Sunday, December 28, 2008

Four calling birds

Hello, darling people. I hope that you had the merriest of Christmases. Mine was spent loading and unloading countless dishwasher cycles, prancing around in my rapturous cherry-covered pink apron, and threading two young cousins through barbwire fences. 

Yes. On my mother's side of the family, I am the lone girl cousin in the Golden Horde of seven boys. Ages 6-22. This makes me very happy because it's just like Rose in Eight Cousins, the Lousia May Alcott book. And I've learned the secret of living with so many boys: do not try to control. Do not try to make them use napkins or stop playing video games. Just laugh. And enjoy them. Because they are much more fun than girls. And when their sense of humor gets a little too kindergarten - go drink coffee with the grownups. 

In other news: hardwood floors are beautiful. And treacherous (just like the Spares' album, which you should go buy right now!). I.E., I am a klutz. I fall walking up the stairs. I fall walking down the stairs.  I fall carrying laundry baskets. I fall vacuuming the library. Sometimes I fall walking across a room, just for the heck of it. 
My legs collect more bruises every week. It's good for them to have a hobby. 

Three days ago, I was very excited about my Nesting sleep method, which consists of piling blankets on top of a made bed and cocooning in them. Very similar to the Tent method, if you'll cast your minds back to October. No bed to make up in the morning. The comfort of swaddling. But now the enchantment has passed and I'm ready for a return to cold hard sheets. 

Current book affairs: 
1. Orthodoxy - G.K. Chesterton
2. The Moviegoer - Walker Percy
3. Shakespeare: The World as Stage - Bill Bryson
4. The Complete Stories - Flannery O'Connor
5. What's So Amazing About Grace? - Philip Yancey

Break Notables to Date:
1. Watch Lars for the 3rd time. Fall asleep right after bowling with Margo. I think the infatuation has settled into a comfortable liking. And I own it now, too. 
2. Spend time with Jim. We took a drive to Anniston today just so he could introduce me to Radiohead. Five bucks of gas = totally worth it for music time with my brother. 
3. Making my way through the latest season of The Office. 
4. Hanging out with Kait and planning our post-college lives in Nashville. Now I want to write for this magazine
5. Receiving an affectionate bodyslam from the Sweet Dog every day. 

The Once and Future To-Do List:
1. 2 interviews. 2 articles. Eeek.
2. Texas this Thursday(!)
3. Drink more water and less coffee. (Except I got two bags of Stumptown for Christmas . . .)
4. St. Louis the next Thursday(!)
5. And Utah the Tuesday after that(!)

Monday, December 22, 2008

Prelude to Narcissa

It's time to blog. And I've got lots of things to write about. Things like Drew Holcomb and the Red Mountain team at Workplay and the most amazing new version of Hark, the Herald Angels. Things like ponderings on the pioneers and winter bathing. Things like the Narcissa Whitman and my amazing find at Reed's Books the other day.

All deserve their very own post. And they are not going to get it tonight.

Because I'm three kinds of tired. And Jim is watching "The Royal Tenenbaums." Reasons enough. Mainly the tired part.

So here are some fragments of thanksgiving.

*Good talk with my roomie.
*Sun. Sunlight. Light. Yes. Why yes, I do get that Seasonal Affective Disorder Thing. This is why I cannot live in North Dakota. Or Seattle.
*Gray tights. I love my gray tights. They're so . . . gray.
*Uncle Marty's quick visit last night.
*Jim imitating a Minnesota accent from the next room.
*The random beagle that joined me on my arctic death march today.

Not on the list: Random gusts of cold air that come on when you are sitting right over the vent. Good night.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Ms. Betty

I'll go ahead and warn you that this is not a happy post. In fact, I debated writing it at all. But I process things through words. Good and bad. So you are not expected to read the following - I just had to write it. 

You see, tonight Mom and I went to stay a shift with Ms. Betty in the hospital. 

I started taking piano lessons from Ms. Betty when I was nine and lived next door. I still remember tripping across the yard to her house that evening, a shy and neurotic little 4th grader. And she was completely sweet and enthusiastic and I liked her right away. 
So over the next years, she cemented my love for music. Not through all the theory exercises and classical pieces - though those were a part of it - but through her own passion for playing. One night she was trying to teach me to play "with feeling," and it just wasn't getting through to me. She finally said, "Anna, this is a waltz. The men are in top hats. The women are in lovely dresses. But the way you are playing it, they are also wearing lumberjack boots." I thought this was hilarious. And suddenly I understood what it meant to not just play the notes, but express them. 
Somewhere along the way, she became my second mother. I would run to her after a fight with my mom, and she would somehow manage to make me feel that she completely understood me, and not say anything bad about my parents. She came to see me in plays and cried with me when my cat died. For nine years, she was a weekly constant in my life, a safe place (even when I hadn't practiced).

So Jim and I have still stayed in touch, because we are practically her adopted children. But school and life get in the way, and before I know it months have gone by and I get a phone call from my mother saying that Ms. Betty is in the hospital, and the pneumonia is not pneumonia, but cancer in her lungs and brain and spine. And I surprise myself by breaking down and crying. 

Jim and I visited her before Thanksgiving. I crawled up beside her in the bed, and we spent a solid two hours laughing and talking and remembering, and went away lighter. Ms. Betty is stubborn. Ms. Betty will beat this thing. 

But things are not looking so good now. Mom and I took a shift this afternoon, and Ms. Betty's sister-in-law met us outside the door, and warned us about the pain she was going through. And I thought I was prepared, but it is not a good sign when just hearing about the suffering makes your face crumple into tears. She could not talk, and was in a lot of pain, and I just had to cry for a while before I could go in. 
But go in I did, and now I am strangely thankful. I cried a lot, especially when it was just Mom and me. I was not, after all, prepared to see someone I love in pain. But things calmed down, and I knelt by the bed and held her hand and talked to her when she woke up some from the medication. 

And she said my name. I do not know why that makes me weep to the point of no words. But I do know that it is grace. Grace that she knew me, grace that she was able to form the sounds, grace that I was able to sit there and whisper "I love you, Ms. Betty", and give back some of the care she showered on me these past eleven years. 

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

A pound of cake and productivity

I have written several posts since Saturday night. Some witty and charming. Some pensive and deep. Some rambling and disjointed. Some manic and frighteningly hyper.

Only. None of them made it out of my head.

So I am finally here to tell you, darling readers, that I just demolished a Fuji apple and made an (ahem): Cream Cheese-Pecan-Coconut-Bourbon Pound Cake. It is baking now. Soon it will come out of the oven and I will take a picture to show the world my beautiful creation.

In the meantime: a few Hints on Christmas Vacationing at Home

Do take lots of naps on the couch after reading Flannery O'Connor stories. Make sure to include the fuzzy red blanket/shawl thing.
Do not stalk around the house in the blanket shawl thing. It may be cozy at first, but soon you will start to feel like a hybrid between a very old lady and an Indian squaw from a pre-politically correct Western movie.

Do take lots of walks. Walk in the lovely clear and cold sun. Squish through the field across the street when it is foggy, until the mist envelopes you and you cannot see your house. Run with the Sweet Dog and shriek when he gallops past you with a stiff squirrel lodged in his happy mouth. Wander through the side woods after dark and gasp at the full moon shining through the bare-limbed trees.
Do not think of "The Village" while walking through aforesaid woods after dark. Specifically, do not call to mind the horrible red-robed creature and imagine it stalking through the woods right behind you.

Do sing your heart out with friends around the piano at a Christmas hymn-sing.
Do not
sing your heart out while the pest-control guy is wandering around the house. Um. Yeah.

Of my lists, so far I have accomplished none of the concrete. I did spend an hour watching movies like these with Jim. And quoting them continually since then ("Emotions are for ethnics, Bobby." Cue our raucous laughter). And I have cooked (Brown Sugar Maple Acorn Squash=weird but good) and scrapbooked (Mom and Dad: the pre-kids days) and read. Confession: I am reading a Jan Karon novel. I don't know why I feel so guilty . It's not as if Mitford falls in the same category with the much-hated Christian Romance Novels. But I got the O'Connor and a Walker Percy novel to balance out the sweetness and light, and also Orthodoxy by Chesterton, and I have lots of other serious reading planned. But I . . . I . . . I just needed to go to Mitford for a while, ok?

I think I hear a beeping. Excuse me while I scurry to the kitchen . . .

. . . and 1 hour later, it is done. Done, because either Southern Living or I messed up with the temp and baking time. And it wasn't me. For once (of course, I will probably wake up in the middle of the night and remember that it was me, but . . .). The point is that it tastes divine. I know, because I cut several small slivers off the craggy top where no one will ever notice, and it's really really good. Really. Good.

And it had better be, 'cause even going by the college schedule I lost sleep over this cake.

Edit: Here is The Cake

And here is The Cake after Dad's staff luncheon

Ah. Baking.

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Some Lists before Sleeping

It is Saturday and 9 pm and I am sleepy enough to fall into bed right now.

And that would be ok. Because finals are done, done, DONE, and I have no-thing for six whole weeks. No papers. No tests. No frustrating google earth presentations. 

That's right. This year, I'm one of those slackers who skips Jan-term. And I really don't know what I'll do with myself during these six weeks. 

The Absolute, Concrete, Big-Things List
1) Visit Anna in Texas for New Year's. She will let me drink wine! Yay Anna. That's why we're friends, right? 
2) Roadtrip with Deborah to St. Louis to visit Joanna and eat frozen custard. 
3) Impose myself on Jim at Alabama. Experience RUF at a Big State School. Play on the one person see-saw at the expensive rec center. 

The Definite But Flexible List
1) Read. Read a lot. Read about things I love, like farmhouses and Shakespeare. Read about random things, like the Civil War and horticulture. Read everything I don't have time for during the semesters.
2) Scrapbook photos from this fall and maybe do one of Jim's kidhood. 
3) Cook. Cook a lot. Today: Swedish wedding cookies, and chocolate macaroon roll-ups. 
4) Watch "Lars and the Real Girl" again. The obsession must work itself out. 
5) Have the Great Music Trade-Fest with Jim. 

The Idealistic But Doubtful List
1) Strength training at least twice a week. (I am such a weakling. Cardio=love. Lifting weights=stake me to the fire ant bed. )
2) Use GarageBand to record a ground-breaking album with Jim, gain instant fame and success, and tour Europe with Franz Ferdinand. 
3) Teach myself a hip-hop routine off of YouTube videos.
4) Speaking of: watch all the YouTube videos I am always meaning to watch.
5) Speaking of watching things: go through 15 movies on the Netflix queue. 

Wake up baby, there's a train a-coming,
don't you leave me or forsake me.
Wake up baby, there's a train a-coming,
don't you know how much I love you.
-Doug Burr, "Graniteville" 

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Longer than the road

Today, I had no exams. Tomorrow, I write my little heart out in (ahem) "The West in Global Perspective." I poured my morning into Germany from its unification to 1945, and traditional Indonesian art forms like wayang kulit, a theatre of shadow puppets. 

It is actually sort of . . . fun. 

In other news, today = productive. 
For one: got o.ffi.ciall.y signed up for that internship. Whew. 
For two: got my Poetry class stuff back. Not only did the professor like the essay I poured my life blood into (always affirming), she asked me to contact her about a position as a student research assistant this summer. A paid position. A position where I get paid to learn things and work with English professors. Um, heck yes. 
For three: Lunched at the Golden Temple with Deb and Joanna, where we ate curry burritos and tomato soup and mocked all the earth mother clothes and incense. 

And tomorrow I leave, which is sweet and bitter. I want to go home; I just want all my friends to come with me. Thank goodness Valerie and Joanna are, at least for the first two nights. And after all, Jan term does hold a flight to Texas and a road trip to St. Louis. See? I won't be completely people-deprived. 

For now, I'll just be curmudgeonly about the prospect of dragging everything I will need for seven weeks out to my car. In the rain. Blech. This is where a boy would come in handy -automatic luggage carrier. Is it unethical to date just to have built-in slave labor? 

In other other news, the Red Mountain Christmas album is really (really) good. Five bucks. Get 'em while they're hot. 

The Christ child lay on Mary's heart,
His hair was like a fire.
O weary, weary is the world,
But here the world's desire. 
-G.K. Chesterton

Sunday, December 7, 2008

Diner coffee and Christmas parties

The law library. Looking out the floor-length window to Reid Chapel with the crazy bells pealing against the walls.

I like the law library. I just discovered this study spot. It is pretty and not so crowded and most of all different. Changing atmospheres is important. Very important. Otherwise I go mad.

And it is extra appropriate that I am in the law library to translate an affidavit for my Legal Spanish class. Curses on you affidavit. Even though I would rather translate than study for a comprehensive final.

And be-sides, I am wearing my red and black print '40s style dress that I've had since I was fifteen. With a red sweater, and red sunglasses and purse and my hair is straight after a badly needed haircut (I like straight hair. Do you know what bliss it is to wake up and not have to DO anything to your mass of locks? I got ready this morning in eight minutes. Thanks to straight hair and mineral makeup and deciding what to wear the night before). I feel like an upperclassman, properly studious and put-together and on top of things.

This means I will trip and rip a hole in my stockings on the way back to the dorm, and fail all my finals. There's a certain kind of confidence that breeds catastrophe.

Yesterday/last night, I had a Christmas party at the house. Erin, Michael and Joanna accompanied me out to the wilds of Cook Springs in the morning, and we spent a semi-studious day at the house. Then seven more good friends showed up in the evening, and we ate pasta and laughed a lot and made merry well into the night. Photos to come.

I like red? I throw parties? I love being surrounded by people and throwing open the doors to guests?

Dear Lord. I'm becoming my mother.

In other news, I have four finals. Only three require studying. Two are over tomorrow. The last is on Thursday. Which basically means I get to party on Tuesday and Wednesday. I mean, STUDY. That's right, I will diligently STUDY allll those two days and not even think about lunching with friends and arranging midnight IHOP runs. Nope. Not me.

Besides, I'm a Waffle House devotee.

Friday, December 5, 2008

Just Clean Gone

A few weeks ago, I was sitting in church, and had one of those random thought-trains that have nothing whatsoever to do with the sermon. I was thinking about the phrase "clean gone," as in, "I'm just clean gone on him!" I love that phrase. I don't know why. But I started to play with the the idea of what it would like look in a picture or poem, and I wrote something down on my bulletin. I found it a week later and wrote this. 

Clean Gone
Not even a pickle jar
left in the icebox.
No shoes or paper clippings comfort
the straw-swept floor.
Outside, the laundry line trembles
in naked air,
and white clapboard sheds grey over
sighs of sinking foundation.
Let it sink, my love - I can never go back
to the home I lived without you.

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Barefoot and pregnant . . .

Last night, we had the RUF Christmas party. 'Scuse me. The Redneck Christmas party.

Daisy Jo, Barbara Jo, Pappy, Ruby Jo and Betty Jo. And I'm holdin my little Bobby Sue. 

It's  jes' plumb hard to balance a baby and hor d'oeuvres. Specially when you're already six months along with th' next one. 

The menfolk tried to ignore our delicate condition. 

But we hogtied 'em and made them get in the group photograph. That's our fine minister Mr. Sterling in the plaid at the front, with his sweet wife Susie and daughter Kate on the left. 

Betty Jo, a.k.a. Lindsay, in the kitchen.  We had the best time chattin' about Sears catalogs and pick-up trucks. Aren't those Christmas socks jes the sweetest thang?

*breaks character* The four of us! Yes, my roommate makes a very creepy redneck man. And Erin looks way too comfortable being pregnant. And I'm a little bit mad at Anna Page for looking so cute and normal. And Bobby Sue costs 99 cents at the thrift store. She's my favorite. 

Did I feel a little indecent walking into a party looking six months pregnant? A little bit. Did I develop some sympathy for those involved in actual pregnancy? Yep. Did I have the time of my life dressing up and talking twang with these amazing girls?


P.S. It's root beer, Mom.  Don't worry.

Saturday, November 29, 2008

Blueberries with Heathcliff

Lemon Cornmeal Cookies = Good

Lemon Cornmeal Cookie Dough = Better

Leftover Drippings of Lemon Cornmeal Dough with Frozen Blueberries = *blissful sigh* i.e., The Best Lunch Ever, i.e., Nobody's Here to Make Me Eat Real Food.

The antioxidants balance out the sugar, right? Oh, they'd just better. That's all I have to say.

My family is gone to the glorious (and wet) fields of Tuscaloosa. A week ago, I wanted to go too. I wanted to go when I imagined it as 55 degrees and sunny. Then yesterday came with nasty weather and the realization I had done nothing on my history presentation. So I had to settle for my oversize Alabama shirt ("est. 1831"), the T.V. version, and a day of solitude. Note: I can hear some of you scoffers now. "She won't REALLY turn on the television for the game." Oh yes I will. Mainly because I have been left instructions to tape this historic game. But I will
make myself sit down and watch some of it and I will keep it on the entire time. So there, cynics.

Family gone means my eating habits get . . . strange. Yes, that is a good word. It goes something like this:

Work on google earth presentation. Reach dead end. Wander to kitchen. Eat a bite of oatmeal-cherry cookie. Wander back to computer. Stare blankly at screen. Internal anguished scream. Add a map overlay. Wander to kitchen . . .

And so on, until I decided I could not. handle. google. earth. any. more. Emphatic period. So I made the Lemon Cornmeal Cookies to go along with the white elephant gift for the RUF Christmas party (I am very excited about my gift. Not to mention the fact that I found it for two dollars. Not to mention the fact that I got to write "FRAGILE" on it after I wrapped it up in brown paper. And no, it isn't a leg lamp. Oh. Sidetracked. Back to cookies). And when I was beaming at the little darlings through the oven window, the aforementioned Frozen Blueberries with Batter Remnants idea came and oh my heavens was it good. Then I had to take the cookies out and wrap them up and of course two got devoured along with countless broken pieces. So I made myself eat half a carton of yogurt for protein. And now the carrot bag is sitting on the counter to defer any worse sugar-carb binges. And hot lemon tea. Lemon tea is verrryyyy good. So are lemon cookies. UMM, subject change. I have to have just . . . one . . . NO.

School Update!!!!
Poetry Paper = Nine full pages, nine point five when I write the conclusion, the only thing left. Happy. I think I like this paper. Especially the part when I compare reading a Robert Penn Warren poem to a hobo jumping on a train.

Webfolio: I have my articles. I'm ready for Monday!

Brit. Lit.: Yeats and Auden wait to be printed out and stapled and turned in with a fatalistic sigh on Monday.

History: Google Earth Presentation. Shudder. Protestant mission schools of 19th century Syria are mildly interesting (on a good day). But there is nothing really fascinating to show geographically. "Yep, here's where they traded a donkey for a plot of land, but the Maronite sect burned down that school in 1843, and here's where they learned about blacksmithing . . ."
I am dangerously unmotivated about this presentation. Um. Help?

Legal Spanish: I just remembered I have a test on Thursday . . . yep. Better get on that.

But now the Sweet Dog and I will venture outside to be Emily Bronte and her loyal canine companion, wandering the moors in the rain and mist. Emily Bronte has to wander for a long time today. She has a weakness for Lemon Cookies.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

The Fields of Home

So I finally got a new template. No, I didn't make it. But if we were going to wait for Anna to figure out how to do that on her own, we were going to wait a long (long) time. And I don't know about you, but I'm ready for something other than blah generic-ness. Yay pretty flowers!

I was about to go to bed after I finished choosing/uploading the new layout. Then my foot fell asleep. Painfully. Asleep. So I'm sort of stuck here until it comes to life again, and I might as well write a post, yes? Yes. 

Home is amazing. Today is amazing. I worked a productive hour on my poetry paper, and killed a psychotic wasp, and chose balance instead of perfection, and baked chocolate-coconut-pecan-cherry oatmeal cookies, and re-worked a poem. A good day. A Very Good Day.

Ms. Ann - one of my mother's old college friends - drove over for Thanksgiving and I am glad, because she is one of the most entertaining people I know. When she called today, she had just (accidentally) washed her hair with the dog's shampoo (it smells like green apples, though, so disaster averted). And these things are every day events in her life, and that is why I like her so much. She attracts bizarre people, events and situations. All the time. And yet she still laughs, and often. And brings us pumpkin bread. 

I made my family watch Lars and the Real Girl last night, and they liked it too, and that made me happy. Tomorrow night: Mystery Science Theatre 3000 - Santa Conquers the Martians. 
What? What is this? Is it possible - that I can actually watch movies again without a) thinking of all the work I have to do, b) obsessively applying different schools of literary criticism to every scene, or c) falling asleep. 

In other news: last week, Erin and I gave all our friends Puritan names. It started as a joke in Prayership, and evolved into an absorbing game. Soon I found myself naming everything that crossed my path. You should try it too, with this link (thanks, Erin!). I'll be referring to it in a few years for my ten denim-suited children. "Prudence! Get off the roof! And Mercy, stop hitting Justice!"

And now I need bed badly, because the babies (alright, they're eight and six) are coming tomorrow - i.e., my two hell-raisin' little cousins David and Josh, who will drain every ounce of energy out of my weary bones. Good thing I love them. And I have a plan, which basically involves running around outside until they (or I) fall down. Of course, these are the cousins who proclaim, "We don't like outside!" Onto Plan B: Banister sliding. 

Draw my soul to Thee, my Lord,
Make me love Thy precious Word!
Bid me seek Thy smiling face,
Willing to be saved by grace.
Dearest Jesus, bid me come -
let me find Thyself my home. 

Monday, November 24, 2008

After Apple-Picking in Canada

Yeah, I should really be writing that 8 page Poetry paper right now. If it was two weeks ago, it would be a fun paper to write and I would pour my very soul into it. But it is Thanksgiving week and I get to go home tomorrow and see my mom and my dad and my brother and the Sweet Dog and walk around the Loop and bake pumpkin bread (and a recipe with cranberries that I saved back at fall break) and sleep in my bed and - but I need to write this paper so I can enjoy all that. 

So what justifies this irresponsible flight into blog-land when I should be thinking about Robert Penn Warren and how he's influenced my philosophy on line-breaks? Well, I will tell you.

Because I am RELIEVED. So, SO (so) relieved.


Because the internship I was stressing about because I hadn't heard anything back from the person who contacted me and told me I had it, and I have been sending emails and waking up in a ball of anxiety o'nights and imagining a horrible internship-less semester - that internship - is safe and solid and they still want me, whew. 

I'm glad. I dreamed last night that I applied for an internship in an apple orchard and lost it to two other people. I woke at 5:20 and got up, because sleep is futile after you miss the chance to work in an apple orchard. And so I am thankful. Very, very thankful. The stress knot in my chest just relaxed a little bit more. 

On Saturday I watched a movie, "Lars and the Real Girl." Now, I do not like watching movies much anymore (too many things to do, and I'm sitting here, watching a movie, and it's just making me more stressed). And when I first heard about the plot of this particular movie, it immediately landed in the category of "Movies I Have No Desire to Watch, Ever. Ever Ever Ever." I mean, a guy orders an adult toy that is basically a huge Barbie and thinks it is his girlfriend, and all his family and friends play along and pretend it's real? Nope. Not interested. Not at all. 

But then my friend Claire told me it was strangely charming and sweet. That made me re-consider my category placement. Then Anna Page told me that she really liked it. And this surprised me so much that when the Samford Film Club showed it Saturday afternoon, I went.

And I loved it. I loved it so much. It is not the stuff of dirty jokes and crass humor. Instead it is about a lonely guy who keeps emotionally isolating himself, and when he gets this delusion, the entire community surrounds him with support in pretending the thing is real. Including his church. It's set really far north, and the whole cold, grey atmosphere breaking into spring is beautiful, and the way Lars' brother and sister-in-law and friends love him is beautiful, and the scene where he finally lets someone touch his hand is beautiful, and I want to watch it again (and again.) 

You should watch it, too.

"Some places are forever afternoon."
-Richard Hugo

Friday, November 21, 2008

Return of the prodigal

It is Friday and I am wearing a pink sweater. What more have I to ask?

Today, children, I am going to write about my brother Jim. I was already planning on a post on him (because he doesn't read this blog and so why not?) and this very day two things happened that made it very apropos:
1. I woke up with a tear-streaked face because I had one of those dreams where a family member dies and this time it was Jim, and for some reason a person was interviewing me about it, and the more I talked the harder I cried and it felt like I would never stop crying. Whew. Yes, I was glad to wake up.
2. Then I had an unexpected visit from him this afternoon, and we went to Moe's because he hadn't eaten breakfast or lunch (oh the collegiate life). Jim brings out my uninhibited side to the point of embarrassment, and while he told me stories I laughed until tears ran down my face, right there in the Moe's booth (yep, lots of weeping today). 

So all this made me think about him and the different roles he plays. You see, because there are only the two of us children, we have to make up for the lack of siblings. Hence, I am about five different sisters to him, and he has been about fifteen brothers to me. I will highlight three.

The Older Brother. This is the protective-voice-of-reason Jim. He irons his shirts. He drives a stick shift. It makes me feel naive and innocent and very un-muscular, and goes something like this:
Anna: So I was at Reed's bookstore, and -
Jim: Anna, don't go to downtown Birmingham by yourself. That's dangerous. 
Anna: I wasn't by myself, I -
Jim: I mean, go with a boy big enough to protect you. 

The Baby Brother: This is the over-grown five year old who knows he can get most things he wants by being endearing and making me laugh. He turns mad cartwheels in the yard, and sends me papers to edit at 11 the night before they're due, and pelts me with M&Ms from the 2nd floor landing, and asks me lots of questions:
"Anna, can you help me with my Spanish homework?"
"Anna, can you loan me $200 to buy a gun?"
Um, no. 

The Twin: My favorite Jim, because the corners of our brain that our exactly alike emerge. We talk about music, and find that we have (independent of each other) discovered the same artist. Or he will mutter some Simpsons' quote and we both break into raucous laughter. Or we talk about actual quasi-deep issues approaching the surface of Meaning of Life (we're getting there). I like this Jim because we are equals and partners in crime and - gasp - something like friends. 

Conclusion: I love my brother. We're going to watch Mystery Science Theatre 3000 next week! And trade music! And run around like crazy people with the dog! Is Thanksgiving here yet? Sigh.

Obsession of the month: Aldi's. As in the wholesale grocery store. I like it. I like it a lot. They sell FiberOne bars for nearly half the regular price. And you have to put in a quarter to get a shopping cart, so I get to take my own bags. And yogurt is 43 cents and it's pretty much amazing all around. Just . . . don't go there after dark. 

Monday, November 17, 2008

Cardigans and Carolina

So my parents commented on the last blog and it really made my day. Now I feel like I should be waving frantically: Hi Mom! Hi Dad! 

They're nice parents. I like them a lot.

Today: was hard. As in, doing too much thinking and not enough living in the moment. This is my struggle: I am an ideas person. I get excited about ideas. And I want to sit and talk with you about them all day and think about how WONDERFUL this idea is and then I forget about the whole carrying it out part. So theory is important. Reality is important. How to reconcile the twain? That's what I'm asking. 
And that's why today = struggle. Along with a few bouts of stumbling into a whirling vortex of I'll-never-get-better and I'm-so-afraid. But I managed to pull out of the tailspins pretty quickly, and that is good. 

Also good: RUF tonight, which I should be on my way to right now. Because there I will be surrounded by friends who love me and who I love, and sing good songs, and still my soul with truth for a while. And since I had to write a list poem for class, I've been in a list-y mood, so here's a recital of gifts that have fallen into my open hands:

-my brown cardigan. Trivial? Ha, no. I've longed after it for so long. And it makes me feel older. I don't know why. But it is good to feel twenty-two instead of twelve. I think I will wear it every day this week. Or - not. 

-RALPH STANLEY on Friday night who was AMAZING and I want to go live in the North Carolina mountains and have twelve children who will sing harmony and play the mandolin and banjo and guitar around my husband and me as we sit on the front porch in the starlit evening on quilts and rocking chairs with the most adorable babies crowded in my lap and hours and hours and HOURS of sweet bluegrass music. 

-my British Lit paper which is behaving itself so beautifully. I want to beam: Good boys, Yeats and Auden! You make mother so proud. I love it when you play together so nicely. Maybe I won't have to deal with you at ALL over Thanksgiving break.  

-good church and Sunday School with wise women and random deep conversations with my roommate about actually trusting God instead of knowing glib answers

-my new black and cozy fleece which I plan on living in for the rest of the winter, thank you very much. 

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

My major and I are friends again

Another post so soon? Why yes. Reason? Caffeine and literary analysis. I feel happy right now. 

This little black rain cloud of a British Lit. paper has been moping over me for a while now. And the more it loomed, the more I panicked. The more I panicked, the more writing paralysis settled. The more writing paralysis settled, the more I panicked. You get the picture. I went round and round: I have nothing to intelligent to say! What am I going to say! I cannot analyse any more! I cannot read another Auden poem! Can't I just go live with the gypsies for the rest of the semester! (I still feel this would solve a lot of problems. Gypsy life, that is. Bonfires. Dangly earrings. Sleeping in a wagon. And "caravan" is such a cool word. I digress.)

But today, after much wailing and gnashing of teeth and even resorting to an online personality taste as a time-wasting measure, I took my little self to the Third Floor of the Library. Where nooobody talks and all the serious science majors go to look haggard over their enormous books. Away from the computer. Away from chocolate. And it was just me and Auden and Yeats and girded up our loins and plowed through it for a while. 

Then. Oh, then. I went to the food court for the 2nd hour of pain and found companionship and hope for the future in sixteen ounces of a Pumpkin Spice cafe au lait. It sat by me and held my hand while I did some awesome close reading and covered pages in scrawled notes and even got excited to the point of notes like "the BIRDS in 'Sailing to Byzantium' and 'The Shield of Achilles'!!!!!!!!".

And now, I am going to take a walk. A very long walk. A very long walk to get out all the caffeine and excitement and relief that I actually have something semi-intelligent to say. BREATHE. Ahhh.

Monday, November 10, 2008

Mercies of the mundane

Last week, I lost my USB stick. The stick in which rested the semester's work for the Journalism website class. The stick that represented every Monday for 10 weeks from 3:30-5:30. Losing it meant re-creating my entire website. 

So, I searched for it. I searched my desk. I searched it with a flashlight in my hand. I haunted the Campus Safety office and begged like a little orphan child at the library lost and found. And yet the entire time I had a strange resignation, the sort of feeling that doesn't even get really upset, just decides that it's gone and I'll  have to do all the work again.

And that's what I deserve. I deserve for it to be lying trampled and forever lost somewhere on the Samford sidewalks. I deserve to have spent this entire afternoon trying to do work I've already done. 

I do not deserve to have friends like Anna Page who urge me to go look one more time when I am about to troop off to the JMC lab. I do not deserve to reach into the bag I already searched three times and close my fingers around that elusive little thumb drive. 

My skeptic voice reasons against the idea of sovereignty in me being stupid and losing something and finding it again. But I choose to see the grace of God in a found thumb drive, in an afternoon spent with friends instead of work, because that's what all of life is - grace. More than I deserve. 

More mercies:
-getting the RUF Christmas party theme changed from "Tacky Holiday Sweater" (so last year) to "Redneck Christmas" (so . . . the Alabama RUF's party last year. Yes, I'm a shameless copycat). Right now Joanna and I are trying to decide between old-grandma-in-flannel-nightgown and overalls-pregnant-and-barefoot. Mmm, decisions. 

-my new coconut-lime lotion. I love it. So. Much. It is amazing and the coconut is Coconut coconut, not Sunscreen coconut. Why can't the whole world smell like coconut-lime? Or leaves burning? Or Stumptown coffee?

-I just went downstairs and found free for al cho-co-late in the kitchen. Hmm. Maybe this shouldn't count as a mercy. I've been eating insatiably in a vain effort to curb the stress (the voice of addiction: "Eat the Twix bar . . . it will make things hurt less." Insert evil laughter). 

-The sermon tonight. What gives us strength to count the cost and die? Jesus died for me. 

-Babysitting adorable Red Mountain babies on Sunday afternoon in their hip little outfits. And I get to see them next week too because I'm filling in for Erin again . . . I just might steal this job. 

-Derek Webb songs. 

Beloved, listen to me
don't believe all that you see
and don't you ever let anyone tell you
that there's anything that you need
but Me

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

The sun still comes up

And that title is the only commentary on the elections that you'll get here.

I am writing because I am an English major. No, this is not as obvious as it sounds. I should be studying for the Legal Spanish test tomorrow that is going to chew me up and spit me out in a crumpled mess in the front of the World Languages building. But after studying for an entire forty minutes (sarcasm), my concentration is shot. My psyche is scarred. And I turn to my blog in desperation.

I am an English major because I I can only write papers. Even if it's a boring paper. Even if it's an excrutiating paper that makes me think until my head hurts. At least you can get absorbed in a paper, because it occupies your mind and you are engaged and pouring your life-blood into it and it hurts but at least you're not staring at a study sheet.

So. Instead of studying, I am going to tell you, you darling blog-reading people, what I did yesterday. I went home.

Ostensibly to vote. In reality because I needed to get away, to escape to peace for a little while, and goodness but I didn't want to come back. I pulled around the curve and saw flaming trees riding the little curved field (by the house with the weird dog statues) and suddenly I just wanted to get out of the car and lie in the field and not go back to school ever, ever, ever. Not just school, either. Life. And I went home and my mother hugged me. And I made chocolate chip pumpkin bread and walked in the sunset with the Sweet Dog.
Then my daddy came home and hugged me and that is what I have been needing, oh, so much. And we sat with Mom and ate roasted vegetables and I talked to him for a long time and felt better.

In short: It is good to have somewhere to run to. It does not solve things. But it makes them bearable. And so I go home, where I feel so close to the sky and the trees are brilliant in the burnished fields and my mother is in the kitchen watching Rachel Ray make gourmet sloppy joes.

Love is from no distance calling, faithful as the rising sun
Warms the bitter heart and heartache till the east of eden's gone
Clouds of fear and misconception, wax and wane as if the moon
So is in a sense forsaken, till the will of God be known
As a songbird that has fallen, only to regain the sky,
from this frozen shadow valley they must be revived

-"As a Songbird That Has Fallen," Cold Mountain soundtrack

Monday, November 3, 2008

On this week's edition . . .

This post was going to be hyper like a six year old after a hard day's night of trick-or-treating. 

Then. I took a shower. 

I love hot showers. I love them best at night. Probably because it reminds me of when I was small and baths were always at night (why did I hate baths so much? It was always fun after you got in - endless things to pretend in the water. Like the mermaid scene in "Peter Pan." Or baptizing Barbies. Or - my personal favorite - Jesus turning the water into wine. Favorite Bible story growing up, hands down. Wow. Tangent. Back to showers).  
And now I feel like my mind is on some form of muscle relaxant. No filter. As you likely gathered from the endless parentheticals. So instead of anything coherent, I'm taking the easy way out and doing a "Highlights from the Week" segment here on Anna's blog. 

Highlight #1: Hallowe'en party on Friday night. Because I won $10 for my Girl with a Pearl Earring costume. I love Free Stuff. However. I do not watch movies anymore, because college has given me the attention span of a two year old and I keep thinking of all the other things I could be doing. So I was going to do the trendy blog thing and host a giveaway of my hard-won money. Then Jim called last night and I remembered that I love him a lot and promised the tickets to him. Sorry. 

Highlight #2: Eating an ice cream cone in the sun today with friends on either side. Waffle cone. Sun. Fountain. Friends. Happiness. 

Highlight #3: I had never seen "Singing in the Rain" all the way through. Not until yesterday, that is. I don't remember why I didn't find it charming before. But I like it obsessively now. The colors. The corny humor that makes me laugh way too loud. The Good Morning song (love). Yes. It's good.

Highlight #4: The morning light sheening through deep translucent red leaves. I see it every day on the way to breakfast and hurt a little from sheer beauty each time. 

Highlight #5: Doing laundry tonight with Bounce dryer sheets. Simple pleasures, folks. Simple pleasures. 

P.S. I am well now. As proven by my consuming as much peanut butter, chocolate and coffee as I can get my hands on. Yay. 

Monday, October 27, 2008

You're sick, Jessie - sick, sick, sick

As you might have gathered from the title, faithful reader, I am sick. 

Note: I do not get sick.  June of 2006 was the last time I was really down, when I babysat my favorite children ever (I love you Henry and Katherine!) and they gave me some horrible nastiness, the kind that strikes at 1 am (I still love you Henry and Katherine). Ever since then, however, I have been following the example of all the hardy women in my family and building up a steely immune system that will live up to the family reputation.  In that whole two and half year time frame, I have succumbed only once to anything resembling illness. 

[Alert: Massive pity party to follow. Those with whining allergies advised to avoid.]

 All that to say, I do not get sick. Until last night.  When I woke up with stomach nastiness and yes, throwing up (sorry, gentle readers) and general misery. NASTY. 
So, that meant no classes today. Or library work. Or even school work. I croak bitterly when I remember my fond delusion of the morning, imagining myself sitting up in bed later on with books spread around, getting work done. Um, no. On my personal gauge of physical misery, these two facts in themselves are telling:
1. I did not feel like reading. Or writing. Even blogging. Gasp. Usually I have to restrain myself from dumping out my neurotic ramblings every day. The thought of writing a post crossed my mind around 2:30, and I groaned and fell into bed. 
2. The peanut butter on peanut butter crackers held no appeal for me. I scraped it off. O.F.F. And ate just the crackers. When even peanut butter fails me, the world is upside down. 

Yes, I tried to go to Student Health Services (insert bitter laughter). A friend even gave me a ride down. And the nurse and doctor were out (surprise), and my original opinion of Student Health was restored. Then I realized I was feeling rather worse and decided to drag back up to the room, praying all the way, "Please, Lord, just don't let me throw up right here in public." And He was merciful.

Now I am sad because I have to miss RUF. And seeing people. People. I want people. I don't want to talk to them, I just want to lie on a couch while they talk around me. I want the presence of other human beings, gosh darn it. And I feel like Typhoid Mary in enforced quarantine. 

In other news, our window is open and I slept for three hours to Kate Rusby music and October is wonderful even with stomach flu. And I happen to live with a nursing major who is taking excellent care of me and strawberry gatorade is really, really good, in fact I might live on it for the rest of my life. That and peanut butter-less crackers. 

I will go off to some far country
Where I'll know no one and no one knows me
It's there I will wonder in my long silent rest,
For it's you, lovely Willie, you're the boy I love best
-Kate Rusby, "Playing of Ball"

Saturday, October 25, 2008

Do you ever find a song you want to live in?

They would drive all night with the windows down
in his ancient El Camino
He's got his arm around her and they're singing along
with the country songs on satellite radio -
and it feels all right. 
-The Spares, "Chapel of the Winding Road"

Yes. I could live in that stanza and be happy. Now I will proceed to listen to this song several hundred times a day for the next two weeks or so. I will attach my mind to a certain four lines or so and sing them constantly (constantly). In the shower at 6:30. At the desk while Valerie is studying. In my head when I should be paying attention to Dr. Brown and Japanese nationalism. Under my breath walking to British Lit. before breakfast. In the car driving to Books-a-Million. Every-where. 
So for some reason last night was very good. Nothing special, just chicken pot pie and Halloween cupcakes and friends. Not many especially quotable moments, or brilliant comments, just - ah, people. I like basking in friends. 

I also like autumn perfection days like today, when everything is deep and clear and brilliant. And spur-of-the-moment supper with Jim at 5 Points with the odd flute player man in the next booth talking about five to the zero power and cackling to himself. And pancake parties. And - sleep.
They're telling stories when the sun comes up
Driving through the mountains . . .
and it feels good to find someone who can see you. 

Sunday, October 19, 2008

On holiday

Overheard - Michael and Lee playing Mario Kart.

Michael: I've got to find something to kill her with . . . die, woman

Lee: Bowser just stalled and died and I ran into him

Michael: Don't worry, don't worry, I'm in sight

Lee: . . . through the ages. Oh no, it didn't hit Peach. LUIGIIII!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Michael: Y'see that? YES! What nowww? Check this out, you about to die people. UH I could've dodged it! (happy) I'm in first though. (singing) Hey Hey . . . we're the Monkees!
Let's glide to the championship, alright?

Lee: Now, Peach, you will be taken! We will have VEN-geance upon you.

Verdict: Endless entertainment. 
So, fall break so far = e-zackly what I needed. Yesterday we went to the Scottish festival, and ate Scottish food, and watched brawny caber-tossing men, and climbed (or, in Michael's case, ran) up Stone Mountain, and saw hairy cows, and listened to the bagpipe music float up as we climbed the mountain, and laid in the sun and wind until we got cold. 

Other highlights:
-drinking Strongbow on Friday night. I liked it. I liked it a lot. 
-I fell asleep during Braveheart on Friday night. I slept like a rock until Val shook my shoulder on Saturday morning. And I slept on top of Stone Mountain. And I slept on the way back from Stone Mountain. And I slept during Mario Kart last night. And I nearly slept during church this morning. And I slept on a bench in the sun while Lee and Val and Michael and Mr. Macon played tennis. Sleep is . . . good. 
-Authentic Mexican tacos tonight. Thank you so much to Michael's grandfather for making me commit the sin of gluttony. 
-Val's house. And her parents. I love her parents. Her dad pretends to strangle me and her mom laughs a lot and hugs me. I feel loved. 
-Deadly, spontaneous pillow fights in the basement, that explode in a rush of adrenaline and flying upholstery.

Homework? Who has homework? 

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

So today I've slung back and forth between hope and gloomy predictions. But a lot of hope. I think that's something, don't you? Especially when hope and peace have been pretty scarce around these parts. But yesterday and today I've had those spaces of Yes. Not an all's-right-with-the-world feeling,  just resting more in the place of things-will-be-ok. Of God-is-at-work. And you should all go read this article, because I love it and I can read it over and over and get something new each time. Thank you, Jason Boyett, for being honest. 

Ahem. Now I suppose I have to talk about actual real life stuff, since this blog has received criticism in the past of being "cryptic." *cough*StephenandLee*cough* 
Things like:
-Adam Wright's concert on Sunday night! Good crowd, good performer - why can't all my favorite musicians do house concerts? I'm a convert. Go listen to Adam and Act of Congress and buy all their CDs because I love them second only to Nickel Creek. Unless you bring in "The Well" - which just might be my favorite song ever - and bump them up to a tie.

-famous(ish) poet Mei-Mei Berssenbrugge on Monday night. I got to introduce her (thrill) and be one of the token students at dinner afterwards (actually, I was more excited about getting to eat dinner with Dr. Fisk, because she's pretty much the most amazing professor ever. And FINALLY teaching an English class again next semester which I will be the first to sign up for and I digress). She was . . . abstract. But very nice. Um, I liked her artist-y NY City clothes . . . there isn't much more to say. 

-Repentance. I get frustrated with repentance because I can never do it good enough (that is the way my twisted mind works). And then, through a series of un/fortunate events, God changed my heart about something I'd been completely blind to in myself. So . . . thank You. And yes, I can rationalize all day long (maybe it isn't God . . . how do I know it's really Him that did this?) because that's what my crazy mind does. I'm starting to begin to learn to tell it to shut up and say thank You. 

And fall break is in one and a half days and I posted a new poem today which is down to earth, I promise, and I fell in love with "10 Dead Dogs" by Wild Sweet Orange.

Belief, believe in me, cause I don't know
if reason's ever gonna see why love
would come to die,
to leave.

O my God, is this really what you want?
Would you tell us if it's not?
And could you rewrite the plot
and come and get us?

Thursday, October 9, 2008

Public naps and poetry

I should be studying for my Legal Spanish that happens in an hour. I should be reading To the Lighthouse. I should be working on the introduction for poet Mei-Mei Berssenbrugge on Monday night. I should be packing for the retreat tomorrow or doing something productive so that I will not panic at my mountain of work when I get back at the end of the weekend. 

Instead, I am here to tell you that my conditioner smells like Fruit Loops.

Yes, I am willfully avoiding work. It started with my 8 am class being canceled. 

Note: After writing above sentence, I remembered my Poetry class (the canceled class), which made me remember working on poems yesterday, which made me remember the poem I wrote yesterday, which I had to go re-read, and anyway I just spent the last twenty minutes tinkering with it and writing the expository paragraph that has to go along with it. [Which, if you are interested, you can find at my new poetry blog.]

And that is what this day has been. Productivity in spurts, nothing very organized. I studied for my test on the quad, and the grass was soft and the sun was warm and I woke up half an hour later. It felt a-ma-zing. 

In other news: I got a spring internship. Um, YAY! It is with Birmingham Christian Family magazine. This means that I can register four credits as "Internship" on my official spring schedule and breathe a sigh of relief, instead of registering and not getting any internship and scrambling to find some class that isn't filled that I actually need. Thank You. I'm so happy about this. It is a big burden off my chest. 

In other other news, I'm having supper with my favorite brother after I get out of the aforementioned Legal Spanish examen, because he is on his fall break and I haven't seen him in years. Slight exaggeration. Why, yes I am rather hyper. Why do you ask? That's what sleeping on the grass in public does to you. 

And with that, I'm off to not be late to class.  

Friday, October 3, 2008

Mirror, mirror

Last week we needed handsoap in our little corner of the Phi Mu house. Since I'm a perfect roommate who never sheds like a cat all over the room or leaves her makeup scattered on the counter, of course I sought to remedy the situation. Enter Dial White Tea soap with Little Pearl Things. Which smells way better than the lilac junk we'd been using (imagine a hospital + rotten violets).

So today at home, I need more soap for my bathroom. But I don't know where anything is kept anymore. Mom directs me to her room where I find - gasp - Dial White Tea soap with Little Pearl Things. Um, I am my mother's daughter? Am I the only one who finds this slightly creepy?

Speaking of which - my mother does not have cancer.

On Tuesday night, I heard the word "biopsy" and started crying (this does not bode well for my future mothering skills, by the way - I can see it now, bursting into tears every time little Johnny skins his knee. "Really, Mom, it's not that bad this time!").
This is the mother who does not get sick, who has the pain threshold of some badly calloused old soldier, who is always visiting the sick/bereaved and stuffing their fridge with banana bread and chicken casserole.
And so Wednesday I prayed and tried not to think about it and had a minor freak out session when I was trying to study on the quad in the gorgeous, gorgeous first-of-October weather. And when I went back to my room, there was an email and the results were negative and I exhaled.

Thank You.
So I came home today, and spent the day with my mom. I cannot completely silence the voice that whines about the paper I need to write, the poetic analysis due Tuesday, prep for Pledge Bash tomorrow night - and then I remember "biopsy" and I am glad I spent today sharing salad and pizza and a garden tour and "What Not to Wear" with my mother. Because it could have been so different.

Monday, September 22, 2008

You're so lucky(!)

I am sitting in the JMC lab, playing with the amazing and rather grimy Macs, and I am happy. Why? Ohhh, a multitude of reasons, my friends.

1. I am wearing my red Coke Phi retreat shirt. I love this shirt. Not because it is Phi Mu. Not because I have any special memories of the Phi retreat (I skipped it in favor of the RUF lakehouse weekend). Not even because I like Coke very much. But for some reason, this shirt has found its way into the t-shirt throne of my heart, and I have loved it faded and soft for two years now.
We have been separated these four weeks because of rush and the no-greek-letters rule, and it has languished alone in a cardboard box at my house (I did not trust myself to have it here. I knew I'd forget and wear it and be banished to the sorority dungeon). And last night my sweet mother brought it to me (AND bought me dinner - I do like parents) and I have been reveling in its cotton comfort today. Ahhh. I love it. So. Much.

2. I devised a new go-to-sleep method (born during the days of damp sheets). Instead of starting out under the covers, I curl up on top of my duvet with a blanket. I wake up around 1 am, it's cold, and I crawl between the sheets. Boom. That's it. I don't know why it excites me so much. Except for the fact that it works better than Valium and for some reason reminds me of the makeshift tents Jim and I used to make in the living room ("Hey! Let's drape blankets over the heavy dining room chairs and hope they don't fall over and kill us during the night!").

Hmm. Those are only two reasons. But hefty ones. Oh yes. Very hefty. Throw in current song obsession (Do You Want To - Franz Ferdinand) and September and you'll understand.
In other news, rush is over and my Life and I had a rapturous reunion. Time to sleep and do school is sweet. I want to adopt several of the new girls as the little sisters I never had (I told Mother to bring home a girl. Instead - Jim) because they are precious. Hmm. Maybe Jim can just marry one of them . . . Brother mine, marry a girl that I can be sisters with. Just not for a long time. That's right, I know you don't read this blog and I'm taking full advantage.

I was about to start rambling about how I am hungry and have only a crushed peppermint in my bag and then I remembered the Story of the Week. Ahem.
All through rush week, Claire and I encouraged one another with thoughts of the traditional rush Waffle House run on Friday night (read: Saturday morning). I lived through Friday on five hours of sleep hanging onto the thought of a chocolate chip waffle at 1 am. We decided that 1 am required a male presence, and only Stephen was man enough to seize this privilege, this rare opportunity, this once-a-year trek to the House early on a Saturday morning.
We decided the one on Columbiana was the least sketchy. Um, wrong. New Waffle Houses are way weirder than the old crusty ones that just have the random psychotic truck driver. We were not disappointed. Three very inebriated young men struck up a conversation with the table beside us. Well, two of them did (one couldn't talk). And the older couple answered back friendly as could be, as one by one the guys approached the table, each apologizing for his drunk friend, each drunker than the last.
Yes, children, that's your weekly inoculation against alcoholism! It's not attractive anywhere, especially not at Waffle House in the wee hours. Even a chocolate chip waffle won't sober you up.

And now - I am going to read outside in the splendid weather, reading for the most amazing history class with the most amazing Dr. Brown. We talk about nationalism and maps and other stuff I hate and I'm completely obsessed. Good class, that.

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

The nice man cometh

Happy news: after a week of a room so humid our sheets felt like wet towels at night, I finally filed a complaint on the maintenance list. Along with a haiku on our sufferings, imploring the maintenance man to come quickly. I returned that afternoon to an enormous humidifier sitting in the hall. 
    Now? I can sleep between my sheets instead of camping on top of the duvet. Our towels actually dry out between showers. And we are no longer in danger of succumbing to walking pneumonia as a result of the dorm room climate. 

Moral of the story: I credit the haiku. Poetry = power. 
I like people. My roommate and her efforts to scary my psyche with her nursing textbooks. Anna and Erin, who hug me when I feel twelve years old. Our amazing neighbors, Claire and her dancing and counseling, and Meagan with her dry wit and one-liner pronouncements on life-things. Deborah and Channing and Joanna and Michael, my favorite freshmen who are now sophomores and I feel old. The charming new people in my classes that are becoming friends. The guys in Beeson Woods that I still think of as "the Ramsey guys." RUF folk. Dr. Brown the walking history textbook and Dr. Steward the good-kind-of-challenging teacher. My favorite library people Ms. Lori and Ms. Gail. All the cute little freshmen who are my brother's age and make me feel very older-sisterly and semi-maternal. I even like the Campus Security officers after last week's trauma. Yes, my Samford people. I like you lots. 
The other biggest news in my life: Moe's has officially changed the Moo Moo Mr. Cow, the greatest fast food kid's meal known to man (close second: Dairy Queen and the free dilly bar). Yep. Cut the price to $3.29 and the burrito in half. They did keep the cookie, which leaves them a few shreds of decency. I think I could like the new Moo Moo. 

But I will still jump in the car with any semi-acquaintance who mentions Dairy Queen. Especially if it's one of those really old, crusty red ones in the middle of some barren cotton field town in South Alabama. I'm kind of obsessed. 
And now you've got to build a bridge
That only you can walk across
Wear the truth until it fits
Pay the price and bear the loss
-Emmylou Harris, "Hold On"

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Pass the smelling salts

It was Monday. And raining. And I had an 8 a.m. class to kick off the new semester. I should have known something tragic was bound to happen.

     My story-of-the-week starts with a heavy bag of books and an umbrella taking up my hands. I am returning to the library, towards the end of my shift. I fling open the heavy mailroom door in my hurry to get out of the downpour. Floor is wet. Down goes Anna. Hand flies back. Pinky crunches under aforementioned heavy mailroom door. I look back in horror and squeeze out my pinky, expecting to see the half-severed tip dangling in the air. It is intact (for now). I make a paper towel detour and rush upstairs, imagining an emergency visit and the death of the end of my littlest finger. 
     Ms. Lori quickly volunteers to accompany me to Student Health; one minute I am leaning against the wall of the elevator, the next I am waking up from a strange dream about high-rise buildings and bells ringing in the background. I hear people shouting something about a girl having a seizure in the elevator. 
     After that, events play out pretty smoothly. The Homewood fire department/ambulance people arrive. The nice Campus Security man gives me a ride back in the golf cart. The nice Student Health nurse gives me a tetanus shot and a Snoopy band-aid. I still have all of my pinky finger. All is right with my world.

So yes, I fainted for the very first time, over nothing more than a badly cut finger. I feel sufficiently ridiculous. And plan on passing out often from now on because you get to ride in a golf cart. 
In other news, I'm re-discovering how much I love Samford people and Samford itself. I have a poetry class that I think will be my heart this semester. Yes, I will pour my life-blood into the thing that promises to give me endless frustration and will never put food on the table or pay the water bill. What do I get in return? The joy of obedience.

Monday, August 18, 2008

Monday in Three Acts

The Unexpected Song (and Dance)
I arrived to work this morning to find I didn't have to. Work, I mean. So I went on a happy spree at Target and Publix. It was fun. 

Problem: With Publix yogurt, one of my (many) obsessions. Caramel, cappuccino, cherry vanilla, and all with a handy plastic lid, so if you don't eat it all in one sitting you can finish it later. 
But now. Oh yes, now they package it in 6 oz. cartons with NO nifty lid. This means that when I take advantage of the 10/$5.50 special, I get 20 oz. less of yogurt than before. 
I'm hurt and angry. I want my 2 and a half cartons of yogurt back, Publix. With the lids. 

Requiem for Departed Denim
This is the tragi-comic episode of the day. We take Moseby to his first obedience class. He is happy. We are happy. We walk into PetSmart. He gets a little more excited. We walk into the training room full of other dogs. His excitement begins to exceed the limits of my arm strength and his own bladder control. Long story short: Happy dog ruins favorite jeans. 
Yes, there was a Kohl's next door. Yes, I'd been meaning to get a new pair anyway, since these were four years old and had a rip in the left knee. But I grieved as I walked around feeling each stiff, uncomfortable kink of the new pair. I grieve still. The jeans that survived the last two years of high school, rain storms, and a summer spent with 8 year olds wielding paint brushes, finally meet an ignominious end at the paws of the Sweet Dog. 

The Splash of Beauty
Setting: Rambling with Mom and Sweet Dog outside. I was looking at the tall grass on the side of the road, when I saw what I thought was a small deer figurine.
"Is that a -," I started to say. 

Then time stopped (I'm convinced). A tiny, foot-high fawn raised itself from the grass and looked at us - without fear or anxiety or anything but a sort of gentle curiosity.  And we stared back, startled into silence by this small, exquisite creature. 

When time started again, my first thought was: Get crazy dog away from pretty deer. After that the thoughts whirled together in a mix of: Camera, Call vet, Dad canwekeepthedeer? When we returned (sans dog, plus camera) it was gone (with its mommy, we hope).

And though I'm sad about the lack of photograph, it's the scene itself that's so lovely - the beautiful little face, the solemn grace as it stood up in the grass. A moment of wonder. 

Friday, August 15, 2008

Performance-complex: Successfully thwarted

Things To-Do To-Day:

*make impassioned parking ticket appeal
*schedule various appointments 
*order school books
*etc. in host of ho-hum tasks

And how much of this have I accomplished? Um, none. I came home from work, sat on the porch for a while, and slept for two hours (yes, the dreaming kind of sleep, not the I'm-lying-here-thinking-of-everything-I-have-to-accomplish nap). And I took the Sweet Dog on one of my death marches around the Loop and we watched our neighbor stack thick golden hay bales onto his little red tractor. 

In other news, baby brother went off to be a college boy today. I gave him a card with a warning about pool halls. He'll be fine. And now I'm surprised at how I miss him. Not his physical presence even,  just the comfort of knowing he lives here and I can always come home and bake him something. And I'm lonely for him, too, thinking about the loneliness of those first few days of Away at School. I remember the feeling, of being slightly (ok, a lot) lost and aching for the routine of classes that would give me something to do and some place to belong. It comes, thank goodness. 
I've tried, this summer, not to be too hyper about RUF so that he won't be totally repelled. I can't count the times I've had to resist blurting out, "And when you come to Winter Conference in February . . ."  Sigh. Yes. I work really hard to not act like a cult member about RUF. 

And now, I'm about to go finish a Wendell Berry essay on the importance of standing by words. I realized the other day this has been the summer of Wendell Berry - his short stories, poems, prose. I love the way he shows how the important things happen in the routine of our daily lives. And how he articulates so well my catch-phrase of the summer, realistic optimism.
"There are, it seems, two Muses: the Muse of Inspiration, who gives us inarticulate visions and desires, and the Muse of Realization, who returns again and again to say, "It is yet more difficult than you thought." This is the muse of form . . . it is the willingness to hear the second muse that keeps us cheerful in our work. To hear only the first is to live in the bitterness of disappointment."

Monday, August 11, 2008

Strum a chord

Today, I wore moccasins and my Nickel Creek t-shirt. Yes, I felt like a neo-hippie. Just call me River.

I also woke up at the scandalous hour of 5:15 this misty morn, and walked with my dad and the dog. And then drank a large mug of Stumptown coffee. A very. Large. Mug. And felt much better.
By the by, the Sweet Dog finally has a name. He's a Weimaraner (the grey dogs with costumes in all those pictures), so we kept hoping for something German. Jim's offering: Faust (I vetoed quickly. We are not naming the Sweet Dog after a character who sold his soul to the devil.) My offering: Luther. Rationale - German theologian, check. And Luther also sounds like something our neighbors on the other side of the Loop would name their mutts, so it honors his current heritage. The rest of the family showed a remarkable lack of enthusiasm. Dad's offering: Rowdy (Veto, note the capital).
Dad finally came up with Mosby (pronounced: MOSE-bee), after the Civil War major called "the Gray Ghost." Rationale: Mosby is gray. He roams and wanders a lot (embarrassing incident where he ended up in a neighbor's kitchen). We're just tired of arguing over a name and confusing the poor dog. As though he cares what we call him, as long as we'll throw his beloved ball.

Today has been a blah-ish day, all gray and August and Monday. The kind of day that reminds me of the smell of 32 freshly sharpened pencils and the first terror-filled days of the new school year (I was a neurotic child. New situations equaled internal nervous breakdowns. What if my teacher yelled? What if I fell walking down the hall? What if - gasp - she didn't give me a bathroom pass?)
Only now I sort of enjoy the back-to-school feeling. Yes, school means papers and stress and plain old work, but it also means friends and RUF and Samford in the fall. Besides, I'm an English major. I write papers in my head whatever I'm doing. Only this time around I know never to write on Paradise Lost again. Try to imagine coming up with different ways to say "Satan" 500 time per paragraph.

In other news, my newest obsession is Bounce febreze dryer sheets. Why has no one told me about how amazing dryer sheets are? Not only have I sworn to use them in my laundry, I've left a trail of airy sheets in my wake, stuffed in the drawers and nooks and corners of my room. *Deep inhale* Ahhh. I'm in the midst of composing a love letter to Bounce.

Song of the Day: "About a Boy" - Josh Bales.
I heard Josh at Summit two years ago, and his music was my absolute favorite thing. Rich, real - just pure worship. And I love this song because it expresses so well that caught-in-the-middle feeling, wanting to trust and not feeling able.

When will you force me to love you?
When will my heart give in?
I know I can't stay here forever,
but I'm too scared to just jump in.

Could you come down,
and wrap your arms around me?
And when I cringe,
just let me know you won't let go.

Sunday, August 10, 2008

Making up on Sunday

Song of the Day: "Better Than Love" - Griffin House
Did I already do this one? I feel like I did. I don't care. Griffin House can be my boyfriend any day. 
Honey when you doubt my love for you 
Looking in my eyes what I'm going through 
Even if we change and fall out of 
You hold my hand and it's better than love 

Yes, it's been (over) a week. The blog and I have grown apart . . . we kept trying to find a time to sit down and talk things out, but you know how it is. The usual excuses and passive aggression, while the relationship walls grow higher. 

But things are better now. We're back together, and I've promised not to let it languish in neglect again. In return, the blog has promised not to take over my life. 

On Friday, I got to hold a three week old baby. Twenty minutes later, I was visiting with a 101 year old man and his 94 year old wife. As I commented to Mom, the full scope of humanity all in a day. The baby was darling and the couple was cute (still in the honeymoon stage after ten years. It's sweet in the non-saccharine way).

I also got a day off work on Friday, and it was more glorious than I could've imagined.  The weather calmed down and offered a taste of September, and I ran in the morning with my Sweet Dog and he did not try to befriend the part-wolf half-breed creature this time. Progress, progress. Then we threw the ball about three hundred times, I got the two things on my to-do list done (clean car, organize college stuff) and did nothing much else except lounge. And it was very nice. 

Saturday I watched the sunset and moon from the upper balcony, and came this close (dragging the air mattress outside) to sleeping out there. I challenged a skeptical parent to give me a good reason not to commune with nature. He mentioned spiders. Wise parent, that one. But it's only deferred my purpose for a short time. I will sleep on that balcony and wake up to the sunrise and it will be beautiful. Soon, children. Very soon. 

Recipe Experiment of the Day: Paula Deen Peanut Butter Bread, with Anna's additions of peanut butter chips, chocolate chips, peanuts, and dried cherries.
Verdict: Maybe it could win something at a peanut festival? 

Saturday, August 2, 2008

Saturday in 4 acts

Act 1
Morning. Blueberry muffins and Stumptown coffee (Guatemalan blend - of course). Enter Pepper Place; exit laden with okra, squash, two yellow tomatoes, field peas, and a bowl of homemade peach ice cream. Humidity strikes around 10:30 in a preemptive strike; end scene. 

Act 2:
Noon(ish). Home. Cleaning, and running with my sweet dog. Well, mostly sweet dog. He's very obedient when he wants to be, which is: a good deal of the time. When our desires conflict, however, we have an interesting tug of war. We weigh about the same, so if I make up my mind first, we go my way and he trots calmly by my side. If he makes up his mind first, I get jerked off my feet toward a suddenly fascinating tree. End scene. 

Act 3:
Gloaming. Waiting out a thunderstorm in Michael's on the way to the much-anticipated folk festival. I am in the cheap scrapbook sticker aisle when Mom enters and thrusts the adorable (read: outrageously priced) stuff at me. In my defense, I tried to explain that I was being thrifty and etc. Then I went sticker happy. I love my momma. She buys me stickers. Am I four years old again? No, because I didn't even like stickers until now. And she bought me other happy scrapbook things. 

Act 4: Sunset.  Arrive Historic (read: sketchy) Avondale Park, site of Birmingham Folk Festival!!! We find that the ticket price has dropped to $2.50 and there is free Jim and Nick's to be eaten. Mom and I head to the tent without speaking. There is no need. We share an intuitive obsession with free food. Then we settle in as the sky goes all glorious pink and a breeze picks up and Act of Congress takes the stage. Happy sigh. 
Then. The New Familiars. I think my very own mother said it best: "They're like a 70s rock band with bluegrass thrown in." Well - yes. They look like slightly altered clones of Iron & Wine, and their energy level = spastic. I loved it. What kind of band covers "My Guy" as an ethereal rock ballad? What kind of band has a mandolin next to an electric guitar? Did I mention I loved it?

Song of the Day: "Annalein" - The New Familiars
When's the midnight train for Nashville. That's what I'm asking.

My sweet Annalein, where have you gone?
You took that midnight train bound to Nashville
headed west for the golden coast.
Didn't you know how much I loved you?
Didn't you know I loved you more than most.

Friday, August 1, 2008

Something old . . .

I just ran, swam and polished off a chocolate coffee banana smoothie made with health nut-approved soymilk and yogurt. If you want to experience this goodness in your own life:
1 carton coffee yogurt + 1 banana + a healthy dollop of plain yogurt + a generous splash of chocolate soymilk + enough ice to make it refreshing but not watery
Whirl together until perfection ensues. 

Today I spent deep in the rural hillside of North Alabama, delving into the family trunk of great-great-greats on my PaPa's side. My grandfather's cousin Marie is eighty three and lives in the same small white farmhouse her mother grew up in. I love it (apart from the rather hideous old clock in the back bedroom). It's the kind of house jammed with so many old things you're almost afraid to sit down. And most of the old things manage to avoid being creepy/nasty (as in, that is encrusted with the grime of who-knows-what and I just want to burn it). There is the lovely, solid old table that my three times great-grandfather (the venerable Thomas Thornton) made himself and is still table-ing along today. There is the pretty blue and white china, the scary carved walnut bed, and a gorgeous old kitchen hutch that Marie's father made for her mother. It even has a little board you pull out to roll biscuit dough on (I want it. Sigh.). 

But the best part - Marie and her brother, Herbert (I know), had tiny yellow tomatoes from their garden. Now, I do not eat raw red tomatoes. In ketchup, sauce, stir-fry, anything else, fine and good. Sliced on a plate: No. However - yellow tomatoes are a different thing entirely. They are what red tomatoes try to be and can never achieve. They are sweet and not too soggy and I will defend their cause with every tastebud that I own. 

Apart from lusting after antiques, I tried to gather ideas for the Great American Novel I plan on writing in oh, twenty years. I looked through a kind of journal kept by a great-great grandmother and giggled over entries like this:
"To J.T. McCaleb 1861 -
If to love is a sin, then I freely confess
that every short minute I therein transgress."

Family names I might conceivably use: Isaac, Eva, Thomas.
Family names I vow never to inflict on an innocent child: Bathsheba, Hopwood, Felenburg. (Felenburg?)

And tomorrow I have fun things planned. Like - Pepper Place Farmer's Market! And - Birmingham Folk Fest! I was explaining to my mom that I think I am so excited about this day of veggies and banjos because it is akin to a rejection of our synthetic culture. In a world of plastic and screens and smooth industrialization, it is good to buy a cantaloupe and know that it came out of the ground yesterday, and to listen to music that is real and lovely, not electronically ironed out. 

Song of the Day: "I Disagree" - Act of Congress
In honor of aforesaid folk fest on the morrow. Act of Congress, the up and coming, closest thing to musical happiness since Nickel Creek, and you, yes you, can also follow their rise to stardom! Step up today and claim your status as Original Fan. 

"Love is something I believe in 
'cause it makes lonely disappear.
I'll paste these pieces of my broken heart
and build an altar just for you."

P.S. And my mother just promised to brew Stumptown coffee tomorrow morning (!!!). I reacted, um, very enthusiastically. "Will that make the perfect day even more perfect?" she mocked. She sees right through me. I build up this perfect ideal in my head ("I'll get up, and drink Stumptown and go to Pepper Place and go to the folk fest and wowitsgonnabesooooperfect!!!") and before you know it I'm wound in a ball of expectation so tight that the slightest interference with my "perfect" day sends me into a spiral ("oh no, I can't control things!). Breathe, Anna. Just breathe. And drink some Stumptown coffee.