Quote of the Day

•August 18, 2009 • Leave a Comment

books

“I would be most content if my children grew up to be the kind of people who think decorating consists mostly of building enough bookshelves.” 

Anna Quindlen, “Enough Bookshelves,” New York Times, 7 August 1991

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The South Sound Reading Foundation & Me

•August 18, 2009 • Leave a Comment

One of the goals I have made for myself (in addition to finding a job/reliable source of income) is to begin volunteering again.  I volunteered quite a bit in high school with the local hospital and extended care facility, then in college I volunteered at a local writing tutoring center, before being hired on as a paid tutor. I have been wanting to start volunteering again for some time because not only will it get me out of the house and help me network to find a job, but it will make a difference in the community.  Another reason I am still unemployed is that refuse to consider a job that doesn’t make a difference with something, some aspect of the community or cause that I am passionate about.  All summer I kept saying, “Oh, I will find somewhere to volunteer next week…” and now it is mid-August and I haven’t started anywhere yet.

So I finally sat down yesterday to look for a cause or non-profit or foundation that I felt strongly about.  First I made a list of some of the things I care about or like to do: environmental conservation, reading, writing, books, women’s rights, children’s rights, and politics (I am a moderate, socially liberal but fiscally conservative).  Earlier this summer I contemplated working at a Summer Reading program at my elementary school, but vacations derailed that idea. I love kids, and I love reading, and if there was a way to combine those two, I was sold.  I was searching the Internet for ideas (www.volunteermatch.org was decently helpful) when I remembered something.  As a high school student I taught piano lessons to kids in my area, and one of the students (my favorite, I admit) whom I taught for several years, had a mother who was the director of the South Sound Reading Foundation.  This sounded like it had promise. So I looked up the foundation (she is no longer the director) and immediately filled out an application to volunteer.

The South Sound Reading Foundation (http://www.readingfoundation.org/southsound/home) does amazing things. As a literacy advocacy foundation, its major purpose is to ensure that all children are read to for 20 minutes a day, every day, starting at birth.  The ultimate goal is to produce children who read at their correct grade level and thus are more successful in school and in life.  This sounds so simple, right? I looked over some of their literature and was pretty surprised to learn how many students do not read at their current grade level.  To fight this, they organize book drives for children and families who can’t afford them and prepare hospital baby book bags to send home with new moms and have a book van and are extremely active in the community.

My parents read to me from birth and I have always been a voracious reader.  I remember reading Michael Crichton’s Jurassic Park outloud to my mom in the car waiting for my piano lesson…in the second grade (I specifically remember this because I remember saying “oh shoot oh shoot” instead of “oh shit oh shit” because the s-word was a bad word and I thought my mom would get mad if I said it outloud). I devoured books. Literally. Anything and everything I could get my hands on, I read. Except Gary Paulsen’s books. I don’t know why, I just thought they were boring. Anyway, I read every boody – literally – in my elementary school and middle school library.  I took all honor’s classes in high school. I went to college and majored in English and work as a writing tutur. And my parents read me two stories every night before I went to sleep.  So are those things connected? It’s the nature versus nurture argument I suppose…both of my parents were valedictorians with multiple graduate degrees who enjoy hiking and classical music. But, reading was highly encouraged…even to this day, many of my gifts for Christmas and birthdays include or consist of books. A boyfriend once witnessed me opening book after book on my 22nd birthday and remarked to me under his breath, “I would have been pissed if all I had gotten for my birthday was books!”  (He was an engineer. So not surprising.) But even today our house is full of books of all kinds: children’s books, literature, science books, reference books, cookbooks, paperbacks, hardcover, etc.  My father and sister and I all enjoy reading and each of us has stacks of books around our bedrooms.

So do I think that my parent’s reading to me had any effect on my life? Absolutely. Do I think that the South Sound Reading Foundation’s efforts are making a difference on those kids out there with parents who don’t have graduate degrees or fully understand the impact of reading to their children? Absolutely. I filled out an online application to volunteer and am calling their office this afternoon to find out when I can start volunteering.

 Hopefully I can start ASAP (it’s not like I have else to do…sigh) and start making a difference.

Summer

•August 18, 2009 • Leave a Comment

flowers

Found these flowers growing in a meadow behind my ex-boyfriend’s family’s home. There is something about them that seems so plucky.

horses

I love the way this one turned out (I set it up, my ex took the picture). I love the colors.

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Mace…love his eyes.

Quote of the Day

•August 16, 2009 • Leave a Comment

“With a woman who does something, men are afraid and women feel inadequate. 

And the reaction to inadequacy is hatred.”

– Julia Child

Less Lofty Goals

•August 16, 2009 • Leave a Comment

As much as I wish all of my energies could be focused on achieving self-actualization (sorry, Maslow) or deepening my spiritual, emotional, and educational enlightenment, there comes a time when you have to address more basic needs. Such as, paying rent. Or buying groceries. Since I can’t seem to find work as anything actually using my skills (associate editor, columnist, copywriter, etc.) I guess I will start looking for a job in a less desirable area…retail, perhaps, or food service. I was a barista in college, which I loved, but I mainly loved it because I got all my school vacations off work and it was easy to find someone to cover your shifts at the last minute.  My plan is to try and find a job as a hostess, then eventually a server, at a more upscale restaurant – one where I might actually make money in tips. Note to self: I do need to get my food handler’s permit renewed.

This is all just so depressing to me. In a class on magazine editing once, I had to read a short story about an English major who graduated college and couldn’t find a job so ended up working at Victoria’s Secret and living with her mother. When I read that I remember thinking about that poor pathetic soul with pity and thanking God it wouldn’t ever be me. Ha. I know the economy is in the dumps right now and there are fewer entry-level jobs than there usually are, but how is it possible that not one hiring manager thinks I am capable of anything more than folding shirts or pouring ice water?!  I fail to see how this will help me find a “real” job, other than having something to put on my resumé. I am so scared of getting sucked down the dead-end path, while my fellows are getting internships, then jobs, at the New York Times and Wells-Fargo.  Am I not aggressive enough in going after what I want? It is hard to be aggressive and confident about being the best candidate for a job when over and over again (been job-hunting since December, mind you) employers are telling you that you are fine, but just not good enough. Not right for the job, or “found another candidate we are really excited about.” Well, wonderful.  What should I be doing differently? 

Anyway, I made a list of some of the places I will try to drop of resumés. Anthony’s, Hearthfire Grill, Mercato, Ramblin’ Jacks, and a couple of coffee shops. Maybe I will suck it up and apply at Starbucks. I do have the training, I suppose. I have been putting this off since last week because I have no idea how you are supposed to go about dropping off resumés at restaurants at all. Sigh. I need all the luck I can get…

Bucket Lists

•August 14, 2009 • Leave a Comment

I recently got a DSLR camera for graduation (its a Canon EOS Rebel Xsi 450D and I love love love it, in case you were wondering) and because the photos are so large, I have recently been trying to make space on my hard drives and cleaning out old files.  (Sidenote: you would be amazed at the things you find on your computer…8 minute clips of the 2005 MTV VMAs, for example; entire volumes of Harry Potter in the form of mp3 files; a lovely six minute video of “Alabama Jones and the Busty Crusades” thanks to my wonderful friends Zach and Charlie, etc.). While sorting through what could be “recycled” and what I wanted to keep, I found an old folder labeled Random Stuff. In this folder, I found a document called THINGS I WANT (yes, in all caps). I opened it and this is what I found:

“THINGS I WANT – IMMEDIATE 

  • Subscription to “Sky & Telescope”
  • Jasmine plant for my room
  • To get into the nursing program at WSU

THINGS I WANT  – LONG TERM

  • To work next summer at Yellowstone
  • To become a proficient, if not expert, purveyor of the night skies
  • To become a nurse
  • To own a pair of Manolo Blahniks
  • To plant a flower garden
  • A sprout ponytail
  • To get married and have three kids
  • To own a red Jeep Wrangler with a removable hard top
  • To own a chow puppy named Honey Bear, a Bernese Mountain dog named Bella and a Pomeranian named Lola.”

“Aww,” I thought, looking at my list with condescending yet patient pity, the way one looks at a young child with no idea what is in store.  “How precious.”  This list is obviously from at least three years ago (that would be during my nursing student stage – before I realized I hated chemistry and didn’t want to spend my life drenched in bodily fluids of varying sorts). This also must have been during my astromony stage too – I had recently taken an astronomy class and, since I had always loved constellations (mostly because I was a mythology buff) I wanted to be able to recognize the constellations I saw around my house and my apartment. A sprout ponytail – this was written when I had long hair, almost to my waist.  I wanted a cute little ponytail that “sprouted” out of the back of my head – ridiculous and silly, I know. But now I have one! Sweet…at least there is one thing I can check off the list!  The Manolos are pretty self-explanatory…somewhat of a pipe dream for a college student who spends $12 on a Miley Cyrus for Walmart ruffled top and gets buyer’s remose from that. Sigh.

Some of the things on the list I do still want – I have wanted a red Jeep Wrangler for as long as I can remember. No, I do not go off-roading or live in a climate conducive to a topless vehicle. I just love them. They are the free spirit of motor vehicles. Obviously I want to get married and have kids but that is not even on my radar right now. That leaves…the dogs. Duh duh duh…..

Growing up we had a Springer Spaniel named Obie. He was a couple years older than me and therefore by the time I was old enough to play with him, he was just too old. When he died, my dad said no more pets, because by then my sister and I were old enough to be over at friend’s houses most of the time and he said he would be the one left to take care of it, train it, and have to be responsible for it. Probably true. Either way, all through college I swore that as soon as I graduated and got a “real” job I was going to buy myself a dog. I even had the dog all picked out.  I wanted a chow named Honey Bear (an idea I got from a book…surprise surprise), and I found a breeder in San Bernadino that sold cream short-hair chows. They were…adorable. I can’t even explain it.

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Don’t they make you just want to cuddle up with them and a fuzzy blanket? Too cute. Anyway……I got carried away because I still want a dog. But the whole list thing that I found made me think of what I would write as a to-do list before I die (a Bucket List…as in, before you kick the bucket) if I wrote it today.

I still want to get married, have kids and have the Jeep (sorry, some dreams die hard). But there are so many more things I want to experience in this life. I want to spend a summer at a ranch in Wyoming and have my own horse, and ride the trails all day singing folk songs and pretend that I am a cowgirl explorer for a time gone by. I want to live in New York City in a brownstone and date Mr. Big and wear Chloé and Dior and Valentino and Lanvin. I want to own read Tolstoy’s Anna Karenina and pull a Julie Powell and cook my way through Mastering the Art of French Cooking.  I want to publish a novel. I want to write an article and have it published in Vogue.  I want to visit the Castello di Duino, where Rilke wrote the Duino Elegies. I want to learn to sew and sew my children’s Halloween costumes. I want to finally perfect meringue…I think I don’t beat the egg whites enough. I want to go to Versaille and visit the Petit Trianon, Marie Antoinette’s private chateau. I want to trace my family history back as far as I can (which, right now, is only my great-grandparents on both sides).  Je voudrais parler le français facilement. I want to see Wicked on Broadway.

So I wonder, in a few years, will I look back at this tentative bucket list and laugh fondly at the dreams of a child? Or will I actually achieve some of these things? I believe I would have to become a cat to experience all of them – I would need as many lives as possible.  Starting today, I want to do everything I can to make some, if not all, of these dreams become reality.

La cuisine française et Cinderella

•August 13, 2009 • Leave a Comment

cinderella

Today I saw the movie “Julie & Julia.” (Et maintenant je veux quelques poulet au beurre blanc pour le dîner.)  I loved the movie, it was touching and moving and full of sautéeing butter and Meryl Streep is, as usual, fabulous and hilarious.  Not to mention the story of the blogger who is living a life of drudgery and ordinari-ness, who becomes famous and rich and eats all that buttery, creamy cuisine française and doesn’t get fat.  (Not to mention the hunky husband.) Hmm I wonder why this movie appealed to me?…but I digress. 

I’m a sucker for the Cinderella stories…but isn’t every girl? Everyone wishes that their life would be the different one, that they would be the one who would wake up one ordinary day and the stars would align and all their dreams would come true and everything would just fall into place.  Then they would glide through life happy and successful and loved, and life would just resonate in shades of sparkling pastels and jewel tones.  But it seems to me lately that much more frequently, life seems to tend towards sepia, doldrum jobs and dwindling bank accounts and crappy apartments with even crappier roommates who steal your food, your clothes and flirt with your boyfriend.

 Ahhh…I feel as though I am trapped in a life that is not good enough for me. Not in a vain, I-deserve-better-than-somone-else kind of way, but in a way that I feel as though I am not living up to my full potential.  There are so many things I know I am good at – writing, digital photography, analyzing art and literature, graphic design – and that I am passionate about – music, photography, nature, literature, dissecting the psyche to discern where art and literature stem from and tracing those back to the way in which human beings tick and how they express themselves – and yet I feel as though none of my talents or skills are valued by society to the degree that other, more technical, skills are. Of course society values “culture” and the arts. But I have the feeling that had I a degree in electrical engineering, or accounting, I would be employed by now. Part of the reason I am unemployed, I think, is that I am dragging my feet in refusal to become just another English grad who works at Victoria’s Secret and calls herself a writer despite never getting a novel published. My father, my friends, my sometimes-boyfriend, say, “Just get a shit job so you can save some money and move somewhere where there are jobs that you are interested in.”  But I am skeptical. (Well, that and I don’t want a shit job). So many people start off that way and never end up making it to where they want to go.  I want a life where I can actually use my skills and express myself creatively. I want a life where I can be engrossed in my work and not want to leave the office at the end of the day and want to bring my work home with me, a life where I am constantly being challenged to think of things from different angles and foreign perspectives and learning new things every day. I want a life where, on the weekends, I can hike up the mountains and photograph the sunset or stroll the farmer’s market with an armful of glads.  I want a life where I can come home from work and whip up médaillons de porc braisé au Madère with asperges marinées à la niçoise, or sit on an Adirondack chair on the deck and read any one of the hundreds of books on my to-do list (the complete works of Jane Austen, The Poisonwood Bible, The Middle Way, etc.) while the sun sets out over the water. I want a life where an editor just stumbles upon my little blog and offers me a book deal the way Prince Charming offered Cinderella that shoe and I live happily ever after.  Am I living in a fantasy land? Do I exist too much in my dreams and my head and am not putting enough effort or agression into the real world?  Does this ever happen in “real” life? I would imagine that it does…somewhere…I just don’t know how to get there.