notes from somewhere in the back row

I’m moving and rifling through four years’ worth of notes and books and clothes. Here are a few fragments from notebooks that didn’t make the storage cut.

Summer 2011, Fiction Writing II:

I’m kind of in love with my professor for only calling me Beatrice.

How to be an asshole:

1. Mention your typewriter

2. Humblebrag about how post-modern your work/question is

3. Say these things:

3a.“I think, for all of us, youth might be our greatest fault,” and

3b. “I read a lot of Native American poetry,” and

3c. “You all know who Kerouac is, right?” and

3d. (on Indians) “Not Columbus’ misconception(????), the Asian ones”

Spring 2010, Earthquakes and Natural Disasters:

We lose dollars; we tend not to lose people

Unknown Class, Unknown Time:

New Mexico is for introspective writers/actors and geologists. Give it back to the Native Americans (96)

Summer 2011, Fiction Writing II:


Golf ball through the kitchen window


This guy did not. Get. It.

Every (f) Good (a) Boy (c) Does (e) Fine (accompanied by a picture of a treble clef and scale)



Last night I realized there is a reason “set and keep a budget” is number one on my to-do list and why I’ve been avoiding it for so long.

Jenny Blake, of Life After College, has a Four-Step Budget Template in ExCel that I sort-of took advantage of last year. I say “sort-of” because I think I filled it out then never looked at it again because I am Veruca Salt.

There it is: I am Veruca Salt.

You see, Veruca and I are both entitled children, although our entitlement comes from different places. Her (heaven help me, I am seriously writing about a fictional character) entitlement comes from never having heard the word no; mine comes from never saying the word no.

In the Four-Step Budget Template the first step is to fill in your income. This is what lulls me into a false sense of security. I work in an office during the week, at a chapel during the weekend and I get a semester stipend for the volunteer work that I do with our event planning board. Now, throw in sixteen credit hours, “free time” (work outs, hang outs) and don’t forget sleep! And you’ll see why I feel entitled to a new MZ, extra guac and the occasional four hour flight away from deadlines and the like. Because when I say “yes” to one thing, it’s always a secret promise to myself to say yes to something else just for me—which isn’t bad, technically, it’s just not always reasonable.

The second step in the budget template consists of the “must have expenses,” like: I must pay my rent and utilities if I’d like to keep up with the “I am human” illusion—also, my cell phone bill so I can either constantly ignore my friends’ text messages or constantly lament the fact that they never text me (Step #1 in being Veruca Salt, ie THE WORST: always feel burdened).

In step number two therein lies the rub. For in sleep what dreams may come and in must-have expenses all those dolla bills from step one must go.

Step three is where the “nice-to-have” expenses come in, like yoga classes twice a week, that previously mentioned MZ, or even enough money left over for a concert and a book—which I want: all of the above, no exceptions please.

Step four is the allowance, which is what’s left over when all the expenses are taken out of your income.

If I cut one job (which I’m really thinking about doing: life’s too short! Carpe diem! I’m over it! Et cetera, et cetera!), that reduces my allowance down to twenty dollars a month. TWENTY BUCKS.

That’s also considering the fact that ten percent of my paycheck is put away in savings as a “must-have” expense. I got my first job at sixteen and ever since I’ve been practicing the ten percent saving strategy, which used to be chump change  but is pretty hearty now. Also, I’ve counted my September festival trip into a second savings tab in “must-have” expenses, because I want to make sure I can afford it. I’d honestly rather cut some “nice-to-have” expenses (like eating out or booze) for a couple of weeks/months for a few days of exactly what I want a few months from now.

Which, I guess is how I would instruct the other Veruca Salts of the world in growing up, because that’s what this. I am getting dangerously close to technically being an adult.

First step: learn patience.

We know you want the world, girl (or boy—Veruco, anyone?) and that you “want it now” but it’s 2011—everyone wants that! Where there’s smoke there’s fire and where there’s demand, there are inflated prices. Also, feline aids.

Sorry 'bout it

Second step: Learn that when you say no (to waiting, work, anything), it means you have to temporarily say no to something else that you want. Like I said, everybody wants everything, meaning you will have to wait for something.

Final step: be original. Veruca is an original; you can tell that by her killer imagination. If it weren’t for her indulgent father, she might have been able to just let that blossom without always needing to have some concrete representation of everything that ever popped into her head (side note: I would pay all twenty of my “allowance” dollars to see a Jumanji remake starring her and her father because you know she’d beg him for a real-life version of the game instead of the plain-ol’ regular game).

Everyone wants everything, so you know what’s cool? Not wanting everything. At the very least, look at what you want and figure out whether it comes from a desire within or outside of yourself.

Rest assured, your life (and heart) will go on without those shoes/that game/that phone/that accessory.

When in doubt, don’t over-think it, do not be a vermicious kinid and Augustus, please! Save some room for later!

still learning: petty bullshit

Along with the documentary film class, I am also in a creative non-fiction class (and I am THISCLOSE to sending my professor the link to this here page because he has a fondness for latent curse words and long winded college students) (and is also really, really cool) (Hi Joe!) (just in case). My classmates and I have to share some special narrative as our semester project and I’d like to not write about myself because, honestly? I start enough sentences with the letter “I” and it’s starting to mess with my psyche.

For creative non-fiction I wanted to investigate someone else, redevelop some empathy. I wanted to find Lawrence’s answer to The King of Kong, a Sandy Cohen-esque lawyer or politician or even just some person who happened to be standing on a street corner at four in the afternoon.

In part, this desire came from the fact that I got wrapped up in some petty bullshit and a constant queue of questions about said bullshit. Consequently, my mind became locked on (TEN GUESSES WHAT IT WAS) petty bullshit.

It was everywhere. It was oppressive. It was disgusting and it was all I thought about. The worst thing about it was that it it locked me into this mindset where my immediate reactions and complaints were okay to say because O.M.PETTYBULLSHIT.

The worst thing about petty bullshit (pettybullshitpettybullshitpettybullshit) besides the fact that it literally holds no meaning outside of the wasted time spent festering about it (and OH, the festering) is that it creates this loud ass noise in your mind that drowns out all empathy and anything good. Or, you’ll have the good then you’ll get somewhere and remember the PB and be all “BLERGITY BLERG AAARG.” And once you say AAARG you may as well invest in an eye patch and move to Somalia because you are officially a vampire.

Last July I found a quote about sunlight and started to write a draft around it. I loved it but I couldn’t find what context I wanted to use it in. I pressed “SAVE DRAFT” and let it sit there. I get it now.

It says:

The sun too shines into cesspools and is not polluted

So you know the days covered in soot, ash, fog and smoke? That is petty bullshit.

Imagine yourself as this weightless, bright light acting as Mary-Mary-quite-contrary helping the flowers grow, warming the beach on the sand, creating picturesque landscapes that inspire artists to paint and lovers (would-be or used-to-be and gonna-bes) to make phone calls, take pictures or look through old albums.

The same light that holds the promise of a new day and new experiences, that represents all possibilities and all beauty can make rainbows in the pools of oil left behind by rusty cars with nothing but their insides left to give.

It’s so obvious that humans should see that in themselves. We should see the light peeking through—first in slivers and finally in bright rays. It’s so obvious that we’re all supposed to sparkle and shine. Because the bullshit isn’t remarkable, it’s the persistence and consistency of that spirit inside of us that reenlists itself every morning.

So, why be a vampire? Why hide from the sun?

The best part is that even in the worst times, whenever you find yourself growing grim about the mouth; when it is a damp drizzly, November in your soul; whenever you find yourself involuntarily pausing before coffin warehouses…it’s never really gone.

I can’t say that’s that and wash my hands clean, because who knows what will happen tomorrow? But in the meantime, I can let the sun shine.

last summer in Lawrence

Ps, I think I’m secretly falling in love with the cold again. “Again” because it happens every year but I deny it because it is my Rhett Butler.

have you ever seen the rain?

It’s the winter solstice and it feels like summer.  It feels like time is stretching itself out, bending and not breaking, giving me more hours to read and think and talk—and most importantly—write.

I’ve missed writing.  For a while I was afraid of it because I thought I had nothing to say, that everything lacked substance or worth.  I have shared so few stories this semester that I’ve started to think that there are none worth telling.  So, I’m starting with the first story and finding my way to where I am now.

This is from the end of summer and the beginning of the school year.

Jordan came back into town for a few weeks during the summer.  I saw him at a party and we re-exchanged numbers so we could meet for coffee.

I had fruit and biscuits with vegetarian sausage and gravy while he had tea, or maybe it was coffee?  I am only half certain that these details are relevant to the story.

We were in a dive—or what I would classify as a dive—in downtown Lawrence.  There’s graffiti on the walls and a constant loop of old-timey cartoons playing in front of an old floral couch.

I had just started working as a chapel assistant for weddings so I had to leave.  He had been in Costa Rica for an entire semester: getting tan, growing a beard, cutting his hair, getting harassed by his Tica grandmother.  There was so much more I wanted to hear and live vicariously through so I asked him what he was doing for the rest of the day and invited him to the chapel.

He’d never been—I feel like almost everyone’s first time inside of that chapel has been with me.  The ceremony ended and we saw that it was raining outside.  Or, maybe we didn’t notice then?  The rain didn’t matter though.

Long ago I realized that I was not made of sugar and spice; that my kind does not melt in the rain.  So, we let time amble on and we didn’t rush to catch up, walking in the rain.

Three boys sat on their sheltered porch and yelled out to us.

“Hey, you want to get out of the rain?”

We told them “maybe later.”

We went into the hotel from the side door through Jimmy Johns, away from the circle drive and the valet parking.  We took the elevator to the fifth floor terrace and watched the uniformed hotel workers run back and forth, carting plates and glasses and silverware from the deck to the safety of the hotel.  We helped them out and held the door.

I told him the best view of Lawrence was on that terrace, but now that I think about it I might have been wrong.

We started the walk back to my car and stopped to meet the boys on the porch.

They told us the history behind their house and gave us a few beers.  We met their dog, Tyson, and then I drove Jordan back to his car.

Jordan and I lived on the fifth floor of Lewis Hall our freshman year.  It was the “Spanish Language Learning Community”—our resident assistant spoke Spanish fluently and those of us in the LC were supposed to speak in Spanish to each other. He ended up spending an entire year in Costa Rica. I finished the required amount of Spanish classes and feel closest to Spanish culture when I’m at the Mexican restaurant downtown that doesn’t card and serves cheap pitchers of frozen margaritas.

Jordan called me (still calls me) trendy and once when I bought a pair of shoes and threw the cardboard box in the trash, Jordan called me out on it and put the box in the recycling.

Once, he told me I should write about my lime green rain boots.

I guess this is as close as I get to filling that request.

almost two years ago

I feel stupid & contagious

In the middle of a thirty minute presentation on managing stress yesterday I realized I was tensing my shoulders and back as I checked the passing time on my phone.

I live ten minutes in the future.

What are you going to ask me?  Here’s the answer.

I’m not done yet, am I?  Let me anticipate exactly what you want (or what I think you should want), then do it.

I feel like I’m constantly ready to pounce and I feel it.

I feel it in my arms, in my back, in the tip of my tongue as it stumbles into my teeth when I try to scoot all my words out as quickly as possible.

Because we don’t have enough time and if I’m ten minutes in the future, then everything is due ten minutes sooner.  Pretty soon it will be due yesterday and don’t we want it to be the best that it can be?

On Thursday I spent twelve hours on campus.

Thirty minutes getting there.

One hour and fifteen minutes feeling confused in Astronomy.

One hour and fifteen minutes in an office.

Four hours in another office, filing scholarship papers, bills and sorting mail.

A few minutes every hour answering questions.

One hour printing papers, buying thank-yous.

One hour showing and telling.

Another hour just telling.

Two hours discussing.

I have skipped sleep and lunch and I am not one of those people who can do without the sustaining power of sleep or food.  I am the Hulk.  I am the evil stepmother.  I am not myself. And I am exhausted.

I spent an hour and a half talking before going back to the Hulk’s life.  I saw me for the first time in days, maybe even weeks.  I saw this me that I really enjoy.  I see this me when I write and read and tweet silly things and I want her always.

I write more when I’m feeling like this.

Maybe I just want the world–the whole world, Veruca Salt-style.

I’m in this place now where I cry when I read quotes from Lord of the Rings and it takes me two and half weeks to respond to my best friend’s emails (from New Zealand) and I send out messages like “Give me ten minutes” then take half an hour and I come home to more work and the monkey on my back is a deadline or two or four or seven and I can’t finish this sentence because if I stop talking I have to move on and I don’t feel like it yet.

“Remember what Bilbo used to say: It’s a dangerous business, Frodo, going out your door. You step onto the road, and if you don’t keep your feet, there’s no knowing where you might be swept off to”

I want to hang the adventure plaque by the door and I want to explore.

But my bones are heavy with the weight of the future and I’m not sure they can take the extra steps.

This is probably the beginning of my mental collapse.  I need a  massage.  Or a margarita.  Or both.  Probably both.  But I’ll start with sleep.

Welcome to my nervous breakdown!

I’ll Be Here When It All Gets Weird

This post really only works if you scroll down to the bottom and press play before you start reading.

I came home for the weekend for the free food, official start of summer and to pick up my Bonnaroo ticket.

It seems every time I get back there’s less and less here for me.

I finally quit the part-time job I’ve worked here for the past couple of breaks; I’m not sure which kids from my graduating class are living at home for the summer and the big kicker?  When I grabbed stuff to bring home I left my laundry and grabbed my toothbrush and face wash.  I’ve never had to bring toiletries home.

Here my bed is unmade, my winter coats and boots scattered around and thrown on the floor.   I can’t find the other side to my old pair of keds and none of my favorite books are here to entertain me.  Even my library card is expired.

But even though I had to ask my mother for the spare set of house keys and lost my parking spot in the driveway I got to spend hours and hours laughing with my best friend, airing out my dirty mouth, and getting to see and listen to what she’s been up to for the semester.   I got to lay in bed this morning watching Newsies with my sister, trying to figure out what the non-Christian Bale actors are doing these days.   I baked a tray of mint chocolate brownies and had help in making them disappear, and now I’m sitting on the couch, watching shitty television with my mother while my dog begs for scraps of food from our plates.

Wherever I am you will always be, more than just a memory

No, I don’t live here.  But it’s home, homehomehomehomehome on the range.

Yeah, Bon Jovi, who says you can’t go home?

don’t know much about history, pt 1

Passing a class is not the same as learning from a class.

Whoa, right?  Duh.  We all know that.

The first semester of my freshman year I took an English course titled “Fun With Ancient Rhetoric!”–the exclamation point was included.

We talked about Cicero, Marc Antony’s famous Hearts speech, Plato and other shit that was the antithesis of fun.  There was a lot of crying, wailing and gnashing of the teeth that semester.  By the hand of God and a well-timed study group, I ended up wading through that material and ending the class with an A.  Talent, I thought, but in reality the professor was old and basically gave everyone an “A for Effort.”

I didn’t realize that though.  I thought I was brilliant, unconquerable, bestriding the narrow world like a Colossus.  My western civilization course taught me that I was wrong.

I didn’t get the old writing, didn’t totally understand its importance.  Yes, I had been impressed by the fact that these ancient rhetoricians gained respect and high positions in government based purely on their persuasive speech.  It could have been a wink and a gun or a disarming smile and Cary Grant good looks.  It could have been anything, it just had to work.

If you were a sensationalist, you got the results (ie: KILL CAESAR); if you were rational, you got it all (ie: YAY MARC ANTONY, yadda yadda yadda–we’re easily convinced in times of crisis).

The point is, what is it that you are hearing and seeing, and what reactions does it incite in you?  Why?

Once again, it’s the whole “This is water – liberal arts educations aren’t teaching what to think but how to think in a more considerate way”- Be awake, be aware- thing.

And I have to be honest, I understand the point but sometimes I don’t have the time.  Actually, throughout the school year I rarely had the time to do more than skim through the assigned texts.

My summer reading is devoted to making the time and working to understand it all.  Starting with World War II, the “tragedy of reason.”

What is the point of scientific development if it can only teach destruction?

What is the point of logic if it can help someone justify mass extermination?

Starting with John Keegan’s The Battle For History, progressing to Mein Kampf, ending with Profiles in Courage because I’ve got time and I have to actually earn that A, even if it is in retrospect.

day 320. the final(s) countdown.

I will not write about that crazy dream I had last night, wherein I broke a bobble-head and was ostracized because of this.  It was a bobble-head of a woman named Dawn, who had short brown hair.  Like the last dream, I’m pretty sure that means something significant.

If I looked back in the files, I could probably find a couple of posts from midterms when I was FREAKIN’ OUT because I had no time and the world was caving in on me and studying was causing sensory overload and then everything turned blue and I was sure I was colorblind, then I calmed down, realized I was taking waaaaay too much cocaine and checked myself into rehab (jokes).

Wait, what just happened here?

Point: finals week is not a “sink or swim” type of week.  If you’ve paid attention in your classes, showed up for a majority of them, and generally understand the point of those classes, you’re going to do well–or, at the very least, you’re going to do as well as you have been doing.

Last semester my toughest class was my stupid Biology class.  I worked my ass off the entire semester studying for those exams, and I did pretty well, in general.  The Biology final was on Friday in the late afternoon.  I was completely exhausted from an entire week of finals–I had one every day that week.  I studied/memorized some facts about Biology, went into the test, filled out the test in less than ten minutes and left because I was EXHAUSTED, remember?  I got my grade back for the class and I got a B overall, but I definitely got a D on the final.  I’m not sure what lesson I learned with that one, but I was pretty excited about that B.

I hate science and math classes, and I’m very lucky I didn’t have to take any this semester.  I’m okay with my finals load this semester, because I’m not just filling in bubbles; I’m writing and explaining what I learned and it’s significance.  Yeah, my hand is going to get pretty tired and I’ll probably have carpal tunnel by Thursday, but at least I actually give a shit this time around.

day 246. ridiculous google searches: how to open a coconut

I made dessert last night–fried ice cream; a recipe that called for the use of a coconut. I stupidly wandered around WalMart and then Dillon’s searching for coconut flakes, because they sell those, right? No, no they don’t. I figured that out hours later when I finally just bought the damn coconut.

I imagined I’d get it open with sheer brain power, so I took a nap and figured when I woke up it all would have worked itself out. Before deciding to just not make the dessert, I said to myself, I says: “Bea, why don’t you just Google how to open a coconut?” So I did and, man, there are a lot of people on the Interwebz that are dying to show us how to open coconuts:

how to open coconut

I mean, really? One is totally enough.

As you can see, I clicked the first one and went to work.

Finally, I got to get some use out of those tools I told my mom I’d need for the year.

And do you know what the loudest most obnoxious sound in the world is? The sound a hammer makes when trying to crack open a coconut wrapped up in a towel.

And the most tedious process in the world (not including any office job ever worked by anyone, anywhere in the entire world)? Scraping coconut fruit out of the coconut rind.

And, holy shit, rounding up ingredients? NEVER again. Never, ever, ever again.

And do you want to know the most satisfying crunch of all (not including the crunch of Cap’n Crunch)? The first bite of your first ever, not made from a box dessert.

day 245. the very definition of irony.

How is a lost man turning 98 ironic, Alannis Morisette?

You know what is really truly ironic? Leaving a party that is “obviously going to get busted”, where there are hundreds of people spilling out the front and back doors, then going to a small get-together of 10-12 people, having the cops show up and having to run out the back door, across the street and then hide in between cars in a parking lot.

It’s the very definition of ironic.

Which is why I started laughing ten steps out the back door, and almost fell down the slight downward slope of the neighbor’s backyard in these shoes:


Because, really? Ten people?? And we were just having a conversation and eating pizza. That was God’s way of telling us to go home and sleep so we can work on our homework tomorrow. And by “us” I mean me, and by homework I mean it’s the end of the world dot com.

And while we’re using superfluous references to websites (move on dot org, already, right?) I finally figured out what Diablo Cody is doing with her stupid teen-speak in her scripts—make fun of the fact that teens sound stupid a majority of the time! Yes, I am the last one to get it, but better late than never. I can finally fully appreciate her films!

Also, stupid thing that teenagers are really saying right now:

That is so FIRE.

Everything is so fire to some people. One girl commented on her facebook status that her fruity pebbles were “SO FIRE!” I was going to say that before we know it “poop” was going to get a positive meaning, but whoever first used the phrase “That is the SHIT” in a positive way already beat me to the punch.

Why can’t words just mean what they mean? We could lose so much of the ambiguity of communication that way; but then again, we’d probably lose some great poets that way too.

Eh, you win some, you lose some.