Sunday, November 30, 2008

The Finishline Looms

This is the point in the semester where I disappear, where I burrow into my books and count the hours until December 10 at 6pm and I am freed from this semester. "Finals" are not so terrible for an English major; I actually only have 1 final exam. What that means, however, is that the other classes make up for it in final papers and projects. So, to hold my place and to remind myself why in the world I do what I do, I have this.

When I was a senior in high school, I had the opportunity to dual enroll at Kalamazoo College. I took a Creative Non-Fiction class, consequently falling in love with the genre and cementing my goals and dreams for later life. Anyway, my professor always assigned a warm-up exercise like this one, which is modeled after an essay by Maya Angelou, I think. I've come back to the form on many occasions, and this is what it looks like now, two years later.

Why I Write
• I write because it’s a narcissist’s dream: channel your thoughts onto paper and nobody can interrupt, nobody can stop you – there is nothing to inhibit your monologue.

• I write because it hurts not to write. The metaphors and similes and descriptions crash around in my brain, pile-ups that are scores of words long, and undoing the mess after it happens is far less enjoyable than simply directing traffic as it comes.

• I write because I cannot paint. If I could paint, perhaps writing would be less urgent. If I could make pictures or art with something other than words, perhaps my life would be very different. But I cannot, and so a pen becomes my paintbrush and simple, lined paper morphs into a canvas.

• I write because it organizes thoughts, puts away words, makes everything a little bit more tidy. Paper is a safe place to hide thoughts – they cannot fly away into the abyss of the brain if they are neatly nailed down in black and white.

• I write to celebrate form. Style, though under scrutiny of critics, is my friend. I like to play with Her, change Her clothes like I used to redress my Barbies. Writing is my grownup version of a doll.

• I write because I have no choice…how else am I to respond to what is going on in my life? Do I run the stress away? Would it be better to bottle everything up and unload unto a therapist in future years? Been there, done that…I may as well document the experience.

• I write because I love stories. I love telling them, hearing them, watching them, reading them, knowing them, understanding them, creating them, being a part of them. Everyone has a story and I want to hear it, and then I want to write it, make it real to the world at large.

• I write because I am a closet actress. Writers make good actresses, I’ve decided. Both need to know characters, both need to know how a character works, how to get inside the head of a fictionalized person; they both need to have a mastery of the art of reaction. I wanted to be an actress when I was younger…the stage, the smell of a theater, the scripts – it was all heaven. Writing is to acting what online shopping is to the mall; it’s acting at home, with your fingers and your words instead of your body and your face. To choose between them is like trying to choose between two best friends, one of which lives next door and you get to see every day and you grow closer and closer and closer until it feels like you are the same person, and the other lives far away in some exotic place, but the very thought of seeing her makes the distance worth the pain, because you know that the moment you’re together again, you’ll pick up right where you left off. I need them both.

  • I write because I am a Writer, and that is what Writers do. I have next to no choice in the matter. It is what it is, and I love it. I write because I love it.

Monday, November 24, 2008


My friends and I do this every night. Jackie texts me, and then I call Allison, and then Allison asks Jessie and before we know what happens, we are all “doing homework.” This term is surprisingly ambiguous. To most people, it seems straightforward: assignment, research, draft, redraft, quiz, exam, blah blah blah and most students favor the library or their room, or maybe a study room in Ontario or Kirkoff. Let me tell you that the living room in 10246 is rarely successful.

Invariably, half of us act insane while the other two have a random burst of productiveness. The two crazy ones annoy the other two, until the energy levels even out and then switch. If we can be serious and actually do homework for more than five minutes straight, it is a very, very good night. Otherwise, we are “watching” movies [though nobody else seems to have any appreciation or respect for the process], eating junk food, laughing at things that are only funny with the four of us, and lamenting the huge amount of work that we still have to do. By the time we all go home for the night, somebody has spoken in a random accent, somebody has antagonized the chinchilla, somebody has danced interpretively, and somebody is nearly in a coma from laughing too hard.

It doesn’t make sense that we are friends – we talked about it the other day. If the four of us had gone to the same high school, we probably would have hated each other. Jackie would have pulled a prank on somebody, Jessie would have cried about it, Allison would laugh at Jessie for crying, and I would probably be watching the clock to figure out how much longer I had to be there. I don’t know what it is about college that brings such different people together; maybe it is being away from home for the first time, maybe it’s the amount of work that we have to do, maybe it’s the sheer amount of hours that we spend together, but something has glued these girls into my heart.

Surprisingly, then, they are an integral part of my writing process. Tonight, for example, we were sitting in our assumed positions, and I was stuck for a topic. “What should I write about?” I asked them.

“Write about me!!” Jackie said, after she suggested writing about pooper-scoopers.

“Write about how you met me!” Allison said, only half-way kidding.

“She wrote me six cards for my birthday,” Jessie beamed from the floor. I just groaned; whenever I ask ANYONE what to write about, they invariably say themselves. It’s not that I care…I’m used to it by now. I should warn people, though, that the last time I wrote about the two people who asked to be written about [my little brother and sister], the short story morphed into a tale about a wealthy family going on a retro road trip with two children, a girl and her little brother. Before I knew what happened, the girl turned into some snobby, mean concoction, and the little brother became a cute, albeit slightly ridiculous eight year old. Just putting it out there.

Still, there is something about good friends that inspires me. These girls make me think, make me laugh, make me love. It’s not always easy for me to get work done around them, but it’s worth the late nights, the long hours, and the extra stress. And look – they proved to be the easiest two pages to write in my life. I guess you can check this off as another great night in 10246.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

A Bold Claim.

I cannot believe that this mayhem is starting already. As a single, [almost] twenty-year-old young woman, I cannot believe that my some of my girlfriends are already discussing and planning marriage. It’s to be expected from a small, Christian, conservative community, of course, but still – are we really at this point in our lives already??

I can handle the impending engagements. Yes, it’s crazy weird, and I cannot imagine taking that path for my own life, but I learned a long time ago that different people have different hopes and dreams for their lives. So my friends want to be wives and mothers first and foremost; just because it’s not what I want doesn’t make it wrong or bad.

And it’s not like I don’t want to be a wife and a mom one day – I do. I’m just not really in any huge rush to get there. I have things that I want to do with my life and places that I want to go… I’m not ready to be tied down to a person and risk that sense of individualism, independence. Don’t get me wrong, I cannot wait to be in a relationship and in love and engaged and married and all that jazz, but when one’s own mother looks at you and says, in the kindest, gentlest voice possible, “Carly, I think you should wait until you are in your thirties to have kids,” it kind of forces you to rethink the notion of settling down early in order to be a young mom.

So yes, I’m single, and yes, I’m basically okay with that. What I’m not okay with, however, is all of the mushy, sentimental Christian literature telling me that it’s all right to be single. Really? That’s okay with you? Gee, thanks. I love hearing about God’s love for His children, especially as a woman, but do I really need books and articles and retreats geared toward affirming that I am God’s princess and that, even though I don’t have a boyfriend or a fiancĂ©e or a husband, He still loves me? I feel like this sort of mentality makes God into some sort of consolation prize – I mean, a physical, earthly man doesn’t necessarily love me, but the Big Man Upstairs does, so TAKE THAT, all of you non-single friends!!

I understand the need for this sort of thing, I really do. I understand that I am atypical in many ways, this one especially. I understand the loneliness and the heartache that can come from waiting for the right man instead of settling for a good enough man. More than ever, I understand the immense value of true, Godly, incredible female friendships and the community that God created us to experience together. But I don’t want to read [and I definitely do not want to write] sappy, feel-better books about being single, and about our intrinsic worth to God despite this singleness. I want to read about God’s love for me regardless of my relationship status. I want to have meaningful conversations with intelligent, thoughtful women about something other than guys. I want to be encouraged to pursue God and my dreams and my friendships and not to be treated differently because I’m single. I want to celebrate this part of my life, as it is, and not waste it wishing for something different.

Is that really too much to ask?

Sunday, November 16, 2008

This Apple Catapulted Away From the Tree...

My dad is a wonderful, intelligent, generous, and incredibly loving man. He takes care of me in a way that makes me wonder if I will ever be with someone who can compare [I have had plenty of women tell me that it's going to be impossible for me to find a husband good enough after growing up with my dad as the standard]. I could not respect him any more than I do, and I could not be more proud of him for the way that he leads our family.

That being said, I certainly did not get my knack for literature and writing from him. Case in point -- please read the *precious* note that I got in the mail from him the other day:

Chicken Hawk,
I hope your having a great day. It is a little cold out there slinging gutters.
I write great notes.
I read an entire book in 2 days, it was not, "To Kill a Stupid Bird."
Love you Baby,
Good-bye, Good-bye, Good-bye

I laughed out loud for about five minutes straight [because of both the grammatical errors and inside jokes that litter the letter], and showed all of my friends. I am going to keep this forever.

Love you, Daddy. Good-bye, Good-bye, Good-bye.

Friday, November 14, 2008

Moment of Truth

This is the reality. I can no longer avoid it, rename it, dodge away from the facts, or nervously giggle in its face. This is happening, and if I don’t accept it, I will live the rest of my life in denial and, let’s be honest, I’m not even quite twenty years old yet [though the days are dwindling], and that is just NO way to begin a happy, well-adjusted, adult life.

I have to take a deep breath before I say this.

I. Am. Turning. Into. My. Mother.

There, it’s out. It’s not so scary, right? RIGHT? I don’t have to be terrified of this impending situation, correct? Could somebody please hand me a paper bag??!

The transformation has been subtle, but steady. Daddy has looked at me in sheer wonder [because of the ridiculous things that I say, the silly demands that I make, the illogical ways in which I think, etc] and has shaken his head, saying, “You are JUST like your mother,” nearly every day since I was twelve. I should have seen this coming a long time ago.

Still, it was a terrifying, huge, magnificent realization to face in Meijer, of all places. This is when the gradual process turned a corner and began to full-out sprint. There I was, innocently buying groceries and snacks so that I could host a bunch of friends [exhibit A] to play games at my apartment [exhibit B] that night. With my conscious mind a million miles away, I was suddenly shoveling those sugary, bright gummi worms into a thin, plastic bag…if you have EVER been to my mother’s house for ANY reason, you know EXACTLY what I am talking about.

I stopped. I stared. I panicked a little bit. But in the end, I popped a gummi into my mouth, made my purchases, lit candles in my apartment [exhibit Y], and hosted one heck of a game night. Jewels would have been so proud.

That’s not it, though. Oh no. Through the semester, I have had people in my apartment nearly every weekend that I have been here. I have begun to COOK [batten down the hatches…it’s not been as bad as I thought] and I even revisited the idea BAKING.

I drink coffee. I discuss farm animals like I know what I’m talking about. I fret about politics here and there. I get annoyed when my bathroom isn’t clean. I watch Jon and Kate Plus 8 like it’s my job. It’s all getting out of hand, really.

The straw that broke the proverbial camel’s back, however, delicately topped the list on Sunday night. With Thanksgiving Break glowing on the horizon like the sun after hurricane season, I buckled. I did something that I swore I would never do. I joined the ranks of hypocrites as I bent my head in shame and partook in an activity for which thoroughly enjoy chastising my mother.

That’s right. I began to listen to Christmas music. And I have enjoyed it everyday since then. What is a poor girl to do??!!

Really, there are worse things that could happen. I could be turning into, I don’t know, someone awful. I love Julie, so…I can do this, right? I can adopt characteristics of my mother without freaking out, right??

I don’t know about the not freaking out part, but as long as I’m not decorating my house with roosters and American flags and crying at 5k races, I think I’m still on the verge of sanity. When we cross that line, somebody let me know.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Please Let Me Be The First to Say....

I haven’t always been the best big sister in the world, especially where Taylor was concerned. Kelsey always laughed at us, telling me that one day he would be my best friend; I was always tempted to punch her in the face for this. I refused to believe her, because at fourteen I was, like, so mature. While never as bad as Shelby [who [to this day] antagonizes Taylor to the point where even a saint would be tempted to slap her, then simpers off to Daddy the second he finally reacts], I have heaped my fair share of abuse on my baby brother. I used to make him play dress-up with me, smearing makeup across his face until Daddy got home and turned a delicate shade of purple at the sight of his youngest son dolled up. I used to physically drag him out of my bedroom on a daily basis, screaming something about the foreign concept of privacy. Driven to extreme frustration one night, I actually gave him a bloody nose [which, in my defense, was not hard to do at the time…]. Needless to say, Taylor drove me crazy.

So what happened? I moved out. I left home last year, prepared to miss my sister with all of my heart, but to my surprise, it was Taylor for whom I ached. For the first time in my life, I wanted to hang out with my little brother. Since then, Taylor has become one of my best friends, favorite voices on the telephone, and choice movie date. I am very excited, then, to post [and in no particular order]:

Top 10 Reasons I Adore My Precious Baby Brother

1. I tell all of my friends that my little brother is the coolest person on the planet, and I am not joking. Taylor is seriously one of my absolute favorite people in my life, and I love that I get to share him with all of my friends [because the rule of thumb is, if you like me, you’ll like Taylor]. There is no way around it – he is just unequivocally cool, especially for his age group.

2. He understands me better than almost any guy ever. I can talk to him about anything from our parents to boy problems to style. I call him to ask what to wear on a date, vent about my roommates, laugh about something that happened in class, or talk about my boring day….Taylor and I get each other. He is genuine, he is a good communicator [most of the time] and he cares. He is the sweetest little brother in the world.

3. Which leads me to my next point: Taylor takes care of me. He has always had a servant’s heart, but as he grows older, he becomes more and more attentive. When I’m home and not feeling well, he sits me down, makes me take medicine, brings me cranberry juice and cough drops, and sits and talks with me. When he heard about my roommates’ apparent dislike of turning on the heat, he just shook his head and said, “Do you have a space heater? We’ll get you a space heater for your room.” Can you see why I love this kid?

4. Taylor not only takes care of me, he sees it as his personal job to protect me. Unfortunately, my older brother never really caught on to the “protective big brother” gig, but nobody had to tell Taylor twice. From the way that he screened my phone calls, to the times he sat in the basement “playing computer games” while I was with a boy, to the way that he sizes up any guy I may or may not like, I value Taylor’s opinion more than almost anyone else’s.

5. I admire anyone with even a fraction of Taylor’s passion and discipline. Whether it’s horses or running or something else, Taylor’s excitement and drive always inspire me. Very few people commit themselves so wholeheartedly to a hobby, but Taylor’s love of horses transcends the attachments of most adults I know, let alone teenagers. I love that he is so knowledgeable and dedicated.

6. When Taylor got funny, I have no idea, but it happened, and he is. It sneaks up on you, but he has this really intelligent sense of humor that always surprises me a little bit. Where is the little boy who stammered through stories, grinning ear to ear, until he finally conceded defeat with a frustrated, “I CANNOT TELL STORIES!!!” ? I mean, let’s be honest, there is still some room for improvement in his delivery and choice of details, but Taylor makes me laugh a lot [and he can laugh at himself], and I love that about him.

7. I don’t know many girls who are blessed enough to have a younger brother with whom they can [start] a Bible study. Taylor’s Godly character and integrity have been evident for years; his spiritual maturity astounds me. I love looking at him and simply knowing that God has huge plans for him, inherently knowing that Taylor’s life is going to be so much bigger than what we have dreamed [and we have big dreams]. I cannot wait to see where God is going to take him.

8. I can share my love of reading and writing with him. Despite the fact that I inadvertently bought him a semi-pornographic journal for Christmas last year [the wispy, naked people were sketched onto the wispy looking horses with equally wispy strokes – how was I supposed to see that??], he values words almost as much as I do. When I came home from college last year, he asked me for books to read, and I got to discuss real literature with him [sort of…]. I love that he reads my blog religiously and always has feedback, not only on the content, but on the writing. I trust his judgment, because, what can I say? I gave him good taste.

9. My little brother is generous to a fault. My sister and I have used this to our advantage on more than one occasion, but Taylor remains undeterred. He gives the most thoughtful, generous gifts to people; he would almost always give rather than receive. All I can say is that he is going to be the best boyfriend/husband in the WORLD one day: losers, skanks, users, life-suckers, fun-suckers, hoes, and general sucky, stupid girls need not apply, because I will cut you.

10. Taylor has the most ridiculous crush on our dog ever; it’s sick. He will mope around the kitchen all day, until he can decide exactly what he wants to eat [inevitably either something healthy or ice cream]. He auditioned for a play, but couldn’t stop his knees from shaking. He calls me his “baby sister” and “baby girl” even though I am, in fact, four years older than him. He loves hanging out with middle-aged women even more than I do. He steals Mom’s phone just to text me late at night. He cooked paella when he was seven years old [but never quite mastered the art of scones…]. He dreams of traveling to Europe. He is the most interesting, diverse, and dynamic person that I know. He will always be my best friend and confidant and I will always love him with everything inside of me.

Happy Birthday, Baby Brother. Your world is about to change more than you know…have fun.
I love you forever.

Sunday, November 9, 2008

For the Love of Literature

There are a lot of things that I love in life. Lists, for example. I love lists. Oh, and makeup, obviously…I loooooove makeup. I love words, too, and new notebooks and glossy magazines and cold days spent in Barnes and Noble [it’s the perfect front, really – you can make yourself believe that you will get some homework done within those hallowed walls, when in reality, you know that nothing of the sort is going to happen]. I adore my little brother and buying gifts for people and laughing and surprise phone calls from long-lost friends and fireplaces and front porches and What Not To Wear and Jon and Kate Plus 8. I love greeting cards and writing letters and introducing my friends to each other and to false eyelashes and I love telling stories. But do you know what I love, I mean, what I really love?

I love books. I love how intelligent I feel when I can reference classic authors and their works, ideas, and philosophies. I love how a book can change the way you see your life, how it can take you away from reality and instantly transport you to a far-off world. I love it when books become friends, and they begin to make you laugh and cry and feel the way that people can. I love the way that books feel in my hand and the sacred feeling that runs through my body when I open one. I love knowing that an entire world, an entire story exists in the pages that I am about to read, and anticipating the thrill that I am about to experience.

I love that the women in my family taught me to love to read. I love that Mimi and Aunt Debbie and Mom all fostered a passion for stories in my little heart when I was young; I love that they all bought me books and journals every chance they could. I love that I can still walk into a bookstore with Mimi and five minutes later we both have armfuls of books and she lets me choose three to get. I love that my mom read to me when I was little and that even now, if I were to hear her reading something out loud, I would stop in my tracks so that I could sit down and listen. I love that she always knew that I was going to be a writer, but she let me figure it out for myself.

I love sharing my books and stories with my friends and family. I love that Jessie comes into my bedroom and treats my bookshelf like a library, just like I do with Mimi. I love that I am influenced by authors or books [or bookstores, as I am today] and that when I write these random musings, in a way, I am sharing it with all of you.

Books have a place in my heart that nothing else can touch. It’s a different passion than the one I have for makeup, for example. Makeup is artistic and beautiful and otherworldly and thrilling. It is like the explosion of a firework, impressive and amazing all at once. Books, on the other hand, slowly grow and blossom and flourish, climaxing and ebbing like ivy on a wall. It’s a different kind of love, a different kind of appreciation. It makes me feel safe, yet adventurous, content, yet restless.

If I could move into a bookstore, I would. I can only imagine the logistical complications that would accompany that, however, so I content myself with turning my living space into a book haven in and of itself. If anyone is looking for birthday ideas, then [T-29 days] Barnes and Noble might be a really good place to start…