Posts Tagged writing

The Sea is my Secret-Keeper: in Honor of National Poetry Month

In honor of National Poetry Month, I thought I’d share this.

If you’re anything like me, you’ve probably had at least one moment in your life in which you were afraid to tell someone something. This is my feeble attempt to put that feeling into words.

Sunset on the beach
When the waves whisper
stories entrusted to their keeping
by overflowing hearts.

The sea swims with secrets.
They play around
our feet like puppies
As we walk along the shore.
Now scampering forward.
Now retreating.
Wanting to share
hesitant to trust.

I watch you toss
up handfuls of sand
Just to see
them dance on the breeze
a little boy
playing catch with the wind.

Your laughter tugs
at my heart
And I feel the words
begin to form
the faintest quickening
in my belly.
Your fingers brush
the back of my hand
like an afterthought
and I roll my tongue
across the words
testing them.
I am a mother
blowing on a baby’s spoon.
I shiver at their taste
Like morcels of baker’s chocolate.

I rest my cheek
against your shoulder
and the words tingle
on the tip of my tongue.
A diver poised to spring.
Do my words have wings?
Can I cradle you in them
and fly over the horizon?
or will I fall
Foolish little Icarus.
So I watch the sun
slip over the horizon
and I blow a kiss
to the wind
that caresses your cheek
and wonder if you can hear the secret
in the whisper of the waves.

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Just a Little Smile is All it Takes: Happy Birthday Colin Firth

Winter, 2008: the near-end of my first semester as a PhD student. In the midst of end-of-semester insanity, I’d gone home for the Thanksgiving holiday to see my family. While everyone else in the family gathered in the living-room to decorate the Christmas tree, I sat curled on the sofa watching the BBC television adaptation of Jane Austen’s /Pride and Prejudice/ for a seminar paper due two weeks later. My father, as he so often does when I visit, wandered into the room at intervals to inquire about my progress and whether or not I needed anything (AKA another cup of coffee…or a tranquilizer). What he discovered probably made him suspect I’d require the latter. There I was, feverishly pecking at the keys on my laptop: pausing, rewinding, scribbling, rewatching, and—it goes without saying—occasionally attempting, without much success, to suppress a fangirlish squeal of delight.
“Research?” Dad asked delicately while I manufactured an expression of intense concentration.
“Yes, for my Jane Austen course.”
Dad’s gaze swiveled to the wet-shirted, dripping delight that was Colin firth and then settled back on me. “Well
, I’m glad your graduate studies are being put to good use.”
Just then, my mother joined him, took one look at the television, and declared, “So this is why you declared a specialization in nineteenth-century literature. Suddenly it all makes sense.”

My fascination with Colin Firth has been something of a family joke for as long as I can remember. One long-ago Christmas during my childhood, a distant relative I no longer remember sent me a gift that at the time, they’d probably only picked out because it was the nearest to hand: a video of Hallmark’s 1987 television adaptation of “The Secret Garden”.

The day after Christmas, I sat curled on the rug in front of the television, the distant shouts of the neighborhood children trying their new bikes and roller-skates drifting in through the open window. At that moment, it didn’t matter that they never included me in their games—that I couldn’t ride or skate or run as quickly as the rest of them; I was far too engrossed in the story unfolding on the screen in front of me. At the time, I still had enough usable vision that if I sat close enough to the screen, I could still distinguish faces. Suddenly, in the final scene, I found myself scooting as close to the set as I could without actually pressing my face against the glass.
“This wasn’t in the book,” I thought as I watched, intrigued. A grown-up Mary Lennox was standing in her garden with Ben Weatherstaff, and suddenly from behind her came a voice, tender and caressing, and slightly crisp at the edges—a summer breeze with just a hint of fall: “Where you tend a rose, a thistle cannot grow.” I shivered as Mary turned and saw who it was, and as I caught a glimpse of his face, I thought, “That’s the most beautiful man I’ve ever seen.”

Why? Why that man? Why that face? There wasn’t anything immediately remarkable about it; neutral in appearance, passive in expression, but with a hint of something rippling beneath the surface like a lake stirred by a light breeze. That was what intrigued me—that carefully modulated reserve, that passion kept in check. Then I watched him kiss her, and I think my heart spilled into his hand then and there.

That was the first time I saw Colin Firth, though it wasn’t until quite a few years later—after I’d become much more familiar with his work—that I made the connection. Since that moment, I’ve been mesmerized and a bit haunted by that face—a face I’ve never forgotten, though it’s been years (longer than I feel comfortable admitting) since I’ve actually seen it. Over the years, I’ve made (and have been the subject of) plenty of jokes about this…lifelong love affair, for lack of a better term: that Colin Firth is the reason I can’t walk past a fountain or make an omelet without smiling; that (according to my mother) I’ve taught so much of his work in my courses I should probably list him as a guest lecturer; that he’s the reason why I refuse, on principle, to accept a marriage proposal that does not begin with or contain the words, “You must allow me to tell you how ardently I admire and love you.” Admittedly, in fairness to Mr. Firth, even though I can no longer reread /Pride and Prejudice/ without hearing his voice, I really think the blame for that last one should be laid at the feet of Jane Austen, since it was she who wrote those words.

The truth is, though, that I’ve cherished a long admiration of his work that has deepened as I’ve been given opportunities to study it more closely, both in my own work and with students. He reminds me daily that passion for one’s work is often more rewarding than recognition (though he’s certainly deserving of every accolade he’s received) and I love his obvious appreciation in so much of his work for the value and utility of literature. I cannot reiterate enough that I think the roles he’s had in literary adaptations are some of his best performances. (And before anyone asks, yes, I have had the privilege of listening to his recording of Graham Green’s novel /The End of the Affair/, and I was entranced).

I don’t know why I feel compelled to share this story; it isn’t a remarkable one by any means, but it’s one that never fails to make me smile. In my mind, I associate Colin firth with some of my last, and clearest visual memories. Over time that image, like so many of the others, has begun to fade, but whenever I hear his voice, if I close my eyes, I can just see that face—can just picture that tantalizing half-smile twitching at the corners of his mouth. Maybe I’m no longer the best judge, but that smile is still one of the most beautiful I’ve ever seen.

The happiest of birthdays to you, Mr. Firth, and many happy returns!

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You are Cordially Invited: the Big Blogaversary Bash!

For the girl who has Jane Austen’s birthday listed as an important event in her iCal and is counting down the days to the bicentennial of the publication of Pride and Prejudice, you’d think I’d have marked my own blogaversary this past week with a bit more fuss and fanfare. Alas, the surprise blogaversary party you were all planning for my stats page was obviously canceled on account of the closing Olympic ceremonies…or having more interesting blog material to peruse. I prefer to think the former.

This year has witnessed me taking a bite out of the cultural capital that is vampirism with my adventures in teaching media through vampire adaptations. My readers watched as I struggled to overcome my fear of waxworks, contemplated the inevitability of aging and threw a highly successful, Bridget Jones-style birthday party complete with blue cake. I have been fortunate enough to have received two prestigious blogger awards during this last year, neither of which are in any way responsible for the expansion of my ego. I single-handedly coined a new term for analyzing nudity in BBC dramas, participated, with great success, in Blogging Against Disablism Day 2012, and pined over the pain of having to endure my boyfriend being shamelessly stolen by Katie Couric.

OF course, none of this would have been possible without the support of the five people who actually care to read my ramblings…and the random individual who apparently discovered my blog with the search query “Colin Firth is racist”. (He isn’t, of course, unless you happen to take Ricky Gervais seriously).

IN any case, I know you are all itching to paint the town pink in celebration of the birth of my blog, so I will not detain you any longer. Just do please remember that as you are toasting my health and longevity with a watermelon margarita, to finish your drink. There are sober children in China, after all.

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Some are Born Great, Some Achieve Greatness, and Some, like Me, Have Great Blogger Awards Thrust upon Them.

A few weeks ago, I was morosely and systematically working my way through a pile of Yodels and Oreos while contemplating my dissertation-related distress and the possibility of my career in academia sinking in a quagmire of calorie-laden despair. How drastically my outlook has altered in such a short time; today I am seriously thinking of changing my career title to professional blogger extraordinaire, because the wonderful and fantastic Breezy K over at The Camel Life has seen fit to bestow upon me the One Lovely Blogger Award. Since she’s been single-handedly responsible for my increased blog traffic, I feel compelled to forgive her for outing my Sunday morning wine-drinking habit. (Not, of course, that she was referring to me…she’s confusing me with Bridget Jones, obviously).

As Colin Firth once put it, I don’t know if this qualifies as gentle reassurance, but right now this is the only thing standing between me and a Harley-Davidson (or, in my case, a pack of Yodels and a bottle of pinot grigio)

With all privileges come responsibilities, and I am now tasked with the challenge of revealing seven facts about myself and nominating seven magnificent blogs for this award. So, without further ado:
1- I have an irrational fear of sitting on the end-most seat on theme park boat rides. After years of struggling to trace the source of this fear, all that floats to the surface of my mind is a story my paternal grandmother told me about a girl who fell out of one of the boats on the Small World ride at Disney World and was caught beneath it. I’ve still not gotten over this fear despite the fact that the story of boat-girl was probably made up by my grandmother as a cautionary tale about not heeding the warning to keep all body parts inside the vehicle at all times. Stand up while the boat is in motion, dangle a hand over the side, and you’ll wind up a tragic story in the local paper…or else be devoured by the alligators that hide in the waters of Disney boat rides to snatch misbehaving children. (Sometimes I’m still amazed that I don’t need therapy…or that I choose not to seek it. Whatever).
2- I secretly (or, not-so-secretly since I’ve decided to broadcast it publicly on my blog) sometimes enjoy watching reruns of “Everybody Loves Raymond.” Don’t judge me. Yes, I’m talking to you in the back there…I know you spend every Monday evening parked in front of the television watching back-to-back episodes of “The Golden Girls” on Women’s Entertainment (not that “The Golden Girls” runs on Women’s Entertainment on Monday or any other evening from 8.00PM-midnight. I haven’t any clue if it does. I don’t watch it…or own it on DVD).
3- One day when I was in the sixth grade, my computer teacher told our class a funny story about a blind date he’d apparently been on the previous weekend. IN the middle of the story, I raised my hand to ask whether she had a dog or if she used a cane. The entire class burst into laughter and pointed at me. Apparently going on a blind date doesn’t refer to dating a blind person. Who knew?
4- I perform a cryptic Catholic ritual for alleviating mosquito-bite irritation. Once, when I was about five years-old, I was complaining in church about an exceptionally itchy mosquito bite that was interfering with my already minimal ability to sit still through the homily. My grandmother, in her infinite wisdom, leaned over and made the sign of the cross with her finger on the spot. The effect was instantaneous. Occasionally, in a moment of insect-bitten, skin-crawling, temporary insanity, I still find myself performing this gesture. I can offer no scientific evidence that it actually works, but if you should try it and achieve satisfactory results, remember you heard it here first. Note: Please be advised that this blog is not responsible for any accident or injury resulting from misguided use.
5- When I was a junior in college, my roommate and I discovered that part of an episode of “Queer Eye for the Straight Guy” was being filmed at a local salon. Because we were both in denial about Carson Kressley’s sexual orientation, we spent a Friday afternoon visiting every salon in the area in the hope of seeing him…after we drew straws to determine which of us would propose marriage. We refused to come to blows over a man—even one as beautiful as Carson Kressley.
6- I once had a nightmare about being beheaded…by my parents. I’ve never really taken the time to delve deeply into my repressed memories for the psychological trauma in my childhood that obviously triggered this dream, but I don’t think it’s a coincidence that I had this dream the night I completed my first year of graduate school.
7- My secret superhero power is the ability to turn any liquid into vodka. I thought I’d end with the truth—just to anchor the rest.

So now I’ve done you all the great service of unraveling the intricacies of my life. You’re welcome.

Now, the moment you’ve all been waiting for…and the nominees for the One Lovely Blogger Award are:
1. You Knew What I Meant because anyone who’s felt like stabbing themselves with pointy objects after grading a stack of English essays will suddenly feel less alone in the world. Seriously, the urge to drink while grading has decreased significantly since I discovered this blog.
2. Year-Struck because her blog is like the perfect cup of coffee—full of flavor, and I twitch if I don’t get a dose of her every day. Also: I’m totally living vicariously through her travel posts, and I secretly want to ask her if she took a picture of Mark Darcy’s house when she visited Holland Park.
3. Kvetch Mom because her refreshing candor makes her the Bridget Jones of mommy bloggers, and that is quite possibly the best praise I can offer. There seriously ought to be a Bridget Jones Blogger award—it would be the Oscar of blog awards.
4. Tinkerbell because the pesto-crusted fish recipe she shared on her kitchen blog made me an instant family celebrity last Christmas, and because her posts are little sprinklings of fairy-dust in my day.
5. Gin and Lemonade because she reminds me to laugh at myself…and she likes watching The Big Bang Theory.
6. Whatimeant2say because she obviously doesn’t have enough awards, and because she’s far more dedicated than I am and actually finds the time to blog every day. I salute you.
7. Chicks with Ticks because they’re a breath of fresh air, quite literally. You’ll find yourself longing to smell the roses and dance barefoot in the rain.

And now, if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to release these stirrings in the upper abdominal regions that are threatening to transform into dance moves. Thank you to all my loyal readers. I shall endeavor to continue to entertain you in the style to which you have become accustom.

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The Cultured Cocktease: or, Why you can’t Take a Blind person to an Art Exhibit

Beauty, they say, is in the eye of the beholder, but if, like me, your eyes don’t behold much beyond shadows and the occasional patch of sunlight, beauty, or at least visually-appealing beauty, is bound up in the equally creative art form of the descriptions relayed to you by sighted companions.

so when a group of friends and I decided to head into downtown Gainesville several weeks ago to check out the local art walk, I anticipated an evening of free entertainment provided by my friends’ running commentary. As I meandered in and out of each gallery, I admit to being more preoccupied with the challenge of nibbling pretzels, sipping lime punch, and weaving through the maze of masterpieces while silently praying that my guidedog wouldn’t suddenly demolish the entire display with a single sweep of his lethal Labrador tale. I was also teetering precariously on high-heals, a dangerous fashion choice in the current environment for someone who epitomizes the proverbial rhinoceros in an antique shop. Still, considering I have about as much class as blue jean cutoffs at a 5-* restaurant, I managed rather well despite feeling a bit like Eliza Doolittle at the embassy ball. I kept waiting for someone to expose me as the uncultured, squashed cabbage-leaf of Covent Garden—I, who probably can’t tell the difference between a priceless Renoir and a child’s finger-painting, even with the gift of two working eyes.

My last trip to an art gallery of any kind occurred when my college roommate and I paid a mandatory visit to our university’s local art exhibit to complete an essay assignment for an online class in which we were both enrolled. My roommate, understandably, chose what seemed the least complex of the pieces on display: a glass jar filled with sand, containing a miniature car, palm tree, house, and scattering of seashells—some eclectic assortment of items you’d expect to find in South West Florida.

“OK, I don’t get it,” my roommate declared after describing the piece to me.
“What don’t you get? It seems pretty straight-forward to me,” I replied.
“Well,” continued my roommate, “the piece is called Neapolitan Landscape, and I don’t get what any of this has to do with ice-cream.”
“Please tell me you’re kidding,” I managed between bursts of hysterical giggles.
“What’s so funny?” asked my roommate.
“Well,” I said slowly, “I’m not exactly an art expert, but I’m pretty sure ‘Neapolitan Landscape’ isn’t referring to a flavor of ice-cream. I’m pretty sure it’s a reference to Naples, Florida. You know…the city we live in?”

I couldn’t help recalling this story as I wandered past various carvings, photographs of mountain-ranges and sunsets, and the occasional hunk of twisted metal masquerading as a masterpiece. Suddenly, the friend with whom I was walking paused and laid a hand on my arm.

“You need to see this,” she said. I should point out that she was using that phrase fairly loosely; by “see,” she naturally meant “Someone really needs to point this out to you, because your inability to see it shouldn’t deprive you of what the rest of us have to suffer.” It was rather like the time in middle school when a friend of mine insisted on removing the rubber bands in her braces at the lunch table and thought she would enliven the process by making noises so that I wouldn’t feel left out of the entertainment. While I love my friends, I think I can safely say that this just takes the concept of accommodation to a level beyond appropriate.

Anyway, it turned out that my friend and I had stopped before a sculpture of what was unmistakably a naked man. This in and of itself wasn’t terribly shocking; what my friend felt compelled to point out was the fact that the artist, for one reason or another, decided to represent the man’s genitals with a pine cone. Perhaps Said artist was attempting to remind the viewer of the link between man and nature, or maybe he’d just run out of whatever material he was using for the sculpture. In any case, because my inner child has the maturity of your average four year-old, I was intrigued by the pine cone penis.

“You’re not serious. A pine cone penis?”
“I’m totally serious. It’s…definitely interesting,” said my friend. This description wasn’t nearly colorful enough to satisfy my curiosity.
“Are we allowed to touch it?” My friend hesitated.
“I…don’t think so. There’s a sign that says don’t touch.”

Well, this was disappointing, mostly because suggestively fondling a piece of local art would have been the most action I’d gotten in some time. Reluctantly I went off in search of a piece of art on display that was less touchy about being tactilely appreciated, but needless to say, I left that night with a very different impression of the concept of the cock tease than what is generally meant by the expression.

Question: what is the strangest piece of art you’ve ever seen?

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Here Comes the Bride’s Maid (or, reflections on growing up)

After a typical hither-and-thither Sunday afternoon of church and errand-running, I leaned against my kitchen counter and idly scrolled through my cell phone to check for any missed calls or texts, expecting the usual ‘0’. To my surprise, I had not one, but two missed calls from my oldest and dearest friend: two missed calls, but no voicemail or text. With the mind-reading efficiency that comes only as the result of a friendship spanning two decades, I deduced that my Siamese twin (hereafter referred to as S.T) had something to tell me that she deemed of too great importance to communicate in a voicemail or text.

With best-buddy antennae tingling, I settled on the sofa to return her call, with a very clear suspicion of what I was about to hear. After greetings and small-talk were exchanged, I waited in breathless anticipation for what I knew was coming.
“I’m engaged!” (Ha! Girl Sherlock wins again! Seriously, if I could high-five myself in admiration of my kick-ass deductive reasoning powers, I’d be doing that right now.).
“And I wanted to ask you if you’d be one of my Bride’s maids?” Um, hello? Does Colin Firth look hot in a wet shirt?
“Honey, we only planned this about, what, 20 years ago?”
“I know, but I had to ask. Make it official.”

Congratulations were given, dates were discussed, and the call ended far sooner than either of us would have liked, but adult responsibilities called. Gone were the days of spending hours on the phone inventing elaborate contraptions that did everything from math homework to unenjoyable chores. Speaking of being an adult: holy shit, batman, my best friend is getting married! And I’m not talking about Game-of-Life-add-a-little-blue-plastic-dude-in-a-car getting married. I’m talking about an actual wedding, with an actual bride and groom. This is the same girl who split granola bars with me at lunch; who read my teeny-bopper fanfiction (not that I wrote teeny-bopper fanfiction); who dutifully remembered the secret code name of every single boy I had a crush on; who inadvertently saved the life of a classmate while impersonating the “lice lady” and finding a tick in her hair. If you want to put our friendship in quantifiable terms, between the two of us, we’ve held about 8 million conversations, shed nine thousand buckets of tears, and consumed a rough estimate of 84 million calories in brownies and ice-cream. Most of the sleep debt I accrued before graduate school is probably the collective result of every single Siamese twin slumber party we ever held.

Still cradling my phone in my hand, I sat on the sofa and gazed out the window as a slideshow of memories rolled in my brain, amazed, and feeling supremely blessed, to have kept that solemn oath of friendship made with clasped hands on a school playground long ago: “One for all and all for one…and a partridge in a pear tree!”

Considering the fact that I fell asleep that night and had a very strange dream involving Livia Firth designing me a sustainable bride’s maid dress woven out of something resembling palm-tree branches and a pair of shoes made of recycled Coke cans, this whole experience is going to offer significant amounts of blog fodder.

Question: Have you ever been in a wedding party?

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Open Your Eyes: Blogging Against Disablism Day 2012

Those of you who know me or who have been following this blog for any length of time know that in addition to being sexy, intelligent, witty, a decent cook, and modest to a fault, I am blind: or rather, I am a person who happens to be blind. There is a difference between being a blind person and a person who happens to be blind, and it is not a subtle one. Every day, we tell ourselves stories about who we are, and those stories shape the images we create of ourselves and the world in which we live. To call myself a blind person would be true, but it would also be a gross understatement—an oversight of the many ingredients that, mixed together, make up the unique flavor of my personality.

Today is Blogging Against Disablism Day, and as I reflect upon the ways in which society defines me by the disable label, I also find myself thinking about the eye-opening moments I have been privileged enough to share with those who have been willing to look beyond that label.

Last spring, I taught a course in 20th Century British Literature, but I was transparent about my passion for my area of specialization—the Nineteenth Century—and especially my Jane Austen fanaticism. One of my students, who I afterward affectionately termed my “Jane Austen student,” came gushing to me after class one day about her trip to England the previous summer and, in particular, her visit to Chawton House—the residence of Jane Austen.
“I have pictures,” she informed me. “If you’d like, I can bring them next class and show you.” Insert very long, uncomfortable pause punctuated by chirping crickets. Class had been in session for roughly four weeks at this point; either this student was terribly unobservant of the Labrador that sat curled at my feet during every lesson, or she needed to have her own eyes checked out. That said, I have non-confrontational tattooed across my forehead, so rather than point out the obvious and add an even thicker layer of awkwardness to an already awkward situation, I smiled and responded, “I’d love to be able to see them.” ‘Hurrah,’ I thought. ‘I am paragon of inner poise and diplomacy.’ I said “I’d love to be able to see them,” which was, I thought, the truth. I would, but I could not.

“great!” responded my student. (Did she need a bomb to drop on her?). IN this case, it was my dog discretely, or not-so-discretely, treading on her foot with his paw.

When I walked into class the following day, I wondered whether or not Jane Austen student would in fact remember to bring her pictures of Chawton and, if she did, how I would explain to her that I would not, in fact, be able to see them, much as I wished to. ‘Idiot,’ I thought. ‘Golden opportunity for a teachable moment here, and because you’re such a politically-correct chickenshit, you’ve let it slip right past.’ As I suspected, Jane Austen student did in fact bring her pictures and suggested walking to my office with me so she could share them. Now the moment had come; there was no way out, but how could I offend her when she’d gone out of her way to bring the pictures and seemed so enthusiastic about sharing them with me?

We walked across campus together, chatting about the weather, classes, my dog—safe subjects. As we drew nearer my office, I was still wondering how I might be able to salvage what was left of this uncomfortable situation and transform it into a teachable moment. While I rarely if ever call attention to my blindness, I try whenever possible to educate my students about how best they can be of service to someone with a disability when the need arises.

When we arrived at my office, I thought I’d let the student initiate the dreaded picture conversation and see what might happen; I was buying time. At this point, “Lovely, but I can’t see it” was still the only thing I could conceivably think of saying. Subtlety is not a virtue I claim to possess in large quantities–in any quantity actually. To my astonishment, with no prompting from me, Jane Austen student brought out her pictures and, flipping through them, proceeded to describe each and every shot to me in detail. It was as if she were simply sharing her adventure with me, using the pictures as a way to refresh her own memory. She must have spent a good hour with me, describing in detail the landscape surrounding Chawton House and sharing the story behind each picture—like the one of the exit-ramp off the highway where she and her friend had accidentally found themselves when her GPS inexplicably switched from the pedestrian setting to the car setting.

They say a picture is worth a thousand words, and in this instance, it truly became that, and so much more. IN that moment, it was my ignorance, and not my student’s, that had been exposed—my assumption that this girl wouldn’t be able to fathom how to bring the world into view for someone who couldn’t see it.

In honor of Blogging Against Disablism Day, I urge you to check out Gin and Lemonade, a wonderfully witty blog by a wonderfully witty woman who, among other things, writes prolifically about living with a disability. She rocks—and (quite literally) rolls.

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