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?

Love,

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.

Prediction:
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.

Monday, November 1, 2010

If you don't vote tomorrow, don't complain later.

I was planning to write my next post about how I now have thirteen followers on my blog - I am excited to brag that I just got my first stranger... Which means that while twelve of you are probably following me because you are a friend/relative and feel obligated to do so... One of you is actually here for the sake of literary entertainment. But then someone else hopped on my list of followers in the last 24 hours... so the whole "number 13 theme" is shot. But I can work with the number 14, too... My ego is exponentially expanding. Thanks for that, readers.

Why do they call it "following" anyway? Why don't we call you "readers"? It sounds like I'm starting a cult. At least we don't refer to ourselves as a "family"... And now I have my joke about cults finally out of the way.

Also, I figured out how to view my "Stats" via blogspot dashboard. Just when I thought my ego was about to pop... I discovered that not only am I plaguing members of the US with my written thought, but I also have readers in Nicaragua, Denmark, Canada (18 so far in Canada... thanks neighbors!), Slovenia, the Virgin Islands, and several other places I have never heard of. (Can you people even understand my language?) So it's confirmed... I'm kind of a big deal. Which is awesome, but believe it or not, that's not what this post is about.

Unfortunately for my new friends, this post might bore you. This is aimed directly at the good folks who represent the US of A... You knew it was coming, and it might have taken me until less than 24 hours before... but here's my post on the importance of voting.

We here are standing on the eve of what some predict to be the biggest mid-term election in American history. Let me stop for a minute and preface this by saying: This blog is not a stage for me to thump and rant on my personal political views and/or opinions. It would probably bore you as a reader (or make you angry/happy, depending on how you agree with me) and let's face it: I've got better things to waste my time writing about.

"So what's this blog about, Monica, if it's not about who you're voting for?" I can hear you asking. Good question reader. This post is not about WHO I'm voting for... it's about the simple fact that I will stand in line and cast my ballot sometime tomorrow (and get another "I Voted" sticker to add to my proudly growing collection).

To all of the 18-29 year olds who are classified under my generation, I'm calling you out. I read a disheartening poll that predicted that less than 40% of us will actually vote tomorrow. But when the crap hits the fan down the road and we're not pleased with the way America is being run, we'll start a Facebook group (or better yet, a blog!) to complain about it. The results of tomorrow's election will determine the new population of the Federal and State Congress. What does that mean? Tomorrow's elections will lead to legislation that will DIRECTLY and INDIRECTLY affect our lives as American citizens. And we're too lazy to stand in line for 20 minutes to vote.

Some people think it's pointless to vote. What I find funny about that is this: it is proven that more people vote in a presidential election (which is majorly determined by the electoral college) instead of voting in the mid-terms (where individual votes actually create the deciding numbers). Maybe you're not going to vote because you don't like either candidate. VOTE FOR THE ONE YOU HATE THE LEAST!

The Republic (yes, Republic, not Democracy) that we call the US governmental structure can't work if we just sit back and claim indifference. We have to put on our big girl (or big boy, for the sake of gender equality) pants and head to the polls tomorrow. But one thing we cannot do is vote out of ignorance. Turn off the TV tonight, (after Jeopardy! goes off, of course) and do some personal research on the candidates in your area. The county board of elections where you live probably has a website you can find that breaks down who's running for what and provides you with a quick rundown of their platforms and intentions. Lucky for the coastal residents of New Hanover County, I did the google work for you. (Go here.)

So thanks in advance for casting your vote tomorrow. It's people like you who make this country great. Harass all of your non-voting friends for me. Voting is not only our right, it's our privilege. Standing back and doing nothing is useless - from local government to the Federal Congress, this election will determine our fate on many issues tomorrow. So stop complaining and go vote! If you do, I'll buy you some ice cream the next time the truck stops by.

Saturday, October 30, 2010

'tis the season...(for blood and gore!)

Happy Hollow’s Eve!

Back in high school, I always looked forward to celebrating “Spirit Week” during the week of homecoming. Whether it be Gender Swap Day (which quickly got banned, I think it made my principal nervous at how enthusiastic the male population got about wearing women’s clothing for a day), Red Carpet Day (which is supposed to mean “dress like a celebrity” but was intentionally misinterpreted by a friend and I… yeah we wore big strips of red carpet to school), or Run-On Sentence Day (joking, you get the point), I always got super excited about it.

High school is over. And so is spirit week. And Halloween is the only thing left to provide me with a small remnant of that excitement—because I get to dress up. Thus, it’s probably one of my favorite holidays.

Halloween is never taken lightly to me; I usually have my costume options narrowed down by the end of May and have the whole ensemble ready to go by the beginning of September. Last year, I dressed as Peggy Bundy. The year before, I was Bristol Palin (yes, the pregnant version). I have also dressed as “your mother”. I hate wearing store bought costumes—being original is not only cheaper but it guarantees that you won’t run into seventy-five girls dressed as the EXACT same thing. (I once shelled out a whopping $80 on a speed-racer costume only to realize later at a costume party that three other girls were wearing the same outfit, NOT COOL!)


Bristol Palin

Your Mom


Peggy Bundy
This year, however, has been a very different year for me. Instead of spending my days thoughtfully calculating a creative and original apparatus to wear on the most fun day of the year, I have been diligently hammering away at my soon to be finished education, my part-time/full-time job leasing apartments, and petting my cats (at least two hours a day, it’s a tough job). Which leaves me here… on the day before Halloween… without a costume.  

So what do I do? Crack and go buy a store bought costume? No siree. I might be desperate, but I’m broke too. Plus, originality is a key to my hallowed success.

Despite the great diversity observed in the array of costumes I have sported in the past, I realized that I have never been anything scary. Not even relatively. So this year, I’m going for the gore. This evening, I will join the last minute Eve shoppers in the bare aisles of the once thriving Halloween store. I will purchase fake blood and black face paint. I wish my sister were here to help—she’s an expert in theatre makeup. She made herself look like a cat once, I’m sure she could turn me into the bloodiest dead person in Wilmington in a matter of minutes. But she so happens to be in Tennessee at the moment, so I’ll have to improvise.

My sister, Ali as a cat

So if you’re lucky enough to see me downtown this year, prepare to be SCARED. No, I’m not really dead… I’m just suffering from a case of Creative Costume Block (CCD).

HAPPY HALLOWEEEEEEEEN!
(insert evil cackle)

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Dear Ice Cream Truck Driver



Dear Ice Cream Truck Driver,

I know you are stalking me. At the beginning, our casual encounters seemed to be mere coincidence, but I'm on to it now. The first time, you circled the pool at my apartment complex several times in the heat of the summer. Big deal! Right? It seemed fitting for you to pick a crowd of hot pool gatherers for your next target. Then, I started hearing you in the evenings inside of my apartment - coming from the parking lot. Your music painfully lingered way too long - after digging for cash and battling my inner voice warning me against, I decided that I had probably waited too long, you would be pulling away as I reached the bottom of my staircase. Ten minutes later, when I still heard the jingling tunes, I realized I was wrong. It was like you were waiting on me. I kept thinking of those chocolate Mickey Mouse bars with the hard chocolate ears filled with soft vanilla ice cream... I thought about the orange sherbert push-up pops with Fred Barney's face on it... The always delicious strawberry crunch bar.... No Monica! Stop it! You don't need ice cream, I have been trying to convince myself that ignoring you is the right thingto do. I have successfully (and sometimes barely) dodged your temptations for several months. But the final straw came the other day when I heard your truck while I was walking through campus headed to my afternoon class.

Listen, Ice Cream Truck Driver, this has got to stop. First of all - it's October! Aren't you supposed to stop after the kids go back to school? Second of all - I am trying to reorganize the way my mind thinks of nutrition. Vegetables and fruit now stand in place of hot pockets and the loveable Kit Kat bar in my new and improved food pyramid. I don't even eat white bread anymore; I'm officially a whole wheat kind of girl. BUT YOU TEMPTING ME WITH YOUR LUCIOUS SUGARY TREATS ON A DAY TO DAY BASIS IS REALLY STARTING TO ANNOY ME. You were cute at first, with your "Music Box/Lullaby" tunes parading around my life. But if I have to hear your music again, I might crack my will power, run out to your freezer on wheels, and buy two (no three!) of everything you sell, eating them one by one while you watch in disgust.

Can I step away for a moment and ponder this: WHO THOUGHT OF THAT MUSIC? Who was sitting around a seminar table, before the world was plagued with ice cream trucks, pitching the idea of nomadically selling ice cream, and proposed - "How 'bout we play a handbell rendition of Turkey in the Straw, just to pack the punch?". Evil people, these ice cream distributors are. Maybe we should blame them for the obesity in America... sorry, stepping off the soapbox.

But seriously, Ice Cream Truck Driver, stop sitting in my immediate vicinity with your siren(ish) seduction, begging me to add your ice cream to my already full belly. I stand firm on the choice to not be a consumer in your sea of frozen treats, so give up already...

The next time you are around, I will make sure to have absolutely no cash (not even nickels or dimes) within a close reach. I will then grab some raw vegetables and hummus and run out to finally face you, the perpetrator in my otherwise nutritious/healthy life. When you ask if I would like some ice cream, Ice Cream Truck Driver, I will pop a carrot in my mouth, smile and tell you a lie, "Sorry, I'm lactose intolerant." Maybe then you'll get the hint and find someone else's neighborhood to victimize.

Monday, October 25, 2010

Can I say just one more thing about Ani DiFranco?

Here I sit on this overcast rainy day, taking a break between studying and more studying. I find relaxation while working on a new scene for fiction while clinging on an all time favorite musician of mine, Ani DiFranco. Song by song, she is reminding me of her greatest hits I have loved via iTunes. You see, even though her sound is so comfortable to me, I am still blown away by her; so blown away that I am inspired now to talk about her. I thought that because all of this, I owe ol' Ani a post. Most people have no clue who she is, which is a statement that has become less and less true in the past ten years.

Note: Ani DiFranco, you will find out, is not for everyone. I have a somewhat mixed audience here and would like to preface this article with this small caution. This is not about how much we should all follow and support the often out-spoken and boldly stated opinions of her own regarding politics, ethics, and general human experiences. This is about her as an artist, not about her as a philosopher.

Hopefully that huge, somewhat overhyped pre-statement didn't deter you. Thanks for sticking around to see where I'm going with this.




Here she is! Now, the new mother of a baby girl, Ani DiFranco lives in one of my favorite cities (New Orleans, go Saints!) in an enchanted life that she would probably argue was built solely by herself. Probably one of the coolest things about Ani DiFranco is how early her craft of music came to her. With her first guitar given to her by her parents when she was in elementary school, Ani DiFranco was playing Beatles covers with guitar teacher Michael Melrum in local bars by age nine. Yeah, you heard that right, nine.

I step out for a moment to ask this question:
What would you DO if you were out at a bar really digging on this live music (the Beatles) to look up after a few beers and see your entertainment is brought to you by someone not enough old enough to sit in the passenger seat of a car?!

Pretty cool, if you ask me.

She didn't stop there, either. When she was fifteen years old, she began living on her own and writing her own music--she would graduate from a visual and performing arts high school just a year later.

She tried signing with a record label shortly after. After submitting a sample to Sony Records and hearing back that they would love to help her, but she needed to tone down some of the content of her music, she decided to start her own record label: Righteous Babe Records. Since the age of eighteen, Ani has had a hand in every step of the publication of her music: from writing and composing the actual songs to producing and distributing her albums.

I saw her this spring while I was visiting New Orleans for the annual Jazz and Heritage Festival. She played at a moderate to small venue, Tipitinas. The atmosphere of the show, despite several annoying crowd members who refused to let the little girl in front of them, was calm and comfortable--appropriate for a show in her own town. Despite all of the years and wonders created through her music, I found myself just as close to her during that show as I had been seven years earlier, standing in Thomas Wolfe Auditorium in downtown Asheville at age fifteen.

I'm having a hard time finding the videos I caught of her that night. This might be more of a favor to my audience than a disappointment: my off-tune voice is heard way more dominately than hers since I am the camera operator during this clip as well. Unfortunately for some, I've got a great ability to easily remember song lyrics, especially those that are close to me. What that means for the poor people in the audience who decided to sit next to me, is that they get to hear me belt out songs for the entire night. It's like a crappier version of karaoke, but it invigorates me.

Here she is:

Lately I've been glaring in the mirrors, picking myself apart.
You'd think at my age I'd have thought of something better to do,
than making security into a full-time job;
making security into an art.
And I fear my life will be over
and I will have never lifted a feather
always glaring in the mirrors--
mad I don't look better...

But then, here's this tiny baby
and they say she looks just like me.
And she is smiling at me
with that present/infant glee.
Yes and I would defend 'til the end of the Earth
her perfect right to be...

So I'm beginning to see some problems
with the ongoing work of my mind.
And I've got myself a new mantra:
it says, "Don't forget to have a good time."
Don't let the sellers of stuff
Power enough to rob you
of your grace;
Love is all over the place.
There's nothing wrong with your face.

-Ani DiFranco, 2008, Present/Infant
*Written after the birth of her first daughter, obviously.

Happy Monday - find some music that inspires you on this overcast half summer/half fall day! (At least speaking for down here on the coast.)

Friday, October 22, 2010

burn candles, not flesh.

So lately the media has made me feel like I resemble a ghost. With the complexion of a porcelain doll, I've been finding myself on a whole different color spectrum than most celebrities that frequent my magazines and television screens. I may or may not be pointing directly at Jersey Shore (see pic below) here - but does burnt orange flesh now define beauty? I decided to do a little investigating on the evolution of tanning in our society... and now, I bring it to you.



This article was greatly helped by articles written by researchers like Robert Mighall (link) and Ken Chisolm (link). 


In 1903, Dr. Auguste Rollier opened the world's first dedicated sun clinic high in the Swiss Alps. His treatment assumed that pure air and bright sunlight could cure disease, namely pulmonary tuberclosis (which was pretty prominent at that time).



From the years of Ancient Greece and Rome and onward through the 19th century, women traditionally went through extensive processes to ensure their skin remained pale. A sun tan symbolized the life of a lower class field laborer who spent her days toiling in its rays. Consequently, this meant that the paler one's skin, the higher class you belonged to. In antiquity, women used lead paints and chalk to whiten their faces (not a terribly healthy situation for your face). Arsenic was also a preferred skin whitener (again - we're talking about POISON on the FACE just to be a few shades PALER, I'm starting to feel better about my color). One article also notes that in Queen Elizabeth's time, women painted thin blue lines on their foreheads to give them a translucent look (still sounds stupid to me, but a little less damaging to your poor face). The point here is this: PEOPLE USED TO SPEND THEIR TIME TRYING TO MAKE THEMSELVES PALER!

Why does this sound so crazy and barbaric to us? Because our society has completely reversed poles on this topic. Now, women spend exessive amounts of time and money to bronze/fry their skin to be a few shades darker. (I guess we both have something in common - we're a society of skin damagers!)

What made the difference?

While legend gives Coco Chanel credit for starting the tanning craze overnight when she appeared with an accidental tan she contracted via yacht trip to Paris, most argue that the tanning craze was just a result of the times. Afterall, the mid-1920's removed the poor from fields and put them to work in sunless factories and mines. Lifestyles in general changed at that time as well - women were starting to make their way into the great outdoors to enjoy newly popular recreational activities like tennis and hiking. Fashion was also an enabler--as women began to wear shoes without stockings, leg-bearing swimsuits, and purchase dark powders to cover any spots the sun had missed! The sun tan had a new image. It symbolized wealth and leisure. A tan on a woman in the winter months meant that she was priviledged enough to afford an exotic vacation filled with lucious warm weather.

The awareness of the harmful effects that this new craze had on these "fashion victims" was more than likely absent. It really wasn't until the late 1970's that the FDA even began to recognize the significance of suncreens and develop the first rating system for SPF. At the same time, the art and practice of indoor tanning was really making a big debut! (They say we have between 20,000 - and 24,000 indoor tanning salons listed in the American Yellow Pages). It actually wasn't until the mid-1980's when the American Academy of Dermatology became the first medical society to denounce the sun when they started a public education skin cancer campaign warning about the risks of sun exposure.

Unlike older generations, we cannot blame our perpetual tanning as a flaw of ignorance but instead we must admit that it is an pure obsession with ones' own vanity. Sure, tanning make give you a slimmer, exotic, or otherwise more attractive appearance NOW. But there are definite risks associated that include but are not limited to:
-sun burns/poisoning
-premature aging (HELLO, WRINKLES!)
-injury to the eyes
-and more than one type of cancer.
Sure, that tan might really accentuate that white cocktail dress tonight, but what happens a few years down the road, when you look like this.



By the way - wonder what that tan really is?

"The color of you skin is determined by the amount of melanin it contains. This substance called melanin protects the skin from the sun's ultraviolet rays. A tan is visible proof that your skin is being damaged. When the ultraviolet radiation of the sun hits your skin, it stimulates cells known as melanocytes, which make the brown pigment called melanin. The melanocytes respond to the sun by making even more melanin to protect your skin from the sun. The melanin acts sort of like a barrier for the skin's cells, and can give people the brown tint that is a suntan."


So see? Being pale isn't so bad afterall. We should make it trendy again so I can feel like I fit into the fashionable side of society... But this time, lets keep arsenic and lead out of the whole routine... But seriously. This just reflects that since the birth of domestic living, women (and men, but mostly women) have done everything in their power to change their appearance in general, for whatever reason. The take home point here is this: Being true to yourself not only saves you time and money, it requires low maintenance and doesn't involve behaviors that put you at major health risks.

So step outside of that tanning booth and find something better to do with your time and money. You'll thank yourself in twenty years when you don't resemble a leather handbag.

Signing off. And loving my lack of a tan much more...

Monday, October 11, 2010

I'M BACK! (and have brought my excuses with me).

I remember when pen pals were cool. When I was a little girl, it seemed I would get a new one every year. I would get really amped up about them at first, punctually responding to their letters and actively participating in our postal relationship. But after a couple of communications, I would lose interest. I'd stop writing them or forget their address and move on with my life, leaving my poor pen pal abandoned without reason. This blog is not my new version of pen pal-ing. And my writing relationship with you as an audience is not and will not be short lived. I have dropped off the face of monicablogging for many reasons lately - but a lack of interest or desire to share is not one of them.

Let me expound.

Though the eighty/ninety degree weather might allude elsewise, we have arrived in the month of October. This, for most, means sunday night football, Halloween, early Christmas shopping, Oktoberfest, take your pick... For a full-time undergraduate, however, this means mid-terms. This year I have found myself in some of the more difficult classes I have ever been in touch with: namely structural geology and tectonics along with a six hour creative writing seminar and an arbitrary literature class. I'm up for the challenge and am, if I say so myself, surviving quite well. But unfortunately, writing a blog takes a backseat to studying the chemical/physical breakdown of Earth as we know it or analyzing fault structures in three dimensions.

Beyond that, I have been in a ditch lately when it comes to writing. And this is a problem in regards to this blog and me fufilling your demand as a reader along with other obligations I have as a writer. By the semesters end, I will have a (sound the trumpets) Bachelors of Fine Arts in Creative Writing with a concentration in fiction. Before obtaining this, however, I have to hand the department a very long portfolio depicting myself as a writer and the evolution of my craft over my years at this university. Because anything posted on the internet is considered previously published material and usually hard to publish later, I must refrain from using this blog as a means of "killing two birds with one stone". Which is to say that though I am tempted at times, I am apprehensive to write any fiction for this blog under the potential that it might actually be something great and I may never be able to submit it again. So I'm working on one voice as an active blog writer and one voice as a fictional writer as well.

In order to surpass this obstacle, I have made it my job to be a full-time reader. Perhaps I am attempting to read until I am inspired to write. I have read everything I can get my little hands around:




And, knock on wood, it actually seems to be working! Lately, I have been getting these brilliant lightbulb moments where wonderful writing prompts are coming to me. The problem: they are popping into my mind as I am literally falling asleep. The first time it happened, I ignored it. I had to sleep. I would remember the idea in the morning. I was wrong. And the entire next day was spent retracing my brain path and trying to relive the moment that wonderful yet forgotten idea reached me. The next time it happened, I feared I would forget it again. So I jumped out of bed and scribbled the idea down - falling back into sleep in no time. The problem: what I had written down made no sense whatsoever. It's going to happen to me again, I can feel it. And I just have to ensnare these runaway ideas this time. I am still plotting on methods that will work. The bottom line, I have to learn to get around this creative inconvenience. Or else I will be sitting in an interview in fifty years explaining to someone that I always wanted to write fiction, but my great ideas had bad timing so I missed the boat.

So, thanks for sticking with me. I'm glad to be back on the blogging boat. Hopefully one of my many excuses justified my absense. If not, let me know. I have been mighty creative lately, and can probably come up with another one for you!

Also, here's a wonderful and inspiring lecture given by Elizabeth Gilbert, author of "Eat, Pray, Love," and various other works. There's a lot of truth in the types of fallbacks she discusses when it comes to creativity in general. Got twenty minutes to kill? Don't waste it on facebook. Give her a listen.


*photos featured in this blog obtained from amazon.com.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

everyone has a different view...

What I've been staring at for the past week:


and other various such diagrams.


This, on the other hand, is what my dear boyfriend has had to stare at for the past week:




Ladies and gentlemen, the beautiful Nicaragua!

Someone tell me - how is this fair?!

Love,
Monica


Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Look at what digging in North Carolina will get you...

If you have been in my general vicinity within the last week, there's a likely chance that not only I have read this article to you but also shown you pictures of this find several times. You're probably tired of hearing about it, but I'm not yet tired of talking about it. HAVE YOU SEEN THE EMERALD THEY FOUND IN NORTH CAROLINA LAST YEAR? Take a gander. These things don't happen everyday.
What a gem!


So a man found this 310 carat emerald in Hiddenite, North Carolina last year. Can we say "HOLY COW"? According to CBS news, the lucky digger found this motherload on the farm belonging to a 90 year old man named W. Renn Adams, a native from Alexander County. Mr. Adams allows visitors to dig in his dirt for the price of $3 a day. I'd say that Terry Ledford, the 53 year old visitor who found this chunk got more than his money's worth when he reached into the ground on a lucky day in 2009 and unearthed the biggest emerald ever to be found not only in North Carolina, but NORTH AMERICA as we know it.

Here's what CBS.com had to say about it:
While big, uncut crystals and even notable gem-quality emeralds have come from the community 50 miles northwest of Charlotte called Hiddenite, there has never been one so big it's worthy of an imperial treasury, Beesley said. 


"It is the largest cut emerald ever to be found in North America," Beesley said in a telephone interview from Myanmar, an Asian country rich in precious gems. 


The discovery is a rarity for emeralds found not in the rich veins of South America and Asia but in North America, said Robert Simon, owner of Windsor Jewelers in Winston-Salem. 

"Most of the stones that have come out have not been gem-quality that I would mount in jewelry," said Simon, who was part owner of a 7.85-carat, dime-sized emerald found in the same community in 1998 that has since been set in jewelry and sold to a private owner. 

Terry Ledford, 53, found the roughly 2-inch-square chunk rimmed with spots of iron a year ago on a 200-acre farm owned by business partner Renn Adams, 90, and his siblings. The rural community of Hiddenite is named for a paler stone that resembles emerald. 

"It was so dark in color that holding it up to the sun you couldn't even get the light to come through it," a quality that ensured an intense green hue once the stone was cut with facets that allowed light into the gem's core, Ledford said. 

The North Carolina stone was cut to imitate the royal emerald, Ledford said. A museum and some private collectors interested in buying the emerald have been in contact, Ledford said. 


Here's the actual article. You should read it to everyone you know.


More importantly.. can someone say road trip to Hiddenite? I think I might pitch that idea to the geology club and see if they're interested. While the chance of me digging up anything comparable to the "Carolina Emperor" is a rare chance at best, the mere proof that it's possible is enough for me to waste a few days digging. The only thing I was somewhat disappointed about was how they cut it. But then again, I am a geologist at heart - I would rather have a huge mangled chunk than a perfectly faceted gem. But I guess the princess cut gem is more market ready than what they originally found. Here's what it looked like when they were done...



Again, pretty to most. But seems like a waste of the other 245.17 carats to me. But what do I know? I'm just a mineral freak in general. 

Also, according to my dad, there was a small earthquake on the border of North Carolina and Tennessee last week. Look out for a blog on that later, after of course I've done some more research via the USGS website.

Until then, Happy Tuesday! And keep digging... You never know what you'll find.