Sunday, December 26, 2010

the christmas post; post-christmas.

From our family to yours - Merry Christmas!

Now, I know that the ACLU doesn't really prefer that we say this phrase--it's not considerate of other religions and traditions this time of year. But I think it's better to establish an identity and cultural tradition for the individual than to umbrella a diverse group of ecclectic cultures under the whole "Happy Holidays" saying.

So from our family to yours -
Merry Christmas,
Happy Kwanzaa,
Have a blessed Hanukkah,
Happy belated National Maple Syrup Day (for my Canadians),
Happy Birthday to Frank Sinatra, Tiger Woods, and Emily Dickinson,
and let's not forget: Happy 237th Anniversary of the Boston Tea Party!

Oh, and have a Happy New Year!

This year was special for a couple reasons.

1. I got to see my whole family: my father and mother, my sister Ali, my sister Katie, my brother Roy, and my nephew Sebastian. Usually, we're not this lucky. My brother works in the oil industry and is usually on a boat somewhere in China so his presence this year was definitely a luxury. As was seeing my nephew, Sebastian, who just turned twenty-one years old! (Someone get this man a beer!) It was awesome having a family full of Keirns for the holidays - and there was plenty food, love, and beer to go around! Mom spent all week making holiday goodies - fudge, cheese straws, sausage balls, any kind of cookie your heart desires, chocolate covered pretzels, and more! Which means as soon as I return to the coast (and crawl out from under this snow), I need to hit the gym. But it's Christmas, so I'm still safe to eat myself into a diabetic coma for at least another day or two.
2. IT SNOWED! For a girl who has spent the last five years on the cold rainy coast, this was a sight for me! While my sisters nervously sweated as more and more snow fell (they knew they'd have to drive through it to get back to Tennessee), I sat by the window like an enchanted child. I was in love. "Look how beautiful! It's really coming down! This is awesome!" I exclaimed as they frantically packed their bags and checked their tires. But I'm happy to report that all made it safely home last night. Which leaves me here with a plethora of beer, leftover turkey, and a cute dog to share it with.

When I was a kid, the most depressing day of the year was the day after Christmas. All that anticipation and waiting and excitement just falls by the wayside once the day has passed. But as I'm getting older, I'm learning to love the end of the Christmas season. No more bell ringers barricading the grocery store entrance despite the fact that you've given an estimated $20 to them in quarters since Thanksgiving; no more tacky sweaters or yard reindeers; no more annoying Christmas carols echoing in your ears after a day at the office; and one of my favorite things about the end of Christmas: New Year's Eve! What a great way to clean off the slate and start a fun new year by barhopping with your friends! But if you're going to be in the Wilmington area (or any big city in that case), learn from my mistakes! Don't wait until 11:30 pm to start calling a taxi to go out; all you'll get is a busy signal.

Cheers, everyone! I hope you all had a great Holiday season - no matter what you celebrated!

And a special shout out to my old roommate, Monique, who was stuck on an oil rig this Christmas; may you find joy in every moment of this Christmas! (...even though you had to give up watching your nephew open gifts to help log some chip samples from a isolated platform!) In a country with more than a 13% unemployment rate - a job is definitely something to be thankful for!

Friday, December 17, 2010

A little follow-up to launch my return.

I must admit: I sure have missed my dear followers. (Hopefully the feeling is somewhat mutual?) While I plan to totally load you down with thoughtful and eloquent posts in the next several days (because I took that long and horrible exam-acation... like a vacation but it's not fun), I wanted to shout out a small follow up just because I was reminded of an earlier post this evening as I was leaving work.

For the record, the lurking Ice Cream Truck Driver is still roaming. I heard "Turkey in the Straw" tonight while walking to my apartment. At first I thought maybe I was just being delusional and it was all in my head--it's a week before Christmas... surely I must be mistaken. But I turned around to confirm his existence and therefore my sanity.

Whoa, whoa, whoa; this has really gone too far.

3 Things:

1. It's DECEMBER! While I realize that the southeastern coast of North Carolina is no mini-Antarctica, we definitely have a winter. The past week has presented us with 20-ish degree weather and brutal wind chills. WHO WANTS TO EAT ICE CREAM WITH A DOWN JACKET ON? Not this girl. No way; no how.

2. Not to mention the time of year, consider the time of DAY this guy chooses to deliver his cavity-promoting treats. Isn't driving a musical truck around looking for small children after dark somewhat creepy? Am I the only one who thinks this is odd?

3. If you insist on making your rounds during the Holiday season - AT LEAST CHANGE THE SONG! Now, I'm not one for Christmas carols. I get really excited when they start around Thanksgiving but by December 1st, I am internally vomitting at the sound of "I want a hippopatamus for Christmas". But this year, "Turkey in the Straw" has SERIOUSLY become my least favorite song, ever. Come on man, you've got to switch it up... add some flavor to your boogy. If you insist on perpetually annoying me on a nightly basis, at least give me a song I can groove to. I'd rather hear Katy Perry every hour for a year than listen to that dumb jingle one more time. And that, dear followers, says a lot. Because like the Ice Cream Truck Driver's music, Katy Perry's songs are great the first five times you hear them... and then they slowly rot your brain.

So maybe I should revise my letter a bit... you know, update it. Ahem.

Dear Ice Cream Truck Driver,

All I want for Christmas is for you to get lost. Seriously. What's it going to take?


Monica Keirn

I'll see you back here on the flip, readers. Get your reading brains ready - because I've got a lot to say!

Monday, November 29, 2010

let it be.

I don't know if anyone noticed - but I've been a flaky blogger lately. I know I left you guys hanging with the last post about the sunny day and the cats and Ella Fitzgerald and Caribbean ceramics and various other heart warming news. But please rest assured that I have not been idle in my absence--in fact, I have been busier than a one-armed wallpaper hanger. By next Thursday, I will be finished with the fall 2010 semester, which is great and all, but it presents a dilemma in the heaps of presentations, take-home exams, and analytical essays that must also be completed by next Thursday in order for the first statement to be true.

I really shouldn't be here right now. I shouldn't be writing a blog. No, I should be memorizing characters from the bible for my literature class or practicing for my BFA thesis reading tomorrow night. But something happened today and I need to vent to you, bloggers, for the sake of my sanity; so the to-do list can wait for 10 minutes.

Something horrible happened today. Okay, that might be too dramatic of a statement, but I can assure you that it was bad.

First, I'd like to remind you of the last conversation we had:
 I got to read my writing today. But it was a totally different experience than I have ever had. I got to see what my words look like in a book. Our senior class is publishing an anthology called “The Ground Stammers Back” and I have submitted one of my favorite stories—a dark humor about a funeral in West Virginia. I have been working on that piece since late January of ’09 and it’s probably my most revised jewel. I’ve read her on Microsoft Word Documents probably a billion times before while she was being created and sculpted, but seeing her professionally inked onto the page of a real book with page numbers and CAPITAL LETTERS STARTING THE FIRST SENTENCE, gave me the most thrilling sense of bona fide writer identity I have had yet. It made me feel like the real deal. And I must say—she looked good! I only got to hold the book for a moment though, and I’m sure that once I receive a copy I will toil over every detail until I find something to be dissatisfied about. And that’s natural; we are our own worst critics. But that quick glance I got today was love at first site, pure and simple.

Great! Right? Well, not anymore. The love was lust. I'm no longer in love with my work; which is something I predicted would happen, anyway. But it happened pretty quickly.

I only got to hold the book for a moment though, and I’m sure that once I receive a copy I will toil over every detail until I find something to be dissatisfied about.

My optimism about the book was leached this afternoon when I found two errors in my sections of the anthology within an hour.

I need to stop for a minute and explain something so that my reaction will make more sense to you: I am a perfectionist when it comes to writing. When creating a new piece with new words and new sentences, the words clumsily pour out in scattered pieces. It's really effortless. But then it's time to edit. That's the grueling part. That's when I obsess over it. I don't know if anyone reads my blog enough to notice, but I continually edit old blog posts in my spare time. I do the same thing with my fiction, my poetry, e-mails I send to important people, comments I make on facebook walls. I comb the words for grammar errors constantly and when I do find errors, it only feeds my paranoia of more unacknowledged problems. I might not be great at many things in life--but writing is something I'm gifted in. It's something I've always loved to do. Because writing is such a heavy art form to me, I have this innate nature of never finishing a piece. Once I'm done heaving out the words, I edit and edit and edit and edit. I never really stop. If I was a parent and literature (or whatever it is I produce) was my child, I would be that annoying pushy parent always trying to make my kid cooler, or smarter, or more successful, instead of just letting them well, be.

So when I discovered that my precious jewel of a piece, 'Pearly Gates', was improperly transcribed as 'Pertly Gates', in the table of contents, I was mildly upset. (Is PERTLY even a word?) Thus, problem number one. But it seemed to simply be a typo; the title on the actual story page read correctly. Oh well, I thought. Editors are humans, too.

The second one was worse, though. The book was in my possession for about an hour until a male-friend of mine decided to page through and read my story. He laughed after reading the first line.

"What's funny?" I was just thinking he read really fast and had reached one of the first funny moments of my dark-humor short story already.

"Chevy Bronco." He was referring to the first line.

"...Yeah? Do you like that line? Chevy Broncos?" I was so blind to the whole problem.

"Monica, Chevy doesn't make Broncos; Ford does." Pow! It felt like a punch to the stomach!

I have been bleeding and sweating and grueling over this piece for two years. I have workshopped this piece 3 times, edited it about 6 billion times, and passed it through, probably, 200 hands. And NO ONE has caught the Chevy Bronco line. No one. No one has mentioned - "Hey, I don't think that's a real car!" at all. Until the moment it was too late.

I think I'll always be embarrassed about this goof, which is silly. This is a minor problem in the broad scale of a writing career and I'm sure that most people won't even pay attention to it. But then I think about readers like my friend this afternoon - who unintentionally broke his attention in the first line simply because of my failure to research car companies.

I'm learning a lot right now, because I have to. But the lesson I am learning right now isn't on my 'to-do' list. I am learning to not obsess over my work. And while I know I'll always cringe at the line "Chevy Bronco" and have horrible flashbacks of the first moment I was officially wrong (in a printed book!), I need to learn to love my words like imperfect children. Sure, there's always room for improvement; but I need to learn when to step back and let it be...

And I'm doing it right now. As always, thank you readers.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

bragging news

Two really cool things happened to me today. And because no one in my immediate circle is currently available for me to blab to over the phone, I choose my next family in line, my lovely blog followers, to gloat to.

But before I get to the really cool things, I'd like to also mention the moderately cool things surrounding my day.

1.) First of all, the weather is STUNNING. Sixty-seven degrees and not a cloud in sight and its really hard to believe that we're a week from Thanksgiving. As I write, my cat Phoebe is perched upright in my window. I opened the blinds for her when I got home and since she has been chasing the silhouettes of lizards running across my window pane with her claw-less paws. And we all know that lizard hunting is Cat for "Why, it sure is beautiful out today, I shall celebrate by pretending to feast on unreachable critters." So it's confirmed. I pity those people in other parts of the world who are covered in snow right now, they're not lucky enough to stroll in a light t-shirt today. But then again, I guess they're just not lucky enough to live on the coast of North Carolina.
2.) Ella Fitzgerald. I just got her "Cole Porter Songbook" two part album last night. Nothing perks me up more. If you haven't indulged, let me know and I'll let you borrow my copy. Everyone needs a little Ella every once and a while.
3.) Just when I went to take a break from studying and such, I turned on the TV to find my favorite movie Little Miss Sunshine has just started on E!. Usually, I find a great movie on TV right before it ends or when the credits are rolling. But today, dear readers, is not your average unlucky day. It's a great day. The sun is shining and Ella Fitzgerald is singing and I caught Little Miss Sunshine from the opening scene.

Here's the really good stuff--though I hope I haven't built this up too much. I might have gone overboard in the preface and am already bound to fail on the delivery, but here goes.

1. I spoke with my igneous/metamorphic petrology professor today in efforts to plan a direct study with him. We will be analyzing chemical and mineralogical data derived from archaeological ceramics found in the Caribbean. We will then try to source the materials from the location the ceramics were found to where the geological environment for forming these minerals. This way, we know more about the culture and trade of the various owners of this pottery. We can interpret where this stuff was made and hypothesize about why/how it ended up where it did. We can also provide research to prove/disprove current archaeological evidence regarding this area or the understanding of ceramics in general. I know, it's probably boring to you. But here's the bottom-line number one reason for doing this: there's potential to have a paper published with the archaeological society and maybe attend a conference or two. Plus, I've always been annoyed when people make references to archaeology when I tell them I study geology. THEY ARE NOT THE SAME THING! One (geology) studies natural features on the earth and the various mechanisms that produce those characteristics and the other (archaeology) studies prehistoric people and their cultures. Anyway, now when people make those references, I’ll have some idea of the archaeological context in which they speak, which technically makes me better-rounded. Plus, plus, plus.
2. I got to read my writing today. But it was a totally different experience than I have ever had. I got to see what my words look like in a book. Our senior class is publishing an anthology called “The Ground Stammers Back” and I have submitted one of my favorite stories—a dark humor about a funeral in West Virginia. I have been working on that piece since late January of ’09 and it’s probably my most revised jewel. I’ve read her on Microsoft Word Documents probably a billion times before while she was being created and sculpted, but seeing her professionally inked onto the page of a real book with page numbers and CAPITAL LETTERS STARTING THE FIRST SENTENCE, gave me the most thrilling sense of bona fide writer identity I have had yet. It made me feel like the real deal. And I must say—she looked good! I only got to hold the book for a moment though, and I’m sure that once I receive a copy I will toil over every detail until I find something to be dissatisfied about. And that’s natural; we are our own worst critics. But that quick glance I got today was love at first site, pure and simple.
So currently, I'm kicking butt and taking names. And I couldn't find anyone more appropriate to celebrate with than my beloved followers. Cheers!

Saturday, November 13, 2010

can't park here.

I don't know how to ease into this post without first making a confession.

I, Monica Keirn, in a/some desperate acts of irresponsibility and recklessness, got myself into a wee bit of trouble with the parking authority at my university. Namely, my 'wee bit' of trouble stemmed from the two year development of multiple parking citations that ended up totalling to a three digit sum (point blank: $700). Right now, you're latching your white knuckles on to your desk/coffee table/chair arms gasping for breath. "NO MONICA! How on EARTH did you manage to rack up THAT many tickets?" The answer to that question is not pertinent to the story, dear reader, yet I can assure you that the sins I have committed are not of particular outlandish value--I simply would need three hours to explain, and c'mon... we all know that we, as modern Americans, severely lack long attention spans; so I'll cut to the chase.

This was a HUGE bill to pay. And what was I to do? Try to fake-out the Cash4Gold people with some look-a-like costume jewelry and hope for a big check? Pawn one of my kidneys on the black market and use my rent money to make up the difference? Thankfully, it was not necessary for me to stoop this low, because the wonderful people (formerly referred to as the Parking Nazis) gave me the opportunity to make up my debts with a small but meaningful apology and ample amounts of community service! Yipee!

When offered the deal, of course I accepted; but not gladly. I had been cursing these yellow-shirted ticket-peddlers since the very day I started my illegal parking spree and putting my tail between my legs and joining their side wasn't easy. But it was much cheaper than the first option - so I swallowed my pride.

I dreaded it. I already had my mind made up about who these people were: heartless evil people with no care or concern for others. I thought they would sneer at me and make me feel even worse about my offenses. I thought they would make me scrape chewing gum off of the sidewalks and wash the 10 foot windows with my spit, while they all stood back and giggled. I was wrong.

No, they didn't make me scrape sidewalks. Instead, my chores included entering numbers in an excel sheet for five hours, chopping error-ridden shuttle brochures in half, and numerically ordering pretty much any piece of paper with a number on it. One night, I even got to write parking tickets. As I walked down the isles checking out the stickers on the back window of each car, I realized something. These people are just doing their job. Despite what we may think, they do not wake up each morning with an ambitious plan of ruining someone's afternoon with a $275 "illegal handicapped" parking ticket. They don't get all warm inside when they have to boot your car after several ignored "parking without a decal" citations. But they do want to make this university better. Hear me out.

We have about fifteen thousand students at my university (which I am intentionally not naming because, well it's not important) and a moderate to smaller campus with limited parking. Without parking enforcement, this place would be a wreck! While on first thought, free-for-all parking is a fantastic idea... realistically, it just wouldn't work. Everyone would park wherever they pleased and order would go by the wayside! Plus, registering for a yearly parking decal costs around $300. What if you paid for such an expensive sticker that proved to be valueless when it came to actually being able to park because there was no one to enforce alien parkers?

My classmates will be disappointed in me; their commander in chief of the "Ban Against the Parking Authority" club has gone and gotten soft.

They're going to be even angrier when I say this: It's your fault. Don't blame the parking authority. If you wouldn't park illegally, you would have no reason to loathe them. You parked in the wrong spot, not them. Parking is a privilege, not a right. Plus, we should all get accustomed to the fact that we can't just shove our cars into any space available--maybe this will be good preparation for all humans in case we ever drive through Philadelphia (I hear they are the king of 'Parking Nazis').

So three cheers for me! HIP HIP - HORRAY! For as of last Thursday at 10:00 pm, I am a free woman. I've settled my debts in full with the yellow-shirted parking people--and I'm all the better. And more importantly, I saved myself a huge wad of cash in doing so. 

And now for the sake of irrelevance, here's a little follow-up to the Halloween post.

Zombie/Monica and Sara the Harlot!
(She was also my make-up artist, it's so wonderful having a cosmetologist as a friend!)

Thursday, November 11, 2010

some thursday afternoon book talk...

I would first like to extend my deepest gratitude to Daylight Savings Time for giving us back the hour that was stolen in March. I've missed that hour ever since you ripped it away from me that cold spring night. I'd prefer you would have returned it promptly the next day (like a RedBox movie you can't afford to pay for), but you took your sweet time. Better late than never I guess!

I have been DEVOURING books lately. I found a Used Bookery in town and completed my David Sedaris collection last week. I finished "Me Talk Pretty One Day" yesterday morning and started "Dress Your Family in Corduroy and Denim" last night. Call me mainstream for liking David Sedaris, but I say the man has talent. Reading his novels aren't like reading at all--rather having a slumber party with your best gay guy friend who wants to tell you the funny stories about his dysfunctional family and ill-remembered childhood. I can tell you one thing though--it's not helping me write fiction; actually all I have wanted to write for the past three days is non-fiction. Once I digest this stuff, I'll go back to reading fiction: my next victim...

I must say, I'm a little nervous about this one (knowing the book's reputation), but I'm excited too. I wrote a story in an intermediate fiction class that had to do with pedophilia and I remember when workshopping that piece in class, all anyone could offer was: "Have you read Lolita?" Apparently everyone else in the free world has experienced this novel and as always, I'm the literary late bloomer... But again, better late than never!

Kind of a boring post today - eh? Yeah I've been kind of a boring person lately.

Saturday, November 6, 2010

this one's for my girls.

Two very important women in my life have celebrated birthdays within the past seventy-two hours.
Thursday was Cecelia's. Okay, let me back up. It's inaccurate to call it her birthday. Cecelia was a stray cat who was given to me by a stranger I met via facebook. When she came to my apartment three years ago, she had no name or birthday. Ever since, I have celebrated her "birthday" as the anniversary of the day we met. To her though, it was just another day--except I carried her around the apartment giving her love all afternoon (which really annoyed her, she's a pretty independent cat). During my daily writing hour, I became so overwhelmed with love for my first born daughter (err... my first adopted cat), that I wrote her a poem. I read it to her several times. But she was too doped up on catnip to really appreciate it; plus, Cecelia's more of a prose kind of reader anyways. I hate to let good/horrible poetry go to waste, so I figured I'd bring it to my lovely followers. You guys have already wasted a few hours (collectively) reading my blog, so what's another thirty seconds?

Does she know it’s her birthday?
or has she forgotten—
trampling around the house,
like it’s an average Thursday afternoon.
                But I remember.
Three years ago,
she came home with me.
We had to sneak her into the building
so we wouldn’t get caught
Because pets weren’t allowed there.
Happy Birthday, Cecelia—
it’s been a wonderful ride;
You’ve been a darling.
Except when you jump on the counters
after I have cleaned them.
Or when you make muffins on my chest
when I’m drunk in my bed.
That gets nauseating… and quite annoying.
But if it means spending more years with you, Cece,
make as many muffins as you want.

On to my next birthday shout out--and in this case, I have saved the best for last (don't tell Cecelia I said that)... Yesterday was a beautiful day; it was my mother's birthday.

Happy Birthday, Teresa Keirn! You are a beautiful woman who has created/shaped/and bettered my life ever since we first met twenty-two years ago. Sorry mom, I didn't write you a poem. But I'm sure I could free verse something for you now... or at least I'll die trying.

Happy Birthday, Mom
I wouldn't have a birthday
Without your birthday.

There you go, Mama, a haiku!

To avoid all the sap and emotion that could exist in this post; I'll make it short and sweet for you. If you have a mother as wonderful as mine, consider yourself lucky. I can picture her now, resting by the fire in her West Jefferson cabin. It was snowing the night before her birthday, and I'm sure she is cuddled up with a cup of coffee/glass of wine and her dog, Maggie right now. If I could only click my heels and teleport to her side; I could really go for some coffee/wine right about now...

Here's the punchline: I love you both. Happy Birthday.