Wednesday, December 28, 2011

scope for imagination

Once upon a time, I played Bingo every Thursday with a group of delightful women at a nursing home. Have you ever played Bingo with elderly ladies? Until you play Bingo with elderly ladies you will never know what Jo March went through taking care of her Aunt March. Don't get me wrong, I will love my Bingo ladies until the day I die. But it's rather startling to see how playing a simple game of Bingo will bring out the competitive and petty sides of people. Even 90-year-old ladies.

But they also taught me a really valuable lesson--they gave me the secret to aging well. The secret to aging well--or just to life in general--is a healthy dose of perspective and humor. If you have the ability to put things in perspective and to laugh off the small trials and tribulations of everyday life, then you can sail through life with grace.

This here offers a healthy dose of perspective:

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

jumpstart my kaleidoscope heart

So, I was wandering in a used bookstore after work today, and I was snuffling about the mystery section, when i found I had wandered into the poetry section. I picked up a W.H. Auden book, because I've never read much of him. And I feel that that's just what you're supposed to do in a used bookstore, you know? You're almost literally required to pick up a book of an author you've always heard of, crack open the tome, and give it a whirl.

So I opened the dog-eared book open to this poem. And I was instantly charmed.


O Tell Me the Truth About Love

Some say that love's a little boy,
And some say it's a bird,
Some say it makes the world go round,
And some say that's absurd,
And when I asked the man next-door,
Who looked as if he knew,
His wife got very cross indeed,
And said it wouldn't do.

Does it look like a pair of pajamas,
Or the ham in a temperance hotel?
Does it's odour remind one of llamas,
Or has it a comforting smell?
Is it prickly to touch as a hedge is,
Or soft as eiderdown fluff?
Is it sharp or quite smooth at the edges?
O tell me the truth about love.

Our history books refer to it
In cryptic little notes,
It's quite a common topic on
The Transatlantic boats;
I've found the subject mentioned in
Accounts of suicides,
And even seen it scribbled on
The backs of railway-guides.

Does it howl like a hungry Alsatian,
Or boom like a military band?
Could one give a first-rate imitation
On a saw or a Steinway Grand?
Is its singing at parties a riot?
Does it only like Classical stuff?
Will it stop when one wants to be quiet?
O tell me the truth about love.

I looked inside the summer-house;
it wasn't ever there:
I tried the Thames at Maidenhead,
And Brighton's bracing air.
I don't know what the blackbird sang,
Or what the tulip said;
But it wasn't in the chicken-run,
Or underneath the bed.

Can it pull extraordinary faces?
Is it usually sick on a swing?
Does it spend all it's time at the races,
Or fiddling with pieces of string?
Has it views of it's own about money?
Does it think Patriotism enough?
Are its stories vulgar but funny?
O tell me the truth about love.

When it comes, will it come without warning
Just as I'm picking my nose?
Will it knock on my door in the morning,
Or tread in the bus on my shoes?
Will it come like a change in the weather?
Will its greeting be courteous or rough?
Will it alter my life altogether?
O tell me the truth about love.

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Lo How a Rose 'Ere Blooming

We spent the whole day working on the gingerbread house. It's Pacha's House/hill from Emperor's New Groove.

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She's a beaut, that's for sure. But some years you get done with the gingerbread house, and you never want to see candy or icing again. This is one of those years.



Annnd now the fam's about to head to Vigil Mass.
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Christmas Eve is my fave. :)

Thursday, December 22, 2011

900 Ways to Kill a Canary [excerpt]

That part of your brain that regulates pumpkin pie moments or in some deep, mysterious part of you that is somewhere else entirely.

There is a small hollow in the curve of one’s wrist, where two fingers, resting gently on the skin, can feel the small and steady thump-thump of their own heart. A person can actually put a finger on the rhythm of our own life. She can touch the beat of the drum that her life marches to.

Oh heartbeat, sustain the weight of Atlas’ globe.

Written in small slender script on this hollow are four little letters. L.O.V.E. Underneath the white skin, the heartbeat surges each day. And lifts up and down in rhythm to its being—“Love.” The heart beats in love. The blood surges through the arteries in Love. I am in Love and out of it I will not go. All that the body is, it owes to Love. The heart beats, because it is loved. The only reason that the little heartbeat is even pounding is Love. And Love is what the small heart is called to do. Love is its raison d’être. Its animae. Its life. Its breath. That simple and tender heart beats over one hundred thousand times a day, and each time it beats, it beats in order to love. It beats to love all the other heartbeats in the world. Written on her arm is a reminder that she lives in Love, and safe in His arms she will remain. That she was created in Love and that she was born to love to others.

The world is too harsh to house such a creature.

There is a delicate stasis in a human person. There is such a small point of balance in the human’s body—such a tiny place of rest between death on both sides. Life is a dance. Life is a tender and delicate tightrope walk, that is devastatingly susceptible to crashing and burning, but is capable of the most incredible stunts and adept at making the crowds gasp with its death-defying feats of grandeur.

And that’s why she writes love on her arm.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

all I want for Christmas...

Is a $500 etsy painting...

I was shopping for my little sisters when I happened upon this gorgeous painting. Then I realized I love my sisters, but this present will have to wait until I'm rich and famous (or just mostly rich).

But for some reason, this painting and its price tag struck me as bizarre. I showed it to my mom, and she pin-pointed the oddity in a painting like that. Because, you'd think a person that would spend $500 on a painting wouldn't necessarily want to be spending it on a painting depicting a scene from a Disney Princess movie. True. But I counter with the fact that that is the most beautiful scene ever depicted in a Disney movie. It's beautiful. Also, while we're on the subject of luxury Disney items that we shouldn't like nearly as much as we do, this season's collections of Disney Bridal Gowns came to my attention.

Like it.
Leave it.
Moving on.

Although the moving on part is tough. Amazon keeps sending me e-mails with "great deals!" on Giselle Barbies, Aurora costumes, and every and any Disney Princess accoutrement a young girl (or a 20-year-old) could desire. You know me too well, Amazon.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

famines of thought and feeling

There are some songs/movies/books/poetry, etc. that make you come alive; that make you want to run, or jump, or dance, or hug something, or cry or laugh, or sigh, or do all three all at the same time. They just make you want to DO something.
This is one of those songs/scenes:



And then there's that Lord of the Rings video I posted so recently. 
But it completely deserves to be re-posted.




Because, there was one time I was feeling blah and drab. I felt like a plant that was wilting, not for lack of water or food, but just because of lack of spirit to stand upright. And then, at a happy moment of inspiration, Gandalf's words came to me, and it was like sunshine coming from the outside into the dark cavern of my spirit. (The Cave, yo. Referencin' The Cave. Total PLS Move). Moments of grace, we call those. 
Moments of grace. 
The Guernsey Lit. Soc., etc. was one of those books that's just completely full of simple, countrified grace. This quote from the Guernsey Lit. Soc, etc. was one of my favorites:

"through some queer sort of intuition, I always know where she is, just as I know where my hands are--and if I didn't, I should be sick with worry."

Juliet is writing of her maternal feelings for Kit. And with that one quote, she describes not only what mothers feel in a very strong and concentrated way for their children, but what it means to love someone. After reflecting upon this quote, I have come to the realization that knowing where someone is is sort of an essential part of caring about someone. If you don't really particularly enjoy someone than you couldn't care less where they are, just so long as it's not anywhere in your particular vicinity. But when you care about someone, you want to know where they are. Not in a creepy, friend-tracking-app kind of way, but just in a general sense. In a comfortable, cozy way. When you know where someone is, they're not as far away.

Monday, December 19, 2011

bright day is done and we are for the dark

First Book of Break:
The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society.
-Mary Ann Shaffer & Annie Barrows

The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society is a tale that lives up to every inch of its delightfully quaint and haphazard little title. This epistolary novel, with hints and inspirations of Alcott and flavors of Anne of Green Gables, tells of how the glamorous young authoress Juliet Ashton thinks she has found the inspiration for her Next Big Work in the endearing and quirky inhabitants of Guernsey, but by entering into the seemingly simple and homespun world of the small channel island, gets much more than she bargained for.

A twist of fate brings one of Juliet's old Charles Lamb books into the possession of one Dawsey Adams, an Islander, and a correspondence ensues that eventually changes Juliet from an "Outlander" to an Islander. Despite Juliet's life in London, complete with teas and book signings, dodgy muckrakers, a new flat to replace her old apartment (a victim of the London Blitzkrieg), and elegant-with-a-touch-of-danger-and-typical-American-overbearingness suitor, she is intrigued by the dark-eyed Island man's fascinating tales of the Germans' occupation of Guernsey during the War, and the quiet and but persistent resistance efforts of the habitants of the island.

One of the most delicious features of the book is its epistolary format. There's nothing more intimate or character-informing than letter-writing, and it's much more egalitarian. It gives each character a chance to speak their mind, and how they write letters to different characters speaks volumes about their feelings for them. And it's a literary junkie's delight. The Islanders discover Seneca, the Brontës, Chaucer, Christie, and Austen, and their deft summaries of and encounters with each are a joy.

At the beginning of the novel, various members of the Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society at the behest of Mrs. Amelia Maugery, their ringleader, as it were, write Juliet letters regarding the occupation and the Society. One of my favorites is Mr. Clovis Fossey's treatise on poetry and courtship, which I think give an accurate sample of the book's spirit:

"Then in 1942 I started to court the Widow Hubert. When we'd go for a walk, she'd march a few steps ahead of me on the path and never let me take her arm. She let Ralph Murchey take her arm, so I knew I was failing in my suit.

Ralph, he's a bragger when he drinks, and he said to all in the tavern, "Women like poetry. A soft word in their ears and they melt--a grease spot on the grass." That's no way to talk about a lady, and I knew right then he didn't want the Widow Hubert for her own self, the way I did. He wanted only her grazing land for his cows. So I thought--If it rhymes the Widow Hubert wants, I will find me some.

I went to see Mr. Fox in his bookshop and asked for some love poetry. He didn't have many books left by that time--so he gave me some fellow named Catullus. He was a Roman. Do you know the kind of things he said in verse? I knew I couldn't say those words to a nice lady.[...] I told my friend Eben I never saw such spiteful stuff. He said to me I had just not read the right poets. He took me to his cottage and lent me a little book of his own. It was the poetry of Wilfred Owen. He was an officer in the First World War, and he knew what was what and called it by its right name. I was there, too, at Passchendaele, and I knew what he knew, but I could never put it into words for myself.

Well, after that, I though there might be something to this poetry after all. I began to go to meetings, and I'm glad I did, else how would I have read the works of William Wordsworth--he would have stayed unknown to me. I learned many of his poems by heart.
Anyway I did win the hand of the Widow Hubert--my Nancy. I got her to go for a walk along the cliffs one evening, and I said, "Lookie there, Nancy. The gentleness of Heaven broods o'er the sea--Listen the mighty Being is awake." She let me kiss her. She is now my wife.

Yours truly,
Clovis Fossey"

It's the most adorable, insightful, homespun-ly wise book I've read in ages. It's one of those books that breaks your heart, because you wish every single character in the book was real. And all you want is to sit down with Isola, and get the entire inside scoop of all the doings and comings in St. Martin's parish, talk to Sidney about Oscar Wilde, walk along the cliffs with Dawsey and Juliet and see the sun sparkle and dance on the channel's water, and play with small little Kit, and receive lessons in lisp-ing. Utterly delightful.




Sunday, December 18, 2011

all it needs is a little love

There she is, ladies and gents. The fruit of a morning's labor and diligent search. We arrived at the tree lot a little before lunch, and vowed not stop until we found the perfect tree. We looked here and we looked there. We flirted with the idea of buying several different trees. We searched high and we searched low. And suddenly, we found him.

As soon as I saw the tree, I knew we could have no other. It positively screamed: "Pick me! I belong to you!" I was struck by the sense that this tree embodied everything a Christmas tree of ours should embody. I was overwhelmed by the sense that this tree was made for us. I've never felt that way about a Christmas tree before, but I went with the feeling. I pulled on my sister's sleeve and drew her attention to the tree. "That's perfect," she responded. "It's ours," said my other sister. "Ewwwww, I hate it!" cried the sassy one, "it has a broken branch." And so it did. "It just needs a little love," protested my dad. We all examined every part of the tree. Despite (because of?) the broken branch, it was just the perfect tree. It was the epitome of all the other trees we ever had over the years, wrapped in one beautiful Christamas-scented balsam fir.

We decided to search around and make sure that we absolutely wanted this one. But there was no fighting it. The tree was made for us, and therefore we bought it. We brought it home, and lovingly set it in its place of honor in the family room. And there it sits, as pretty as a picture. Right where it belongs.

Moral of the story: in all of life's decisions, trust your instincts. They're usually dead-on. Especially when it comes to Christmas trees.

***Update: Our tree now has a name (duh. don't you name your Christmas trees?). It is Ivan Theodore (Teddy for short).***

Saturday, December 17, 2011

tirra lira by the river

So, one of my roommates has had an awful influence on my vocabulary. Like she does, whenever I get overwhelmed by emotion, I start speaking in exclamations. Like this:

Ah! Home! Christmas! Snow! Snow snow snow snow!!

When I hopped off the bus, there was snow falling from the sky in beautiful bunches of flakes. The happiest. It made me want to run and fly and leap and jump and make dozens of beautiful beautiful snow angels.

Since I dozed to my heart's content on the bus, I got home and was not a bit sleepy. So, first off I scrounged around the kitchen to find the perfect dinner. In the spirit of "shoot-I've-totally-spent-more-money-than-I've-meant-to-and-Christmas-presents-still-need-to-be-bought" I decided not to eat Panda Express, although I've been craving Chinese food for a week straight. When scavenging through the bread basket, I happened upon the leftover St. Lucia's day rolls, and I "merf"ed with delight. How I missed St. Lucia's day.

After my impromptu midnight dinner, I decided to casually wash the dishes while all of us chatted around the kitchen table. My favorite part of washing dishes in our house is that there is inevitably a shotglass or two sitting next to the sink. And the shotglass usually contains the remnants of my parents' osteoporosis medicine or "joint juice" as they like to call it. That, in a nutshell is why I'm so glad to be home. Nothing like a Friday night with the clan. I'm in love with my parents and their crazy partyin' ways.

So happy to be back. Leaving school this semester was the hardest it's ever been. I was packing and I kept thinking: "I'm not ready to go, I don't want to leave." I'm already looking forward to going back. But being home is marvelous, and the feeling of having literally nothing hanging over your head--no work to be done, no projects to be finished-- is just the best feeling ever. I can't wait for the crazy four weeks that await us here at home. There's no place like home sweet home for the holidays.

Monday, December 12, 2011

the strange un-reality of comfort food

Have you ever had that moment where you're sitting in the dining hall, surrounded by hundreds of other students studying/procrastinating, eating your chicken poppers; and, as you dip your chicken into the barbecue sauce and pop it in your mouth you suddenly are hit by the lightening bolt of a realization that what you're experiencing right now is the farthest thing from reality?

Oh yeah. I know. Common occurrence, right?

But seriously, that's not really what life is about. Life isn't about eating chicken poppers in the dining hall. Life is about climbing mountains and running across the quad with your arms outstretched like airplanes. It's about dancing on tables in the rain. It's about running away and coming home. It's about eating newly-falled snow and letting the small little flakes fill your mouth with feelings of Christmas. It's about laughing so hard you cry and it's about snuggling down to watch It's a Wonderful Life on a cold snowy night. It's about fighting battles and loosing them. It's about smiling when you feel like crying and it's about giving someone a hug when you can't find anything to say. Sometimes you just have to dance around your room, because the great grandeur of life overwhelms you.

Life is so much more bright and grand and brilliant than chicken poppers lead us to believe.

Friday, December 9, 2011

a delicate stasis

It always snows on the feast of the Immaculate Conception.

Walking out into the enclosed yard.
The green grass and tree, the mud and the rocks are covered in a shroud--
Delicate and diaphanous, but slowly thickening.
Minuscule microscopic hexagons- gelid paragons of beauty
Accumulate on the ground.

Descending from the sky, in immutable silence.
The calm of the evening intensified and solidified by the falling flakes.
The snow caps the top of the picket fence-
Small, snowy Everests, and we at their feet.
Hushed, we dance in the snow.

The cold goes unnoticed,
The snow sings in silence-
Christmas
Magical whirls of joy flit through the air-
Trembling trepidation reverberating with each flake.
Christmas snow, wrapping the world in a fluffy blanket.

It always snows on the feast of Mary.


Tuesday, December 6, 2011

take me out of the woods

This is so great.
Let this fill you with happiness as we approach the end of classes.

And CHRISTMAS.

Christmas is coming.

But, dude, before we can even think about Christmas, I should write a post about Advent.

But I should study for finals more...

But Advent > finals.

(But finals effect my GPA more than Advent.)

Sigh.
Problems.

This is that point when I re-watch the video.
Happiness.