When I Think of Summer 2018…

My summer’s almost come to an end–it’s almost time for workshops, writing, lesson planning, grading, meetings, readings, etc. It’s almost time for my second year of grad school to commence.

Oh man. I’m so excited for the upcoming semester.

And while I’m excited for what’s ahead, I wanted to write a little post about this summer, about the little moments that have become memories.

So. When I think of the summer of 2018–

I’ll think of purchasing bubbles for a dollar and sitting in the backyard nightly, blowing bubbles for Ellie (my pup) to chase.

I’ll think of reading so much and learning so much for my craft. This summer I truly discovered the complex joy that is literary fiction.

I’ll think of large Diet Cokes with vanilla from Sonic, purchased almost every single day during happy hour.

I’ll think of the week I spent with my best friend up in South Dakota and Iowa, in which we talked and drove and talked and bid on pies and ate s’mores and went on a wagon ride to which I said, “It’s like Kilimanjaro Safaris of South Dakota!”

I’ll also think of the soundtrack Joseph & The Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat and miles and miles of corn fields.

I’ll think of finally seeing Waitress after more than a year of obsessing over the soundtrack and the story. Sweet smells (that lobby, though!), sweet pie, sweet experience.

Side note: when can I see another musical?!

I’ll think of trekking to the local library almost every day to write fiction (hopefully the start of my thesis…ahh!) among the books, huge wireless pink headphones spitting the newest Carousel revival soundtrack into my ears, the songs “Mister Snow” and “If I Loved You” always on repeat. So soothing. So nuanced. So great.

I’ll think of finally writing more for this blog after months of being stuck.

I’ll think of The Handmaid’s Tale and Mad Men, the two shows I watched religiously over the summer. Elisabeth Moss is a master, and the characters she portrays are incredible.

Side note: from now on, whenever I’m feeling a little glum/not confident when it comes to my work, I’ll ask myself, “What would Peggy Olson do?” She’s amazing. 

I’ll think of the sleep I lost because I stayed up late watching The Handmaid’s Tale and Mad Men. 

(Ha. I love television, don’t you?)

I’ll think of my re-discovering the gloriousness that is Ben & Jerry’s Phish Food (is that how you spell it?!) ice cream.

I’ll think of barn swallow nests and bird watching.

And, finally, I’ll think of spending time with the people I love most.

It was a good summer, indeed.

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Twentysomething Thoughts

The following post contains twentysomething thoughts unique to my own experience, inspired by a real-life middle-of-the-night existential crisis. 

Enjoy!

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Does anyone still feel like they’re perpetually sixteen? Or is it just me?

Should I know how to do [insert random thing you don’t know how to do] by now? (For me, personally? I don’t know how to change a tire. Or the oil. Or fix a toilet or a toaster. Or anything.  Isn’t that what AAA is for? And management? Or am I pathetic?)

Do I look “old?” Or could I pass for a college junior/senior? I mean, I am in grad school… it’s still school, am I right?

I think I look old. I spot crow’s feet. I need moisturizer, stat!

I remember when I was in high school and my friends and I were just sittin’ around chattin’ during lunch about our futures, and I remember thinking, okay, by the time I’m 24/25 there will definitely be a guy I’ve either married or am about to marry, and I’ll have a real job, and maybe a little house and for sure a dog or two, and I’ll be thinking about kids by the time I’m thirty, for sure. 

Isn’t that hilarious?

I mean, if you do have that–good for you. Truly. That’s awesome.

I just can’t imagine that right now. For me, at least–it’s scary. So permanent.

I do have a dog. Ellie. That’s something. My goodness, I love her. Do you want to see a picture? You do? Okay, then! Here you go:

Back to this permanence thing–I think that’s what scares me most. As I’ve grown older, I’ve discovered I like things to change, I like to move around and mix it up. My dreams change, my address changes, my taste in clothes changes, etc.

So when it’s time to “settle down,” will I be ready for it? Could I live in one place forever and ever? Could I do the same thing every day forever?

Is anyone ever really ready for it?

Shouldn’t I be content with permanence? Shouldn’t routine be a comfort? A joy? Only some are lucky enough to have it, I guess.

Okay, this next one is serious:

Do I need a signature shade of lipstick?

The thing is, even though I’m mostly just a chapstick kind of gal, there’s a part of me that loves the idea of a signature lip shade, perfume, scarf, etc. Having a signature anything–now that’s something, isn’t it? Isn’t that the epitome of being a grown-up, a woman in charge?

Maybe I’ll look into it. The signature lip, I mean.

What if I always feel unsure of everything? Why do I always say, “I’m sorry,” or “I don’t know,” after every dang sentence? I’ve noticed I try to qualify everything that comes out of my mouth. I know what I think; why do I feel like I have to apologize for thinking it?

You know what’s sad/funny? I’m obsessed with presentability. I want every aspect of my life to be presentable. Acceptable.

It’s funny because I claim not to be.

I want to be acceptable. Normal. Me. My apartment. My clothes. My car. My bag. The stickers on my laptop.

Am I too old to have stickers on my laptop?

Is anyone ever really “too old?” I mean, whenever I say, “I feel so old,” to my mom, she just rolls her eyes and says, “Kaila. You are not old.”

And I don’t think she is either.

Don’t we all want to get super, super old? Isn’t that the goal, ultimately? So why do we worry about the whole age thing? Shouldn’t people just be people no matter the number of years they’ve lived?

So there’s no “too old,” or even a “too young,” right? Or is there?

I don’t know.

There I am, saying (typing), “I don’t know,” again. Oops.

One thing’s for sure: I am in my twenties, and I have no idea what I’m doing most of the time.

Except for quesadillas. I know how to make quesadillas. And pasta. And scrambled eggs.

And that’s something.

 

Favorite Feelings

The first day of a vacation, i.e. what today is for me. (I’m coming for ya, Allyssa and Iowa and South Dakota!)

The first sip of a large Diet Coke with vanilla from Sonic, because it’s extra vanilla-y.

Reading in a pool, your body half-submerged as the sun warms your shoulders and arms.

When you flip on the Food Network and the Pioneer Woman is on. She’s fantastic.

The crunch of a tortilla chip dripping with creamy jalapeño sauce from Chuy’s. UGH. I melt.

A perfectly clean room.

When you sit down to write and your brain actually spits out ideas.

The first time you listen to an album or a song, and you end up loving it. It’s the magic of listening to lyrics for the first time, you know?

When you used to work at Disney World and you visit for the first time in over a year, and Russell from Up remembers you and walks you to the Wilderness Explorer Clubhouse. (Oh, Disney. I MISS YOU.)

Receiving snail mail from your friends. Just sayin’ hi.

Sitting between the shelves of the local library, writing. You feel so official.

Actually seeing–not FaceTiming, not texting–your best friend for the first time in months. (Tomorrow, tomorrow!)

The tickle of your dog’s tongue on your nose.

Watching baby birds evolve: from aliens to gargoyles to feathered gargoyles to real life birds.

Long drives by yourself. You sing at the top of your lungs and no one judges you when you zone out to think about life and stuff.

And on that drive, you’re able to think of new story ideas and blog posts (like this one) and you feel energized and creative and productive!

And, finally, the satisfaction that comes with writing your thoughts down. There’s nothing better.

Reading/Watching/Obsessing/Doing

It’s finally SUMMER. Oh, sweet summer! I’m done with school until August, and I’ve been whole-heartedly enjoying my “break” so far.

Let me tell you–I’ve been writing. A lot. But not for this blog, as you guys could confirm. I’ve been brimming with ideas for fiction, but I’ve been coming up short when it comes to this blog.

SO. Here’s a little post about what I’ve been up to since the end of the semester: what I’m reading, watching, obsessing over, and what I’ve been doing.

Reading

Since turning in my students’ final grades, I’ve been enjoying reading what I want to read. One of the best feelings in the world is the ability to choose your reading material and read at your pace, at your leisure. Ugh, I love it so much. I’ve read so much so far, at least for my natural pace–which is pretty slow for a lover of literature.

Since I”m trying to write literary fiction and mostly short stories, my goal this summer is to “catch up” and read as much literary fiction as possible. I finally made a Goodreads account, and HOLY MOLY I’M OBSESSED! I love the idea of tracking what I read and creating a “to-read” list! All in a handy dandy app! UGH! It’s so great.

My current reads are Fates and Furies by Lauren Groff (who has quickly become one of my favorite authors–holy cow) and What it Means When a Man Falls From the Sky by Lesley Nneka Arimah, a short story collection. Both are so good. I will say, I enjoyed Groff’s Delicate Edible Birds a little more than Fates and Furies so far, but MAN can she write!

So far, both books are on their way to earning a five-star rating. If you’re interested, check out my Goodreads page.  

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Watching

So a book I was required to read this past semester was The Handmaid’s Tale. I read it for my seminar in fiction class, which focused on creating stories influenced by “landscape.” It was the first book we read, and it couldn’t exemplify the course’s objectives more perfectly.

I’m currently obsessed with Hulu’s adaptation; I paid 99 cents for a three-month trial of Hulu just to watch the entire series. I’m caught up, and each week I look forward to Wednesday so I can check in on Gilead. I love how they do a weekly release–it brings back those “good old days” vibes when we had to wait a WHOLE WEEK to find out what happened next.

If you haven’t already, watch this series. Read this book. You’ll be disturbed, but man, oh man will it make you think!

Obsessing

We have barn swallows building a news on our back porch, and I am completely obsessed with them. They are the prettiest birds, and, according to my extensive Google search, some cultures believe they bring good luck to the household.

My goodness, I love them so much. Their names are Bernard and Bianca. I’ll [maybe] keep you updated.

Doing

Writing. Reading. Writing some more. Running a tad. Working on projects. Reading submissions for my university’s lit journal. Enjoying every single second of summer and its sweetness.

That’s all for now, folks. I hope you’re enjoying the warmer days, the sun, and, most importantly, your reading material. If you’re reading stuff you don’t like…STOP. Visit your library. Peruse its shelves. Fall in love with reading again.

Okay, that’s all. I’m off to watch my swallows build their nest. I love them, I love them, I LOVE them.

 

Rapunzel Hair

Hair is a funny, funny thing. We become attached to our locks, desperate to find the style that’s right for our faces, for our personalities, for our “aesthetic” we want to portray to the world.

I used to cling desperately to my long hair. There was a point when I had “mermaid hair,” hair so long it could cover…well. You know.

But I’ve always wanted a long bob. Always, ever since I was a little girl. But fear and my involvement in athletics made me wary of chopping my hair–I thought a long bob would make my face appear thicker, or I thought I’d miss braids and long ponytails. I thought my long hair was such a big part of me, and I was so afraid to part with it, even though it’s what I truly wanted.

You know what I finally realized just a few weeks ago? HAIR GROWS BACK. So I cut it. I’m going to try to find pictures of the longest hair and my shortest style and insert them right here:

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You know what’s amazing? This was my first haircut in which I almost HAPPY CRIED with the results. I WAS SO HAPPY THAT I FINALLY DID WHAT I WANTED! And I’m still so happy!

The moral of the story? Hair (or anything, really) doesn’t define you. You define you. Your dreams define you, your personality, your likes, your spirit. Our girl Rapunzel is the perfect example of a physical thing not embodying your essence–while she didn’t cut her hair herself, her hair was still her defining quality before the chop. When it was lobbed off, she was free of an expectation, free of Mother Gothel’s abusive restraints.

She went from “Rapunzel with the hair that glows when she sings” to just “Rapunzel.” And that’s all that she ever really needed to be.

I’m not saying long hair’s bad. Not at all–mermaid hair (or buzzed hair or blue hair or any kind of hair) is beautiful. I’m just saying to do what you want to do, do the things that truly make you who you are, and become who you want to be. That’s all we can ever do: love the things we love, be nice to people, and find joy in doing exactly the things you’ve always thought you’d never try. Let’s do the things we like and make a little bit of a difference in our little corners of the world.

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to go shake my head because I love how my new hair bounces when it’s curled.

Best. Day. Ever!

Currently Reading: All Things Anne

Note: the following post contains a lot of random musings about everyone’s favorite imaginative redhead–I would like to emphasize the word “random.” Enjoy! 

I finally carved out the time to read (almost) the entire Anne of Green Gables series. FINALLY.

Took me long enough. I was inspired by Netflix’s adaptation of the beloved series–while it was grittier than the books, the series did capture Anne’s ability to survive life’s hardships through optimism.

Disclaimer: while I loooooooove reading and writing and all things literary (former English major and current creative writing grad student here), I’m the kind of girl who can read a whole lot and then fall into a year-long slump in which I can’t seem to find reading material I truly enjoy. It’s been one of those years, but I’m working on it.

Anne has helped me discover reading again; returning to her world is like taking the first sip of morning coffee, sleeping in on a weekday, or having nothing on a must-do list.

I just love her. I love her, I love her, I love her.

Anne is so plucky and ambitious, especially early on. I adore the third book in the series–she attends Redmond College and learns what it means to live on her own away from Green Gables (with a group of delightful “chums,” of course), and she finally opens her eyes and her heart to the boy who has always loved her. She becomes a young principal of an entire school in book four, and she continues to win the heart of every reluctant soul around her. She marries Gilbert in book five and establishes her quaint and Anne-ish “House of Dreams.”

I have to admit, I love Anne the most when she’s single, books one through four. I love how she grapples with the world’s challenges on her own, and I love the relationships she forms with others along the way. Anne has a way of connecting with the misunderstood among society, and audiences aren’t treated to those relationships too much after she is married. Most often those difficult, “kooky,” or tormented souls are her “kindred spirits.” I love that about her–she’s unafraid of going against the grain, and she can win almost any heart with her unconquerable spirit.

Anne still has a way with others when she’s married, but she’s certainly more confined–not necessarily by Gilbert or her children, but by society at that time. Even though she was a successful educator and loved the world of academia, she does as societal custom requires (at least for the era) when she enters the world of marriage. She keeps an impeccable house: she grows gardens, sews clothes, has and raises babies, and keeps the House of Dreams and Ingleside in tip-top shape. She’s the matriarch of her little home(s), and while I know she loves it, I miss her free-spirited Green Gables or Redmond days.

Anne begins to settle as she grows older, which is both admirable (why not be content with the life you have?) but also bittersweet. She forgoes her childhood dreams of successful novel authorship, settling for the few publications in ladies’ magazines and newspapers. Those are still a wonderful accomplishments, but I wish she could have done a little bit of everything–I believe Anne could write the next great Canadian novel and still be a fantastic wife and mother.

No matter. Anne still has my heart, and I aspire to embody her optimism and grace.  Revisiting Anne’s world has been so refreshing and so inspiring–L.M. Montgomery’s dreamy prose and Anne’s spirit is like a drink of cool water on a sweltering Prince Edward Island summer day.

Does P.E.I. ever even experience a good swelter? Probably not, but the effect of the Anne series on my soul is that of contentment and delight nonetheless.

What are you currently reading? I could use some suggestions for future library excursions.

As always, have a magical, imaginative, and zip-a-dee-do-dah day, my friends.