Sunday, September 22, 2013

Lorrie Moore-esque Article

Don't Date a Girl Who Reads by Charles Warnke

Monday, July 1, 2013

50 Books 2013

1. I've already completed one book, Oliver Sack's The Mind's Eye which is a bunch of psychological case studies about losing particular abilities and how they affect one's life. That is the January book club book. I'll leave the discussion for that one to my friends and I because I don't want to spoil it for them, but it truly makes you think about how the body/brain adapts to not only function, but thrive. A friend from book club suggests the RadioLab at this address:

2. Writing Down the Bones by Natalie Goldberg was given to me by a writing friend of mine. Him and I have decided, separately and without influencing each other, that every Holly needs a Norm and every Norm needs a Holly. We are both writers and readers. He is a stew and I am a French restaurant, and both are necessary when writing. Natalie, as Norm familiarly calls the author, tells us how to ignore our inner critic and be zen, to reach into the present when we write, and to practice always. 1/25/13

3. J.K. Rowling defined my childhood, and so I am particularly keen to let her try and define my adulthood as well. Her new book, A Casual Vacancy, is a sad but poignant look at society from the perspective of a small town. We beat each other up with lies and gossip and we neglect our relationships to the point where people want to be alone, leaving us alone in the process. Simple acts of kindness and forgiveness are the only things that bring us out of the darkness. It is a sad book with a good heart. I'm not sure conservatives would get it. Good for social workers. 2/10/13

4. Never having read Alice in Wonderland or any other Lewis Carroll, Through the Looking Glass struck me as a science fiction about logic. It reminded me of Hitchhiker's Guide in a way, but without all of the religion universe stuff. It is a book where every sentence is chock full of meaning, showing how illogical our logic is. And Alice is just a seven year old girl with a fantastic imagination and three kittens, but she already embodies the society she comes from, despite her love of dreaming. The characters of Wonderland go too far, making her cry and get angry, when this world is what she asked for. The backwardness of it all is too much. Things must have some order, or nothing will get done. Plus lots of good poetry. 2/18/13

5. The Boys in the Trees by Mary Swan: Perhaps it is the quality of my circumstances, but this book was oddly incomplete. Every chapter was intertwined in a central story, but their life stories were missing. A sad tale of a man made crazy by the tragedies of life: an abusive father, his children killed by sickness, and always a lack of money. And other lives affected by his without their knowing. 2/22/13

6. I am one of three and thus, my father could not resist buying me a book about three sisters, The Weird Sisters by Eleanor Brown. If you have a good breadth of knowledge about Shakespeare (depth is not required), this book will amuse you. If you have siblings, particularly sisters, this book will amuse you more. It is so right in its portrayal of their relationship: how they are so different and yet so similar, how they fight for their parent's attention, or how they pair up two against one in various combinations all their lives. 3/2/13

7. Having always been told about the Japanese internment during WWII from the perspective of a white American or a Japanese American, Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet by Jamie Ford was fascinating because it was told from the perspective of a Chinese American child and his nationalist father. Because the Chinese were allied with the Americans and the Japanese, the Germans, and because the Chinese and Japanese had a history of conflict, the boy's father makes him wear a button that exclaims, "I am Chinese" so that he is not mistaken for one of the other race. Meanwhile, the second generation Japanese American girl who becomes his friend is more American than his parents, who barely speak English. It is a love story spanning multiple years, rife with conflict, long periods of separation, and renewed by the power of an old Jazz musician and a record found in the basement of The Panama Hotel. The book is set in Chinatown and Nihomachi (Japantown and later, the International District) of Seattle, but could be a story from any big city where the immigrants were separated from the "Americans". 3/10/13

8. My co-teacher has an affinity for Bill Bryson which led us to choose two of his works for our students to read, A Short History of Nearly Everything and my most current completed book, Shakespeare: The World As Stage. I hadn't read any Bryson before this, but I'm inclined to go towards him if ever I want to read nonfiction again. He is a true storyteller. He is as objective as a journalist and as critical as a scholar, but it is not boring. Before this, I knew entirely too much, or so I thought, about Shakespeare. It turns out I knew little to nothing about Shakespeare, though I know much of his work. Now I know what is told by the records, though very little indeed, and I love the man ever more. 3/23/13

9. The Book of Qualities by J. Ruth Gendler is a personification of emotional intelligence. Conveniently, there is a large section of our curriculum called "Emotional Intelligence" and our students love to act. Couldn't be a more perfect book for people of all ages to understand their own and other's emotions. It connects feelings to actions in a relatable way and gives you the idea that feelings are just there; actions are how you react to them. Overall, the book makes you feel normal. 3/26/13

10. At work we are doing a book study on Reality is Broken: Why Games Make Us Better and How They Can Change the World by Jane McGonigal. I just finished reading it and I am wholly impressed. I'm not a gamer, though now I'm tempted to try and be one. I'm definitely not a game designer, but now I'm tempted to be one just so I can work at Valve and create these games that will change the world. She convinced me, Jane did. For now, I'm just using games for some happiness hacks and attainable goals, but I'm looking into some of the apps she discusses, particularly The Extraordinaries and Groundcrew, which both deal with being an everyday hero for someone else. I want more people to read this book!!! 4/6/13

11. I read Through the Looking Glass so that I had some small background on this new book, Alice I Have Been by Melanie Benjamin which I've now decided I want to teach a class about. It is a "real life" take on Lewis Carroll's Alice in Wonderland and helps add sense to the nonsense of a child. I want to teach a class about nonsense where we read the three books, students write a compare and contrast paper, play human chess, build their own Wonderland, etc. There are just so many angles to look at the nonsense. Perfect for middle schoolers I think, though I'm a girl so who knows? 4/27/13

12. Finally finished Map of Time by Felix J. Palma, a novel inspired by H. G. Well's The Time Machine which I haven't read but am planning on doing. If you like novels like The Time Traveler's Wife and other science fiction or you are well read, this book featuring Wells, Henry James, and Bram Stoker is for you. It is weaving and you have to follow along closely (particularly towards the end), but the book will leave you wondering about the possibility of time travel, non-temporal love, and parallel universes. It is quite a lot to swallow. 5/30/13

13. If you are looking for a good sad but thrilling beach read, I'd try A Walk Across the Sun by Corban Addison. I got this book for $1 at Barnes and Noble, so I expected it to be awful, but it proved entertaining reading if not intellectually stimulating. Two stories, one of two sisters orphaned by a tsunami and picked up by sex traffickers and one of a lawyer who lost his daughter and his wife left him, intertwined by Indian culture and religion. With those two you travel through several countries and US states, tracing traffickers and dealing with the politics between governments trying to stop them. 6/7/13

14. If you've ever read anything about the Salem Witch Trials (which I did extensively as a child), this book is just like every other book on the topic. Heretic's Daughter by Kathleen Kent is well written and engaging, but there is no spark to differentiate it in my mind. I read through it quickly, and it is definitely a good beach read at the very least. It is based on a true story, so for you historical fiction lovers out there, I got you. 6/10/13

15. One of the first books my book club read, which I did not read with them, was Snow Flower and the Secret Fan by Lisa See. I had read books like The Joy Luck Club before and I knew from the book club discussions that the book was sad, but the word I would most use to describe it is poignant. This kind of loving friendship, in whatever culture, is beautifully described. It reminds me to always be a good friend, fair and not cruel, and to listen carefully. 6/16/13

16. After reading Never Let Me Go in a college literature class, I was hooked on Kazuo Ishiguro. I read When We Were Orphans and Remains of the Day. I just finished Nocturnes, a musical set of short stories about the power of music to make and break lives. I'm reading another by Ishiguro now and should be done in a few weeks. 6/28/13

17. I love books about the power of education over a pretty face. Surprisingly, this is the first time I've read Maya Angelou. In high school we read Invisible Man and in college we read Passing and Uncle Tom's Cabin. I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings held my attention far longer than other tales of the African American struggle. I believe that because I am white, I don't have the right to comment on the social politics of the story, but I enjoyed Angelou's message and style. She is a poet. 7/1/13

18. I feel like I keep getting further and further behind as I gather more and more books to read. Work Hard, Be Nice is probably the only nonfiction book I've ever read except maybe Reality is Broken that held my attention for a long time. Perhaps because I'm so interested in alternative education, seeing what other people have done successfully helps me formulate my own ideas. Also, I worked at KIPP Gaston in an Alternative Winter Break and it was a great experience. I came in to the book hypercritical after seeing the major teacher turnover/burnout and less successful KIPP high school there, but I can see how the original idea works. My favorite part is the emphasis on high expectations! 7/11/13

19. SPOILER ALERT: Upon finishing Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn, my first reaction was a big what the heck, who stays with the crazy lady? It was definitely a twisted book with a twisted ending, and a good mystery throughout. As popular as it is, I didn't think it was mind blowing but I see why people like it. The writing is good, it caters towards an educated crowd of mystery lovers while still maintaining interest chapter to chapter. But when I think about my life and that book, all I want to say is, "Don't stay with the crazy sociopath, especially after she tried to have you killed. Love does not mean being scared all the time. People should work at love because they actually like someone, not because they're afraid of them." 7/30/13

20. I've read quite a few Jodi Picoult, and Change of Heart does not break the tradition of page-turning, question-inducing, makes-you-think beach reading that I decided she cultivates. This one brings up thoughts of guilt versus innocence, the death penalty, hearts and heart transplants, the law versus religion, and much more. Mostly it asks us to believe in miracles and to question our path. All of the characters find it in their own way. 8/6/13

21. Oh my goodness it is finally over. I love love love Kazuo Ishiguro, but what the heck dude? Unconsoled took me forever to read and made very little sense because the main character doesn't seem to remember things like normal people. He forgets he has a son. I'm serious. I thought there was going to be a big turnaround where he has dementia or something. Nope. He's just a pianist with issues that get brought up by the town he is playing in. The town doesn't make any sense either: dead end streets, tiny alleys, buildings with so many annexes they don't appear to be the same building. Oh and the people, the crazy lunatic people. A random guy asks him to talk to his daughter because he's had an understanding with her where they don't speak directly to one another. People on the bus give them random food and talk about their wonderful jobs. A woman has townspeople over to discuss their problems, but she's not a psychologist. It's weird. I wouldn't suggest this one if you enjoy Ishiguro. 8/16/13

22. I like abcFamily. I admit it. "Pretty Little Liars" is a good show. It's easy to follow while also having interesting characters and clues. I decided to read the books because I'm an English person, and adolescents are way more likely to read what they have background knowledge in. Though I've only finished the first installment, Pretty Little Liars, the books aren't so similar to the show to be boring. The issues I have are with Sara Shepard's writing. She uses a lot of adjectives. She also likes expensive brands of cell phones, clothes, cars, and everything else. It is kind of odd to describe something by advertising the brand. And then use a ton of adjectives. It's simple writing and I guess she's trying to keep the attention of young girls, but that dates the book for just right now. She's not trying to create literature. She does use high level vocabulary (mostly adjectives), which I appreciate. 8/18/13

23. In the second installment of Sara Shepard's series, Flawless, the annoying peppering of brand names wasn't as bad as in the first book. The action is a bit darker in this book and I'm noticing patterns. There is always a big event of some kind at the end during which actions come to a head. The girls have parallel experiences in time, with the hostility of A coming at about the same time for all of them. In addition, the underlying question of both books is "Who is A?" with the assumptions of the girls being revealed as inaccurate at the end. 8/22/13

24. My stepmother's father, John Joseph McGuire, was an author. He collaborated with H. Beam Piper to write science fiction short stories before short stories were a big thing. He would write about an idea and then Piper would go through and improve the writing, my step-grandmother (Nan) typing as they talked. Null-ABC is one such collaboration, recently republished. The style reminds me of Vonnegut. There are many characters and detailed action. It is sometimes hard to follow, but that isn't what is important. If you can let the action go (as I had to do when reading Hitchhiker's Guide) there is a system of politics where those who can read control those who cannot, and the Illiterates have no incentive to learn to read. Some of the Literates, who wish to eliminate the party system as is, contrive to elect an Illiterate and make literacy attractive again. They dream of a day when everyone is literate. 8/25/13

25. Halfway yay! And this is where the PLL series of books diverges so much from the show that I finished most of Perfect by Sara Shepard in a day. We know who A is and we know who killed Alison and there are just no more mysteries for us readers. One more book to go (not planning on reading the second set of books) and maybe everything will be revealed to the characters. Doubtful, but still. Good vocabulary, annoying habit of branding. I'll read something a little less dramatic and a little more analyzable next. 9/5/13

26. Unbelievable was a good wrap up for the first set of PLL books while also leaving you with a cliffhanger if you wanted it. I didn't, so it was just a good wrap up. A bit predictable, though. It took me forever to finish it, and now I'm just glad it's over. On to a bit more literature and something more hm...mature. 9/9/13

27. I didn't realize that to write A Clockwork Orange, a book and movie about which I was blissfully ignorant, Anthony Burgess created an entire new popular culture language. My brain is left in a tailspin of hating the youth and wondering if people really do grow out of their faults or if society has to demand it. For example, there are drug dealers walking the streets of Baltimore City trying to make a living where they can't on a nine to five job (if they can even snag one). Are they at fault for being a particular kind of youth, like Alex? Or are they programmed like the droogs in the novel, needing the impulsivity of violence until they don't need it any more? Also, is jail a deterrent for those dealers, or just another place for them to be programmed, less likely that they are to get a job when they get out. Like I said, head spinning. Always liked apocalyptic fiction. Definitely think about reading. 9/27/13

28. The Storyteller by Jodi Piccoult, is a triple layer story. Sage meets an old man in the bakery where she works, Josef, who becomes her friend and tells her he was a Nazi in WWII, that he needs her help to die. Sage, an atheist from a Jewish family, calls the FBI. Meanwhile, Sage's grandmother Minka hides her pain from her family, a Holocaust survivor who lost her whole family and had to build a new one. Minka survived because of a story, the story of Ania and the upior, the Polish version of a vampire. Josef tells the story of how he became a Nazi, and his difficult relationship with his brother. There are twists and turns and hints and an interweaving that is magical. It is a bit predictable, but I enjoyed it. 10/4/13

29. The best part about The Sometimes Daughter by Sherri Wood Emmons was the setting, Indianapolis in the 60s and 70s. Mostly the plot was like she wrote down her thoughts as she thought them and then just arranged them so they made some modicum of sense. There was no climax. The ending was like Emmons was bored with writing the book so she just made everyone happy. That part made a little bit of sense, since life is like that and the characters were continually looking for happiness like we all do. This was a book I got on discount for $3.00, so I wasn't expecting it to be added to the cannon. 10/6/13

30. I was not satisfied with the ending of Defending Jacob by William Landay. Since it's on the bestseller list, I won't spoil the ending for everyone; I just want to say that I was not satisfied. I rarely am with these types of books. I want to be able to sleep after reading them, but they always leave me thinking about stuff like, in this case, whether my kid will be a murderer or not and what I would do if they were. It truly hurts to think about. I finished most of the book in one day, so it was gripping and fast-paced. A good read overall. 10/13/13

31. If you are from Maryland, you should check out Laura Lippman's novels. She is from Baltimore and writes exclusively in cities surrounding the area, incurring nostalgia for familiar areas. The setting of To the Power of Three reminds me of Frederick, though she claims it could be any suburban area outside Baltimore. Columbia is spoken of. Lippman writes murder mysteries sometimes based on true stories, other times completely fabricated. She has detective characters she prefers, and lawyers. I liked the book. I'm reading another by her next. 10/20/13

32. The Most Dangerous Thing, another of Laura Lippman's Maryland set mysteries, is another well set up character depiction. All the perspectives are told, the clues given out, and the conclusion only comes together with one piece of evidence, the people coming together. It is a well-done organization I'm used to seeing in her novels, if a little predictable. She seems to make the solution just implausible enough that you can't really guess what happened, and when you find out you are at once shocked and not shocked. 10/26/13

33. Dark Places by Gillian Flynn reminded me of a Jodi Piccoult mystery. It wasn't as shocking as Gone Girl but just as visually brutal. She describes all the blood and everything disgusting about a person's mind. I was especially unnerved by the description of an inappropriate encounter with an eleven year old. Ick. Flynn really makes you hate people, like everyone thinks like this. I sure hope not. 11/2/13

34. Gillian Flynn sure likes to write about the grotesque parts of people's minds. In Sharp Objects, I'm not sure if she intended for everyone but the main character, who is supposed to be a journalist, to be objective and recognize who the killer is immediately, but I sure did. The main character just gets crazier and crazier as the novel goes on; she's so messed up by her mother. It was quite entertaining but I miss my happy endings. 11/12/13

36. Well I'm quite far behind in my reading with 14 more books to read and barely five weeks of the year remaining. If I didn't enjoy a single other book I read this year, I'm happy to have read A Tree Grows in Brooklyn by Betty Smith. I've never lived in a Brooklyn tenement, never scraped for pennies or worked in a factory, but I once read a book a day from the library and liked to sit up in the trees like Francie. I think this book is labeled a "modern classic" and so I guess it will join the canon, but for a little while it was just mine, some beauty growing out of the hard ground. 11/25/13

37. And here I pose a question. A friend of mine gave me the complete works of H.P. Lovecraft which I have been meaning to read all year. How many H.P. Lovecraft short stories count as one book? Should I review each one and be done with my 50 very quickly or is that cheating? Should I count five stories as a book and undercut the great Lovecraft work? I do not know. 

The first story in the collection is "The Beast in the Cave" which Lovecraft wrote when he was only 15. I'm already 24 and I haven't written anything half as original and thoughtful. What would you become if left without light? 11/25/13

"The Alchemist" was a little disappointing in its similarity to "The Fall of the House of Usher" by Edgar Allen Poe and in that the ending was very predictable. I was thinking "well clearly it's that guy" while the main character was still apparently blissfully ignorant even though he claimed to believe in magic. 11/26/13

Since Lovecraft was young, and probably one of the first to use surprise endings, I am forgiving the predictability of "The Tomb." Age old question of insanity through obsession or disbelief of the supernatural. 11/29/13

"Dagon" reminded me of Life of Pi and I'm wondering if that whole island of dead fish thing came from Lovecraft. I didn't find it particularly terrifying, and was quite confused as to why the speaker would choose drugs and suicide to escape the memory of the fish monster. 11/29/13

Since I've never read Samuel Johnson, nor do I care for obscure witticisms from the 18th century, the only redeeming factor of "A Reminiscence of Dr. Samuel Johnson" was the fact tat the narrator claimed to be over 200 years old, peaking my curiosity about whether he might be a vampire. 12/1/13

The descriptions in "Polaris" were particularly haunting. I've always appreciated that the line between dreams and realities can be crossed. Sometimes I feel better about my dream world and imagine it is my real life; sometimes I'm happy to "wake up" somewhere other than a nightmarish place. 12/1/13

"Beyond the Wall of Sleep" is thus far my favorite Lovecraft story in the anthology. As mentioned above, I always loved to imagine my dreams as another life. The only time it gets scary for me is when I think about inception. I don't like the idea that a simple man can't have genius inside him though. 12/2/13

Pretty and haunting descriptions in "Memory." I write such short fantasies, so it felt just right in length (a single page) with the "surprise" in just the right moment. Haven't we all imagined our world when we are gone? 12/5/13

"Old Bugs" was a good moralistic story. Don't drink! Ever! Anyway I liked it; the idea of a guy who was at once brilliant and susceptible was particularly disarming. 12/5/13

38. Without going into much detail the self-help book Private Pain by Ditza Katz and Ross Lynn Tabisel, aside from being a written advertisement for their methods, is very informative. To this day, some diagnoses are seen as individual and incurable, with even the professionals unable to help. Hope is a thing with feathers... 12/16/13

39. Every person who has ever been in a relationship (any kind really, from friendship to romantic to familial) should read the book, The 5 Love Languages by Gary Chapman. I am Quality Time with a little Acts of Service thrown in there. I can see my whole life through the lens of my love languages, from how they developed in my family life to how they translate to my relationships, both friendly and romantic. It's nice to know what you are so you can ask for what you need, but it's also nice to know what your partner is so you can know what to do for them. 12/18/13

40. Switching gears here, Guilty Wives by James Patterson and David Ellis was a great action book, but it made me never want to travel to France (wasn't on my top list anyway, but still). Nothing goes right throughout the whole book until 84% (I read on my Kindle). But as always with JP books, entertaining, somewhat but not completely predictable, and a quick read. 12/26/2013

5 days and ten books to go...I accept this challenge.

41. I thought Gossip Girl would be just like the PLL series and I could breeze through it during this challenging end of the year push. Though it is an easy read, I like it more than PLL. I watched all of Gossip Girl the t.v. show, so maybe that's why. Anyway, book 1/10 complete at 10:15 on 12/27/2013!

42. A friend of mine did some research to get me a great Christmas present of books. I had mentioned Agatha Christie to her and so she looked for some good murder mystery writers and found Harlan Coben. I'd never heard of him, but I just finished Six Years and it was great! I didn't find it predictable and I liked the happyish ending. Book 2/10 complete at 12:20 on 12/28/2013!

43. Beginning to doubt my ability to read five books in five days, let alone ten. You Know You Love Me is another one of the Gossip Girl series by Cecily von Ziegesar. This one was sort of sad and confusing to me, but I wasn't expecting much for a quick transition book. 3/10 complete at 1:50 am on 12/29/2013! On to more murder mysteries!

44. So I think that Harlan Coben was going through a midlife crisis when he wrote Hold Tight. He spends a lot of time watching middle aged people worrying about their sagging and wrinkling and their parenting styles. He also weaves lives together in an incredibly effective manner, leaving nothing predictable. 4/10 complete at 9:35 pm on 12/29/2013!

45. I like that at the end of certain series' that continue on after the last necessary book (the third book in the PLL series, even though there are six more books out there), they make it seem like it's the last one. That way, if you don't feel like reading more, you're good to stop, and if you do, you can settle until you get the next set of three. Anyway, I'm done with the Gossip Girl series, ending with the third book, All I Want is Everything. 5/10 complete at 4:43 pm on 12/30/2013!

So I'm probably not going to finish reading book number 6 plus four more books today...but that isn't the point. I like to see my resolutions all the way through to the end. Reading 45 or 46 books in a year is pretty impressive, even if it wasn't the goal. That's what people tell me anyway.

My next post will be my new resolution, which I need to think on a bit more. Thanks to those of you who wandered through this last year with me; I appreciate your support. Hope to see you again in 2014.


Monday, June 24, 2013

Inséré dans le Cirque

A pedestal beneath your feet
holds you 50,000 feet up.
To your left his knees bend over the bar
and he reaches his grasping fingers
with a straining smile.
To your right he grips the bar
and if you hold onto his ankles
he will flip you onto his strong shoulders
and carry you one hundred feet higher.
Caught between trapeze artists.
They somersault over you
waiting for the crowd to choose.
One you are confident will catch you
but may not yield applause.
The other is a risk.
And below there is a bucket of water,
a glass box, a dangling ribbon,
and so few nets.
You are no Flying Wallenda,
but you can dive.

Sunday, February 3, 2013


     She jumped out the window. I told her, "I love you. Please don't." But she did it anyway. Just pushed her palms into the sill and kicked her legs outward. My best friend pushed herself out of her three story bedroom window towards the street below.
     For several minutes before, I had been inching towards the window, conscious of her twitching fingers and her blank stare below. As her hand slid off the metal of the window jamb my hand-eye coordination kicked in (finally, after 22 years) and my white bony fingers fisted firmly around her wrist.
     She dangled. Her feet kicked in the air for a bit. Her whole body relaxed and I held my best friend by her wrist above the street three stories below. I looked down at her and dripped my tears onto her hanging body. She stared down at the street longingly, her head cast down and not up, as one would if they wanted to come back up.
     They say that adrenaline kicks in and mothers can lift cars off of babies and break concrete to get to their loved ones. Maybe in those first few seconds I was she-man with the muscles and energy to hold a girl twice my size against gravity that she wanted to take her, but then I felt my fingers cramp and her arm straining out of her shoulder socket. All this I could feel.
     Her skin had always been dry. That is perhaps why I could hold on as my face dripped tears and sweat beads. There was nothing slippery about it. Heavy, but not slippery. At first my arm was bent at the elbow and my intention was to lift her up, but without her help I could barely keep her at a standstill against the brick building, and my elbow unbent and my arm strained as it straightened.
     Meanwhile she did not look at me or move. She didn't make an effort to extract her arm from my fingers, but neither did she grab on with her other hand. Sometimes will actually means no movement in any direction. What effort it must have took for her to clear her mind enough to actually push off. Or what darkness.
     No one came. People on the street never look up. It was only us in the building, or only me I guess.
     As my arm numbed to the weight on the end of it and everything in me stopped physically hurting to accommodate it, I broke the impasse.
     "I'm going to hold you here. I'm not letting go. But I'm not strong enough to lift you. So until you want to come up - and that is your only option understand - I will hold you here."
     "I will not call 911 to have them use a fire ladder or ship you off to the loony bin again. I won't betray you like that. But I will not let go."
     "Until you want to live, I will hold you here." She did not respond.
     It took sixteen hours.
     I begged her for three. I claimed I couldn't hold her any more, which is honestly how I felt about every five minutes. My motivation would renew, and she would still be there on the end of my arm. I imagined her arm ripping out of her shoulder socket. At times I imagined she was tensing her muscles to stay in my grasp, but she would always go limp again when I came to reality. I told her every memory I could recall of our five years of knowing each other, almost six. I talked about her family. I tried to shame her. I told her lies about things and dreamed about her future out loud. I tried to scare her about death.
     In the fourth hour I tried silence. You have to know me, I never stop talking. I worried in those moments that I talked so much that I didn't listen. I knew she was depressed. I knew. But did I listen often enough? So I fell silent. I gave her peace. Perhaps not the kind she wanted, but silence for her to respond. She didn't.
     Then I got bored. I no longer felt the strain of her limp body as an extension of mine. I was resolved to hold on, but I stopped caring about making the time shorter. She would definitely decide to live, it was only a question of when. I had caught her at 2 am. The sun was rising. We were on the west side of the building, so I couldn't see the sun, only the clouds in the west getting brighter and whitening the sky. Thankfully it was warm and calm. I prayed for zero precipitation.
     I surveyed my surroundings in the room. I had half battery life in my cell phone. I had promised not to call anyone, though she didn't ask me not to. I contemplated that for a minute before deciding I could always use it later and turned it off.
     My arm was bent twisted with the white part facing out, my hairs brushing against the brick. My shoulder was indented against the window sill and I sat sideways on the mini-fridge. In the mini-fridge there was tons of bottled water, bread butts from two loaves, peanut butter M&Ms, and a soggy frozen dinner stuffed in the "ice" box.
     I could see her alarm clock and pulled it toward me using the cord plugged in below the refrigerator plug. It was a newer one with a CD player. I could get the radio if I wanted. I used my feet to inch out and try to pull over the comforter from the bed, unmade and half on the floor. I could just touch it with the toe of my running shoe, but I had no traction on the slippery fabric. I decided to come back to that if it started to get cold.
     I was afraid to sleep. I thought my body might betray me and let her go. I thought she might claw out of my grasp if she noticed. Despite having been up from 7 am the previous day and partying for half the previous night, I wasn't tired. There is a point for me when I get past tired. Past the point where my eyelids are drooping and more into an absurd state of consciousness where everything is good and fine. Even holding her out the window was fine.
     I wondered if she had tried to sleep. At least that would be something. I peeked over the window, making sure to keep most all my body weight inside the room, and moved my head at different angles to see if I could make out her face. The most I got was her ear through her hair. I went ahead and assumed she was still staring at the ground below.
     I did not look at the street. I've been terrified of heights since I was a kid and I learned buildings sway on purpose. When I looked down I felt the falling sensation and imagined lots of pain. It was probably equivalent to the phantom pain in my arm I could no longer feel unless I shifted her back and forth in the air. I could probably do that to get her attention later.
     There were bound to be more people around as the day went on. It was the weekend though, and most people were home for the long holiday. I realized I didn't want anyone to find us, and that was a confusing way to feel.
     I took out my cell and began to play games. I got one text message, from my Dad, exclaiming about the football game in badly typed mass text. I checked my email but there were just advertisements. I looked at my bank balance and was shocked that it was so high, and then remembered my Mom transferred money from my 529 for textbooks. I played Flow until my phone was at 15%, and then I turned it off in case I needed it later when my arm fell off.
     I looked over and studied the brick wall that was eating into my arm. I knew to keep her close to it, since objects attract each other. I looked for a hand hold between the bricks where the concrete had come loose. There was a brick poking out pretty far, so I jiggled it with my other hand to see if it would come loose. A piece of the corner cracked off the brick and fell. I watched it bounce along the wall and break into pieces. I started to feel nauseous. There was a space now where she could put her fingers. She wasn't wearing shoes, but maybe that would make it easier for her to connect with the brick when she decided to climb back up.
     I turned my attention to the comforter inside as my stomach continued to roil. Perhaps if I twisted onto my stomach like I did when I peered down at her I could get more traction. To do that I'd have to switch which arm was holding her. I didn't want to take any chances. Instead I twisted even further back to get my arm over my head. I got a bit more length that way.
     I tried it with one shoe. Then I took off my shoe and sock with my back against the fridge and window. I got the corner between my big toe and the rest of my foot pad and pulled a couple of times. It got a little closer, but then I realized my mistake. Even if I could get my shoe and sock back on, I couldn't tie the laces with one hand. I gave up on the comforter.
     My nose started to run. The night before I had wiped it on my sleeve, so that was now so saturated with snot I didn't have anything to wipe it on. I just let it trickle down into my mouth and sniffed repeatedly.
     I ate M&Ms and sipped water. I kept the bottle in case I needed to pee later (that would be an interesting experience). It was noon. I watched the clock for a bit, periodically checking on her to make sure she was still there since I still couldn't feel my arm. Time goes so slowly when you watch for it.
     I bit the bullet and tried to sleep. I was sideways on the fridge so I just let my head rest on the sill and kept my feet jammed into the floor, one heel under the fridge for leverage. I kept my butt hanging off the fridge too. I didn't fall asleep, but I did dream.
     My friend became a spider who crawled up my arm. She turned into a snake and tried to eat my wrist like one might eat a mouse. She screamed and screamed. These were good dreams. They were my body imagining her efforts. The other dreams were of a closed casket funeral, a stump at my shoulder, claw marks on the brick wall, and her eyes wide with sudden fright. In my dreams I let her go, only to find her still hanging there at the end of my arm when I opened my eyes.
     I turned on the radio. Weekend radio was always top 40 stuff. I put on the country station and sang. Sarah Evans came on and I shivered while I sang out, "Just a little bit stronger!" I thought I heard her humming, but I think it was just an echo. "You get the couch back, you get the dog back, you get your best friend Jack back...that's what you get when you play a country song backwards!" I started to talk to her again, this time like normal.
     "I wonder why that song never comes on the radio. Rascal Flatts is how I got into country you know. I see it isn't one of your presets so I guess you don't like it that much. Remember when we sang that Taylor Swift song all the time? You liked to make fun of it with a twang, but I liked the words."
     "Maybe I'm like Atlas, you know? I've got the whole world on my back. Or who is the one who has to push the rock up the hill forever? Or the sand pile grain by grain? Maybe we'll be here for all eternity. Maybe we've always been here or we aren't here at all. Like Inception. You'll wake up in another dream as soon as I let go. But then I guess I'll be stuck. My talisman can be your wrist, which I think I'd know by heart unlike anyone else. I suppose that isn't a proper talisman."
     "Maybe that's how this idea came into your head. Someone planted it there long ago. And it grew."
     "You know, this is how I've always felt trying to help you. I can hold you here if I'm always vigilant, but I can't decide whether you stay or go. I'm not strong enough to help you. If you decided to help yourself, stay, put in the effort, I will be there for you the whole time."
     I think that is when the fire department came. I heard the sirens. I had never looked down, so I didn't know there was a group of people watching on the street, praying with me. I heard someone unlock the door to the apartment. I yelled at them not to come in. Please not to come in. And they didn't. I whispered to myself and you, over and over again, "We can do this. We can do this. They won't know you jumped. I won't tell them, I swear. We can do this." I heard the clock tower right then too, ringing one two three four times for the Saturday service.
     I stared intently at the top of her head for the first time since the initial couple of hours. I saw that her scalp was still red and that her whole arm was white. I saw goose bumps on her neck. She was alive! She was living and breathing!
     Then I saw her neck twist and her cheek twitch with effort. My dead arm started to feel her shoulder tighten (for real this time). Her face slowly turned towards me. There were her eyes, wide. She was terrified of falling! I don't know when the transition happened. I didn't care. I nodded to her.
     She looked at the wall for the first time. I reached my free arm down and pointed to the hole I'd made. I leaned my whole upper body out the window to reach out to her with my second hand. I squished my toes under the refrigerator and bent my knees to the corner of it. I felt it shift up slightly under me so the front end was up and the corner under the window was wedged up against the wall.
     I saw the scratches where her nails dug into the wall. Her whole body was tensely swinging in towards it and reaching for me. Her knees and bare feet were scraping against the wall, sometimes making it difficult for me to hold onto her. She braced both feet against the wall and lunged up at me, catching my aching wrist. Briefly I wondered if she would try to loosen my grip, but when I reached my other arm to her she started crawling up my arms.
     She would alternate fingers in the loose brick hole and try to get further up my forearm to my elbow. Every time her feet slipped she would wince and I would wince. I started to bend my arms for the first time in hours and buried them into the wall, creating instant bruises that I didn't care about. I needed to slowly move backward to help her in, to get to where she could grab the window ledge again, reversing her action fifteen and a half hours ago.
     I started to lift the refrigerator with my feet so I could get them against the wall. This would leave the refrigerator on top of me, but she could grab onto that too if she needed. Eventually it fell sideways as I wiggled my feet towards the wall and tensed my back and shoulders. She helped by curling her fingers into the cracks in the brick and trying to stand sideways on the concrete between them. To those below, it probably looked like I was trying to drop her. Little did they know, right?
     I don't remember letting go. I know eventually she pushed herself up on the ledge like someone getting out of a pool and stuck her knee in, leaned her body forward, and fell into me and the fridge and the room. Water got all over the floor from the melting ice box and there were peanut butter M&Ms squished under it from when the door fell open. I don't know when my hand left her wrist.
     I don't  know when I trusted her not to fall backwards into the abyss. I remember looking at her twisted up face as she strained against death by cracked head on the sidewalk. I remember her huge round eyes as she fell, but onto the carpet and not to the other gravity outside the window. We fell instantly asleep on our stretchers after insisting on the same ambulance. I woke up a couple times to see she was still here. Her choice, not mine.

Saturday, January 19, 2013

Resolve to Resolve

A new year is upon us, and though it will take me until June to remember to write 2013 instead of 2012, I'm going to focus anew. In case anyone didn't notice, I did not complete my goal last year of writing once per week. I got to 50/52 I think...I'm choosing not to look back. I am not going to see this as a failure because the product was great and my expectations are always too high. I did what was intended: I wrote more and ended up with lots of new pieces I'm quite proud of.

There is a Homily that has always stuck with me - forgive me for always repeating this story - about how one can go about becoming their best self (in the image of Him). In realizing that trying to change everything is very difficult and being perfect seems unattainable, this particular priest talked about a system akin to Ben Franklin's. For those of you who don't know, Ben was very interested in being perfect, and he systematically eliminated sin from his life until it became too much (starving yourself and also trying to remain active are a bit contradictory, his standards were too high as well). Nevertheless, this system involves choosing one thing to focus on at a time and making it  a natural part of your life, a conscious change. Once this conscious change becomes part of your routine, then you begin with another, periodically returning to the first to check in (Ben had a lot of trouble maintaining because he never re-reflected on the sins he was eliminating). In the Homily, this referred to the weekly reminders given in the Homily - be conscious of God, set an example for others, forgive - to name a few. A week is not enough time for me to do this, so I've started with years instead.

Last year, I wanted to write more and expand my portfolio of work. With that accomplished, I am starting with a fresh addition to my routine. Those who know me well, know me as a reader. Throughout my childhood, I would not be found without a book so long as I was indoors. I read through the smoke alarm on my birthday one year, during my family birthday party. I would read in class and listen with my other ear for directions (I used to be so good at that and now I find it impossible). When completing work I would listen to the reading group at the front of the room. To this day I've never read that book and I don't know the title, but I know just what it's about (dog-sled team run by a young boy whose best dog dies before he can cross the finish line).

As I've gotten older, reading has stayed a passion, but it has died down a bit. I still get a new stack of books for Christmas every year, but instead of finishing them by my birthday, they sit in a stack until summer. I read for my English degree of course, and have a love for good literature and analysis, but that was more likely to take my focus off reading for pleasure than to kindle it, because it involved writing huge papers or preparing for class. I rarely read a book I don't enjoy, which helped when I was in college and reading nonfiction and textbooks, but didn't thrill my brain and make me smile. I get distracted by my todo lists, planning for classes, spending time with friends, etc. There is always something that needs to be done, and reading takes a back seat.

This last half year that I've been a teacher, I've been teased. I read books so that my students can analyze them (or not). I'm in a book club with my best friends, but we only discuss a book a month and I don't always have time to read them. This incessant nagging of having books to read and putting them aside has made me jealous of my young self. Thus, I am remedying this problem by resolving, in 2013, to read 50 books. I'm starting low, so as to not overwhelm myself or set the expectation too high. I'll get about 12 from book club and a few from work, so I have a built in motivation. Reading books feeds my motivation to read books. I want to feed my passion. I'm going to hopefully track the books I read on this blog because I love to write about what I read.

I've already completed one book, Oliver Sack's "The Mind's Eye" which is a bunch of psychological case studies about losing particular abilities and how they affect one's life. That is the January book club book. I'll leave the discussion for that one to my friends and I because I don't want to spoil it for them, but it truly makes you think about how the body/brain adapts to not only function, but thrive.

My second resolution is also quantifiable. I would like to take and pass both Praxis I and the Praxis II tests I need for my teacher certification this year so that I can begin the process. I'm already taking a Praxis I preparation class to take the Praxis I sometime after the school year ends or in April if I'm feeling spunky. Then I'll begin studying for the second set of tests, to hopefully pass by the end of the summer. That way, I can turn in my initial review and figure out what classes I need to take. I found out that I can use my GRE instead of Praxis I, but I had already signed up for the class, so I'm just going to take it and go from there.

I have goals for my job as well (we had to put them together in Professional Development), but they are easily summarized: use parent suggestions, track what works for students, and develop personally by reading education research articles.