Sunday, November 23, 2014

American Empire

I feel just a little white-guilty about Hawaii. I mean, it was a sovereign nation that we annexed mostly because of corporate pressure. It's so remote, so different culturally, that my niece (who has been living here for 3 months) was shocked that it was a state: "This is part of America?!" she exclaimed.

No kidding.

That being said, it hasn't been a bad trip out here so far. Most delightfully, we've averaged a pineapple a day.

Sunday, October 5, 2014

Pics or It Didn't Happen

Jess Lally's wedding where I got to see Sister Pearson again.

sailing in San Francisco

On a Run with my Nephews

Eden Hatchets the Shark Melon

Birthday pre-birthday with Henry

Birthday Pre-Birthday with DC Friends

Actual Birthday in Texas

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

The Road Trip I've Always Meant to Take

I'm a good traveler.

Part of what this means is that I like going to new and/or exotic locales, eat weird foods, talk with strangers and not know 100% where I'm going to sleep. But this also means that I'm good at the traveling part. This is the 8-hour-flight part, the legs-tucked-up-on-your-luggage part, the waiting-at-the-bus-station part. I'm good at hunkering down, entering my own headspace and getting through the actual process of travel.

This has made me terrible at road trips. Because for all I want to see the remarkable things passing me by at 70 miles-per-hour, I also just want to hold my pee, eat a granola bar and finally get there. It's hard for me to stop my flow and get out to look around, but this time, this drive from California to Utah, solo, I was going to have the road trip I kept meaning to have. I needed to take one sister's car from the other sister's house to our parents and there was no deadline of when I has to be there.

 So I cranked up my tunes and took the scenic route, the 88 through California and then the 5, the "Loneliness Highway in America."
So I stopped at a California fruitstand and got cheap seconds...

And pulled over at scenic overlooks with historical/ecological plaques....

And took a break to take my shoes off in a lake...

And ate lunch at a quirky locales place where the two employees told me about the time Calvin (8-yr-old son of the owner) came in with a garter snake and scared off the lady customers

This sandwich was named for the owner, but his wife and son have their own sandwiches, too (the "Calvinator")

Did I mention the locals thing? This is where the regulars keep their own mugs. One employee was looking for a to rent a room to someone who was female, but also have 4-wheel-drive, so the other employee recommended she put a sign at the Harley shop, because "those are strong women."

And in Nevada I stopped at historical sites like Genoa.
And saw creepy antique displays

And creepy dioramas
and creepy jail recreations.

And I got to meet up with my friend Dana, who not only let me sleep on her couch, but went hiking with me...

To a beautiful, freezing cold lake.

And I stopped at Austin NV's cemetary.

I thought I'd be all cool and Billion Grave the place, but someone beat me to it!

And I went through sweet little towns and got pulled over for going too fast, but was given a kindly lecture about arriving alive and looking out for small towns and animals as I drive.
All in all, I'm going to claim this trip as a win, although there was a dull stretch in East Nevada, but that would have been the point that, had I a companion, we would have moved on to discussing Deep Things. Hint. Hint. Hint.

Sunday, July 20, 2014


Last night I canceled on a party that I agreed to go to thirty minutes earlier. A party that I had practically begged to be invited to, and invited others to. Not cool. In fact, as I sat down and started listing all the people and activities I had flaked out on that week, the list was chringingly long. Something's got to change.

I feel icky when I flake out, but most importantly, being a flake suggests that I don't actually care about the people I make plans with, that something else coming up, being tired or cold or hungry is enough for me to bail on the being who planned on me being there. "Flake" is just another word for "selfish." I remember Sarah Westerberg's speech about this years ago:

"Whether your commitments are in the form of promises, pledges, covenants, callings, contracts, or your word of honor, they must be kept. Whether they are commitments that are spiritual in nature, legal contracts, or seemingly trivial temporal things, they must be kept."

 She mentions 6 steps, which apply well to spiritual as well as temporal committment:

1-Know your obligations
2-Decide to commit to them
3-Follow the Master
4-Set realistic goals
5-Anticipate opposition
6-Reap rewards
Okay, so depending on your willingness to think WWJD in your temporal commitments, #3 might not feel as applicable, but I think this is a very wise list. Mostly, I think I have problems with #1, 4 and 5. I often forget who I promised what to, and then I over-saddle myself with too many obligations and double-book myself and then I don't have ANY time when something unexpected comes up, like being hungry or cold or whatever. This last week I left my phone up in the canyon and had to disappoint 3 friends. I came home hungry and chilly and canceled another event. I double-booked myself Saturday afternoon because I thought I could "swing by" a game night and never did. Many, and varied, are my sins of flakiness.

But they say that the first step is recognition. If I can identify what is temping me to flake out--being underprepared or overbooked or forgetful--then I can make adjustments like not planning so much, like being better prepared, like planning for potential difficulties.

But even though those are the things that cause me to flake out, I think today starts with #2: I want to commit to being a more committed person. Beth Allen told me that change doesn't have to start when the results are in, but when the decision is made. I'm going to make this decision: I'm going to keep my commitments. Maybe I won't be perfect, maybe I'll have some regression or setbacks, but I want to be a committed person, someone my friends can count on, because I do care about them, and I'm old enough to show them my commitment to them.

I hope I don't flake out.

Sunday, June 29, 2014

Oh! The horror?

I think it surprises people when they hear that I write horror. I am cute, cute little blonde Mormon girl, and often smiley and cheerful. But although they don't know it, I am one happy childhood away from being a goth. So why do I write horror? How do I reconcile my general joy in life with a genre that has the reputation of attracting alcoholic dyspeptic misanthropes?

I think I write horror because I love people. I love humanity in the abstract and individuals I meet, almost every single one of them. My philosophy underscores again and again the ways in which people are remarkable--individual, resilient, inspiring. This has been proved to me through so many different experiences: through the testimonies that I hear from the pulpit, through the personal statements I consult over at work, in the books that I read. People are able to so incredible, able to write poetry and construct spaceships and fall in love and conquer nations. For me, the horror of horror is this--people are remarkable, so isn't it shocking that we can be stopped with a brick to the head?

Great thoughts stopped, great hearts stilled, hopes and passions extinguished because of the mortality of our bodies. Just writing this makes me fidgety. But the next question is this, then: if I like people so much, then why subject them, even through fiction, to horror?

Because, for me, horror starts with the terror of death and lets that rational miracle of death lead to over horrors. A brief sampling include from M. R. James the snobbery of modernism, and from Ray Bradbury and the tennousness of civilization. Horror of death opens up the space to challenge things as they have always been and appear before us, and this, for me as a religious writer of ghost stories opens up a space for awe for something beyond the self and the immediate experience. In my own writing, the characters come up short in the face of such expanses. In the seatmate in "Transatlantic," the foster parents in "The Good Boy," in "Land of the Living," societal obligations loom heavy, while in "Moving" "the Addict" and "red.delicous" there's a struggle for the self to regain agency. This is how I think about horror.

A concluding word about gore: Respect drives the best horror. There can be no terror of death if the premise that people are remarkable is not present. Gore objectifies  human remains, reduces people to skin sacks of blood and sees only the physical element of death rather than the spiritual, the transcendant. In short, gore is a pornographic view of death.

Monday, May 5, 2014

Never Come This Way Again

Just spent a melancholy half-hour on the bus, listening to the Decemberists' 2011 album The King is Dead. Oh, the first half-hour of the ride wasn't bad, read Enos, listened to a book about crusades, but the second half, staring out the window listening to the music that had so moved me a year ago, I got to nostalgia.

I'm constitutionally prone to nostalgia, especially at the turning of the seasons: late spring and early fall. This time I started thinking of all the people who used to be such a part of my life, part of the routines of my days and weeks, who simply aren't any more. They've moved or I've moved and they keep moving and I keep moving. Jon Stoddard who went to Utah or Jon Johnson, who just went 20 miles south; Carrie von Bosie, who used to run grad student lunch, or Beth who used to haunt the institute building. Amy and Lindsey who I used to live with. My sister who is now two moves away from San Antonio--I don't even turn onto the street by her house on autopilot anymore. And on top of this, nothing has changed at all: I'm still studying at UT, doing much the same thing I've been doing for the past 4 years, which is the same as I've been doing for the past 10 years.

And I think back on all the times I've felt that swelling love, perhaps encapsulated by that beautiful album, which made me look around at humanity and want to take care of them all, listen lovingly to them, and I think, "And for all that, everything keeps changing."

Soon, I'll be part of that change. Not this year. I'm not one of the people graduating, moving on, leaving, who will become ghosts on my Facebook page and I will be pleased and surprised when I run into them in person in the future--Sara Snow, Rachel Hatch, Tony Torres. But someday that will be me. How glad I am that I'm not graduating this year. This year, though, will be my last year.

This week and next are the last lingering days of the semester, with graduation ending up the parade of awards banquets and end-of-semester lunches and happy hours. And after that, the clock begins to tick downward. The last summer musical at Zilker, the last 4th of July party, the last unholy hot August, the last my birthday (turning 30, itself a weighty milestone), the last Halloween, the last St. Nicholas for my friends, the last Burnet city Bethlehem, the last flight home from Austin, the last flight back, the last book selection for First-year Forum, the last UT class, the last spring break, the last Easter service, the last wiener dog races, the last day of a 25-year education. The future is littered with lasts.

I want to do all of it, want to drink it in and keep all of it, but then, also, that dark sadness seeps in that whispers, "It's always been lasts. It always will be."

Sunday, March 2, 2014

Happy New Month!

I'm gonna count this for a whole month of journalling, because I somehow can't just have new years resolutions: I need to have new months. Actually, I set a lot of goals. Goal setting is probably one of my strengths. Goal achieving being a totally different thing. But I love Sundays for reflecting, and Fast Sundays are like King Sunday for reflection. Here's the nuts and bolts of it:

Ah, February...

What I Did Not Do:
Write a full draft of my dissertation
Lose 5 pounds

What I Did Do:
Enjoyed a visit from my parents to Texas
Figured out my weekly routine
Finish revising my novel
Send my novel to an actual agent of novels
Party it up: Pink Dance, dates, "Knitting Circle"
Move to a new apartment with a new roommate
Start a new novel
Get an article accepted for publication
Study the heck out of the idea of love and friendship in the gospel

Ah, March...

What I'd Like to Do:
 Lose 5 pounds
Write a full draft of my dissertation
Run a lot more--probably finish Zombies, Run! (I have 14 left)
Study the Atonement and the Resurrection in preparation for Easter
Be all kinds of productive during Spring Break--writing, reading, and playing

But the non-nuts-and-bolts of it is that I have this space to think about where I am, and who I want to be and the people who are helping me to become that. I love Sundays, Sunday walks, Sunday journal/blog writing, Sunday phone calls, Sunday letter writing. It gives me a space to think, breathe and regroup for the week. Fast Sunday is even better because you're already contemplative from the thoughts of your fast and you don't have to take time cooking and eating (which is more than you think it should take). And since it's a new month, you can go through your planner and write down all of the things you've got going on that month (I have something planned every weekend!) and think about how that month will go. It's like a little reflective holiday for one.

Sunday, January 26, 2014

Five of My Favorite Runs

Last night I read an article about being a runner that said that you have three milestones in becoming a runner: one is the day that you decide to run until do other forms of (usually wimpier) exercise; two is the day that you call yourself a runner and you're not faking it; three is when you see that running is what you do, it's who you are.  While I like to run and I run a lot, probably more days than most people, I always hesitate to call myself a runner, probably the same way that I write a lot of poetry, but I hesitate to call myself a poet. But I do write a lot of poetry and I run a lot, and since I've recently share my poetry (quality unspecified), I might as well share with you some of my favorite runs as well. and let's pretend that this is a ranking, even though I know that's going to change depending on what mood I'm in.

5. Kaliningrad Loop

This, or something very like this--I don't remember going on such a big road, but we definitely crossed water and ran in front of the Cathedral--was the route that I would run with my own companion who liked to run, Sister M. Sis. M. could run the pants off me; she had grown up in a small NM town, had been on the volunteer fire department, worked construction with her dad, and she flew. We would start from home, of course, and run up to this bridge, that, it seems, was also a bridge for trains, then down through a park that went by a navel or science museum of some sort, then past the Konigburg Cathedral (she could run up the stairs and down again by the time I passed them) then loop back around home. Sis. M. would smoke me, of course, but she would always be drenched, like shirt-wringing drenched, in sweat when we came home and the babooshki would tell us that we didn't need to run as long as we didn't eat sweets after 8.

4. Las Vegas Strip
My complicated relationship with Vegas has been explained already on this blog. A couple of times.But, man, do I love going for a morning run down the Strip. Here's what you have to look forward to: 1) morning stays around much longer in Vegas. You can go for a morning run at 9 and things will still look like they did at six. 2) good company. There are many like-minded who didn't stay up late, and like to wake up early, and you will see them get out of their hotels and go running with you. Others, like drunks and drifters, will literally cheer you on. Some of the funniest spectators of my life, one guy said, "Keep running and you'll finally get out of here." 3)stairs One of the best things about this run is that the whole strip is designed to keep people moving with pesky things like stop lights. That means you can keep running and running. And for those places where you must cross a street, there are up-and-over stairs that are plenty of opportunities to get your stair run on 4) scenery you can run through pirate adventures, renaissance Italy, Rome, pyramids...definitely doesn't get boring

3. Provo River Trail Downhill
Did this while training for my half marathon, and it was amazing. You get dropped off in South Fork Canyon, and run all the way to my house. It's a gentle downhill slope --except for that painful kick up Grandview hill at the end--and it's cool and green and lovely and there are plenty of other runners on the trail. Such a delight.

2. Town Lake/APA
Yes. Last new years I resolved that I would sign up to take the dog running training (and I did) and run the dogs at the animal shelter (and I do). I love it. Usually we do a 2.75 mile loop to the bridge of town lake from the shelter and back.

1. Walnut Creek
Walnut creek park was my favorite thing about Austin when I moved to Austin. It's easy to get lost, there are lots of trails and people and dogs and community. It's pretty great.

Monday, January 20, 2014

Low Ebb of Motivation, Productive Procrastination and Cedar Fever

It's a holiday. I don't have work at the writing center. I do have work I could do, most importantly, work on my dissertation, which I haven't worked on for a month. I haven't been lazy: I've reviewed an article for a journal, produced a podcast, editing someone else's dissertation. I've even been writing: I finished a novel, I revised a book review, created 10 lesson plans. But I'm having a hard time just sitting down and working on my dissertation.

Oldest song in the book, right?

But it's not like I want to do anything relaxing. I don't want to watch Hulu. I cancelled my Netflix. I'm ages behind on the PBS shows.  I don't want to just chill with the friends of mine who do have the day off. I don't have any holiday plans for a bike ride or a trip or anything.

I'm stuck in this unpleasant not-doing but also not-not-doing. Do I take the day off in earnest or work in earnest? The library is closed, but is my building locked? I hate this in between. I feel like at the end of this day I will have nothing to show for it--no major accomplishments, no happy memories, just a lot of indecision, pacing and avoidance.

But before I castigate myself, I'm tired. I want to lie in bed. This, I learned my second February here, is how I process cedar fever, the terrible allergy season of this time of year. This year pollen has been uncommonly high and some of my friends and classmates look like wrecks. I should be happy I'm not sneezing up a storm or all puffy eyed and pained, but this letharigia looks just like my low motivation--I'm not sick enough to call myself sick and just stay in, but I'm not well enough to do what I'd like to do. In. Between.

Sunday, January 5, 2014

New Year's Posters

Two years ago's propaganda posters were the best--they were good looking and reminded me of what I wanted to do with my year, so I decided to go for it again. Blogger has, as usual, ruined everything when you try to upload, but remember that these look awesome in practice. Anyway, all that aside..

This year's New Year's Resolutions posters are themed...Victorian work advertisements!

Sport  &

·     Runs the very Toughest of all Mudders!
·     Is in fit, fightin’ shape with a slender girlish figure
·     Hikes ONE HUNDRED MILES— with her sister!
·     Runs with unwanted and unkept canines!
·     Finishes the course of Zombies, Run! with glee
·     Works out an hour a day--excepting the Sabbath

Family and Social

·     Seeks out new friends and friends of friends.

·     Re-reads and practices How to Win Friends and Influence People and its principles!

·     Supports her family, especially nieces and nephews, with letters, calls, packages and sundry divertissements!

·     Strengthens bonds through time and wholesome recreational activities.

 Temporal Order

·     Continues to keep a budget—monthly and for special activities!
·     Keeps up with the routines of the Woman of the Fly!
·     Establishes a cheerful, welcome home!

Spiritual Goals

·     Reads the Book of Mormon in its entirety!--
·     Enjoys all her callings—where’re they be
·     Writes in her journal a minimum of once weekly!
·     Is still, patient and listens