25 August 2011

Back to School Drama

 At this time of year I always have the same feeling of dread as the beginning of classes approaches. It’s about this time every year that I contemplate dropping everything and never driving onto the campus of my college again. It’s not that college is so bad, in fact I’m rather good at it. But the thought of school is rather daunting after a summer of crafting, vacationing, dating, and home improving! So, I thought I’d make a list of the pros and cons of going back to school, to help me feel better about it. Of course, this will only work if the pros are better than the cons….but we’ll see how it goes.
             First, the bad news.
·                                  Evil professors. In my experience, while most professors are nice and helpful, there is an average of one professor a semester who is truly evil and proud of it. Professors qualify as evil when they refuse to give A grades because it’s against their religion, or when they insist on using the obsolete Wade-Giles system of Romanization instead of Pinyin. Then there’s the occasional eccentric professor who cusses out everyone else in the class but takes a strange shine to you and tells you “Students like you make coming to America a gracefully heartwarming and spiritually rewarding experience.” That’s just odd.
·                                    Final exams. This one is self-explanatory, I believe.
·                                    Homework. And therefore, less time for scrapbooking, making jewelry, writing, reading books, and working on my dollhouse. Oh yeah, there might be a little less time available for cooking and cleaning the house, but I’m really not concerned about that.
·                                    Driving in snow. Granted, this isn’t a problem at the beginning of the school year, but it becomes one before the first semester is out. With a 40 minute commute and a college that doesn’t believe in snow days (it’s against their creed), sometimes the drive to school is a little more adventure than I’d prefer to have on an average day.
             Now, to cheer me up, the good news!
·                                    A Graduation Party! If I do manage to get myself to school on September 6 and every school day thereafter, I get to throw a graduation party! Those who know me well will understand that the prospect of a graduation party is enough to make me persevere through four years of college.
·                                    New School Clothes. I have decided that I need a new pair of dark blue boot cut jeans to start the school year off with. If I wasn’t starting school, I probably wouldn’t need those jeans…but with all the class presentations I’m going to have to make in the coming months, I’m going to want to look professional, and those light blue boot cut jeans that I already have really aren’t going to cut it.
·                                     Senioritis. Finally! Once again I have a legitimate excuse for slacking off in school! I’ve been trying to claim senioritis for the last three years but no one believed me. I’m really looking forward to a full-blown case of senioritis this year.
·                                    Dancing! Oh yeah, I almost forgot, this is one of my favorite things about college! I haven’t danced all summer but they’re always having swing dances and ballroom dance lessons during the school year. Angel and I will get to practice our tango!
·                                     Bible study. We’re studying Genesis this year, want to join? I love the Bible study group that I am a part of during the school year. I walked into a Bible Bonanza meeting my first Friday at college, and I’ve been hooked ever since. Last year I only missed one Friday—because I had to go to my wedding rehearsal, they said they couldn’t rehearse without the bride.
·                                    Chinese. And Spanish. Much as I claim to hate school, I really do like learning languages. I love the feeling that comes when I realize that I’ve learned enough of a foreign language to really translate my thoughts. I do want to expand my knowledge of Chinese and Spanish this year, so….I guess I ought to go back to college.
               There, I have resigned myself. It won’t be that bad. Though I’m not sure who the evil professor will be this year. I have a suspicion it will be the Sociology professor, but I really don’t know. I’ll just have to wait and see.
               Senior Year, here I come!
23 August 2011

Our First Kiss

          The tale of our first kiss has been kept a closely guarded secret. Besides a sister or two, I'm not sure that anyone else knows the story. Until now. Angel has decided that since we've now been married nearly 3/4 of a year, it's safe to let those who are curious know how it happened. For the record, I do not endorse the habit of kissing guys just because they ask you to. Angel was the only guy I tried that with, and it worked out for me, but it doesn't seem like a very responsible habit to get into.
It was the day before I moved to another country, and my friend Angel hugged me goodbye. Only, after the hug, he didn't let go, but kept his hands around my waist.
"I know you wouldn't want me to kiss you....but I wouldn't mind if you kissed me!" he said.
The suggestion came as such a shock that I started to laugh immediately. The way he asked appealed to my sense of humor, so my first thought was, "Hang the consequences, I'll kiss him."
Quickly, before I changed my mind, I kissed him. He was surprised because he thought my laughter indicated a "no way" answer. His response to my kiss was a shocked, "Wow, um, next time, a little warning would be nice!"
We both laughed, and went our separate ways, good friends as ever. My first kiss was when I was 17—On May 25, 2009, at 8:22 pm.
I guess I should have cared a little more for the consequences of that kiss, because 8 months later, he called me, asking, "Do you ever think about the time we kissed?" A year and a half after our first kiss, we were married.
22 August 2011

A Letter of Grievance

Dear dollhouse builders, designers, decorators, and owners:
                Please, please, consider the dolls that you are making houses for! Many dollhouses today are constructed with countless architectural peculiarities that would never be acceptable if they were part of a house for humans. For example, the house I live in has a beautiful balcony off the second floor, which is only accessible by climbing through the bathroom window! What need is there to have a balcony off of the bathroom, anyways? In addition, nearly all of the doorways lack actual doors. I’m not too sure how it works in the human world, but I would really appreciate some doors on the master bedroom and the bathroom, at least. Of course, doors really wouldn’t be much of a help towards privacy, because each room is missing an entire wall, due to the open back of the house. I understand that this is considered a standard feature of dollhouses, and the open wall makes it easier for owners to access their houses, but does no one consider the feelings of dolls? Perhaps we’d like just a little privacy too, a little family time of our own. After all, I don’t think humans would like to leave one entire side of their house open for the world to see in. Could we at least have that side of the house screened in? The occasional giant spiders and flies who wander in are really quite frightening.
My last concern is with the abundance of dollhouses decorated after the manner of the Victorians. From talking to my neighbors, it seems that many of our dollhouse owners prefer their dollhouses to have an authentic Victorian feel rather than modern d├ęcor. It is my argument that it is unfair that some of us dolls are forced to live without the modern conveniences of refrigerators, dishwashers, and electric stoves, simply because of the design preferences of our owners. If you love the Victorian era so much, why don’t you try cooking food from your icebox over the heat from your wood-burning stove while wearing a full-length silk dress? That reminds me, this past summer has been an especially hot one—a window air conditioner would have been really nice! We survived the heat, of course, but it wasn’t always pleasant. I suggest a compromise—perhaps the house could still be decorated in a Victorian manner, but with tastefully designed modern appliances hidden among the ornately carved furniture.
Thank you for listening to my grumblings. I hope you do not feel that I have been too forward or complaining. I do love the house I live in, with all of its quirks, and I’m thankful for my owners who have generously provided all of the furnishings my family needs. I am simply asking that all of those who control the way our houses are designed and decorated will think a little more about the comfort of the dolls who have to live in the homes. Thank you.
A Concerned Doll
09 August 2011

When the Truth is Unpalatable

I wish I wrote fiction more often. I’ve done a couple pieces of fiction that I really like, but by far, most of what I write is to some extent related to the truth. I find everyday life and the people that are in my life so interesting that I always want to capture the moments in words so that they aren’t forgotten. The difficult thing about being a writer who specializes in reality is that some of the most interesting and funniest stories cannot be published, for fear of offending or embarrassing those involved. In fact, there are some stories that I’m not even allowed to write down and keep for my own amusement, because the people involved want to make sure there is no record of the event.
For example, I know of a time when one person I know punished another person I know in a very unusual and electrifying manner. To those who know of this incident, please do not identify any names. In all fairness, the person who allegedly electrocuted someone claims that the whole incident never happened, and that the supposed “witnesses” of the crime are either deluded or else made the whole story up for nefarious reasons of their own.  In any event, the people involved would certainly not want their story to be published, and even if I gave them pseudonyms, the truth might come out.
I have noticed many sundry and interesting occurrences which to me seem worthy of being written down, but those involved are determined that some stories shall never be publicly known. I once heard of a wife who woke up screaming, “Mommy! Mommy!” when her husband came home from work at midnight and walked in the bedroom door. Personally, I think that’s a hilarious story, and I could easily write a sketch which questions the emotional maturity of a wife who cries out for her “mommy” when startled by her husband—but unfortunately, this incident is too embarrassing to the couple involved, and they do not want to have it published for the world to know. It is a simple fact of life that some of the funniest things that happen will never be publicly known—or if those stories are told at all, they will only be told to a trusted few who know how to keep their mouths shut.
I myself have a strong aversion to being embarrassed, so I can understand why the people of my acquaintance do not want everything that has ever happened in their lives to be published. I know for a fact that I would not want to have every mistake that I have ever made or every wrong thing that I have done published for the world to know! So, I always intend to respect the wishes of those who do not want to be written about. I know how easy it is to say and do the wrong thing at the wrong time—and how embarrassing it is afterward! When I was getting my hair cut last May (I have an aversion to hair salons, so I go as infrequently as possible), the lady who was cutting my hair spent the whole time telling me about a very rude, thoughtless, stupid, and selfish Hispanic family who treated their grandfather very poorly. I have no idea what inspired her to tell me all about these people, but I didn’t care at all for the way that she was repeatedly insisting that they were “Hispanic,” as if that explained their behavior. It’s my belief that human beings can be rude, thoughtless, stupid, and selfish no matter what ethnicity they are, so I felt that her emphasis on the fact that they were Hispanic was inappropriate. I was uncomfortable with her repeated negative comments about Hispanic people, but I didn’t say anything and sat quietly till she was done with my hair and it was time to pay. When I paid, she asked me for my full name, and immediately a roguish idea struck me. Obviously, I don’t look Hispanic at all—most of my blood is Dutch and Irish. However, my last name is a Spanish word, and I have been told on past occasions that it sounds “very Hispanic.” Usually, I pronounce it as it would be pronounced if it were English, for the ease of strangers who find it very difficult to spell. But that day, I rolled the rr in my last name as best I could and gave it the best Spanish flourish I could muster (after completing both Spanish 101 and 102). The hairstylist’s mouth dropped and her eyes widened in shock. It was pretty obvious that she was remembering exactly how she had been talking down the Hispanic community in her earlier story. Her reddened face showed that she was embarrassed and she stammered when she asked me, “Could you spell that?” Out of compassion I used the English pronunciation of the alphabet to give it to her (in my roguish mood a minute before, I had planned on using Spanish to carry out the rest of the transaction. I know my alphabet and how to talk about money, so I could have pulled it off. I hadn’t really spoken at all during the haircut because of her unending chatter, so that would have contributed to the illusion.). Now, I’m sure that poor lady did not mean to say anything offensive, and she was probably very embarrassed by her questionable choice of a haircut conversation. It’s quite possible she wouldn’t even want this story published at all—but seeing as I don’t even know her name and am unable to identify her in any way, I think she will be safe from anyone she knows finding out about her embarrassing moment.
Sometimes the truth is simply offensive in a way that fiction never is. In fact, the very first story I posted on this blog elicited a reaction from someone of “Take that piece down now!” I did, with some reluctance, because I personally thought it was a hilarious story, excellently written. The only problem with the story was that it was the bald truth—and I’ve since learned that it’s not always polite to publish the bald truth. The good news, however, is that that particular story is not permanently banned from publication. It is safely secreted within the vaults of the documents folder on my computer. I was told that when my youngest sister gets engaged, that story will be fair game for publication. So, all you readers have to do is stay tuned another 15 years or so if you want to read that jewel of a story.
06 August 2011

Letters of Admiration--A Tutorial

 Note: This is a piece I wrote some time ago, but I came across it today, and thought I ought to share it with my readers. As a disclaimer, however, though you might assume from the wisdom which pervades this tutorial that I have had a lot of experience in sending fraudulent love letters, let me assure you that I have only sent a letter from a "secret admirer" once. That was to my sister. Or maybe I've done it twice. I seem to remember a second occasion, but that may have been a dream.

Everyone has days when they are feeling wonderfully benevolent, and look upon all of their fellow human beings with a kindly eye. On one of these days you feel like giving of yourself to others; doing all those small things that bring smiles to the faces of your loved ones. I don’t mean simply washing the dinner dishes or brushing your teeth. I mean doing those extra things, those generous actions that no one expects.
Today, I would like to suggest to you a practical and efficient outlet for your benevolent feelings. Because, after all, though we may all feel that we want to bless others and bring joy into their lives, we may not know how to go about it. I now have the perfect suggestion: send your friends, family, or even strangers letters from a secret admirer! Such a letter would not fail to bring a smile to the face of even the crabbiest old man. For weeks after receiving a letter from a secret admirer, a staid, middle-aged woman would spontaneously giggle to herself, for no apparent reason. A letter from a secret admirer will be treasured for years….kept under the pillow…folded and refolded till it finally falls apart.
“Wait a minute!” you say, “Where am I supposed to find secret admirers for all these people?” Don’t be silly. There is no need for you to find an actual secret admirer for the people you want to cheer up. It is much easier, and infinitely more efficient, to compose and send the letter yourself. You see? Now you are getting the gist of my brilliant plan.
There are some technical aspects of sending secret admirer letters which cannot be overlooked. It is of utmost importance that the letters not be traced back to you, or else your benevolent plan may prove to be fatal to your relationship with the very one you wanted to bless. First of all, you must decide whether to mail the letter, or to deliver it in a less conventional manner, such as by tying it to a rock and hurling it through an open kitchen window. The postal system tends to be the most practical way to send anonymous love letters. However, the postmarks that are stamped on all letters could be a problem, because anyone who receives a letter from a secret admirer will immediately scrutinize the postmark to see if it provides any clues as to the identity of the sender. There is a possibility that you might be suspected of sending the letter if the one who received the letter associates you with the city stamped on the postmark. This problem can be overcome if you drive to a distant city and mail the letter from a post office there, but sometimes, this option is not very practical. Delivering the letter in other methods, such as by sticking the letter inside the front screen door, or dropping it into a woman’s purse can also be dangerous if you are not extremely careful to make sure that no one can observe you performing the action. If you opt to deliver your letter in this manner, perhaps because you do not have the forty-four cents for postage, I highly recommend wearing an impenetrable disguise, such as a Wookie suit.
Just as the method of delivering the letter requires much reflection and careful decision, you must also put much time and thought into the contents of your secret admirer letter. In such a letter, you should make sure that the wording of the letter is specific enough so that the intended recipient knows that it is truly meant for them, but not so specific that it reveals information which might point to you as the perpetrator. For example, it is a good idea to use their name in the letter, but, if you have a certain peculiar nickname that you always call them, it would not be wise to call them that in the letter. I need hardly say how important it is to disguise your handwriting well. If you are normally write neatly, now is your time to forget everything your second grade teacher ever taught you about penmanship. If your normal hand is barely readable, pick up your old primer and study the actual formation of letters till your handwriting resembles newsprint.
And what should you say in this love letter of yours? That, I will leave up to you. I have already noted that it is important to make it clear that the letter is for your intended recipient and none other. For the rest, I recommend using whatever creative skills you may possess, and everything you learned about composition from English 101. Phrases such as “I have long admired you from afar,” and “Let this expression of love be a secret between you and me forever,” and “because I know that my love for you was not meant to be, I leave now to bury myself in a monastery in the Alps” tend to go over well. If you struggle with being creative yourself, instead, you can simply copy a poem into the letter.  Shakespeare tends to work well, however, the poem needn’t even be about love, because the one reading the letter will themselves be able to read love and admiration into each line. In fact, I have even found Lewis Carroll’s “Jabberwocky” just as effect a passage for a letter from a secret admirer as any poetry of Shakespeare’s.
I hope that these hints will guide you as you try to turn your feelings of benevolence into practical expressions of care and concern for others.
01 August 2011

My Shoes and Their (Almost) Tragic Fate

           I am blessed with a husband who firmly believes that for the good of our relationship he needs to periodically buy me new shoes. Apparently he once read that it’s a very good idea to buy your woman plenty of shoes and he sticks to that principle. I have never heard of any such rule, and I’m certain it’s not in the Bible, but I sure enjoy it when he randomly takes me shoe shopping, so I will encourage him to abide by this notion for the rest of his life. It helps that I am most fond of shoes of all styles and colors. If Angel had read a book which advised him to buy his wife plenty of purses, I wouldn’t feel nearly as spoiled. I have a red and black plaid purse that doesn’t match any of my outfits, and I wouldn’t want any other. If I did have another purse, I’d probably be too lazy to switch the contents of my purse from bag to bag, and one purse would inevitably sit on a shelf in my closet, becoming lonelier and dustier by the day.
In summary, it suits me just fine that my husband chooses to show his affection for me with shoes. However, it caused me great distress recently when I had occasion to believe that I had lost a pair of shoes that he had purchased for me. The day started out bright and sunny, and without any sense of foreboding I went with my cousins to a pool party. When we arrived at our host’s home, I changed into my swimsuit at the house and left my shoes and clothes outside the back door, near where everyone else had left their shoes. I spent the afternoon trying to convince my cousins that I didn’t want to get my hair wet. All of my entreaties were proved to be vain when my uncle tipped over my floating tube; fun was had by all. As the sun began to set, we headed back to the house, changed, and packed up our stuff in preparation to leave. I looked for my shoes where I had left them, but they weren’t there. I scoured the whole porch area where everyone had left their stuff—my shoes were nowhere to be found. I was getting a little more worried by this time, so I enlisted my cousins to help me look for my purple sandals. I ran back to the pool to search for them there, thinking that perhaps I had absent-mindedly wore them to the poolside. No, they weren’t there either.
As I searched I was getting more and more desperate. This pair of purple sandals was the most expensive pair of shoes that I’ve ever owned, and I was becoming attached to them. While I’ve always enjoyed colorful and stylish shoes, they’ve usually been of the Wal-mart or Payless variety. Angel, however, swore that this particular brand of sandals was excellent, and had bought me the purple sandals just a month before. I was quite certain that if I’d already lost my new, expensive sandals, he definitely wouldn’t want to buy me a new pair. An unreasonable suspicion began to form in my mind…perhaps the shoes had been stolen! But that was ridiculous. Still, I couldn’t help but think it. Some people may believe that shoes rarely get stolen, but where I come from, it’s not that uncommon. I once had a pair of tennis shoes stolen from my family’s front porch, and it occurred to me that the same thing had happened again.
I was really starting to despair of ever seeing my lovely sandals again when one of my cousins ran up to me, saying, “We found your shoes! We told the hostess that you couldn’t find them, and she knew where they were!”
It turns out, our hostess had the exact same pair of sandals, and when she saw what she thought were her sandals outside on the back porch, she had picked them up and put them in her closet! We would have been looking for a long time if no one had thought to mention our dilemma to the lady of the house. So, in a way, surprising as it seems, my suspicion that my shoes had been stolen was correct. I just didn’t know that they had been stolen with the best of intentions, and it turned out that the thief had an attack of conscience and repentantly returned my shoes. At least, you could look at it that way. This nearly-tragic adventure ended well, and I foresee that my purple sandals and I will have a long and happy relationship.