television watching this Fall.

So, I don't have a proper job and I'm not taking any real classes. What in the world am I doing with all this time other than watching my requisite 5 hours a week of television? It's a weird state to be in. I have much to do but no one telling me when or how to do it. I've made up some goals to help me structure my time, and so far I think it's helping.

Here's a list of the things I have to do and some goals I've made for this semester:
  • Study for the GRE
  • Apply to PhD programs, which entails filling out applications, talking to professors about letters of recomendation, writing personal statements, chosing and editing writing samples, and for London I actually have to write a dissertation proposal, which I still have a lot of research to do.
  • Try to get published. I have to edit papers I think might be publishing worthy and send them off.
  • Edit my thesis.
  • Work and find another job
  • Watch a movie every day
  • Write in my blog every day
  • Read at least one scholarly article every day
  • Be creative, not just crafty.
  • Spend time building relationships with family and friends.
It's so much easier to take classes or work full time than it is to force myself to do all these things, but I do love it. I mean, I love doing my own thing and owning my time, and I'm trying to enjoy myself more as I do it instead of always freaking out about not being a slave to some institution.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

My brain feels stopped up, like I have no access to the words I need to write an amazing paper. I start with a sense, with a feeling, with a little bubble of what I would like to express but I simply can't find the words. I end up using clich├ęd phrases, just whatever is easily retrievable, and it frustrates me. Why is my brain so sluggish? What sort of thing can I do to fix this problem? It was the same problem I had when I studied Italian. I knew the words; I could read a book in Italian or watch a movie, listen to a conversation, but when it came time for word retrieval, they simply weren't there. This makes me feel incredibly stupid, but I know that it is a matter of practice. I know that I just didn't practice speaking Italian enough, and now I know that I'm just not writing enough. Not only am I not writing enough, I'm not reading enough scholarly works.

I worry that I'm giving myself too many goals lately, but I'd like to add to the list reading an article every day. There's a particular style to scholarly work that I need to master, and so reading more articles and books will be helpful to me. I also need to read as much as I can about bodies, photography, World War I and Modernism since I am writing a dissertation proposal on the topic.

I've been so bored these days, but I realize that I have plenty to do. I have to put a lot of preparation and thought into these applications, and the more research I do into the schools and the programs and into my own interests the stronger the application will be. I've also got to be studying for the GRE and take that soon and I have to finish editing my thesis. I've taken a couple week break from that, and I need to get back to it.

I imagine these daily blog entries are going to end up quite boring, so here's something for your viewing pleasure. This is the bunny I will some day own.

Monday, October 12, 2009

Keeping tabs

I found this new blog about zombies called Too Many Zombies. I like it. The guy does a drawing of a different zombie for every day of the year. I like his drawings so much that I'm thinking of making a crocheted plush zombie in a similar style. It would be easy and cool. I'm also starting to get interested in quilting and may make a zombie themed quilt. Fun, yeah?

I expect you'll be seeing much more of me on your rss feeds

I need to practice my writing, and so I'm making a goal to blog every single day. I'm hoping the practice will help me as I work on my thesis, write a proposal for a PhD program to which I'm applying and write personal statements for the other PhD applications I'm doing.

Since I'm thinking today about my writing I thought I'd write about one of my favorite people who happens to be a really incredible writer. I have two amazing and intelligent sisters who are my best friends, and each relate to totally different parts of my personality. I'll probably write a whole post about my little sister some day, but today I want to talk about my older sister.

She is a writer and always has been. I mean always. She wrote out her first stories when she was five and has been telling me stories for as long as I can remember. She is talented, and I am jealous every single day of her talent. She writes fiction primarily, but when I read her scholarly work I always enjoy how imaginatively she makes her points. Sometimes I send her paragraphs I am working on for something and she takes my stilted and awkward phrases and rearranges them into something that flows and makes sense. I don't know how she does it and I can't imagine I will ever reach her skill level, but her work will always be what I strive to emulate.

I don't know what I would do without my older sister. Because she's a writer I can always find her on the internet, and so she becomes the person that I turn to most. She never fails to encourage me, and she always has time and attention to help me with a problem. She listens to me and gives me good advise and makes me feel capable and intelligent, even when I'm certain that I'm not. My sister and I share experiences that formed who we are and we will always be able to relate to each other in a way that we can't relate to anyone else. This is what makes me happy, and I am so glad that I have her around to help me figure out this whole PhD mess. If I get in to anything, it'll be because of her kind encouragement.

Monday, October 5, 2009

another happy post

I really like my life right now. I feel mostly at ease and yet still busy enough not to feel guilty. I can go to late movies because I don't have to get up early, and I can take a couple hours out of my Monday to go grocery shopping and plan meals for the rest of the week. I like how I can go up to Salt Lake every weekend and see my family and do fun things. I like how I have time to knit scarves and keep up with good television. And in the back of my mind all this time I am working on projects. Then I sit down and write five pages or edit a paper or do some research and I feel productive. I am enjoying this life now and there are frequent moments when I just sit back and feel happy.

I need to get another job, but I'm not too concerned with it right at the moment. I have a weird desire to work at the mall during Christmas, and since my roommate is a manager of one of the stores there, it might happen. I'm going to keep an eye out for some jobs to do for the next year so i can save up some money in case I go to London.

Speaking of London, I got a very encouraging response to an email I sent a professor at the London Consortium. I told him about my proposal ideas and asked if he would be interested in supervising my dissertation. He responded by telling me that my idea was very interesting, that the London Consortium would be a "congenial setting in which to pursue it", and that he would be interested in supervising such a topic.

This response made me :D

I will be working on my proposal this week. I've already talked it over with a professor here and he was also encouraging. When I wrote the paper there was so much that I wanted to write about and had no time or space, so I think it will be the right kind of project for a dissertation. I am actually really excited to get back to some research. I also got an email from the guy they call the "admissions tutor" who offered to help me through the process. I need to figure out how to respond to these guys. It's a bit intimidating, but I have confidence in my project ideas and my abilities, so I'm just going to do it.

In related news, I've decided to graduate in April instead of December. There are too many reasons to sit here and list, but it just seemed to work out better that way. I'm happy for it.

It's late and I should go sleep, but i like staying up late these days. And I can, so I do.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

*le sigh*

Autumn is finally starting to set in. I wore jeans today for the first time in probably 6 months. Tomorrow, if it's cool enough I may trade in my much loved sandals for some tennis shoes, and I definitely need to start thinking about purchasing some boots for the coming winter. I'm working on knitting a nice warm scarf and I've started to air out some of my winter clothes.

It may seem dumb, but these are the thoughts that comfort me right now, since my mind has been weighing heavily on some big issues for the last couple of weeks. I'm trying to figure something out about myself and determine where I should start heading. I feel like I've been dragging my feet for years, always putting off the things that will define me as an adult. I've become used to living that way, and so I don't know how to change it. I don't feel as if I've accomplished much in my life and I don't know if I have enough experience or intelligence to move on to the next level. I really don't know what to do right now.

I'm thinking of applying to PhD programs in the Humanities, because that's I what I love to do. Because I love researching and writing and teaching. In my search for programs I came across this article and this follow-up article which list out all the reasons why getting a PhD in the Humanities is a BAD IDEA. The author, Thomas H. Benton argues that graduate school is simply an expensive road to nowhere. I am also discouraged because of a job interview I had last week in which I met with the head of the department of Humanities at the local community college. He started off the interview by basically asking me if I realized that there is no future for me in academe. I was thrown by this, to the point where I wonder if a) I am actually cut out for this sort of thing and b) if it will even be worth the pain. There's no job for me in academe so shouldn't I stop wasting my money on a useless education and just find a job already?

I also found this article which reminded me of why I would choose to take the next step towards a PhD. Also, in Benton's article he makes an interesting point that the people who go to graduate school should go not expecting a job as a professor at the end of it, and make more demands on the program for more marketable skills outside academe.

I know I want to teach. I know I love learning and writing and researching, exploring problems and issues in art and culture, discussing with people the things we value and why we value them. But I also know that I need money and that I can't justify myself getting into any more debt until what I have now is a bit more under control.

And so now I am torn. I'll be defending my thesis on November 6, and then I'm done. I'll have a Master's degree. I can either be done forever and look for a job that will pay the bills, or I apply to go to more school.

I hate not knowing what I should be doing in my life. I hope something works out.

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

a new year

Provo has been abuzz with activity this week since school started on Monday and I find myself in an odd place in my life. I decided to stay here for one more semester in order to finish my thesis, study and take the GRE and prepare my graduate school applications. I'm TAing for a professor, but only for 15 hours a week. This leaves me with a lot of unstructured time. I need a lot of self motivation in order to get the things done that I need to, but the fact that all of my friends are busy and my house is generally empty helps because I am so incredibly bored and have nothing better to do but study and write my thesis. Also, I'm happy I found a nice and inexpensive place to live, but my ward is full of young people, boys just off their missions and 19 year old girls; I'm starting to feel old and out of place here.

Moving this time around was really hard on me. I'm not sure why, but I was dragging my feet the whole way. I had no energy and no desire to pack up everything I owned and leave. I eventually had to beg my mom to come help clean otherwise I would not have been able to get it all done before the move-out date. Going from 2 people in a huge house to 20 people in a house comparable in size is a big change. There are 4 apartments in the house: a basement with 6 people, the main floor with 5 people and the attic apartment with 6 people and an add-on in the back where a family lives. I'm in the attic, and even though there are six girls squished into a small space no one is ever home, its decorated nicely and it is very clean. I feel quite comfortable here and imagine I'll be spending a lot of time at home this winter studying and working. I even have a small office in my room, and my roommate works full time so she doesn't really need the desk space at all. And I like my roommates, when they are around. They're all very different and interesting kinds of people and I hope I'll be able to be good friends with some of them before I leave.

I'm feeling productive so far this semester, and it just started. I've already got half of my hours in for my TA job, I've been studying for the GRE, and I'm working on figuring out what to say when I contact the PhD programs I'm interested in. I also set up an appointment to talk to a professor this next week about expanding a project I worked on in his class into a dissertation proposal. That's kind of huge. I'm going to the community garden tonight and then to Institute and this weekend I'll be visiting my family for my sister's birthday. So I feel pretty good about everything so far. I only panicked a little yesterday, but I got over it pretty fast. I have to say I'm pretty happy right now.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

just a perfect day

Wednesday this week was one of those good days that happen only when the stars are aligned and meteors are showering down around us. I wonder if the meteors had something to do with it. On Tuesday night a group of us went down to Mona to the ponds to watch the meteor shower. We got there before the moon came up so it was pitch black, and we made our way into the water which was surprisingly warm (in spots). I floated on my back in the middle of the pond and saw nothing but stars. It was a little early so we only saw a few meteors while in the water, but it was pretty magical. After we got out of the water we all laid on the ground, freezing cold and huddled together, and watched for more meteors. Then the moon came up and ruined everything.

So Wednesday morning I got an email saying that my department needed more TAs for the fall and asked if I would help out. I had just talked to my mom about moving all my stuff to her house, so it was kind of a big change of plans if I accepted. I would need to get enough hours and a cheap place to live to make it worth it for me. Also, I didn't want to TA for a part-time faculty since I've decided to start "collecting professors", as my friend Kristina calls it. I want to be involved in the department with full time faculty so that I can add to my arsenal of references. So I went up to campus to talk to the department secretary. She gave me a class with a full time professor for 15 hours a week and said she might be able to get my 5 more hours for an evening class. I said, ok.

Then Kristina and I got pizza at one of my favorite pizza places. We came back, ate pizza and then went and talked to some professors. Dr. Sederholm read my first chapter of my thesis and told me that he liked it. And then he spent 15 minutes convincing me that saying he liked it meant a lot, that he doesn't pass of crap. He made me feel like all the work I did this summer was worth something and encouraged me to look for publication opportunities. I needed that reassurance, more than I realized.

When I got home my roommate and I decided to go to the community garden. It was my first time there and I was really upset with myself for not going at all during the summer. Pulling weeds, pruning, harvesting, watering, just being in the garden in the middle of the valley with the big blue sky and the mountains in the distance: it was heaven. I strongly believe that being out in that type of environment and working with your whole body makes people happy, because its healthy. Our souls, our bodies and our spirits, need this type of experience on a regular basis. After being out there for a couple of hours and helping load all the produce up to bring back to people to eat, I felt better about everything, about life, about myself, about my future.

While I was out there an acquaintance of mine mentioned that there were a couple of openings in her house. Since that morning I needed a place to live in Provo, so I was very pleased to learn that the spot was only $225 a month. A steal. I pay $385 now. Later that night I looked at the place and realized it was perfect. It's cheap, it's in a cute house in a nice ward, it's only a block from where I live now and thus still near some of my favorite places and people, and it has loads of off street parking.

After the garden we came back to Alicia's house where seven women all pitched in to help make a leek soup and a peach and blackberry cobbler, with ingredients we had just brought back from the garden. I found it very interesting how so many people could be in such a small kitchen and everyone helping and the whole thing running so smoothly. It also struck me how amazing the people were that I was with. Seven women, all coming from different places and backgrounds and all successful and strong. And all of us were working together with food we had helped create. I felt proud to be in such good company. And then the food was delicious.

I was supposed to go to California this week with my family, and while I'm sure I would have had fun I'm glad that I listened to whatever it was telling me I should stay and sort my life out. My life has the tendency of sorting itself out at times, if I just let it go a little and trust that things will fall into place. They almost always do. I realized when i was going to bed that night just how wonderful the day had been, how I had received so much sustenance from so many different venues, from good people, good places, good food.

I signed the contract today for that house and I feel really good about it. Last summer when I moved into the big empty house I'm living in now I needed so much to be away from people, to have space and time to think. I was living in a house that I loved but that was always open and fully of people almost all times of the day, and so escaping the noise was my number one goal. After living in a big empty house for a year I'm now ready to move in to a place where people are there, coming and going, living. I need to be in that environment again, to feel the pulse of life. I need people and I'm excited for the coming semester. I plan on strengthening the relationships I have now and building new ones. I plan on being more involved in the community and in my department. I plan on preparing myself for a PhD program, and finishing my thesis, and being the most professional and helpful TA that I can be. Apparently my time in Provo is not yet over, and I'm excited for another chance to end it well and feel satisfied with the run I had here.

Friday, July 31, 2009

Fire in the disco! Fire in the Taco Bell!

I have eaten twice at Taco Bell this week. That's right. Twice. Two times. Two days in a row. And it makes me sick. Figuratively and literally. So why did I do it? Twice? Because of the damned 79 cent menu. They actually sell food for 79 cents! Who does that anymore? No one, that's who. And so I couldn't help my poor self. I watched a show on the History Channel the other week (I refuse to call it just "History" like they want me to) about fast food and they did a section on Taco Bell. It was interesting how someone took the idea of KFC and McDonald's and applied it to Mexican food, which really is already "fast" which you'd know if you've ever been to a taco shop. It takes just as long for them to make a real taco as Taco Bell makes their uber-processed crap they like to call tacos. Anyway, on the show they had someone demonstrate how they make a taco, and as she did it she kept referring to the taco as the "food product" as in "Now I place the food product in the fryer" and "Now I will enjoy the food product". It really weirded me out. I mean, why couldn't she just say taco? I vowed never again to eat at Taco Bell. Until yesterday when I saw that I could get said food product for 79 cents and then again today when I had a dollar in my purse and remembered the food product I didn't really enjoy yesterday that was available for me at that fine eating establishment for only 79 cents. I don't feel too good now. Morally and physically.

Saturday, July 18, 2009


My sisters, brother-in-law and I decided to go on a picnic in the mountains today. Just a nice lunch in the cool air by a big lake. We even bought some gear to catch crawfish in case we found any. When we got into the car Haley predicted that the day would turn into a farce, and then we headed out. First we went to the store where we spent $50 just on picnic food. We didn't even get that much stuff, just things to make sandwiches, some chips and a bag of oreos. It was also a bit of a madhouse in the store because everyone was gearing up for their weekend in the mountains. This should have been a warning. We drove the 35 miles up the mountains to Mirror Lake where there were more people than in Kamas. There was not a picnic table open, so we decided to leave and go to where I had first suggested, another 50 miles away, back through Kamas and up another canyon. We thought about stopping at another place, but Lindy was set on being near a body of water. When we got to Mill Hollow, after driving two miles on a dirt road and being in the car for almost three hours, we approached the reservoir only to find that it was in fact gone. Seriously, the lake was gone, emptied out, with only a small stream running through to what is now a measly pond. Wonderful. We decided to just park and make our food, which disapeared in about five minutes because we were so hungry. So Lindy, Jaime and I decided to walk down to the stream, a delicate lovely little thing. Lindy and I frolicked about and then she fell in the mud. Which was funny, except that her camera got covered in water and mud and is now no longer working.

Here's a picture of the empty lake. Still pretty.

Life is always an adventure with these people.

Tuesday, June 30, 2009

bunch of little randoms

The week since I last posted about the David Byrne concert has been slightly insane. I quit my job last Tuesday so that I could focus more time on the class I'm teaching and on my thesis. Then I started teaching, and that has been quite the experience so far. I've been putting a lot into that, and I'm hoping it's showing. I have the tendency to ramble or say things without thinking (thus insulting people and spouting off inappropriate things) but I think I'm improving. Maybe I just needed some practice.

I feel slightly hypocritical because I am requiring my students to post 3 blog entries every week and I didn't even post anything last week, but I suppose I have my excuses. For one thing, this class takes a lot out of me, and when I sit down to blog it's usually complaints about all the things I have to do which is not interesting. In fact, I have the suspician that this post is very uninteresting as well. But that's ok, it's just a bunch of randoms. I spend hours preparing for the two and a half hour class, the equivelant of 3 fifty minute class periods. When my mom asked me what I did yesterday and I told her "prep for class and teach" she didn't believe it was all I did, but it was. It's a good thing I love it so much.

I hope that what I try to get accross to my students is working. I hope that they learn how important it is not to just feel and experience art but be able to read and talk about it as well. Maybe I'll keep working on making that point throughout the semester. I can't even begin to say how enriched my life has become because I can read and talk about art. I can examine it and understand it and reach new levels of experience that I wouldn't have by simply taking it at face value. I think we need to start analyzing right away.

I went to Moab last weekend with my good friend Brittany. We had a good time camping, and there were some interesting people to be around. I finally got to go to Arches National Park and enjoy the beautiful arches. I don't like hiking as much and that's because I'm lazy, but it was a wonderful experience.
Here's me at Delicate Arch

Where I am standing under this arch is actually quite precarious. I kept imagining myself sliding down the side and smashing my head open on the rock below. I don't know how so many people can visit and not all die. It just takes one slip.

I have to say that I love the desert. I didn't used to. Not until a couple of years ago actually when I read an article in a class about how our love for green is really just a social construct and that we should try to find beauty in the delicate blends of browns, reds, grays, and of course the bright blue of the sky, found in the desert. It's such a peaceful place as well. This is one of my favorite photos I took on our hike to Landscape Arch:

What a wonderful place to be. I'm glad that I discovered how gorgeous the desert can be.

Monday, June 22, 2009

Once in a lifetime

Last night I had the fortune to go see David Byrne in concert. Within the last year my tastes in music have shifted in time, so to speak. My favorite bands and artists now are all from the 70s (Glam rock: David Bowie, T-Rex, Sparks, Roxy Music, proto-punk and punk especially) and the early 80s (Post-Punk, New Wave, etc.) A friend of mine introduced me to the Talking Heads last summer through what is now one of my favorite films, True Stories which was written, produced, and directed by David Byrne the lead singer of the Talking Heads. The movie is a celebration of people in all their absurd glory. When I found out that David Byrne would be playing in Salt Lake I knew I would go.

I almost didn't because tickets were so expensive, but thanks to my brother-in-law who works at the U, we got 2 free tickets. There wasn't an opening band, and I was surprised at all of the yuppies there at the concert (I mean really, am I the only 25 year old in love with David Byrne?), but it ended up being fantastic. My sister and I found perfect spots right at the very front of the stage, probably the best spot in the whole amphitheatre. The weather at first was a little crappy, but it ended up being a really lovely evening with no rain and no wind. The atmosphere was perfect.

David Byrne came out wearing all white with white hair and sheepishly approached the microphone. "Hi, I'm Dave," he said and then explained that they would be playing music from the new album, Everything that Happens Will Happen Today that he made with the legendary Brian Eno, as well as some older things from his solo career and from the Talking Heads. I felt a little awkward because I was the only one dancing at first, but after two or three very funky songs the whole crowd was up an moving. By the end of the concert everyone within my sight of vision was dancing and the roar of the crowd when it was over was deafening. He ended up giving 4 encores.

I knew he would deliver a truly amazing show, but I wonder how many of the people there were taken by surprise. I wonder if they expected that they would have such a fantastic time. Not only was the music amazing (the new album is very dancable and they played several older songs with the Talking Heads' signature funky sound), but the visual performance was also incredible. All of the band was dressed in white including his three back up singers and three dancers who performed choreographed pieces for almost every song. The dances were definitely fun, but they also told the stories in the songs, and David Byrne took part in almost each and every piece. One woman was dressed in white shorts, a little t-shirt, white leggings and tennis shoes. She was adorable with a hair-cut that gave her a striking resemblance to a young Shirley MacLaine from the Apartment (as Lindy pointed out). The other woman was dressed in trousers, a button-down shirt and a jacket. She gave off a little more androgynous vibe and often danced with the other woman rather intimately. The third dancer was a man, similarly dressed in a shirt and pants and had some wild hair. I loved every piece they performed and wish that I could see and analyze the whole show again. I saw one of the numbers performed on the Colbert Report and absolutely loved the way they made the song so visual, and I was really pleased to see that as such an important element to the whole show.

I have a little bit of a rating system set up for concerts. I take in to account the ticket price, the atmosphere, the audience, the music, the visual aspects, where I am standing (and how many tall people are in front of me), the price of the merchandise, the overall joy of the concert, and the likelihood that I will continue to listen to the music. Wanna see my scores?
Ticket Price: FREE!!! 10
Atmosphere: lovely evening, it didnt rain on us, it was outside so I wasn't stuffy. 9
Audience: great audience, got into the music, a bit older but danced way more than young audiences. 9
Music: 10
Visual: the dancing was amazing. 10
Where I was standing: NO tall people in front of me, plenty of room to dance. 10
Merch: $10 t-shirt! but $10 buttons. 8
Overall Joy: 10. Definitely a 10. Just like in True Stories, David Byrne creates joy. That's all there is to it.
Likelihood I will continue to listen to David Byrne: Duh. No doubt. There are still Talking Heads albums I have never heard before! 10!

Ok, so based on this I am going to have to put that show into my number 1 slot of all time favorite shows. That's a huge step, but the fact that the ticket was free and that I will always listen to David Byrne beats out Arcade Fire for the number one slot. It was a perfect show.

The end.

Saturday, June 20, 2009

Fix it ticket

I got pulled over by a cop today. It was the first time I've ever been pulled over, and it was a very weird experience. I know I didn't break any laws. I wasn't speeding, I thought I had signaled when I turned, so I wasn't freaking out or feeling guilty or anything. When he told me that my break lights and turning signals were out I wasn't too surprised. I've been having issues with them, and have had them fixed at least 3 times. So I got a "fix-it" warning that I have to take to the police station and have signed within two weeks. No biggy.

The cop asked how many tickets I've had in the past and was surprised when I said none, because I am a good person and a good driver and am very careful. I was made a bit uncomfortable by the other questions he asked me, like if the car was mine and how long I've had it, if I had any illegal things in the car (like I'd readily tell him if I did, yeah?). One thing I'm scared about in my life is being wrongfully accused of something, getting into trouble for something I didn't do. It's something I think about every once in a while. If I'm going to get into trouble I'd like to have enjoyed the crime first, ya know?

Friday, June 19, 2009

Summer Haiku

Mona, mountains, clouds
Flying from the rope swing--sky
hamburgers: summer.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Postcards from Italy

I left Italy a week ago. I suppose I should write that post about what I did in Rome for three days. Maybe instead of going into the whole thing with loads of details I'll just give a basic list. Fortunately I was familiar enough with the city that we were able to get an incredible amount of stuff done. I don't feel as if I really missed anything big. The only interesting things left to see were outside the city and would have required another day or two, so I think we did pretty well. So here is the list.

Day One:
Basilica di Santa Maria Maggiore
Esquiline Hill
Foro Romano
Piazza di Campodoglio
San Clemente
Teatro di Marcello
Jewish ghetto
Santa Maria in Trastevere

Day Two:
St. Peter's Basilica
Castel Sant'Angelo
Piazza Navona
Santa Maria Sopra Minerva
San Luigi dei Franceschi (Calling of St. Matthew by Caravaggio)
Basilica di Sant'Augostino (where we saw andother Caravaggio)
Santa Maria della Paca (with the cloister designed by Bramante)
Sant'Ivo Sapienza
Trevi Fountain
Spanish Steps
Piazza Barberini

Day Three:
Vatican Museums
Sistine Chapel
San Pietro in Montorio
Spanish Academy
Santa Maria in Trastevere (went inside this time)
Ponte Sisto
Capo dei fiori
San Andrea di Valle
Largo Argentina
Via del Corso
Piazza di Venezia
Vittorio Emanuele II monument
San Pietro in Vicoli
Basilica Santa Maria degli Angeli (baths of Diocletian)
Santa Maria della Vittoria (w/ St. Teresa in Ecstasy)
Santa Suzanna.

Thursday, June 4, 2009

per dimenticare di te

Got back into Utah tonight. It was a long travel day, but it wasn't actually too bad. Everything went as planned and I had plenty of time to do everything I needed to do. I'm tired, but my body feels like it's morning and should be just starting the day. I would be watching mtv Italy right now, getting dressed and planning what sights to see.

It's funny how the first thing I really miss is mtv Italy.

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Va be'

I had a good last evening in Florence. We went to eat at a place called Dante where students drink for free. The gorgeous waiter flirted with us and then a group of young men were there for a birthday party and they asked us to take a picture with the birthday boy. They were pretty funny and all of them incredibly attractive. Dinner was great, and cheap, and afterwards we went over and I had my last gelato. I got strawberry, dark chocolate and yogurt and it was the first time that I ordered gelato without sounding like an idiot. It was delicious, and then we came home and I watched an Italian sketch comedy show that was hilarious, even though I could only understand about 25% of what was going on.

I really am going to miss these Italians. I think I can relate to them so much better than Americans. I really like the way they think. I like how they have parties and want to get everyone around them involved, like those guys tonight and the ones in Siena yesterday. I just love them so much. It must be the Italian in me. These really are my people, and they make so much more sense to me than anyone else. I get the way they think, and when I'm walking around the city, pushing past annoying toristi and walking out into the street when it's obviously my turn to go, I feel like an Italian. I've said this before after living in Rome, but I really see an ebb and flow working in the city. You just do what feels right. You know when you can cross the street without a signal telling you that you can. You know when to step off the narrow sidewalk into the street when you're passing by someone, and when the person passing by should step off the sidewalk to let you pass. Everything is communicated without all of the ridiculous awkward politeness. You just go and try to stay out of people's way. And Italians really are polite. They'll smile at you on the bus, or give you a knowing look when someone is being annoying near by. They make you feel comfortable, like you already know each other, like you're already friends. And they'll always include you in their party, not by asking but by taking a picture with you, laughing and joking with you, dancing with you. I think this last trip to Italy has made me realize more than ever how much I love being an Italian, and how much I love these people.

I will come back someday and stay for a longer period and really learn the language, by actually using it like I have been without being scared, and I'll visit where my family is from and try to connect to that heritage a little better. This place is really part of me, and I can't see myself staying away from it for too long.

L'ultimo giorno

Today was my last day in Italy. :( I really love it here. I love the people and the way they live in the world. I have not been severely annoyed by anyone in the last 10 days, which is a miracle really. I'm also sad because I've noticed my italian getting better daily. I suppose I'll just have to come back.

I went to the monastery at San Marco where the great artist Fra Angelico painted the cells of the monks. I was very happy sitting in the cloister and then exploring the monastery and looking at the beautiful paintings. I think it was my favorite thing, and I'm glad I saved it for the last day.

Afterwards I bought my train ticket to the airport and then walked over to the Duomo. I was already exhausted by then and so didn't plan on walking up the 460 steps to the top of the dome, but I decided I would, since I didn't know when I'd come back to Florence and since this is Brunelleschi's masterpiece that I have studied and read about for years. So I did it, despite my claustrophobia and my acrophobia. I was shaking most of the time, but I finally made it up there and saw quite a view. It was pretty great and I'm glad I did it. I was a little wobly coming down and i banged my hurt arm on a pole or something and hurt it kinda badly. Good thing I had bandaids with me.

After that I got some last minute shopping done and came back to the apartment by 4. I probably should have stayed out longer, since its my last day, but I am so exhausted and my feet feel like they are broken and bruised. So I came back, made some food and packed up my stuff. I'm all ready to go now. Soon Jendar and her roommate Joanna will come back and I will take them out to dinner to say thank you for letting me stay here without paying anything. After that we'll get the best gelato I have ever had and hang out on one of the bridges. A perfect ending, yeah?

Gosh, I am going to miss this place. I'm going to miss the people and the grocery stores and the way everyone drives. I'm going to miss the busses and the different smells of the city. That's what I noticed most on my first day, how different it smells here. I leave tomorrow at 8:00 in the morning and get home around midnight, which will be about 8:00 here. That's 24 hours of traveling that I am not looking forward to. When I get back I am going to stay at my sister's house for a couple of days to take care of her animals while she and her husband are out of town. I'll have a nice tv all to myself and hopefully I'll be able to recover from my jetlag before i get back to Provo on Saturday night. We'll see.

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Out of town

The last four days have been spent outside of Florence. We took a train early on Saturday morning to Rome and stayed for three days. On the way back last night we added up all the major sites we saw and it was 50. 50 in 3 days is pretty damn good, I'd say. I think the fact that I knew my way around the city was very helpful. I don't have the time now, but I'll write about our Roman adventures soon.

We got back last night and then went to Siena today, one of my favorite places in Italy. It has such a completely different feel from Florence, which has been its long time rival. Sienese art is very different than Florentine. It's quite decorative, extremely busy and uses every space available to tell its proud Sienese history. It fascinates me because while we are so used to seeing Florentine art because it was the seat of the Renaissance, Sienese art is not as well known, and so it seems so very foreign. Siena is also a gorgeous little city without any cars on its roads (you have to be a permanent resident to drive through its streets) and the major piazza in the city slopes downwards, resembling some sort of amphitheatre. Since today was a national holiday we saw an incredible amount of families in the piazza. I have never seen so many Italian children in my life. I didn't realize so many existed, and they were all crazy and happy. It felt like being part of something sitting out there in the middle of the piazza. A fairly large group of drunk Italian men were singing and dancing to accordion music and after embarrassing several young tourists by dancing with them they proceeded to take their little party through the streets. Oh, also may I note that a very nice smelling and handsome man got on our bus with a darling little puppy on the way there. You could tell how much he adored her. He held her and kissed her when she whimpered and talked to her the whole way there. So sweet. With that and the dancing men and all the little children today I felt a good deal of love for Italians. They are great people, and I'm going to miss them.

While we were in Siena we also saw the Duomo, which has some incredible decorative architecture. Every stone in the building is alternated black and white, so it's all striped, and the floors are amazing mosaics telling the story of the city. The actual church was supposed to be only a trancept of a much larger church, planned in the 14th century. They started building this massive church to rival the Duomo in Florence, and they finished the walls of the nave before the plague hit the city and killed half of its population. They therefore had to stop construction, but those walls are still there. As we were going through the museum there was a little door open in one of the rooms. You had to descend some stairs and then there was a narrow passage. There were no signs or anything indicating what was there, so we followed it up a tiny spiral staircase and found ourselves on top of the unfinished nave, with an amazing view of the city and the Tuscan countryside. I couldnt believe how gorgeous it all was. I felt very fortunate to be there at that moment. I love Siena.

Tomorrow is my last day here. I need to go see the convent of San Marco. That is the major thing. I also need to buy my train ticket to the airport and pick up a few more things. So far my trip has been pretty much perfect. Everything has gone to plan and I've had a really lovely time. I am certainly not looking forward to the plane trip home, but it will be nice to get back to my life. I have a lot that I need to do when I get back. And I need to change some things in my life that have not been making me very happy. I'm going to quit my job and focus my time and energies on my thesis and on preparing myself to apply to Phd programs and also to plan out the class I am teaching this summer. Ugh. I need to not think about it and just enjoy the hell out of Florence tomorrow. I really love it here.

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Lost in Florence, Day 4

This morning I headed out thinking, "wow. I can totally make my way around Florence now without getting lost." And throughout the day I learned just how wrong I was in thinking that. I started off by going to the Ufizzi. I had tickets for 9:00 am, and I was finished by 10:30. So I came back home, my feet really aching and decided to stay in until 1 or 2 and rest for the next part of the day. Then I decided to go climb the Duomo, which didnt end up happening. From the piazza Santa Maria Novella I headed in, what I thought, was the right direction and found myself instead in the San Lorenzo leather market where I was sucked in and bought a bag. I haggled the lady down 50 euro, so that was cool. I also saw the inside of the church San Lorenzo. Then I meant to head right over to the Duomo which I knew was just down the road. Only I turned down the wrong road, got all turned around and found myself again in the piazza Santa Maria Novella. Then I headed back into the maze, this time sure I was in the right direction and all the time looking up for a glimpse of the enormous dome, and found myself in the Piazza Republica. If I hadnt noticed that's where I was I would have ended up at the river, way way off from the Duomo. So by the time I actually got there I was exhausted and did not want to climb up the thing. So instead I just went in, payed 3 euro and went into the crypt where they unearthed the earlier parts of the church, then I went around to the Duomo museum and paid 6 euro to go in there and see a Michelangelo and a Donatello. Then I bought more shoes. Then I was knackered and headed back home, rested for an hour and then went out again, this time trying to find the Santa Croce church, which by some miracle I did. I met up with Jendar and her friend and we went to one of the most darling little pizzerias I have ever seen. There are only 4 tables inside and one man taking orders and cooking up the pizzas right in front of us. We were the first ones in there and the guy was so adorable and nice. He made our pizzas in the shape of hearts. :) Afterwards we walked over to an old palazzo where they had a very informative Galileo exhibit that wasn't really on Galileo at all. It was about the history of the western world's view of the universe. But they did have Galileo's telescope, which was cool.

So back home, to sleep, then I'll take it a bit easy tomorrow. There are three more things I have to do: go to San Marco, San Miniato al Monte, and climb the Duomo. San Miniato is tomorrow morning's activity, then lunch break, then San Marco and the Duomo. I think that is very doable.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Italia, La giornata 3

I did a lot today, but had no itinerary to begin with, which made the day a bit of an adventure. I woke up and took a while to get going but eventually got out of the house with the intention of shopping. So I walked over one of the bridges thinking I would find a store where they sell Birkenstock sandals (which are very popular over here with all kinds of different styles, so I figured I should just get some) but the store that I read had them was super high end and I went in with my cheap old sundress and gross shoes and the woman just kept following me around and staring at me. I got out of there fast and decided to walk up to the Piazza Republica where there is supposed to be an H&M. As I was looking for it I found myself at the Orsanmichele, one of the oldest buildings in the city. In fact, Piazza Republica is in the center of the old Roman city and used to be where the most ancient part was, until they tore down all the old buildings 100 years ago and stuck the ugly Piazza and loggia up. Too bad. Fortunately they didn't tear down Orsanmichele. It used to be a big loggia where the grain market was held, then they walled up the arches and made it into a church.

Anyway, I finally found H&M and fortunately for me, baggy clothes are in fashion here right now. Which means that I was actually able to find things that fit. I bought an oversized t-shirt (pretty 80sish) with a parrot on it and some linen pants. Then I walked down to the Ponte Vecchio where all the jewelry shops are, crossed over and headed back towards Jendar's apartment. Then I passed the Brancacci chapel where some of Massaccio's most famous works are, and it looked open so I decided to go and buy a ticket. It was noon and I was able to get a reservation for 1, so in the mean time I came back to Jendar's and ate and changed.

The chapel was pretty wonderful. I loved it. It was cool to see those paintings that had such a strong influence on so many people. They showed a movie that was forever but it was informative enough. After I looked at the chapel I decided to head back over the bridge and see what was there for me to see. I heard there was a yarn shop, but when I went to the address it wasnt there anymore. The shopkeeper there was pretty darling when he told me that they had gone. I quickly fell in love.

So I crossed the bridge and walked up until I entered the Ufizzi piazza. I decided I might as well go in, even though I wanted to try to do things I've never done, so I bought a ticket for tomorrow morning so as to avoid waiting in line. Then I found myself at the Piazza Singoria with all the other tourists in Florence. I figured I might as well go into the Palazzo Vecchio since I hadn't before, so I did that. I was impressed with the inside and thought of all the crazy italian men who had run the city over so many years. There is a little veranda in the corner of the building with a great view of the south side of the river, and that I was really nice. The weather was not nearly as painfully hot today as it has been the last few days.

After Palazzo Vecchio I wandered up to the Duomo and was thinking about climbing the dome but i was so tired and hungry that I couldn't bring myself to. So i bought some shoes instead. I like them, but I won't be able to wear them for this trip because they rub my toe a little bit and i got a blister just from walking back home. It's a shame. And I decided to save the Duomo for tomorrow after the Ufizzi.

So I came back, got some more gelato, this time dark chocolate and blackberry, and made some great dinner for me and Jendar, and watched MTV. Italian mtv is pretty awesome. They actually play music videos. Then Jendar and I decided to go to the Serial Killer Museum, so we walked over there. It was ok. I didn't get any information I didnt already know about serial killers and it was long and boring, but I'm still glad I went. On the way home we stopped at the loggia in Piazza Signoria and listened to some street performers for a little, then came back home. And now I am exhausted. Tomorrow is the Ufizzi, the Duomo and San Marco, then we are getting some pizza and going to the Galileo exhibit. So, i better get all the sleep I can so I can be there on time at the Ufizzi. Ciao!

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Italy, Day 2

Today I got up early and went with Jendar to where she works, Villa la Pietra. We took a tour of the garden and then ate at the cafeteria there, which was all really really good for being a cafeteria. Well, I guess the fact that we are in Italy probably makes a difference. After lunch I took the back down to Florence and then up to Fiesole. I was planning on walking, but it is literally like climbing a mountain. They call it a hill but it is just as high as Y mount. So I took the bus. On top of the mountain and just off the main square is an old Roman theatre. But it was closed today. :( I may go back tomorrow. I was almost defeated since that was the whole reason why I went up. But I decided to just keep looking around instead of going back down. I'm glad I did. I walked up the rest of the hill to the very very top where the old Etruscan and Roman acropolis were and where had been built a monastery and church later on. I had a hard time figuring out how to get in, but I finally managed to and it was very special. Before I got to the church I walked (hiked) past a little park with a gorgeous view of Florence and all the Tuscan countryside. I seriously could see forever. Looking at the city in that context was interesting.

So the church was tiny inside, recently restored, and just as lovely as can be. It was free, which was a plus because I hate paying to get into churches. Just off the nave were lovely cloisters and another (free!) museum, a Franciscan missionary museum so it was full of stuff from China. It also had Egyptian stuff like a mummy. cool. and some great Etruscan pottery. There was an Etruscan wall there too that the church had used instead of tearing down. It was very impressive, as ancient engineering feats tend to be. I loved this building so much. Probably because no one was there and it was free.

Below the church was a path that lead down the hill through a wooded park. Gorgeous. I strolled down it and in the main piazza I went into another church. It was again really lovely and nice and cool. (It has been SOO hot the last few days. Way up into the 90s. and the churches are usually the coolest places to be.) There was a huge group of German tourists there who were really really loud. I kept running into them in places, and when they showed up I left. After that I wandered down the hill to the north where there was supposed to be a cemetery. I wandered a bit too far, past the road I was supposed to go down (easy to do since it seems like none of those tiny roads are labeled), and found a little park with benches overlooking the north side of Fiesole. (Florence is to the South).

When I finally found the cemetery it was extremely interesting. All of the headstones have little tiny photographs of the people who died. There was also a loggia (a covered arcade used for hanging out it. Florentines love them) and I was a bit suprised to find that inside it was full of tombs, not just on the walls, but in the floor as well. It was weird walking on all of those graves like that.

After the cemetery I walked back down the hill to San Domenico to see the church. Inside was a painting by Fra Angelico that I really loved and was glad to see. Then I caught the bus, went back to Florence, got on another bus and came back out of the city to Villa la Pietra. I changed into a little nicer attire and watched a production of the Comedy of Errors in the "limonaia", the building where they store lemon trees in the winter time. It was fun, part of it in Italian and part in English. And I actually saw some kids there that I knew from an italian class a long time ago and who are living in Italy now. Weird. After that was a reception with free yummy food and drinks. It was a nice evening. Then we came back down, stopped by the gelateria and I got myself yogurt & nutella and coccoarancia (chcolate orange) gelato. Nearly died again. Love it sooo much. yogurt flavor is definitely my favorite so far.

I dont' know what i'll do tomorrow, but I think shopping is in store... I'm going to buy me some sandals and I know exactly what ones I want!

Monday, May 25, 2009

Italy, Day 1

Mamma mia. I am exhausted. I have slept 4 hours in the last 2 days. Very tired, but I am glad I made it! Florence is lovely....except that it was so freaking hot today and I'm just not used to the heat yet. But I've already ate gelato twice. I had mojito and tropicale on a cone, and then later I had yogurt and strawberry. The yogurt and strawberry nearly killed me, it was so good, and the tropicale was lovely and refreshing, but the mojito just tasted like lime and not mint at all.

Anyway, tomorrow I'm going to Villa la Pietra, where my friend is doing her internship, to have a personal guided tour of the gardens and works, then we're going to eat there and maybe I'll take a bus or walk up the hill to Fiesole to see the Etruscan ruins. Then later on at Villa la Pietra there is a play with a reception after that I am invited to. I'm gonna dress up all pretty. I can't wait.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

My body is a cage...

Like every young woman in the Western world, I have body issues. I tend to be rather uncomfortable in my body at times, and it has kept me from accomplishing a lot of things. I know my body doesn't fit into the acceptable perameters that our society has set for attractiveness, and somtimes it is difficult to live with this fact, especially when I am a human who needs love and attention just like everyone else. It's hard to live with and be around people who go on dates and are generally fairly attractive. It is especially hard when I am ignored while boys go after these pretty girls, and I just have to stand back and watch. It is also very frustrating to look for clothes when most of the places where I want to buy clothes don't carry my 16/18 size. I guess this is good because I do always seem to find something that will work, and I've learned to look at something and know whether or not it will fit. I also don't spend as much money as I probably would, and I've had to develop my own style. But it still is incredibly emotionally painful at times to live with my body in this world where I feel that I don't fit, and where I feel so often that I'm not wanted.

Not only am I uncomfortable emotionally when I feel inadequate and unattractive being around a group of attractive people, I also am often just physically uncomfortable. I think it has something to do with my low threshold for pain. I hate it when my feet are sore, and it doesnt seem to take much to do that, and I have a never ending problem with shoes. I simply cannot find any shoe that fits and is always comfortable. There's always some problem. In general, things always have to be just right or I go crazy. I have to be wearing the right clothes; when I go to bed my environment has to be perfect. I sleep with earplugs and I can only sleep in pitch black darkness. When i was younger I could only sleep in my own bed. I am always irritated by something physically, and one sad problem I have is not liking when people touch me. My skin hurts.

I'm going to Italy next week and one of the things that has been weighing heavily on my mind is how comfortable I will be physically. I know my feet will hurt, so I'm bringing several pairs of shoes that I can switch around since each pair rub differently on my feet. I'm going to bring some good strong painkillers, and I have loads of bandaids for when something rubs wrong for too long. I have also chosen my clothes very carefully so nothing will rub me the wrong way. The worst thing is that there are virtually no public restrooms in Italy, which means I have to plan carefully because I do not want to find myself needing to go to the bathroom and not being able to. Unfortunately I'd rather be dehydrated. I am also not looking forward to the beating my body will take just in traveling. I'll leave at 7 in the morning and get there at noon the following day. Now, Italy is 7 or 8 hours ahead so it will feel like the middle of the night to me, and I'll want to stay awake and have fun. Yeah, not looking forward to that day of travel at all.

Oh this stupid body, always needing to be cared for, always giving me problems, always getting hurt somehow. Fortunately I do have a very strong and healthy body. I am fat, but it's something that I need to really just accept because I know it is in my genes and it's not because I am a horrible person. I know my body's healthy weight, even if it is more than I'd like it to be, but I don't want to be obssessed with it for the rest of my life. I eat good food every single day and I am a relatively active person. When I was burned horribly on my face and arm the EMTs, the doctors and nurses were all astonished at how well my body maintained stasis. All my vitals were as normal as can be. The same thing happened when I was born, apparently. The labor was extremely difficult for my mom and I was stuck in a dangerous position for several hours, and yet when i finally came out I received the highest score possible for overall general health. I really was blessed with a good body, and I know that despite the various physical irritations I anticipate on my trip that I will be fine walking all over Florence and Rome for 10 days. I guess I should just chill the eff out and enjoy myself.

Monday, May 11, 2009

summer has officially begun

On the way home today I walked past a family sitting outside on their front lawn. There were two little tiny children playing and as I approached the house the little girl picked a dandelion and held it out to me. I took it and blew some of the seeds away. She was delighted to see this, so I handed it back to her and she blew some of the seeds and gave it back to me. Then as I walked past the little boy on his tricycle he waved at me. In the next second I walked past a woman holding her baby who also waved at me exuberantly. Three babies saying hi to me in the span of a minute. I about died.

This afternoon was truly delightful. Work sucked and it was kind of hard but I left at the right time to show up at my friend's house just as a everyone was going to the cemetery up on the foot of the mountains. 7 of us drove up there, stopped by a little roadside hamburger joint and got something to eat, and spent an hour or so sitting in the cemetery, talking and looking out over the valley. It was gorgeous, one of the most amazing views I've seen of Utah Valley, and I was with some pretty awesome people. I feel really blessed. I'll have to post some picture of that view at some point, I'm sure I'll head up there often this summer.

Friday, May 8, 2009

Pain don't hurt! (except that it does)

I don't like getting hurt (who does, right?). But, I don't deal with pain very well and I'm very sensitive so things tend to hurt me a lot more than they should. I've even passed out before because of pain. This fear of pain has tended to make me extremely cautious over the years (and slightly paranoid). I've never broken a bone and until recently I've never had to go to the hospital for anything. And I've never had stitches before, until today that is. I cut my thumb with a pocket knife and had to get 8 stitches. I almost passed out again, and when I was getting the stitches the doctor gave me an anesthetic (thank heavens), but the needle stabbing part was horrific. It hurt so much that I was in hysterics, laughing my head off every time she stabbed me. At one point she was like "You're still feeling this? I've used up all the anesthetic." And the guy helping her said "Boy, when you give birth you had better ask for an epidural." I finally went numb enough for her to start sewing my skin together. ugh.

When I got burned in October I had so many pain pills inside of me that I didn't have the "oh my gosh I'm going to pass out" feeling, but it never stopped hurting. I think I was in constant pain for 2 weeks. And I haven't been to the dentist in years because the last time I went I could feel everything and he wouldn't give me any more anesthetic. He told me to just suck it up. It's been 7 years since I've been in a dentist office.

I hate the helplessness of being in pain. One of my favorite books ever is called The Body in Pain by Elaine Scarry. She focuses on torture and war, but she discusses how pain is so singular. No one can ever know the pain you are feeling. They can have compassion and empathy, but your pain is your own. This is used against torture victims to unmake their world, their conception of reality. Because pain is so singular and inexpressible it contracts your reality. Your world grows smaller and smaller. Pain is blinding and binding because it occurs solely in your body and the body cannot adequately express it. I find this fascinating, and thinking about it theologically I find it to be interesting how my beliefs center so much on the Atonement of Christ, which is the event in which God made it possible for pain to be shared and no longer totally singular. While no other human being can feel the specific pain you feel, we believe that God can, that Christ does feel that pain because he took on the pains and sufferings of all the world. Based on what Elaine Scarry argues, this is an extremely liberating doctrine. It is world making. In the face of pain reality expands rather than contracts. I love this idea.

So, I'm feeling better about the whole thing, but I am still really mad at myself for doing this. It certainly does not help my anxiety problem, an issue that has been growing worse since I got hurt in October. And it totally interrupted my plans for the day. I hope I can get things accomplished tomorrow to make up for it. I have a lot to do in the morning. I need to go to campus to check out a ton of books I have on hold, then I want to head over to the farmer's market to buy some fresh food for the week and some little plants to put in my potted garden and then I'm going to lunch at 2 with some old friends. It's days like tomorrow when I need my car to be running. I guess I should just get over my anxiety and call the mechanic on Monday and get it taken care of.