starting in second gear

why bother with first?

My Photo
Location: Minnesota

It’s nice to just send something out into space, so much more vague and abstract (and pleasantly so) than having my thoughts in print, right there, in black and white. Blogs are on the web, which is some ephemeral technology that I don’t fully understand anyway, and can’t really comprehend in the same way that I can’t really comprehend a billion dollars. Meaningless. Therefore I write all kinds of things that I probably would never say or write in real life, because it tickles me and it doesn’t really do any harm anyway because in a few days the entry will be buried in the archives and the three people that have read it will be busy with other things.

Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Oh Look, She's Back

So, it's been ages since I've blogged. In fact, I'll be entirely surprised if anyone is still reading this thing. I'm just feeling sort of introspective lately, I guess. Sure, things have been happening, things I could talk about. The Jeep is back, fixed after the Deer Incident of 2006. It now sports a white and chrome grille, as I did not rank painting to match as a priority, that says "eep" Sweet, eh? Somehow, it seems perfect (besides the fact that my initials are "ep," and so it seems to hold special significance for me). When I drove by J's work to show him our mechanic's handiwork, he walked out saw it, laughed, and then said, "eep. Perfect." I felt just the same way.

Other than that, let's see. I'm back at school and have started the headlong push for my master's. Did a little backwards counting and realized I have about 10 weeks to finish my thesis (that would be a minimum of three more stories that I haven't even written yet, yep). I started working on one of my comps yesterday, and actually think I'm going to try to do it this weekend. It would be lovely to check something off my list.

Read Persuasion this past weekend for my European Novels class. Jane Austen is one of my favorites, and I think this may be, in some ways, my favorite of her books. I've read it before, but for some reason it struck my particularly this time. I've noticed that happening with all my old favorites since I started writing. When I read them, they are like completely different books. I think because I'm so aware of style, structure, and all the little tricky tricks that the great writers can pull off. Now I see something like that and I can truly appreciate it, because I know there's no way I could do it. Anyway, Persuasion was good. I love reading Jane Austen out loud. So proper and yet so wickedly witty.

Next is Jane Eyre - another of my favorites. I can't wait to devote a few days to curling up in this horribly bitter weather and read and watch the frost creep across the windows.

Labels: , ,

Tuesday, January 16, 2007

The Waiting Game

So now that my MFA applications are all mailed off, and have all been received, it's all about the waiting. It'll be at least six weeks until I begin to hear from them. It's already driving me crazy. I've been receiving a steady trickle of letters from my prospective schools, all of which say, in one variation or another:

"We've got all your stuff, don't fret. And please leave us along until such time as we will contact you. DO NOT contact us."

I do understand their sentiment, especially after a few weeks of waiting. I'm sure that, no matter how hard they resist, each year there are swarms of phone calls and e-mails from applicants wondering how the decisions are coming along. I'd hate to become one of their number, but I can understand how one might bow under the pressure of the fretting, and just have to call. HAVE TO.

And to top it off, now that I’m not dealing actively with the applications, I have this huge chuck of time and brain space that, until recently, was dedicated to this stuff. Now there are gaping holes waiting to be filled. I’m trying to fill them with my thesis, but it’s slow going. It’s like trying to switch a train going full-speed.

Oh, God. How am I going to make it until March? It’s like waiting for Christmas when you were a kid – but in this case for Christmas Santa is giving me my WHOLE FUTURE.

Labels: ,

Saturday, January 13, 2007

A Bus, Two Trains, Two More Buses, Two Planes, and A Car Trip Later...

I'm home from Dallas.

Have I ever blogged about how much I love getting mail? It's something I've just never really grown out of. Most of the time, mail is sort of dull: flyers, catalogs, junk and bills. But every once in a while, you get a surprise. I love surprises.

So today is your average Saturday around Toad Lake. The dog is snoozing in her chair, J and I are both working, but with frequent breaks where we meet in the living room for tea and/or snacks. I just got back from the mailbox. It's the daily trip, Zoe and I head down the driveway, no matter what the weather, for the mail. It's not a particularly long driveway, but when it's 20 below it can seem like a long trek down there. However, it is worth it for days like today, when I go down to the mailbox and get a long overdue check for work done this past summer. Not only that, in fact, not even primarily that, but I got a little package from Swampgrrl. Talking Heads! We are, at this moment, in our respective offices working, but the Talking Heads blare through the house, and I'm finding myself very productive. It's that sort of music. I think it will also be good cleaning music.

I'm back from Dallas, in fact have been back for a few days, but just haven't been inspired to blog. Sort of settling back in, I guess. We went to see our new physician, a homeopathic MD (became a doctor, then studied homeopathy in Switzerland). It was our first trip to see him, so we didn't really know what to expect. The office visit was very different from your traditional exam. The initial visit was two hours long, during which time you just talk to him. He directs you with questions, but it is not all about your health. He was interested in everything about me: my childhood, my writing, sleep patterns, food likes/dislikes, warm/cold, introvert/extrovert, everything.

It was actually pretty exhausting talking about myself for that long. I told him everything I could think of. After all, if you're going to try it, you might as well go all out, right? So I just sort of started at my head and worked my way down. At the end he said, "We can help all that," and poured a remedy from a paper cone that he had fashioned and filled, under my tongue.

That was a couple of days ago, and I have been noticing something interesting happening, and J agrees. It's like the things that were there are still there, but they're different. An example: I carry all my tension in my shoulders and neck. That fact, plus three major head/neck injuries, one shoulder dislocation, a severe case of shingles as a child, and some other stuff, results in a chronically tight neck, shoulders, jaw, painfully tight. Well, after the remedy, I woke up the next day really tired and a little stiff. Like if I had done a bunch of pushups, or lifted some heavy weights or something. The next day the stiffness was worse. Today I woke up and the stiffness had abated. And my neck is still tight, but not painfully so. Interesting.

So all in all, I'm happy with our choice of doctor. In the future our "visits" will be conducted by phone, and he will send us the remedies (and a bill). There are a few things we had to give up which might make it difficult for some folks, like coffee, mint, camphor, and tell the truth I'm having a hard time with the coffee one. I don't drink it often, but to quit completely is kind of hard. I have heard good things about soy coffee, as far as substitutes goes. Anyone got any suggestions?


Friday, January 05, 2007

The Plot Thickens & Nobody Knows

Last night we went to the bookstore (joy!) in Fargo, and spent about five hours there. I made big headway on a story, and we left with only two purchases (we are soooo good): for me, The Plot Thickens, by Noah Lukeman, and for Jason, a movie, Nobody Knows. Both, I am pleased to say, have already justified their purchase.

The book, The Plot Thickens, is just what I was looking for. Needless to say, I was surprised and pleased when I found it in our tiny B&N in Fargo. It is a book about plot, but instead of being full of diagrams and timelines, it is about developing plot through characterization. Which is the way it should be, and is also something I've been struggling with lately, with my latest story in particular. How to juggle what one of my teachers once called "the thing and the other thing," and what Lukeman calls the surface journey and the profound journey. Anyway, it's a nice addition to my small collection of what you might consider writing how-to manuals. They are where I turn first when I am stuck, which happens with disturbing frequency.

The movie, Nobody Knows, we watched last night. It is directed and written by a Japanese director, Hirokazu Koreeda. He also directed Marabosi, one of my favorite movies. If you haven't seen either of these movies, I can't recommend them highly enough. Nobody Knows is about four children of the same mother, but different fathers, who are abandoned by said mother for undetermined periods of time. It is mostly the story of the eldest boy, Akira, and his struggle to take care of himself and his siblings. It is amazing. Oh, and go get Marabosi and watch it too.

Three bits of good news:

I'm done with my applications! YAY! Now the waiting begins. Thankfully I have more than enough to distract myself with.

I got the estimate for my car this morning (remember that unfortunate deer incident?), and it's only going to be about $800. Okay, its still a tough swallow, but since I was expecting well over a thousand, this is a nice surprise.

On Saturday we leave to go to Dallas. Have I mentioned this before? For Christmas, J's mother gave us a trip to Dallas to see a homeopathic MD. J's sister goes to him, as does his mother, aunt, and grandmother (the healthiest, gardening-est, marching-in-protests-est 84 year old I've ever met). We are going to place our various chronic aches and pains in front of him and see what he can do. I'm hopeful he can do something about the headaches that grip my jaw and shoulder in a vise. That would be a great start to the new year. So, but we're excited. Dallas will be warm(er) than here, and she gave us our health for Christmas. Could you ask for more?

Now, I'm forcing myself off the internet and into working on a story. Now that all my applications are done, I have some time to write, which is nice, but I'm finding it difficult to switch gears. Today, with the aid of my new book, I'm going to do it. So, it's time to reheat yesterday's curry, and get on with this story.

Labels: ,

Monday, January 01, 2007

New Year's Thoughts

Usually New Year’s Eve is not that important to me. In term of holiday importance (besides a day off work), in the past it has ranked about up there with Valentine’s Day. After all, it is sort of a superficial division. I mean, there is tomorrow and then tomorrow and then tomorrow. Sometimes it is a good excuse to party, but usually I just feel sort of bewildered.Why is everyone so excited?

But this year it feels important. It feels momentous. It’s the beginning of something, this New Year’s Eve. The beginning of an important year for me. As midnight approaches there is a solid tightness deep in me, between my breasts. What is this building feeling? When did I become conscious of it?

It feels important. It feels scary. And I feel ready. I think maybe it’s just plain old excitement. For a while I’ve been in a holding pattern, planning and waiting, and will be for a bit longer. But I can see what’s ahead, and I can’t wait. Just a little longer, and I’ll be in the thick of it. We’ve been in Minnesota for six years. In six months, we’ll be gone, but we don’t even know to where yet.

So I sit here with this ache in my throat. Today I wrote thank you letters. I must be feeling sentimental. I wrote one to my parents, thanking them for everything. It seems important to say it, right now. It is that sort of day. I’ve been doing, without the prompting of the holiday, all the things that one is supposed to do on New Year’s Eve. Look ahead, look back. Give thanks and plan for the future. Make resolutions, and praise myself for meeting personal goals.

I really started to like myself this year. Or rather, I think I’ve always liked myself, but I started to be proud of myself. To see who I am and what I do as worthy of pride. It’s like climbing out of a hole and looking at myself in the daylight and saying, hey, you’re not so bad. You clean up pretty good. I wish I could see like this all the time. I’m tired of being a bundle of insecurities. Can I shed it like an old skin? How does one go about systematically demolishing one’s insecurities?

It’s seven o’clock on New Year’s Eve. This coming year will be a lot of “lasts” as well as a lot of “firsts.” Something big will happen this year; however, it is very unlikely that anything will happen tonight. Despite this overwhelming feeling, I think this night will most likely pass as quietly as any average night on Big Toad Lake. Our last New Year’s here.


Saturday, December 30, 2006

The Sign of the Devil

I knew it, I just knew that Lucifer had a hand in all this. Just did a little math, folks, and here are the startling totals for my MFA application:

13 Applications, costing a total of

$666 in Application Fees

This does not bode well.


Friday, December 29, 2006

I'm with Amber - No More!

I have written:

6 Personal Statements
5 Teaching Statements
4 Statements of Purpose
2 Personal Goals Essays
1 Personal Statement of Purpose (my favorite)

I keep trying to remind myself that really, these are only the warm-up laps to the marathon that will be graduate school. It puts things in perspective, but it doesn't really make me feel better.

And it is damn hard to come up with this shit! I do cut-and-paste a bit, but all the requirements are just different enough to make me have to basically rework and write the whole thing every time - if I was conspiracy-minded, I'd think there was a plan afoot to slowly drive those seeking higher education slowly insane.