Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Taking Candy From Strangers

I trust people at face value. One could say its because I have always been surrounded by relatively safe Mennonite Communities and to my chagrin that is a possibility. But I like to think I am more knowledgeable than that and this trust comes from me, nature, not stifling nurture.

The summer makes me bonkers as does Christmas break. I cant be at home all day it feels like life isn't happening. "I am missing life!" I will whine laying face down on the living room carpet as dignified 20 year old women are wont to do. My mom send me on errands because somehow to her that is an adequate solution to my disillusionment. Sometimes it works sometimes I meet people.

 I take my time in the cereal aisle and ask the elderly lady next to me whether the "Giant" brand of Honey Bunches of Oats is as good as the Bunches themselves. She tells me they are adequate. I tell her I like her necklace, I really dont feel anything towards it. She tells me how she bought it from a man who set up a booth downtown, she tells me how he is from Africa, she tells me how she used to have to place textbooks on the sides of her typewriter in college because you needed to press the keys so hard it would spring around, she tells me that someday she wants to visit her high school best friend in Greenland. I buy the "Giant" brand.

I flick through the cartons of half price vinyl. I ask the owner what his current favorite is. He talks to me about Amanda Palmer. He shows me glossy pink album art. The small Record shop doesn't have air-conditioning and as he speaks wet runs from his hairline down his pocked cheeks and leak off his several loose chins. He offers to sell the album to me for half-off. It makes me feel slimy. I say no thanks and go home and lay on top of my childish green comforter and listen to The XX not Amanda Palmer.

Friday, March 28, 2014

Whose on First

When I run with my roommate she tells me I am active but not athletic. This isn't the stab it would appear to an outside observer but her way of telling me I have some level of talent. I have gone my whole life not being athletic. Athleticism is society's golden child. In elementary school the fastest boy gets all the girls, in middle school the football player hands off his letter jacket to a wispy blond, and in high school colleges offer the athletes thousands of dollars to play for them. It makes sense that athletic ability would affect self -worth, it isn't currently a contingency of self -worth according to a study by Ohio State University the contingencies are familial support, competition, appearance, God's love, academic competition, virtue and morals, and approval from others.
I spent a good part of high school playing the part of the athlete. I wasn't cool enough to play soccer and didn't grow up with basketball so I decided to try softball. They were the underdog sports team so I felt no pressure entering the fold late. I bought my first softball glove when I was 16 and caught my first pop fly later that day. I played on the JV team and was the third worse. It is easy to tell in softball who is the best because it is literally written in list format called batting order. In the higher up ball games batting order is more strategic but at our level it was this is how good you are. Look see, it calls to us, you are actually the worst. I was to my relief only the third worst. I never once made contact with the ball when up to bat but once the ball hit me so I got on base. That is how I passed the two girls below me, they didn't have the good fortune of possessing a large surface area for the ball to bang against. It seemed poor compensation for continually towering over the boys in my grade but it was something.
I was fine that my team was quite honestly pathetic, winning one game a season didn't bother me, in fact I found it charming how much effort we kept putting in. Team underdog was okay but self underdog was not. I didn't feel adorable when I swung and missed and missed and missed. I felt large and gawky when at the plate.  My mom came to one game she brought my grandma. They sat in navy blue collapsible chairs and gossiped throughout the entire game pausing briefly to watch me strike out. I would practice on the weekend. My friend who tried out for the team with me (she played capture on varsity and I promised her I wasn't bitter) would play imaginary games with me. We would laugh as we we tried to remember which figment occupied which base as we batted for them. I played for the JV softball team three years. I had the heart and the effort but those things must be more alluring from the outside.

Thursday, March 27, 2014

Kindness comes with Practice

Masquerade was Mennonite's (student lingo for Lancaster Mennonite High School, teachers and administrators preferred LMH) attempt to give us homecoming. They couldn't officially sponsor short dresses, dancing, and inter-sex mingling so instead we got costume party, barn, and bobbing for apples. Mr. Evans awarded prizes to each costume, since declaring one winner was not in true Mennonite fashion. My group got "most expensive" which feels like a fake award, who wants to win "most expensive" what a disappointing adverb.
We had all adorned prom dresses from out mothers closets and neighbors dress up bins. Jackie was the only one of our in-group of strong females with a boyfriend he wore a tux and we were the Bachelor. It was a show I neither supported nor had actually seen but it was a costume that eight girls and one guy could participate in together and in high school every ones greatest concern was being included so we were all willing to settle in order to avoid heartache.
These eight girls, I don't think junior year we were ready to be women no matter what our biological clock was telling us, were extensions of my self. We had the self confident communication and responses of one body. If I told Beks something I knew I could pick up the conversation with Maria. The information we passed around was not gossip but a courtesy. While this dynamic was accepted by all eight of us it didn't create an open invitation to others. Meghan had transferred to our school that year, she had been subject to hearsay of our adventures through Jackie who went to her church and was excited to make new friends. We all liked Meghan but it wasn't as simple as liking her because we were all in a place were our own thought processes and over thinking was the end all.
Assumption was that everyone would come to my house after Masquerade because my house was home base. As we filtered out after the event was over, I saw Meghan trotting self-consciously behind my gang of gigglers. I asked her to join us over at my house. I don't think I was being kind because I asked without thinking, it was a reflex not a conscious act of empathy. Meghan came and joined happily but warily as my friends laughed at jokes we all knew were supposed to be funny and interacted comfortably with my parents and brother. She didn't speak much but ate the grilled cheeses we made at midnight and didn't complain about sitting on the cold tile of the kitchen when the saggy couches and trow pillows were just a room over. She pulled me aside at 12:30 and told me her mom was on the way to pick her up. She had forgotten she had a swim meet the next morning and decided she should get as much sleep as possible. Meghan slipped out without anyone really taking notice.
I don't think I was wrong to invite her but, perhaps, I was ignorant to. Supporting the out-group in reality isn't as easy as making a statement at a basketball game or in a study.

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Playing Piano

Child's pose was when I fell to the floor exhaustion and defiance turning my bones to cartilage. They bent with only the slight resistance of my outer ear. I would bury my face into the white carpet wary to avoid the gunky stain which could have been spilled hot chocolate but also might have been mud.I would whine long throaty hums that paralleled the ringing noises of the piano that lead me to this spectacle. Deep Breathes honey my mom would say, the honey standing as more of a formality than a term of endearment. My fits did not spark in her maternal passion. My piano regiment dictated I practice for at least 45 minutes a day. My mother was one to pick in chose her battles so as long as I practiced for 20 minutes everyone considered it a win. Often, however I ended up in child's pose--arms stretched above head, knees bent, spine lengthened, vertebrae stacked, face smooshed into floor.
Milena and Kate and Laura would come to my recitals. I would wear a unnaturally silky dress and play variations of twinkle, "Happy Farmer," and "A Short Story." Afterwards we all eat strawberry shortcake and are careful not to drop any red sauce on the carpet.

Monday, March 24, 2014

Writing Prompt- March 11: In group/out group

Hello Grace,

I know you were never impressed by the fact that I ran, jogged, moved, what have you. I know it was your thing. I am aware I never quite fit the club, I did try though. When I asked you to run with me I was excited to have this shared interest with you, runners are definitely an exclusive group. There is a difference between people who run and runners. Runners, like you, are allowed to wear the shirts that say "Irun" or "Runners High" they can post articles on facebook about how to spot a runner (standing looking pissed at a crosswalk while cars pass instead of jogging in place) specifics I would never intrinsically know as somehow you did. My body isn't made to run, it bangs and bounds and flops, but I run anyway because I like the idea that my body is the one thing in this world that I have control over so if I tell it to run it has to. That's not why you run. I wish I could say here why you do but I don't   know and that's why I haven't yet been invited to be part of your club. If I knew I would work towards that thought process because even though I have my reasons now I want the shared reason so I can join cross-country or track instead of running alone in the evenings. I ran every morning in high school  and you knew. Maybe that was the problem, I talked about it, runners aren't supposed to do that because it is such an internal spiritual matter or something, I am hypothesizing here. I sometimes run with my roommate, she is one of the only people I feel comfortable running with. She is on both track and cross-country but she isn't in the club. Even without being a member I can tell. She runs for company and scholarships. The external rewards that marathoner would scoff at. You have run multiple half marathons and I am so proud. I want to do one someday I don't know if i'll tell you. You would be really supportive but it would make me feel fake.

Once More to the Lake
E.B. White

Quality of Voice? The voice talks on the lazy feel of fishing but with a darker undertone, a sense of foreboding urgency. “As he buckled the swollen belt suddenly my groin felt the chill of death.” The sentence preceding that one uses words such as “vitals” and wince” strong intense words.

What are some of the specific words or phrases that bring this essay into focus for you?  I looked at the boy, who was silently watching his fly, and it was my hands that held his rod, my eyes watching. I felt dizzy and didn’t know which rod I was at the end of.” The greater theme of the essay comes through here as the author grapples with how fleeting he is how nature continues and people continue even though he won’t. Time is seemingly endless for nature as he assumes it should for himself though it is no longer him as a child that walks beside him but a new child.

Where does this writer create images and or scenes? “In the shallows, the dark, water-soaked sticks and twigs smooth and old, were undulating in clusters on the bottom against the clean ribbed sand, and the track of the mussel was plain.” The nature centric piece allows White ample opportunity to paint slow specific imagery.

Where does this writer “tell?” “Everywhere we went I had trouble making out which was I, the one walking at my side, the one walking in my pants.”

What kinds of sentence variety, phrasing, etc. add to the quality of this piece? There are many long descriptive sentences that make the piece seem to stretch out. “We all got ringworm from some kittens and had to rub Pond’s extract on our arms and legs night and morning, and my father rolled over in a canoe with all his clothes on; but outside…”


Was the detail created by returning to the location or by sheer memory?

There are several instances that you incorporate statements in parenthesis, how and why did you choose to place those comments in parentheses, when the whole essay was your commentary?

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

My mom can list the name and year of every city that has ever hosted the olympics. She watches religiously and unloads the years of Mennonite patriotism aversion into fearfully intense support. The Winter Olympics are the favorite because iceskating- pairs, singles, and dance. She was always disappointed that I would never watch with quite the level of passion she would but my brother filled that gap. He would stay up until midnight with her watching Sasha Cohen leap and twirl. "I just watch because I like seeing them fall," he has admitted to me. My mother's support is based not just on quality of performance but on what she observes as happiness. This year Javier Fernadez, ice skater, won her affection. His moves were good not great but he displayed unabashed joy about skating.

How to recognize an underdog
1. Possibly born on the "wrong side of the tracks"
2. They have created themselves through shear force of will
3. They are not lucky
4. They are passionate about what they do