Monday, June 14, 2010

Cooking

Hello everyone! It's nice to be blogging so often right now--suddenly I find I have things to say and ideas I want to share again!


My boyfriend and I did some shopping this past weekend for manicotti and muffin ingredients, and of course ended up buying other fun things like Greek yogurt, cherries, and risotto. I've been eating the cherries this morning, and just decided I want to bake with them instead--we have enough to cook with and eat on their own, so I want to have fun with them. I found a recipe in the cookbook my boyfriend got me for Christmas (The New Taste of Home Cookbook) for raspberry coffee cake, and since I have all the ingredients but raspberries, I think I'm going to put my own spin on it and use cherries instead. I don't know if I'll have time to make the coffee cake tonight or if I'll wait until tomorrow, but I'm excited!


This cookbook is great because it has sections with labelled tabs for things like poultry, seafood, vegetables, sauces, quick breads, candies, etc., and many of the recipes offer four variations: classic, time-saver, light, and serves 2. I particularly love looking through the breads/cakes/desserts sections and bookmarking particular recipes I'd like to make. In fact, I have more parties to bake for in my mind than are actually on my schedule!


I also got the next Auel book, The Mammoth Hunters, this morning. My boyfriend's mom talked to her friend at the library near where she lives, and they held the book for her to pick up. She brought it over here this morning, and I'm already blazing through it!


I also got a good start on packing this morning. I have a final load of laundry to do before I leave that will clean up some shirts and (a-hem) undergarments I'd like to take with, but for the most part, I am largely packed up. I leave for Detroit in a few days, and from there fly to Europe! My Prague roommate (and close friend) and I are planning on doing some cooking in Europe--we'll be eating baguettes and nutella for breakfast most days to conserve our money so we can travel more and splurge on delicious lunch/dinner foods. As I am a recent captive of the deliciousness of nutella, I am very excited to have it for breakfast so often! To make up for the less-than-nutritious breakfasts, I'm bringing vitamins and supplements. I'd hate to get sick so far from home!


Well, when I make the coffee cake, I will take a picture and post it for any interested parties. I may or may not have time to blog much in Europe, but I'll make sure to update pictures and stories when I get back!


~Monica

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Books and Food

Well, it is officially 8 days until I leave for Prague for four weeks of poetry, screenwriting, and travelling! I am very excited and also rather nervous--nervous mostly for packing, which I've barely begun. So far I have three jackets or varying thickness, for use depending on how cool the nights get, pants, and two dressy outfits for when our group goes to see a show.... and I have most of a suitcase left to fill. Yikes! Better get started on that soon, but first must do laundry.

As I've mentioned before, I have been doing a great deal of reading. I'm currently working through the Earth's Children series by Jean M. Auel. This is the third time I've read the series (which consists of 5 books, all of which are between 500 and 900 pages long--the sixth and final book in the series is due out next year, and I am SO EXCITED!!) since middle school. I've been taking the books out of the local library because my copies are still at my parent's house, 6 hours away, but I've just discovered that my library doesn't have the third or fourth book! I finished the second two days ago and spent many moments yesterday and this morning aching to continue reading the story. Today I plan to go to a library where my boyfriend grew up and check the books out from there. And yes, I do plan on having those two books finished by the time I leave so I can get the fifth from my local library the day before I leave. What can I say? I love books!

I actually feel some fear about reading this third book, called The Mammoth Hunters. The very first time I read it, I stayed up the whole night to finish it just so I wouldn't have to spend hours dreaming about what might be happening to the characters in the pages. It is an agonizing story about love, communication, truth, and exploration. And when I say agonizing, I mean agonizing--think Love Actually, when the boy Sam says "Worse than the total agony of being in love?" and Liam Neeson's character replies with, "Yes. Total agony." Well, this book is like that; the cultural differences between the two main characters and the people they are spending the winter with make for some grave miscommunications, misunderstandings, and a near loss of their relationship.

Just thinking about reading this book again puts knots in my stomach and a lump in my throat. But despite the professed agony that I know to be buried in the long pages, I can't help but love the book and the whole story that follows the series--I could no more skip this book and move on to the fourth than I could skip a dificult time in my own life and move on to simpler times. So, I may be a glutton for punishment; I do love a good tear jerker. A book that can make me cry and laugh and cringe and read in awe has my seal of approval any day--and Auel's endearing series never fails to surprise and torment me.

What I did yesterday instead of read was cook. I made blueberry muffins in the morning, and manicotti at night for a barbeque my boyfriend and I were going to that evening. We were going to bring the leftover muffins to the barbeque, too, but they were so delicious that we decided to keep them all to oursleves. So I have blueberry muffins for breakfast again this morning!

Engaging,
Monica

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Genre writing: yes, it has a purpose

I've been a writer for as long as I can remember. As a child, I had countless journals and diaries that I filled with the dreams for and beginnings of novels. I wanted to go to college and major in creative writing long before I knew that such a major even existed. I read books like my very existence depended on meeting new characters, learning new words, exploring new worlds, and having impossible adventures.


Once I graduated from Nancy Drew and Goosebumps, I found my love for science fiction and fantasy books. This probably had a lot to do with my parents: my mom, who read my brother and I Orson Scott Card's Seventh Son long before we could really understand what was going on; and my dad, whose improvised storytelling accounted for some of my most vivid memories from a childhood that I seem to have largely forgotten.


In middle school, I entered a contest for young writers and completed my first novel (technically, a novella). It was a fusion of (as I mentioned in the last entry) Stephen Donaldson's A Mirror of Her Dreams and Diane Duane's So You Want to be a Wizard--and, of course, written by a 13-year-old. When my novel didn't win the contest, I thought about giving up on writing. I was sure that, if I wasn't good enough for a middle school writing contest, I wouldn't ever be good enough to get anything published. But after some time, I began to work on the story again. The plot and the characters grew with me throughout the years as I matured and read more and discovered new writing voices. I rewrote the book several times, killed and birthed different characters, created a new world, honed talents, introduced morality. Then I wrote a sequel and had lofty plans for a third in the series. But then my mind began to wander, and I wrote new stories and sequels to those. I tried writing from the point of view of girls, then of adults, and young children, then people who were disabled, some who couldn't speak, and I created new languages.


I became aware in high school of the stigmas that are attached to the scifi/fantasy genre. It's difficult to put into words, but largely I became aware that when I told people I wrote (and read) scifi/fantasy, they saw me as a joke--it was as if scifi/fantasy books couldn't be serious or important or have anything valuable to say about the world. I also felt, some place below my conscious mind, the stigma that scifi/fantasy was written by and for men only--and I'm a woman (and was a girl). Desperately wanting my writing to be accepted and for people not to judge me harshly the moment I uttered those words, I searched for a new way to label my writing--and I came up with creative fiction. Still, though, I wasn't satisfied.

In college, I went through a period where I lost my writing--I told my family I was still working on my novels, but I really wasn't. Sometimes I would sit down at my computer and read through my stories (often hundreds of pages worth of writing), change a few spelling or grammar errors here and there, and then quit. I worked on my writing for workshops, and since there was no "genre writing" allowed in most classes, I learned in another way that scifi and fantasy weren't good enough.

I got a fiction short story published my freshman year, but I resented it a little. It seemed to me that now I had to explain to my family and the people who knew I'd been a fantasy writer all my life that my first publication wasn't in my chosen genre. I had a difficult time explaining to new people I was meeting that I was a fantasy writer--not to mention the prodding, disbelieving questions when I told people I was going to school for creative writing--but I thought that the fact I'd gotten something published would give me some credibility in their eyes.

For so long, I thought that I had to overcome other people's bad opinions about genre writing, and though that is still true to some extent, what I really needed to change was my own attitude to it all. I considered myself and my writing unworthy--my embarrassment about being a genre writer stopped me from standing up for myself when I knew that the quality of my writing was very good, and my ideas were creative and clever.

Just this morning, I came to an understanding about my chosen genres. I'd been worried so long that people didn't think my writing meant anything or could say anything valuable about the world, but after so many years of reading scifi/fantasy, I finally understand something different. Fantasy gives people an opportunity to explore what's good about the world through the lens of a new one. Science fiction is a way to understand the potential problems that will develop in the future if the world society/economy/mindset stays the course it is on, and how to deal with them. While both these genres can be fun (and what isn't fun about discovering that you can hop through mirrors into different worlds, or play war games in anti-gravity, or how the needle may have been invented?), they can also be tremendously important. Reading or writing scifi/fantasy is not just about escaping our world and wishing you could live in another--on a very important level, it's about how no world is ideal, but ours is the one we live in, so how can we make it better?

That's what I want to do with my writing--I want to see my world and be the one to take a stand against a problem if I'm the one who sees it. But I also want to celebrate the joy and beauty of being alive. I know I can do that with whatever form of writing I choose.

Learning lots,
Monica

Friday, May 28, 2010

Writing, How I Love Thee...

I have been woefully slacking on this blog recently--however, to be honest, I've had other dry spells before this, and I can't truthfully blame it on "having too much to do." Lately, especially the past five days, I have not done much of anything that was overly time consuming or inflexibly scheduled. The fact of the matter seems to be, when I have more to do, I actually get more done. Seriously!

This week has been spent, largely, reading. I read through Orson Scott Card's Ender's Game in a day (yes, one day!), barrelled through The Mists of Avalon by Marion Zimmer Bradley, and am already a third of the way through Jean M. Auel's The Clan of the Cave Bear. Next up is the series "Mordant's Need" by Stephen Donaldson--I love those books so much that I think no matter how many other wonderful books I read throughout my life, Donaldson's The Mirror of Her Dreams and A Man Rides Through will always be in my top favorites. They (along with So You Want to be a Wizard by Diane Duane) directly inspired and influenced me in the writing of the first full book I ever created. My story was initially a fairly exact hybrid (that is, stealing of ideas) of Donaldson's and Duane's novels, though I have since revised, rewritten, and rethough the whole storyline many times.

Up until my final year of college (this past year), I was an almost exclusively scifi novel writer. Only very recently did I start to pick up the joy and challenge of writing poetry. In my study of poetry in school, I all but stopped dead my work on novels and the type of story I have written all my life since I can remember writing. Though I by no means regret having begun my studies in poetry, I do regret having so compeltely cut off the other side of me as a writer. And now, after reading so many fantasy/sci fi books recently (many with religious/spiritual and feminine power themes), my mind is brewing new ideas for stories that my fingers ache to write.

The biggest obstacle between me and writing (and typing this blog, and job hunting, and exercising, etc.) right now is getting off the couch, out of my book, and walking the ten feet to the computer.

Reading two very inspirational and charming blogs recently (and this morning especially) has gotten me back into the swing of writing my own. If you're looking for something good to read, check out http://quintessentialbiblioholic.blogspot.com, and if you're looking for something good to eat, check out www.eatwriterun.com.

Lots of joy!
~Monica

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Finals, graduation!

Sorry for the long absence! The past few weeks have been very hectic--this week is my final exam week, so I've been spending my days doing the last of my school work and then working on projects, papers and exams. AND NOW I'M DONE!!! I have to turn in my compelte editing portfolio by this afternoon, and then all I have to do is graduate!

I made a big mistake recently. I wrote down that all my finals were on Tuesday (yesterday), but thought that they were all on Wednesday. When I actually looked in my book and saw that they were due a day earlier than I planned, I burnt myself out on getting them done in time.... only to discover that they were, in fact, due on Wednesday. Obviously I just wasn't paying attention to which box I was writing in, and so stressed myself out more than I needed to. On the one hand, I got my project and paper done early, but on the other, I didn't leave myself enough time to study for my ethnic studies exam. The biggest problem was that I didn't start work on any of these things early enough. I had some of my editing portfolio done (as a class assignment), but hadn't worked veey far ahead and so made this week really difficult for myself. I also didn't get a head start on my philosophy paper, or make enough time to study for my exam. So, after eleven years of exams, finals, and graded projects, I still haven't learned my lesson. Let this be a lesson to me for the future!

On the other hand, I've read a ton of books this semester in my spare time. The count as of right now is sixteen--not bad for a graduating senior with a full class load! I read Ken Follett's 973-page novel, The Pillars of the Earth, recommended to me by a dear friend, in under a week. I blazed through that book faster and with more hunger than any book for a long time--faster than some 300-page books I've been reading recently. It is definitely what I would call a character-driven book. The characters live and act and react exactly like living humans would in similar circumstances, and all the action, love, murder and fear in the book was created by the characters, not by plot. Often, plot drags characters around a world they have no desire to be in, through lives they would not actually live, and the characters lose their autonomy--the plot becomes more complex than the people. This book had a simple plot--it could be explained in one sentence, but it would not describe the story. The characters are what give this tale life and love and meaning, and they shape the plot with their lives. I felt like these people were truly alive, and their pain was my pain, their love my love. I would read this book a thousand more times!

It's been difficult to tear myself away from my books and my schoolwork, so I've barely started packing. I've devoted the rest of this week to getting my things in order, and this weekend to moving my storage stuff to my boyfriend's parents' house and my necessities slowly to his.

I promise I'll have more interesting things to write about soon!

~Monica

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Vegetarianism

So I've been toying for a while with the idea of becoming a vegetarian again. I went veggie in high school/college, but found the lifestyle difficult to maintain healthily when I was living in the dorms with very limited access to off-campus food (and anyone will tell you that, at least until recently, there has been little-to-no vegetarian options except for pasta offered on my school's campus) or any feasible way too cook or prepare meals. So, what I'm saying is, I gave up. It was easier to stop trying, especially after my reason for becoming a vegetarian (an old boyfriend) was out of the picture.

Over the past few years, I've learned more and more about the truths of factory farming and the disgustingly, terrifyingly inhumane way most industries treat animals bread for their meat (an other products). I heard a really powerful presentation from a member of the campus veggie club last semester and picked up some flyers and informational packets. I was appalled by what I was learning and the things I already knew that were getting confirmed, but I still hadn't made the commitment to stop eating meat.

The truth is, I enjoy meat. I love a good steak, I've recently discovered some delicious recipes for cooking chicken, I will jump on almost any excuse to eat shrimp, and have developed a semi-recent taste for fish. Thinking about the things I eat during the day, at least one meal usually contains meat--usually that meal is dinner, which I often make for and eat with my boyfriend, who gets home from school at 10pm most nights, and who isn't a vegetarian.

The lifestyle changes that would be required by becoming a vegetarian are huge. I am not willing to cook separate meals for my boyfriend and I, though I don't see him being willing to stop eating meat any time soon--here enters the compromising. I would be eliminating many of my staple grocery products (hot dogs, chicken breasts, chicken fingers, deli turkey, burgers) and would stop eating some of my dinner "treats," like my favorite pork and greenbean recipe, a tender, grilled steak with A-1, my uncle's famous lime-something marinated grilled shrimp, and more.

I'm also not sure how to get all the protein and other nutrients I need into a vegetarian diet. I already like tofu and avocado, but I don't like beans and asparagus and other "good for you" veggies....

Clearly, this requires some planning, some research, and some important discussions with my boyfriend. Overall, though, I am on the road to becoming a vegetarian. Wondering why I have decided this all of a sudden? I saw a video in my ethics class today that disturbed and pained me so much that I don't think I can justify eating meat anymore, unless I can confirm that the animals were treated humanely during their lives and killed humanely at their time of death. I will post the video when my teacher emails me the link.

Learning lots,
Monica

Here is the link to the video. I warn you, the images are very disturbing and graphic. This is not fun to watch, but it is powerful. The argument in this video subtely changes throughout, but reagrdless of what the narrator says, it is what is shown that really matters. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VIjanhKqVC4

Monday, April 19, 2010

MATH! haha just kidding

I GRADUATE IN THREE WEEKS!
Two more weeks of classes and then one week of finals, for which I don't actually have to take any finals! I have a bunch of huge projects due during or before finals week that are taking up a lot of my time right now. I was a poor planner earlier in the semester and didn't get a great head start on my editing portfolio (which, to give you an idea of the ginormity of it, will consist of, at least, fifty pages of edited material and an explanation page for each, plus extra project parts for certain documents, not to mention a few pages of professional intros and lots of other fun but time-consuming pages...) and that is pretty much taking over my life right now. If fate is with me, then the project won't be due until finals week. However, since I haven't actually written down the due date, I have no clue when I need to get it done by... aaaand, go!

I'm also moving out of my current house shortly after I graduate and moving some of my stuff into my boyfriend's small apartment and the rest of it (like my desk, bookshelf, winter gear, and dresser) to his parent's basement/garage. Thank goodness they live close and are willing to let me store my stuff there for a few months before my boyfriend and I get our new place, otherwise I'd have to blow a lot of money on storage lockers, since there's no way we could get all my stuff into his tiny place and still have room to breathe. I don't even know how I'm going to fit my bare essentials, like toiletries, books, and clothes. (Yes, books are essentials.) But I will make it work, hopefully with some cleverly-stashed boxes and plastic drawers.

I had a fun facial party with my boyfriend's mom and some of her friends over the weekend. It was the biggest party I have ever done, and so it took longer than I expected. All of the women were fun and chatty, so the time felt like it was going by quickly and I was surprised by how late it was when we were done. The more I do the parties, the more I enjoy them, and the longer the span of time between them, the more I forget that I enjoy them. I have another one coming up this Thursday with one of my teachers, who is very fun and already likes Mary Kay.

Next weekend my mom is coming to visit. She's never seen the house I live in and, quite possibly, has never met my roommates. I'm so excited for her to come and see the things I do around here and to meet my friends. I'm going to take her to... oh wait, I can't write it here because she reads this blog! It's a surprise. Granted, there aren't too many super duper exciting things around here, but there are some places that I enjoy and I want to share them with her.

This afternoon I'm getting my hair cut for the first time in a long while! I've been growing it out for years and getting it trimmed when it starts to get nasty, but now it's way too long and gets tangled all the time, no matter how well I care for it. A few inches need to go! I will donate to locks of love if my hair is long enough that they can take 10 inches without leaving me with the same mistake of a hair cut that I got four years ago that made me look like Peter Pan... and not in a good way. If not, I'll just lose between 3 and 6, depending on how risky I feel like being.

Learning lots,
Monica

UPDATE: Lost 10 inches of hair today! Bumped my hair back up to my shoulders... I am getting used to it, and comforting myself with the knowledge that I just gave my hair to a child that needs it more than I do. Now, how do I style short hair??

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Soooooo, Europe, anyone?

I got some stupendous news this weekend! (Well, actually on Friday.) I have an opportunity to go to Prague for four weeks this summer with three friends from one of my classes and six other American students. We're going to be studying poetry/screenwriting at Charles University, the third oldest university in Europe, for four weeks! We'll also have time to see operas and ballets, as well as visit historical sites like Auschwitz and, of course, use our free time to gallavant around Europe and do some coffee house workshops.



I am SO STOKED for this trip! On top of being able to see Europe with some friends, I will be able to put this University time on my transcript, which will give me a leg-up when I apply to grad schools in less than a year.



My boyfriend is really supportive of me going. It means, of course, that we will be spending time apart, and it might turn out that his two weeks of training (for the Marines) lines up with my Prague trip and we might not see each other for six weeks. Of course this is a little bit of a downer, but we talked about what a grand opportunity this is for me and how much I will learn and get to experience, and that weighs so much more than the sadness of not seeing each other for some time.



This means now that I need to really amp up my Mary Kay business so I can have some extra money for daily expenses in Europe, and so that I can hopefully start to fill the hole that this trip will leave in my bank account. I have about a month or so before the money is due, and I've already got some facials lined up for the next two weeks. The most important thing for me to do now is to be giving my business cards away and starting dialogues about Mary Kay with every woman I meet to see if she's interested in a free facial or buying some products--and at the very least she will have my information and can hand it off to friends, or buy stuff in a few months.



I am soooo excited that sometimes I need to dance around because the anticipation is making me jittery and high and I need to let it loose. I also feel a bit scared, mostly because of the whole going-to-Europe-costs-money thing... But I'm using those emotions to motivate me to really work at getting myself to a good and more stable place before I leave. Wheeeeeeeeee!!!!!




Learning lots
(and really joyous!)
Monica

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Living with Purpose

So as I mentioned in an earlier blog, my boyfriend and I signed a lease together for next year--August to August. We are very excited about the place because it is clean, newly renovated, we're allowed to have pets (and the pet deposit is refundable!), it's far from campus but not too far from town, utilities are included, and the lady who runs the complex is so nice! The current tenant in the apartment we rented has lived there for 22 years, and when he was told that he was going to get all new appliances, flooring, painting and the works, he decided to move out instead! Crazy man... but that means my boyfriend and I get all new appliances and brand new carpet for no extra charge. Also my good friend signed a lease there a few weeks prior, and since she referred us, she gets $200 off her first month's rent. So if anyone is looking for a place to stay around here, talk to me so we can get referral benefits and you can live in a beautiful place!

My typing adventure is going well. You might recall that I am trying out a new method of typing that could potentially make me a faster and more efficient typist. If I'm not conscious about typing with all my fingers, I still lapse back to my old hunt-and-peck method, but I'm already becoming faster at typing with all my fingers. What's really interesting is that when I am conscious of the way I'm typing, I'm also more conscious about whether or not I'm slouching, which is a habit of mine that I've also been working on changing.

I'm becoming more proactive about being a Mary Kay beauty consultant. I was rocking out the facials over Spring break, but since getting back to school I have been focusing less on my job and more on school work and my friends--which is not bad, I just need to find a balance so I make money while still nurturing the other parts of my life. I'm working on not dividing my life up, so that I'm always conscious of being a MK consultant, instead of turning it on when I turn my school work off--I want to be a complete person, not a person with a fragmented life, just like I am still a writer when I'm with my non-writer friends, and I'm still a pupil of the Wright Leadership Institute when I'm here in Ohio.

Learning lots,
Monica

Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Amygdala Hijacking (oh noooo!)

I am a relatively busy person--and like many busy people, I keep post-its on my desk and a wall calendar next to my desk to help me remember the things I need to do. It always seems like a good idea to write things on post-its. If I'm on the phone and need to remember a phone number, name, and date, then it's much faster to reach for a post-it than scramble through my book bag for my homework planner that I don't look at very often anyway. For the big important things--like a meeting or a deadline--I make sure to write them down a few times, like on a post-it, my calendar, my homework planner, and sometimes my hand. And still I manage to forget a lot of important things. Why is this??

I'm sure a lot of it has to do with my fear of taking responsibility for my life, being fully present, awake, and engaged, and of being seen and heard. On the one hand, I often want to be seen and heard, but on the other, the more I am seen the more opportunities I have to make a mistake that someone will notice. My unconscious mind tries to convince me that if I hide in the "background" and don't step up to actively paricipate in things I'm asked or have committed to do, then no one will notice and I can slip away "safely."

What my conscious mind is slowly realizing is that people notice me when I'm not there. I am seen and heard even when I'm not around to be seen and heard--what I mean is, my lack of presence still has an impact on others, especially those who I have broken a commitment to.

My lack of presence also has an impact on me, no matter how much my unconscious mind tries to tell me that I'm not missing out on anything if I don't show up to the meeting I said I would or to the class I signed up for.

So how can I fight my unconscious mind when I'm already doing "so much" to thwart it (see: post-its and hand notes)? I need to work with it. What's driving my unconscious mind if often fear--of rejection, of failure, of not being recognized, of not mattering, etc. I don't need to fight these fears or pretend they don't exist, because that will just make them pop up and paralyze me when I'm not expecting it. Pretending I don't have feelings doesn't change the fact that they're there. What I need to do is acknowledge the fear (or anger, hurt... whatever it is that is holding me back) and get control of my mind back. Instead of being mentally hijacked by fear, I can name the feeling and decide to go to that meeting anyway. Without acknowledging the emotion, I can't take back my mind and I will continue to operate unconsciously, but if I acknowledge the fear, I will be able to use thaat energy to propel me instead of drag me down.

It's a journey and a constant effort, but getting my conscious mind back from my unconscious for moments here and there is like catching the first small waves in an ocean of opportunities.

Learning lots,
Monica

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Responsibility

I had a great day yesterday! In the morning, my boyfriend and I made breakfast, then saw an apartment, went grocery shopping with his mom, went out to lunch, test-drove a car (that I am definitely not going to buy), saw another potential place to live next year, walked around the mall, then made a delicious dinner of steak, mashed potatoes and corn muffins, and ate ice cream while watching Indepencence Day, which I have never seen all the way through before.

One of the best parts of yesterday was the way my boyfriend and I talked about what we were really looking for in a place to live--and it turns out that we have very different desires. The most important factors (for me) in finding a place to live are that I am close to friends, within walking distance of downtown, and near people. My boyfriend prefers living in a more remote area and it doesn't matter to him how close we live to downtown. His opinion was really frustrating me because I didn't get why he didn't understand why these things were so important to me. Finally, I realized that he didn't understand because I hadn't really told him!

We talked through why I wanted to be near town--because I currently don't have a car and if I can't walk to town, I am essentially stuck in the house/apartment all day, and my job options are limited--why I want to be near people and why I want to be near my friends. Once I told him why I wanted what I wanted, he talked about what he wanted, and we were able to agree on which apartment was the best option for us. I'm proud because I got myself out of the drama (of being a victim to why he didn't understand what I wanted) and moved to a responsible space. I decided on the things I was not willing to compromise on and the things I was willing to let go of, and when I took the lead into responsibility, he followed.

The biggest win is that I wasn't alone in the conversation--my fear of "being the responsible one" is that I will be the only one, but when I chose responsibility over drama and victimhood, my boyfriend followed. I didn't feel like I had to carry the relationship and not lose my head--by having him on the same team, we got onto the same side.

Learning lots,
Monica

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Risks, Changes, Productivity, and my Gift

When I was at the MORE Life Training in Chicago this weekend, I had the opportunity to do a lot of typing--more specifically, transcribing a large portion of the training. I am a fast typer and over the past year or so, I have begun to embrace that talent. I've gone from having to look at the keyboard when I type, to being able to go for long periods of time wihout looking down (woo!!!). I've even gotten faster--about a year ago when I first began to assist at the usually bi-monthly trainings, I typed at about 70WMP, and this weekend I was up to 80!

I had a lot of fun this weekend and got affirmed quite a bit for being so fast, being so willing to transcribe often, and for my strange method of typing. Historically I have been a hunt-and-peck typist. (That means that instead of resting my fingers on the home keys (asdf jkl;), my fingers hover over the keyboard, and I only use one finger (and sometimes my thumb) on my left hand.) Although I took computer class in middle school every year, I always preferred this method over the way I was taught. I find the hunt-and-peck method easier because I have disproportionately long fingers, and in order for my pinky and pointer fingers to hit the proper home keys, my middle fingers have to be bent at a 90 degree angle and my wrists bent a little sideways--it is very easy for my fingers to lose their home position. I just figured out this problem last night when I started teaching myself again how to type with all the fingers on both my hands.

You may be wondering--why learn another way to type when my method is already so fast and it seems to be working well enough? Well, I had a great conversation with a friend over the weekend who asked me something like, "What other areas of your life do you live typing without all your fingers?" In other words, where else do I settle for good enough and not push myself to use all the resources available to utlize my talents to the fullest and be the greatest gift to the world that I can be? Where do I stop at "good" and not go for "great"? Where do I accept mediocrity when I have the capability to make things better? Where do I hide in safeness instead of making changes? Where do I give up in the face of a challenge? (He may not have meant every bit of this, but that's what it meant to me.)

So, I have started to relearn another way to type to see if it will make me a better typist. It may not, but I will never know unless I try. I am taking this idea into the rest of my life and becoming conscious of the times when I only type with one finger and I could be using all ten.

Learning Lots,
Monica

Monday, March 22, 2010

Hello, eleven days later

Well, I'm back. I have been deliciously busy the past few weeks. I went to my parent's house for Spring Break and did a lot of facials and got new customers. Then when I got back to school, I had even more stuff to do! This past weekend I went to the MORE Life Training in Chicago with the Wright Leadership Institute--I have been having such a full life!

I love assisting at the MORE Life weekends because it is a great opportunity for me to learn and grow and have adventures and make mistakes, but also because I really believe in what the Institiute offers and I want to help other people make use of the opportunity to join our community. I went through a lot of personal growth work, did a ton of typing, and had a very exciting rollercoaster weekend--high highs, big mistakes, and low lows. I felt more things than I have at any other weekend, and I have solidified my decision to do whatever I have to do to join Lab (an advanced program at the Instititue). I got to hear and express some deep truths, tell people my heart's desires for them, play during lunch, and stay up late with people who want so much out of life. I feel so much joy, and some sadness that the weekend is over.

My vision for myself is that I bring energy, truth, adventure, and risk-taking to my community here in Bowling Green and push myself to engage fully with others so my life here is fulfilling, adventurous, and intimate.

I heard many new ideas on how to work my business, how to push myself to greatness (instead of good-enough-ness), and how to make my relationships with others more meaningful and adventurous.

I am so thankful for the opportunity to have worked with Bob and Judith Wright, all my fellow assistants, and all the participants this weekend. I recommend this experience to anyone who wants more out of life, wants to learn to love themselves more fully, and to create deeper and more meaningful connections with the people around them. If you're interested in attending this free weekend training in June, contact me and I will be thrilled and honored to have you come play with us!

Learning lots,
Monica

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Business Smarts

I've been cranking out the facials/makeovers this break! So far I've done six faces, I have another scheduled for tomorrow, three as of yet unscheduled, and one on Sunday! Go me!

I brought some extra MK products to my parents' house because I wanted to have some stuff on-hand when I (thought I) was going to do lots of facials during the day at the school my mom works at. Due to various circumstances, the possibility of hanging in the teacher's lounge and giving quickie facials to busy teachers has been postponed for a little while. So now I have two bags of extra products that I've been afraid to take to the one- or two-person facials because that means that (as samples) I couldn't sell them.

So I've been thinking since last night, are the benefits of sampling nearly $50 of products (and so not being able to sell them) outweighed by the benefits of having customers try them, realize they love them, and potentially buy them? Logically, I know the answer is yes. When I went to my most recent facial/makeover (before I became a consultant), I was unmoved by the idea of eyesicles or the satin lips set--that is, until I tried them at that party. Right then, even though I had no money to buy them, I knew I wanted them. I even went so far as to search through all my purses, pants pockets, and jackets searching for spare change or singles. Though my efforts were fruitless at the time to wrangle enough money to buy the products, it was a good lesson for me now--sampling products is key for getting customers to buy them. People won't know how good their lips can feel with satin lips unless they try it, or how bright and fun their eyes can look with eyesicles until they put it on their lids.

So, to get myself to take some more business-friendly risks, I took the satin lips set out of the packaging and used it on my lips so that I could never in good conscience sell them to someone else--so I would have to use them for facials. I did the same with eyesicles and a 5-in-1 perfume/lipglosss sampler. Now, armed with more wonderful products that I believe in and that I know make me feel good, I'm on my way to helping other women feel great about themselves, too!

Learning lots,
Monica

Monday, March 8, 2010

Working During Spring Break

Well, it is officially spring break! I am really going to miss all this great time off when I'm out of school and have a job--maybe I should be a permanent student...

Anyway, I'm back in my hometown with most of my family for the next few days. I spent some time in Ann Arbor two days ago with some friends who dropped me at home on their way to New Orleans. I bought a beautiful coffee mug (I would upload a picture now, but I forgot the transfer cord so you'll just have to wait with baited breath until I get back to school) at a fair trade store in Ann Arbor, and walked around some old bookstores, coffee shops, and cafes for a few hours after having pie for breakfast.

So far it has been a really wonderful break! I did a MK facial with my mom yesterday and got some great feedback. She's supporting me a lot with creating new business opportunities--reaching out to people I know and being more direct and proactive about asking to do facials with them. I only have a short amount of time to meet my 30 faces goal! Eeee!

I'm feeling nervous about calling people and asking for support--I'm afraid of getting rejected or sounding like an idiot or being overly pushy. I heard once that if you don't have a job, you should make getting a job your full-time job--that is, waking up early, showering and putting on business clothes, and then making so many calls an hour asking about interviews and job availability. Well, I have a job, but it's a little bit like not having one. I don't go into an office or restaurant, put on a uniform, and type/file/serve/manage/style 8 hours a day, 5 days a week. I work from home, and my business depends almost entirely on making calls and asking for business opportunities, and selling myself and my services (wow, that sounds bad... I don't mean it like that!) to people that don't know me very well. What I've got to do is push myself out of my comfort zone anyway, find support from my close friends and family, and remember that I am alright, even if I call someone and they're not interested in Mary Kay.

Well, I'm off to work my business. Make a great day!

Learning lots,
Monica

Thursday, March 4, 2010

Mistakes, Whoooo!

So I made my first meal in my Dutch oven last night. It was (I my have mentioned this earlier) a maple pot roast. However, I didn't have the cut of meat the recipe demanded, nor did I have the right type of vinegar. Also, I am sure I didn't have the oven at the right temperature (thanks, Book, for not telling me what temperature to set)--350 didn't get the sauce to boil, which the recipe said it should do before I covered it, so i turned it up and that didn't work either. Soooo it kind of came out crappy. The meat was dry in the end and the sauce was too sweet--now I understand the important difference between red wine vinegar and balsamic. Although I was disappointed enough in it that I took just one bite and couldn't eat any more, my boyfriend ate his portion and mine. I know he knew it was overcooked and too sweet, but I also know that he loved that I made anything at all. So I will be trying to cook in the Dutch oven again--this time with all the proper ingredients and a better recipe.


Spring break is just around the corner! I am going home to see my family and to get some dental work done. My roomates are going to Florida and another friend of mine is in California. And I will (probably) be getting a root canal. What fun.


I wrote a haibun that I am very very proud of. It is taking a lot of courage to post it here, but if you want to read it, it's at the bottom. I've been meaning to write about this subject for a while, and after talking with one of my friends about writing and our fears of "ruining a good story," I decided to just do it.


I turned in my Technical Editing midterm today! I am learning crazy things about grammar, punctuation and all sorts of things in this class that I never knew and never thought to consider. As a writer and self-proclaimed lover of editing, I am tickled pink (amused) that I've never even heard of what dangling and misplaced modifiers are, that I don't truly know when to spell out numbers or leave them in their numeral form, and that I still mix up when to use "that" and when to use "which." What was I learning during all those years of English classes?? (That is rhetorical, I know I learned a lot.)


Aaaaand now my neighbors are stomping around, banging on drums and screaming. Not joking. I guess it's time to go meet them.


Learning lots,
Monica





Walking home: a light breeze carrying the tempered chill of winter pinches my cheeks. Ahead, above the trees, the last color of the sunset stains a small section of sky dark blue green. It is the color of tornado skies, of the ocean as I imagine it, the color I wish my children's eyes could be. The color is sexuality--it looks like an orgasm. Every bit of my body aches for it to remain. The bright obelisk of the court house clock tower burns excitingly, knifelike in the green. It is unlike anything I can describe. Even my words bring on the night.


unearthly beauty--
the things
of earth.

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Hypothetically...

I found the recipe I want to use to break in my newly discovered Dutch oven: maple pot roast. I found the recipe in The Best of the Taste of Home recipe book that my wonderful boyfriend got me for Christmas, which is awesome because it puts a little icon beside recipes that are especially portioned and designed for two people, so I don't have to cut them in half myself. As the recipe presupposes some knowledge in the user about how to use a dutch oven (for instance, it doesn't say what temperature to put the oven oven on, or precisely when the lid should be on and off), I'll most likely be on the phone with one of my parents for most of the cooking time.

I learned yesterday in a book that a friend and I were looking through at the library that too much compromise in a relationship is bad, especially if it's unacknowledged. I knew that before, but what stuck with me is the idea that if you always compromise on something (like if your partner has very long, difficult weekdays so you decide to do the dishes and cook dinner every day because you think it would be asking too much of him to help out since he's tired when he gets home and you have the time... hypothetically) and it's not discussed or acknowledged yet you expect something in return for making the extra effort, eventually resentment can build up and show itself in ugly ways. My boyfriend and I talked about this last night and how we can acknowledge and change the ways we make compromises for each other so that resentment won't build up for as long as it has in the past. By acknowledging eachother's points of views, desires, expectations, and fears, we are on our way to a healthier place in our relationship.

That's all for now. I'm off to work on a midterm for one of my classes.

Learning lots,
Monica

Friday, February 26, 2010

Dutch Oven

I've been doing a lot of cooking recently, and making a lot of cooking magazine impulse purchases. I've been totally frustrated for a long time that tons of recipes call to be cooked in a Dutch oven. For weeks (no joke), I couldn't help wondering... what the heck is that?? Is it a type of oven (like a pot-bellied stove?), or more like a crock pot? Do I already own one and not know it? Gah!

Finally, after stumbling upon the Picture-Perfect Meals blog, and seeing a delicious chili recipe that called to be made in a dutch oven, I gave in a looked it up. A Dutch oven is a "thick-walled (usually cast-iron) cooking pot with a tight-fitting lid," so says Wikipedia.
See? Pretty.
And as it turns out, I have one! It's ceramic, but it has a tight-fitting lid and is used for cooking and it's a pot. And according to Wikipedia (which I am not ashamed to use as a credible source for all my baking needs), modern Dutch ovens are often ceramic, and are referred to as "casserole dishes." Yay!
According to the Wikipedia article, dutch ovens can be used as actual ovens over a camp fire by putting a baking dish inside--you can cook pies, buscuits, stews, etc. You can also stack them on top of each other to cook multiple things at a time because as the iron of the lowest pot gets hot, it heats the one above it and so on! How cool! Makes me want to go camping.
A note on my stromboli from last night: I apparently didn't seal the edges well-enough because when I took it out of the oven the bottom seam had vomitted the inside of the roll so it turned into a rather triangular-shaped, semi-rolled up pizza. Still good! But ugly.
I talked one-on-one with my poetry professor today and got some great advice about my poems for his class, and poetry in general. I also read a great article about "rules" of writing fiction: http://www.guardian.co.uk/books/2010/feb/20/ten-rules-for-writing-fiction-part-one. Check it out! It's funny and there are soem great pieces of advice to discover.
Learning lots,
Monica

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Stromboli (no, not the puppet bad guy from Pinnocchio)

I am baking a stromboli! For those of you who don't know what it is, or only know the Pinnocchio reference, it is basically a rolled up pizza. It's pizza, jelly-roll style! I bought a frozen pizza dough ball a few days ago and put it in the fridge yesterday and it nearly tripled in size as it thawed! When I opened it I discovered that the size was primarily gas (hello, Yeast, thanks for doing your job) and that pizza dough is not as sticky as I feared--I shaped it quite evenly without much difficulty.

I also learned that tomato sauce (from a can) is not necessarily what you ought to use for pizza sauce. The consistency was rather like a V8 and tasted like it too. Not terrbile, but definitely not pizza-y.

I also thought rolling it would be easy-peasy, but alas, I was wrong on that, too. So now I have an oddly shaped, uncooked stromboli waiting to be put in the oven, and I can't help but be a little grateful that I'm still full from my Max&Erma's dinner I had earlier. And, if it sucks, Steve can just order a pizza! Or eat my leftovers.

I am meeting with my poetry professor tomorrow to dicsuss my recent inability to write more than a few condensed lines about anything. I bet this has something to do with my current haibun-haiku fixation. Not that I'm complaining, but I really would like to turn in my second poem before spring break so I don't have to rush to write five more after.

My friend just started a blog about reading, books, and bibliophilia! If she okays me linking her blog, I will come back and paste in the link. Yay for having a community of people who like writing down and sharing their thoughts!

Learning lots,
Monica

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Taboo Shmaboo

I wrote a haibun the other day about something rather taboo. I was emboldened to do so in part by Janice Pisello (http://grapejuicemusings.blogspot.com/), who wrote on some taboo subjects the last time I had the pleasure of hearing her work, and in part by a monk who wrote about sex and sexuality and sexual parts even though people thought he was weird or even wrong to do it. I don't feel comfortable relating the events that inspired the haibun on the world wide web... that's too much publicity for me. Nor am I ready (yet! maybe later) to share the haibun publicly. But I did it! And I think it's pretty-well written. It was such a relief and so much fun to write about what I believe to be a taboo subject. Breaking the rules is awesome!

I made my first big investment in Mary Kay last night--I bought my first set of inventory! It was terrifying to spend so much money in one sitting, but I know I will make it back and then some--remember the long run, Monica!

I'm also working on remembering the big picture--being aware of the world around me, not just my world. Remember the sands in the Sahara and the mud in Peru. The world is huge and full of things that I don't pay attention to. I want to be conscious of being part of a global community as well as the smaller communities I'm a part of here. Connection!

I'm feeling very scatter-brained lately and I don't like it. I'm going to stop this entry short and go calm down and regain some focus for myself.

Learning lots,
Monica

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Mary Kay

I DID MY FIRST FACIAL LAST NIGHT!!! Two of my close girl friends were my guinea pigs and were totally supportive as I went through my whole spiel about the company, it's history, the products and my I-story before we even got to play with the skin care and colors. I was totally excited because they were really interested in the things I had to say about Mary Kay. I think they were most impressed by all the care that goes into creating the products--two years of lab testing, then our top Sales Directors test the products before they go on the market. Mary Kay doesn't support animal testing and the company works to support cancer research, women's independence and safety, and going green. I love being a Mary Kay consultant because I believe in what the company does and how they do it, and the products after only four days are already making my skin so much brighter and healthier. I feel very joyous about working my next facial party. Who's next??

I am baking a cake with my friends later this afternoon--a late birthday cake for me and an early birthday cake for my friend Sarah. It's a delicious-sounding recipe for a chocolate layer cake that I found in Better Homes and Gardens, a magazine that I discovered I love when I picked up a copy a month or two ago. Hopefully it will turn out well (cream-cheese-brownies-well, not flourless-chocolate-cake-well).

I began three poems yesterday. I finished one and then realized it wasn't the poem I wanted to write, but rather the base for a different poem. I basically wrote down the rules and guidelines (not exactly, but that's the best metaphor I have) in this poem, and need to expand on the emotions and what it means in the second. I think it could turn into something that I'm really proud of. I'll be working on it later tonight so I can have it ready for my Tuesday poetry workshop.

Learning lots,
Monica

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Self-vrything

I learned today that online banking is stupid. It's really more complicated than it ought to be, and finding out things like account numbers, usernames, passwords and general verification information is nearly impossible if you don't have a perfect memory and can't remember the things you set up four years ago that you haven't used since. It took me two hours of being on the phone with my bank before I was able to log in to my account. Sheesh! I mean, I know how important the security of my money is, but come on! There's got to be an easier way.

I'm in the process of teaching myself more about money management. I'm working on transferring money between my accounts and the importance of investing money to make money. I am living in a lot of monetary scarcity right now, and although I consciously know that I need to put money into my Mary Kay business (by buying inventory and stuff), I'm scared to put in more because I have so little. My limbic system is trying to hijack my frontal lobe and scare me into doing nothing, so I'm empowering my frontal lobe to use my fear to motivate instead of cripple. Go Frontal Lobe!

I got my Mary Kay website today: http://marykay.com/msanden. I've been reading through my manual and discovering a question I need answered on almost every page. I've gotten tons of affirmation from my Sales Director about having and asking questions, so I guess I'm on the right track!

I'm going to take this space to recommend, again, The Book (On The Taboo Against Knowing Who You Are) by Alan Watts. I am learning and having affirmed my understanding of things that I can't quite put into words right now. It's about the Self's inherent connection to Everything--and you know me, I'm all about being connected and knowing that I matter. So pick it up!

I made homemade chicken tenders tonight. They were quite delicious and, like all great recipes, there were plenty of leftovers. If anyone is interested in any of the recipes I talk about, let me know and I'll either give you the recipe or tell you where I found it. And if you've come across anything delicious (dessert, soup, whatever!) please share it with me too!

Learning lots,
Monica

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Big Slip Up

Sooo again it's been quite a few days since my last post, and I appologize. Mostly I feel like I let myself down by not making sure this blog was high on my list of priorities.

New news on the front:
I have a job! I am an Independent Beauty Consultant for Mary Kay Cosmetics. I am quite a newbie (I officially started yesterday evening) and am looking for opportunities to have facial/makeup parties with beautiful women around the Bowling Green area and around the Chicago area when I go home for spring break. If you're interested or know anyone who might be, you can email me at msanden@marykay.com or give my email to friends of yours! I am very excited and pretty scared about this awesome opportunity. I am excited because it is a fun way for me to become financially independent, and I'm scared because it's all up to me--I'm my own boss, it's my business, the success of it depends on the work I put into it. Wooooohoo! I will be learning so much about what it takes to start and keep up a personal business.

Did you know, Ladies, that if you don't take off your eye makeup at night, your face ages seven days?? I didn't! My goal for the next 40 days (I guess Lent, although I am not Catholic, it just seems like a good way to motivate myself and keep myself accountable for a goal) is to take off my makeup every night so that hopefully by the end it will have become a habit.

I finally moved the TV and DVD players out of my room. I filled the space with pictures and other decorations that had previously been squeezed onto my bookshelves. Already I find myself sitting in my butterfly chair to read, instead of sitting on my bead facing the place where the TV used to be. It feels a lot better to sit next to the window with a book then turn into a potato on my bed watching a numbing screen.

I made enchiladas and pudding on Sunday for Valentine's Day. The enchiladas were very easy and very very tasty, and so was the pudding--it was Jell-O instant, not from scratch. I am going to make homemade chicken tenders tonight and probably edamame. I am so excited that, with this Mary Kay opportunity, I will soon be making money so I can buy more groceries and cook cooler things! Oh, and also pay rent and bills and all that jazz ;)

I am reading a really inspiring book called The Book by Alan Watts. It's "on the taboo against knowing who you are" and I highly recommend it to anyone interested in a short, non-fiction account of society, the human mind, and the universe. I am totally engaged and don't want it to be over! I love how much I'm learning about the Self and consciousness and my connection with everything else.

I will post again tomorrow! (Maybe every day posting should be a tacked-on "Lent" goal...)

Learning lots,
Monica

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Oh Hey There

Well it's been quite a few days since my last post. I know it's a crappy excuse, because really, what's easier than laying in bed and typing on a computer, but I've been sick and getting sicker and just haven't felt like posting anything new.

It's my birthday today! It's also snowing a LOT here but for some reason the campus hasn't been closed. None of the roads or sidewalks are plowed, and it's incredibly dangerous and difficult to get anywhere, by foot or by car.

I baked a flourless chocolate cake and cream cheese brownies this weekend for my birthday. The brownies are quite possibly the most delicious things I've ever cooked, but the cake is only average. The recipe required 1lb of chocolate, melted, a stick of butter, 9 eggs, and a cup of sugar, so seriously how could it be bad?? I think I just used the wrong kind of chocolate, and my oven sucks so it baked unevenly. The recipe called for dark chocolate, which I think, combined with the bottom and the edges getting overcooked, made the whole thing too bitter. I would make it again, but probably do half dark chocolate and half milk or semi-sweet.

Also, a HUGE important thing I learned from my dad is that if you put tin foil over a baking dish, it helps the thing cook more evenly. Once I realized the edges of the cake were burning but the inside was still mush, he told me to try foil and within 5 minutes the cake was set! I think it would have been completely ruined if I hadn't used the foil, so I tried it again with the cream cheese brownies and it fixed them too! Whoo, this makes the prospect of baking in a crappy oven for a long time just bearable.

Tonight, Steve (my boyfriend) and I are going to make lasagna--and by "make" I mean heat frozen, pre-packaged lasagna in the oven. I'm feeling too rotten to really cook, and he doesn't get home until about 10 tonight, so frozen is just easier. Anyway, lasagna is like the food of the gods, so it will be delicious regardless.

When I feel well enough to lift things again, I'm going to move the TV and DVD player out of my room. They're just sitting on my dresser, staring at me, taking up much-needed space that I could be using for books and pictures.

Now, off to play with my new spice rack (thanks, Debbie! I love it) then take a nap.

Learning lots,
Monica

Friday, February 5, 2010

What a Full Life

I had a wonderful opportunity last night to go to the Dance Marathon fund raiser/variety show and see my friend who was both dancing in it and hosting the event. I spent about an hour there listening to talented singers and musicians, a comedian who surprised me by how funny he actually was (usually I get nervous for stand-up comedians that their jokes won't be funny), a cool science demonstration, and a woman who was creating a painting to be auctioned off at the end of the show. I went to the event by myself, which is a new experience for me because I usually feel more comfortable doing things with people I know, but it was a really fun, rewarding time.

After that I went to an interesting, engaging open mic in the Union (it's every Thursday at 9pm in the cafeteria. Come read, sing, play music, or whatever to make your voice heard!) and then had dinner with my boyfriend and started a new book.

Today I had coffee with a close writer friend and expressed a lot of my deep desires and moral beliefs. I always feel so nourished after having these discussions with her, and discover more about myself and what I believe in the process. Then I borrowed a copy of a collection of Matsuo Basho's haibun called Narrow Road to the Interior to use throughout the semester for my independent study.

I have had so many things going on in my life recently, and it doesn't feel busy exactly--it feels full. There's a cool quote by Henry David Thoreau about this: "It is not enough to be busy; so are the ants. The question is: what are we busy about?" I am busy about creating a nourishing life. Through my work with haiku and haibun, I have become more aware of who I am and where I am and what is going on around me--I feel more in touch with the world and the people and things in it. I love when I walk home and spend the whole time really noticing the things around me, instead of walking home in a daze with my mind blank.

I wrote a haibun last night about something that I pass nearly every day and rarely notice:

The graveyard slips past me behind iron bars. Names and dates slide by, over and over. I know some of them by heart: Murlin--the one that makes me think of King Arthur; Dunn--a thought of Romantic poetry; Name I Don't Remember--born in 1883, death date unmarked. I wonder where this man is buried.

Black marble swimming
in yellow light,
crouching in snow.

I am doing what I can to be aware of my life.

Learning lots,
Monica
P.S.Also, in light of my printer scam I wrote about a few entries ago: Immediately after I replaced the black ink, my 3/4 full color ink suddenly was in the WARNING zone with alomst no ink left, according to the print icon. Very suspicious...
P.P.S. I made fish yesterday in the oven and totally failed! Yay! I'll be trying again this weekend.

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Native American History and my Anger

My Native American History class is every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday morning right after water aerobics. We study the events that took place on the American continent after 1492 up through (so far) the early 1830s. We've read excerpts from Columbus' journal, stories of battles (written by Conquistadors), Puritan accounts of war with Native tribes, a story of the kidnapping of a Puritan woman by a native people (written by her after she was released), and so far only one document written by a native person about the native view on English colonialism, which was written and published centuries later in the 1830s.

I decided to take this class because it seemed like the least of all the "evils" I could fit into my schedule, but now it is so much more than just the lesser evil. I feel so angry in this class every day. Today I could barely keep myself from yelling in rage in the middle of class about what I was hearing.
I never wanted to admit that I knew very little about the building of North America by European settlers. Of course, I learned as a kid the cute story about the first Thanksgiving, the Disney Pocahontas story, and how awesome it was that Columbus managed to overcome so many obstacles and to make such a fortunate error in "discovering" America. Through my teenage years, I slowly learned that there was another side to the story, but I only learned generalizations like "we kicked Indians off their land" and "settlers killed lots of Indians" and somesuch nonsense, but I never actually knew.

In this class we read actual documents from the era--journals, books, ads, propaganda--that are all from the European point of view, and it disgusts me to read about actual battles and wars and hear not a note of sympathy or regret on the part of the settlers. Reading about these events, it is painful to realize how terribly the Europeans treated the native people, individually and collectively, how much they thought they deserved this already populated land... to see the justifications and excuses they made for selling into slavery, raping, betraying, murdering, lying to and otherwise manipulating and destroying the native people. I cannot (perhaps I do not want to) understand how such terrible things could be perpetrated by people who claimed to be creating a land of freedom, equality and liberty and for the advancement of Christianity. The selfishness of the settlers and the naivete and eventual desperate anger of the natives stirred into action such atrocities that I cannot understand. It makes me sick and furious.

I have felt growing anger about this subject for more than a year, since I took a Native American Literature class with Theresa Williams here at the University, but I haven't been comfortable with the anger. My anger insists that I act, but how can I act to right these wrongs? I cannot change the pages of history, nor can those of us living in this country now just get up and leave and give back the land--nothing would be fixed, nothing could make this better.

I know these are things I should be writing about in stories and poetry, but I cannot figure out how to harness my anger (rage? perhaps) about this subject. I am too up in the air right now and too uncomfortable with the level of my anger to see how I could put it into words. Writing about it here is hard enough--even now I am crying because my anger fills me up so much that it leaks out in tears--sadness is easier for me. I suppose this is a good start, and I suppose this will be something for me to write about my entire life. I need to find a more truthful, ugly expression of my anger, or it will stick to my insides and rot me slowly.

I am a woman and I am angry!

Learning lots,
Monica

Monday, February 1, 2010

Learning About My Body, Etc.

As I mentioned in an earlier post, I am taking a water aerobics class this semester. I took it mostly because I thought it would be easy, it's my last semester, and I was hoping to get enough "fun" credit hours to avoid having to take a menial 1000-level academic class just to get enough hours to graduate on time.


So far it has been fun, a little challenging, but over-all an easy class. However, this morning while stretching, I pulled a muscle in my upper back. I didn't want to believe, at first, that I could A. get hurt while stretching, B. get hurt while stretching in water aerobics, and C. get hurt so badly that I couldn't move on in my workout. I sat out thinking that I would just stretch and massage the muscle and then jump back in, but I'm pretty sure now that even that was too much and I should have just let the muscle rest. Throughout the day, the pain got worse and now it is moving up my neck and across my back. So I guess my learn is: I am not a doctor, therefore I should rest instead of pretending I'm a sports injury specialist--over-working a hurt muscle does not make it better.


Also, I learned that if I've had Icy Hot on my hands at all, I shouldn't touch my eye, even if it's been an hour, because that will hurt!


Tonight I am cooking jack-BBQ chicken. I'm supposed to broil or grill the chicken, but it's too cold to grill outside and we don't have a broiler pan, so I'm just winging it. Also, I'm a little worried that the toothpicks I used to hold together the pepperjack-stuffed breasts weren't soaked in water for long enough and might burn or get stuck to the chicken. This recipe is pretty much all experiementation, so if it sucks, we can just order pizza!


Down the hall, walking. One foot forward: my torso shifts subtly sideways. The other foot--a shift in the other direction. Muscles in my shoulder blades and neck twitch, tighten, relax. The pulled muscle near the top of my spine sparks and cuts with each move of my feet.

Muscle pain: outside,
soothed by the blast
of cold winter wind.

Learning lots,
Monica

Friday, January 29, 2010

The Stories I Want to Tell

I learned today in my Native American Studies class that in 1948 the UN held a genocide convention to outlaw all practices of genocide. (Want to read it? Check it out: http://www.hrweb.org/legal/genocide.htmlal/genocide.html.) All the countries involved were to sign the document and hence start the support of preventing genocide and prosecuting those who committed it.

The United States was against the document from the beginning and would not sign it. It wasn't until 1988, forty years later, when the only other countries to have not signed it were Iran, Iraq and Syria, that the United States signed the document. The fear was that our government leaders and military personnel (and any American) would be vulnerable to charges of genocide if they committed it.

So, basically, the government of the time was okay with telling other people not to do it (like Hitler), but didn't want the law turned back on them. I feel angry about that, especially considering how the people native to this land were treated when the Europeans first came over to America, "the New World," and decided they wanted it.

Speaking of that page in our nation's history, I just saw Avatar in 3-D. Wow. What a beautiful, powerful story. I think it had something really important to say about the Columbus story, as well as how our current national and global cultures function, and the way different cultures are treated from within a group. Plus, it was breathtakingly beautiful and emotionally stimulating.

I feel incredibly inspired by the story--that is the kind of story I want to write; something that matters, something that makes a difference, that sees and understands something important and reaches the world with it. I don't haver the words to explain how the movie made me feel, except to tell you that I cried at the end, out of both joy and sorrow, and for almost an hour after I kept breathing heavily, as if to drink into my body the story and the beauty of the world. If you haven't seen it, I recommend it very highly. I have never seen a movie that touched me so deeply and said something so powerful, and really spoke to every one of my emotions and my deep yearnings. I believe that this is the power of story--to charge the very core of your life spirit and make you feel why life is worth living.

Learning Lots,
Monica



Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Wednesday

I learned how to "cross country" in water aerobics today. It is kind of like cross country skiing, except in the deep end of a pool. It may be the most awkward, infuriating, and exhausting exercise I've ever done. I was breathing heavily by the end of the first lap and if it weren't for the waist flotation belts we were required to wear, I would have had to stop! It was frustrating because it was impossible to move quickly if I was doing it correctly, but I'm sore now so that means it must have been a good work out!

I also made this hamburger helper-like dinner, with egg noodles and a homemade sauce mixed in with the ground beef. It was delicious, and the best part is that there is half of it left, so we can eat it again tomorrow.

My haibun for the day is below. I was inspired to write the haiku first, so the first part of the haibun feels incomplete/forced to me. any thoughts?


Walking to the store, rainy snow blows in my face. Walking home, the same. I cannot see my breath and I cannot feel my nose. Three months until spring.

Pine needles in threes:
bird footprints
in silky snow.


Learning lots,
Monica

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Zumba

I went to a zumba class today at the rec center. I've never done zumba before, and I have very little rhythm and almost no dance experience. I went mostly because I had missed my regular sculpt class earlier in the day and didn't want to totally skip my work out.

At first I was a little uncomfortable being totally out of my element and with no friends in the class to talk to, but soon I couldn't help myself; I was having a blast! It was so fun and I spent a good deal of the time giggling at myself and with the other women around me who were also having fun. By the end I was completely sweaty (gross? maybe. but awesome? definitely!) and I've decided to keep going to the classes. I felt happier and more energized than I do after a normal work out that is challenging but dull--bouncing around a room with more than fifty other women, sweating to latin dance-inspired music and learning some new moves is totally in line with my new years resolution!

On another note, I've been warily keeping an eye on my printer which has been "out of ink" for weeks but still printing good-quality pages nearly every day. I finally bought new ink two days ago because I was sure it was going to conk out on me soon and I didn't want to be without a replacement. Today (actually, about five minutes ago) the ink finally petered out and it left me thinking: is this just a weird fluke of my printer, or is is a company scam to get me to keep buying new ink cartidges when the one I have is still fine? The printer icon that pops up on the bottom of the screen when printing to show the status of the job has shown an empty black cartridge and a huge yellow exclamation point and the giant letters "WARNING" right above it, probably to scare me into submission and dropping another $25. Ha! Well, little did they know, I'm a poor college student and I milked that sucker dry. So, *sticks out tongue* thpbpbpbpb to you, Canon. I won this round.

Making macaroni and cheese tonight. I still have to take a shower and do mega-loads of homework before bed, so my next krazy kitchen koncoction (wow that last word looks weird) will wait until tomorrow. I can't decide on steak or more chicken... any thoughts?

Learning lots,
Monica

Monday, January 25, 2010

Chicken

I am cooking chicken today! As a self-proclaimed foodie, I am quite ashamed to say that I've never actually cooked chicken before. I've cooked many different kinds of meat: ground beef, shrimp, hotdogs and hamburgers, made an incredibly-failed attempt at cooking steak, am still nervous about cooking fish, but I've somehow managed to avoid cooking chicken all these years.

Whenever I try a new cooking strategy, I try to remember my mom's motto from when I was younger and she used to experiment with cooking new dishes pretty frequently: "If it sucks, we'll just order a pizza." This helps me remember to not put so much pressure on myself and to enjoy the process of cooking instead of freaking out about the results.

I found a delicious-sounding recipe on Foodnetwork.com for Italian baked chicken and pasta that I'll be trying out ina few minutes: http://www.foodnetwork.com/recipes/giada-de-laurentiis/italian-baked-chicken-and-pastina-recipe/index.html

Tomorrow I am going to try making chicken kiev! And soon, very soon, on to steak and then fish. Wheeee!

On another note, here is a haibun I wrote today:


I walk toward the pond and pass the tree that used to have a stump shaped like a heart. It was cut away in the fall. It is winter now, and still I feel sad at the loss. Now there is just an empty hole open to the frigid winter wind. I walk on without a smile, but I carry the tree in my heart.

Crust of ice
with a hole
along the bank.


Also, I am making progress on my sister's scarf! Check out the picture.

Learning lots,


Monica

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Weekends

In the past, weekends have been the time when I seriously lose my motivation to do pretty much anything--homework, write, read, cook, exercise, eat well... I think it comes from the cultural norm that weekends are our time to rest, take a break from work, relax, recuperate--as if doing the things I love and working hard aren't fulfilling--which they are. I felt enormously connected to my world and myself, nourished and joyous last week when I was just starting to write haiku and haibun, making an effort to spend time with people I love, and writing and reading instead of watching TV online (silly technology era, it's so easy to indulge in my addictions!).

I did not have a very nourishing weekend because I didn't do the work to make it so. I have it ingrained in my mind that weekdays are work days and weekends are rest days, but the thing is, if I've really worked to have a full week then I don't need to "rest" on the weekends! I'm working on breaking the habit of creating crappy weekends just because I think I have to sit around and do nothing. I feel more rested and recuperated by living a full life than I do by sitting around, watching movies and eating bad food.

I wrote a new haiku yesterday on the way to Findlay:

3.
Garbage bag ribbons
wave in winter wind,
cling to wire fence.

Learning lots,
Monica

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Haiku and Haibun (big risk!)

This semester I am taking an independent study with a favorite teacher of mine. I'm studying the haiku and haibun forms of writing, and striving to bring more consciousness and spirituality to my every day life--even the walks to class or downstairs to get some water. Also, and very importantly, I'm writing creatively every day, a task which I've known for a while that I should be doing anyway but which I have had a hard time putting into practice. I think it's a lot easier for my brain, the calculating logical part of my mind, to conceive of writing a haiku every day (strictly, three lines of 5-7-5 syllables) than to vaguely "write" every day.

I have known the basics of the haiku form for a long time, the academic rules that are easy to teach younger kids just learning about poetry. What I'm discovering is that haiku is so much more than "three lines, with 5-7-5 syllable counts, and usually about nature." Although historically these rules were probably true more often than not, in today's modern age there is more freedom--say, for instance, to write in 5-8-6 (syllables) if the individual poem calls for it. And the haiku is not strictly observational, or objective, as I believed. There's a great deal of subjectivity and the author's imprint in the haiku that helps touch the insight of the moment, and not just the "here's what happened/I saw/existed" in the moment.

I'm very new to the haibun form, which is, historically, a travel journal infused with haiku. The best way I have found to explain it is, "If a haiku is an insight into a moment of experience, a haibun is the story or narrative of how one came to have that experience," according to Bruce Ross. I am excited to start reading more about this form so I have a better grasp on the nuances. The haibun is not a short story and it's not an essay--it's lyric prose, condensed, as I've heard, rather like haiku. Usually each entry is closed with a haiku that doesn't necessarily relate directly to the prose before it. It is up to the reader to make the connection between them. Newer forms of haibun often have haiku interspersed throughout the entry and sometimes at the begining. For now, I am following Matsuo Basho's lead, and keeping my haiku at the end of my prose. (Basho is an ancient master of the haiku who, in his later years, implemented the haibun, and these journals have paved the way for the form's popularity.)

Here is my first attempt at haibun:


He and I walk, talk about women. He asks, "If I ask for a girl's number, will she always think I want sex?" I want to tell him no, not all women think that way. But I remember I did. I tell him yes, but I don't know if that is true either. We walk on in silence. I try not to walk too close to him.

Narrow road into--
I do not know--how
pleasing to see nothing

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Vulnerable, Engaged and Sustained

It feels so much better to me to be vulnerable with people (expressing my emotions, asking for help, stating my opinion, being a host) than to be disengaged for fear of being rejected. Sometimes I worry that if I am rejected by someone then I must not be okay--not be a good person, not be interesting, not be a successful hostess. I think this is something that many of us face; looking outward to see if what we're doing or who we are is okay, instead of looking in ourselves to know that we are okay anyway, whether or not the world or the people around us acknowledge us. And even making a mistake doesn't negate the fact that we are okay, it just means that we made a mistake.

The mistake I made today (and have made nearly every day of my life that I can remember) was choosing to be disengaged because it seemed safer to not care about something than to care and be rejected. I was feeling very powerful and engaged and looking forward to a class I was going to, but when I got into the room I chose, pre-consciously, to look disinterested and to not talk. It was a 1000-level class and my assumption was that no one wanted to be there, most of the students were just taking it to fulfill a requirement, and they would hate me for being the "teacher's pet" or judge me for being a "loser" for being interested or "that bitch who always talks."

All of this went on in my mind and happened so quickly that I didn't notice it until my professor began to talk and I felt this awkward pain in my chest from wanting to ask a question but forcing myself to hold it in because that would crack my facade of being "cool." As soon as I became conscious of it, and how much I wanted to participate and engage despite mind-reading my peers and acknowledging the fears I had that they wouldn't like me, I changed the way I was sitting, began taking notes, and raised my hand. So maybe there are people in my class who have labelled me "that bitch who always talks," and maybe some think I'm a loser for being interested, but that doesn't matter to me so much as how fulfilled I felt from engaging and being vulnerable and leading the life I wanted to lead in the moment despite a possibly un-affirming world around me.

Learning lots,
Monica

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

MORE Life!

This weekend I was in Chicago assisting at the MORE Life Training weekend with the Wright Leadership Institute (you can become a fan of them on Facebook or check out their website at www.wrightliving.com) from Friday evening to Sunday night. In my last blog post, I made a prediction that I was going to learn a lot about myself while participating in this weekend, and boy did I!

On Friday I filled out a packet to help me understand my leadership strengths and weaknesses and discovered (not much to my surprise) that my biggest gap in leadership is taking risks and making mistakes. For the rest of the weekend, whenever I did a project or worked with people or went to lunch or pretty much anything, I worked on being conscious of taking risks--that is, doing things that take me out of my comfort zone, asking for projects that I knew would challenge me, accepting assignments that I had never done before, and asking for help or clarification when I was working on something that was unclear or beyond my capabilities. On Friday night when the participants went home, I took the big risk of asking for different responsibilities than I had been given that evening, and on Saturday I got them! I felt seen and heard and like I matter to the group when my requests were honored, and also so much more engaged with the material, the participants, and my fellow assistant team members.

On Saturday I got to join a group of the participants (along with their team leader and assistant) on a lunch outing a few blocks away from the Institute. Everyone was given an assignment to follow as many urges as they can during the lunch break, and so in the restaurant we all ended up having a napkin fight (as opposed to a food fight). I surpressed an urge to start throwing food, and one of the participants next to me pointed out that I wasn't doing the assignment because I didn't follow my urge. We started having a conversation about the importance of being conscious of the urges we suppress every day, and choosing moments when following those urges is right and when--like then, throwing food on a man in a $500 suit--was probably not right. The participant asked me, if following urges in the moment is based on what you deem to be right, was Hitler right in following his urge to start the Hollocaust? He kept pressing the matter, trying to get me to either admit that Hitler was right (which I do not believe is true) or that the assignment was bogus and that I, and the Institute, was wrong for asking us to follow our urges. I felt very scared by the way he was pushing me and very hurt by what he was trying to do. I carried this conversation around with me all day and finally talked with another assistant about it at the end of the day. What I discovered is that this way of manipulating a conversation to prove that someone else was wrong and bad was something that I had done to an old friend of mine all the time. When I had been doing this to my old friend I was conscious of what I was doing, but I had no idea how painful it was to be on the other end of a conversation as manupulative as that one. It was such a deep, raw truth to learn about myself, and my feeling of vulnerability when I apologized to this old friend yesterday was such a relief. We cleared the air of so many old heartbreaks and opened the doors to new growth. Although I felt angry at and hurt by this participant on Saturday, I also feel grateful to him for helping me learn this about myself.

Sunday was also about taking risks for me. I made a lot of mistakes and did a lot of things that scared me, but I felt so happy to be engaged with new material and to be working in different ways with my team. I participated in more activities, I got to do the things I asked for, I received help when I needed it, and at the end of the day felt full to the brim or nourishment that can only come from a life of engagement, truth, adventure, and support. My boyfriend and I shared some deep truths with each other and have already improved our communication and intimacy a hundred-fold. I came back to Ohio and engaged with my old friend and then again with my boyfriend. I supported him in a difficult talk with his parents and shared my feelings of anger and hurt.

Although consciously I know that being a vessel for truth, living my life as an adventure and like every moment matters, engaging fully with those around me and taking risks lead to a fulfilled, nourished life, I constantly need to remind my pre-conscious and subconscious minds that doing the things that scare me lead to the most growth and fulfillment. Expressing my feelings and my deeper yearnings helps me engage more fully with life and the people around me. I am working on catching my urges to talk with people, to write, to do something new, to sing, and everything in between. What I felt this weekend I want to feel every day. I was more vulnerable than I have been historically and I felt more hurt and fear, but I also felt heaps of joy, love, acceptance, affirmation and connection, more than if I had been disengaged and numb.

I live my life as if every moment matters.

I am a powerful woman with thorns and valleys who branches out and expands with inspiring variety and who creates space for the flow of life.

Learning lots,
Monica

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Historicity

Today I learned the history of the world. Not only that, I also learned the history of the human psyche, religion, and poetry. Interestingly enough, all of these things are so intertwined that it is difficult (and impractical) to try to separate them from each other. This is a huge insight for me, because I often feel disconnected from things in my life, as if my poetry is completely separate from my school work, and both are separate from my relationship with my boyfriend, and all or separate from my friends and family and... whew! No wonder I always used to choose numbness over engagement--when I believed I had so many separate lives it felt impossible to live all of them at once, so I just gave up.

My insight for the day is that I live one life. The Monica that is a student is the same Monica that loves her boyfriend is the same Monica that writes poetry is the same Monica that knits... There may be different facets of me, and different ways I choose to live my life based on where I am and what I'm doing and who I'm with at the time, but when it comes down to it, all the facets make up one complete whole.

The way I have lived my life as long as I can remember (probably stemming from my parent's divorce when I was still inelementary school) can be described like this:
I had different lives--let's say, for the sake of visualization, different circles. One circle for school, one circle for love, one circle for writing. I lived only one third of each circle, so each circle felt incomplete and not always worth living. I tried putting each of the thirds together into a new circle two years ago and fell into a very dangerous place. I didn't realize that I had to live each facet--each circle--of my life fully and create a bigger circle encompassing the wholeness of all parts of my life. By putting the thirds together I was only compacting the problem, not expanding my life.

Today, this is the biggest thing I struggle with. I am afraid to dive into my life fully because if I make a mistake I will feel it even more harshly. But the other side is that when I succeed I will feel it a thousand times more wonderfully.

I am going to a weekend training in Chicago this weekend that I know will push me into zones of discomfort, and also that I will have more tools when I leave to help me live a fuller life. As I will have limited access to computers starting tomorrow afternoon, I probably wont be posting again until Monday. But I know I can count on having a lot to say, many new insights, and more things learned about myself than I will be able to articulate when I get back. I am both extremely excited and very scared. Yay!!

Learning lots,
Monica