Monthly Archives: November 2013

in which I am grateful

Today, I am grateful for….

Diet coke
An apartment with both a washing machine and a dishwasher
Children’s literature
Goodreads
Sweaters
Instant yeast
Jayne Cobb
Steampunk
My fox hat
Frankenstein
Panera French onion soup
The Matilda the Musical soundtrack
The autosave function on Microsoft Word
Netflix
Where the Wild Things Are
Boston
Wellies
Twitter
Good books
Redvines
Benedict Cumberbatch
Fan art
Living three blocks from a library
My R2D2 iPhone case
Gifs
Friends I adore, family I miss, and the chance to study and write things that I am passionate about 

Happy Thanksgiving, everyone. From my couch to yours.

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in which I meet my heroes

When I was a kid, I really loved books, and I really hated math.

Neither of those things have changed.

Another thing that hasn’t changed is my deep and abiding adoration of a picture book called Math Curse. It is a brilliant book that I loved as a kid and love more as an adult.1

So a couple weeks ago, when Milton asked me if I wanted to have coffee with her and the author of Math Curse, I said, “Is a Fibonacci Sequence created by adding the two previous numbers?”

The answer was yes. Yes I would like to have coffee with Jon Scieszka2.

On Saturday, Milton and I waited in the Sheraton Starbucks. We were both a little nervous. I had no idea what sort of person Mr. Scieszka would be. Did he, icon of children’s literature, really have the time to meet with us? The phrase “Never meet your heroes” kept running through my head.

But then Jon arrived. He sat down with us, and we talked for about an hour about children’s books, literacy, gender, and writing. This guy  basically changed the face of picture books and here he was, sitting in a Starbucks with two grad students, telling us stories about Mo Willems and Jon Klassen and treating our opinions and ideas as though they were just as valid and intelligent as his.

Milton and I were both impressively articulate and kept our cool, but I think both of our internal monologues looked something like this:

try this

It was an amazing conversation with an amazing guy, and one of those “aha!” moments that affirmed yet again I am in the right field. I don’t think I’m ever going to change children’s literature the way Jon Scieszka did, but someday I hope I can return this favor and sit down with an aspiring author in a hotel Starbucks and tell them everything they need to hear.

And then I will sign their book with a math equation. The same way Jon did for me.

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  1. Also I’m pretty sure there were a few questions on the SAT that I got right specifically because of Math Curse.
  2. Mr. Scieszka is also the author of The Stinky Cheeseman and The True Story of the Three Little Pigs, among other dark and hilarious books. His new book, Battle Bunny, is sort of brilliant. He’s one of the rare children’s authors who writes books kids actually want to read.
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in which I don’t get an answer

Years ago, when I was in high school and my world spun on a different axis, I auditioned for a play. I wanted the lead role really badly. I was having the typical “what do I do with my life?” crisis and I thought that getting cast in this role would somehow confirm that theater was my place in the world I was about to enter. When I got a callback, I thought, I am going to get this part, and this part is going to be my answer to all the big questions I was asking about theater and the future.

But it wasn’t.

I didn’t get the part. And I was pretty sad about that for a while1. Mostly, I was upset because I thought this show was my answer—something that was going to set me on a course towards my destiny—and it wasn’t.

But it turns out, it kind of was. Because I wasn’t cast in that show, I had my first opportunity to direct a play, which set me indirectly on a path towards children’s literature2.

Fast forward a few years. Just before I moved to Boston, I started having Second Thoughts. You may be familiar with Second Thoughts. They are those niggling little worms of doubt that accompany any big change or decision you ever make in life. If you’re me, they also come with anxiety, nausea, and mild panic attacks every thirty or so minutes. How would I ever pay off these student loans? What was the point of an MFA when people get published all the time without one? Isn’t children’s lit just a stupid thing to study? Maybe this was a waste of time.

So the big question became, Should I move to Boston?

Then, a few months before I moved, I was asked to interview for a dream job. This is a sign, I thought. I am going to get this job, and I will not do my MFA and I will not move to Boston and I will not get up to my eyeballs in debt. This is my answer.

But it wasn’t.

Since you read this blog, you probably know I didn’t get that job. I was a sad over this for a while, and this was magnified by my anxiety over the move to Boston and the start of the MFA. But it turns out that job was my answer. My answer was moving to Boston, because now I’m exactly where I should be.

About a year ago, I got my heart broken in an “I will never love again” sort of way. But then I met a young man with whom I had Chemistry with a capital C. He was handsome and charming and we had the same favorite poem and affinity for jazz-age disillusionment. This guy, I thought, is going to counteract all the damage done by the first one. Even if we don’t have some epic love story, he is going to restore my faith in love and romance. This is my answer, I thought.

But it wasn’t.

He ended up being a tool, and I ended up seeing The Great Gatsby alone. But in a way, he was an answer. An answer to the question of, “Do I need someone to be happy with who I am3?”

This week, I thought I was going to get an answer.

But, as you might have guessed, I didn’t.

And it’s hard, in the wake of disappointment, to look at things not working out as maybe being an answer. I can tell myself these stories and still not recognize the direct correlation to my current situation.

But while right now I am lamenting the fact that I did not get my answer, a small part of me understands that in a way, I did.

  1. I was definitely pretty scowly as I sat in the audience and watched the performance.
  2. Via directing plays for people, then directing plays for slightly smaller people, and then discovering that those small people are usually the best people.
  3. Answer: No.
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in which I feast at Redwall Abbey

Grad students are, by nature, anti-social creatures.

They can most typically be spotted in their natural habitat, the library or a quiet corner of the apartment. They are usually drinking tea, wearing a large cardigan or two, and sporting thick-rimmed glasses. You will know you are approaching the den of a grad student by the stacks of books that mark the way and the tell-tale sound of furious typing. Be careful not to startle them. They startle easy.

However, every once in a while the wild graduate student will venture out into the wide world to engage in social activities, usually with others of their kind. And usually, after engaging in said social activity, they utter the phrase, “We should do this more often.”

They don’t, but it’s worth a try.

At the beginning of the term, Milton and I made a pact to engage in more social activities for the reason above—we always have fun once we get out and do it. It’s the getting and doing that can be a challenge. So in order to fulfill that pact, this past weekend, Milton hosted a dinner party.

The theme: Redwall.

You may remember Redwall from your childhood, or the childhood of your children depending on how old you are. It was Brian Jaques’s fantasy series starring a colorful cast of mice, rats, otters, weasels and other assorted varmints wielding swords and building fortresses and, most notably, eating fantastically delicious feast. Seriously, the descriptions of food are 90% of the reason you read the Redwall books. A sample:

“Tender freshwater shrimp garnished with cream and rose leaves, devilled barley pearls in acorn puree, apple and carrot chews, marinated cabbage stalks steeped in creamed white turnip with nutmeg.”

While I don’t like rose leaves, acorns, or barley pearls, reading that made my mouth water.

So this weekend, we gathered at Milton’s apartment and made a feast to rival that of Redwall Abbey.

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Main course. Complete with the very Redwallian iPad in the background.

French onion soup! Cinnamon tea scones1! Sweet potatoes and risotto! Turnip and cabbage mash! Pumpkin bread and meadow cream! And to cap it all, spiced cider and mulled wine.

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Dessert! Most important part of any meal.

I ate…so much food. So much delicious food. I’m not sure how these mice aren’t all grossly obese after eating like that every day. It’s a marvel they don’t have to be rolled onto the battlefields.

 

  1. This was my contribution. I spent at least two hours that morning wrangling them into shape because they did not work as well as The Pioneer Woman promised they would. Mine also did not turn out half as pretty as hers. But since the primary ingredients were butter, sugar, and cream, they tasted just fine.
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in which some days are perfect

A few days ago, the MT and I were texting. As we do.

And we started talking about a day we had the weekend before I came back to Boston. The family, along with 14, went to the Timpanogos Storytelling Festival. The MT and I traded a few texts with quotes and memories of funny things that had happened that day, and it ended with one of us1 saying, “That was a perfect day.”

Except it wasn’t.

It was really hot that day. I was really tired because we had to get up early and the drive was long. The chairs we had to sit on were super uncomfortable. Our sandwiches were squished. I’d just got my haircut and my bangs looked weird. I think my mom and I got in an argument at some point.  

But when I look back on it, even remembering all those things, it was still a perfect day.

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This is a photo of 14 from said perfect day. It is one of two photos I have of this day, and the other one is blurry.  

Most days are not perfect. Most days are not even good. But still, at the end of most days, when I turn off the lights and go to bed, the first thing I think is, “Today was a nice day.” Even after a lot of shelving at work and even if my knees hurt and even if the T was slow and I didn’t get as much done as I needed to, usually when I look back on the day, I realize it was nice. Even on the bad days, there are good things hidden inside them.

I know this world is far from perfect, and most days further still. But I’ve been thinking a lot about perfect days, and how they are possible. They happen in spite of everything.   

  1. Can’t remember which but it was probably me.  
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in which I dress up in strange costumes

So one of the dorkier things about me is how much I love dressing up in weird and awesome costumes. This week gave me a lot of opportunities to do so.

First of all, we had a Halloween Carnival at work, which meant I spent most of the day hanging out in Harvard Square dressed like this1:

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Then, as previously discussed, I spent most of Thursday and some of Friday dressed as the Hero of Canton, because Halloween:

Image And last night, Milton2 and I dressed like this:

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Why? We attended the Inter-Dimensional Vaudevillians’ Cosmic Sideshow.

What is the Inter-Dimensional Vaudevillians’ Cosmic Sideshow, you may ask? Honestly, I’m not totally sure. It was one of the weirder nights of my life. It included everything from extreme pumpkin carving to a magician to screamo rock bands to a burlesque show3. People were there dressed as Dia de los Muertos, clowns, dark circus vaudevillians, steampunks, and then there were a few people randomly wearing really fuzzy neon mittens. It was a strange crowd.

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Unfortunately all my pictures suck because it was very poorly lit.

Milton and I opted for the steampunk vibe, because I am steampunk obsessed at the moment and Milton is a good sport. Pretty impressive for costumes for being pulled together exclusively out of things from our closets4. We also garnered the attention of more steampunk gentlemen than I’ve ever had vying for my attention at one time. I got a lot of cards. I wish I was this good at real networking events.

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You can’t tell what’s going on in this picture so let me explain: an intense metal band is playing on a stage filled with pumpkins while a girl hulla hoops with a glow in the dark hoop. Like I said, a weird night.

All in all, it was a weird fun night at the Worcester Palladium. And really, I’ll take any excuse to dress up in weird clothes and have a bizarre cultural experience.

  1. I should point out my hands are not painted green because my job at said carnival was face painting, and I did not want to get green smudges on the children. Though that probably would have been an improvement over what I actually painted on their faces. Spoiler alert: I am not as great at face painting as I thought I’d be.
  2. You remember Milton of the New York trip?
  3. In the middle of which I got an email from my bishop. Irony!
  4. Except for Milton’s tiny top hat. That was graciously lent by a friend much cooler than us.
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