Sunday, December 29, 2013

In which I attempt to set a New Year's Resolution

Today in church, someone made the statement that God's defining characteristics are creation and compassion. I haven't been able to stop thinking about that all day. How wonderful, that the two most godly attributes are the ability to create beauty, and to love each other.

I think I want to make these two attributes the focus of the coming year, but I'm not sure how. I think I'm pretty clear on what compassion is, but how encompassing is the idea of creation? Is spending time with a friend an act of creation, because you're creating a bond? What about playing an instrument? If you didn't compose the song, does it still count as creation, because you're creating the sound itself? Does a product have to be completely original to be creative?

Readers, what do you think? How do you exhibit creativity and compassion in your lives?

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

In which I'm longing to escape

I just really want to run away to the mountains right now.

Forget about my classes, my job, the event I'm running for work tonight....

I just want to hop in my car and drive up the canyon until I can't see the valley anymore....

and then wander through the orange-red-yellow trees until I feel myself thoughts, hopes, and worries dissipating...until I am nothing but legs and lungs in a forest....and then when I return to myself, I will be that much more refreshed and reenergized.

but sadly

though "the woods are lovely, dark and deep...

I have promises to keep, and miles to go before I sleep, and miles to go before I sleep."

Sunday, September 29, 2013

In which I actually talk about my life

So. Hi.

I don't post about my actual, day-to-day life very much on my blog. But for some reason, today I really want to. So here you have it: an update on the life of Riss.

I'm in my last semester of school before I student teach. I would say it's bittersweet, but it's not. It's just straight-up sweet. I love school, and I love learning, but if I had to spend one more semester sitting at a desk listening to someone else lecture at me about how to teach, I would tear my hair out. I am so incredibly excited to start practicum next month, and then to start student teaching in January. Not so excited for the job hunt that will inevitably follow graduation, but...c'est la vie.

After 3 years of living in the same apartment complex, I've finally moved. I'm living in a house called Ingleside with two friends I've had since I was tiny, and three fantastic new friends (yes, the name of our house is an Anne of Green Gables reference. Yes, that may be why we chose it). Our house looks creepy from the outside, with its partially broken picket fence and its peeling white paint, but on the inside, it is the most charming place I've ever lived. Every room is painted a different color (mine is lavender), the couches remind me of my great-grandmother, and the bathroom is the nicest I've ever had in an apartment (we're talking marble-looking counter and Ikea space-saving shelving here). Also, we have a washer and dryer in a tiny closet off the kitchen. I will never be able to go back to doing my laundry in a laundromat.

In what feels like the most grown-up thing I've done...ever, I bought a car. I am now an official adult, assuming that making a monthly car payment is what makes you an adult. She's a navy blue Subaru Outback that I've named Lydia and decorated with a stuffed T-Rex on the dash and my Timeturner and Scout camp totem hanging from the mirror. She's got a little bit of work that needs to be done, but I love her just the same. It's incredible the feeling of freedom having a car brings me. If I want to go to the grocery store, I just get in the car and drive down the street. If I want to plan a social outing, I don't need to purposely invite someone who can drive. It's sort of wonderful.

I started therapy again, after taking a two year break. I'm hoping my counselor can help me work through some of the questions I raised in this post. Goodness gracious though, I had forgotten how much therapy hurts. It was like spending an hour getting Band-Aids ripped off of various wounds, only to be sent out the door without any additional treatment, just a cheery, "See you in two weeks!" This better be worth it.

I honestly kind of feel like I'm drowning in the demands of school and work lately. Oh, and I get to present at a conference in Portland in a couple of weeks, but instead of the excitement I should be feeling, I mostly feel overwhelmed at the prospect of getting my presentation over with while also staying on top of my homework. There are so many things I miss doing that I wish I could spend my time on (hiking, camping, rock climbing, and playing the piano, to name a few), but I just don't feel like I have time. But maybe if I spent less time taking homework breaks to watch Lizzie Bennet Diaries...

I'm reading Moby-Dick right now. This isn't actually breaking news, since I've been reading it a bit at a time since about June. Melville is a master of the English language, but my goodness is his prose dense. I feel like I've been reading for ages and they just barely mentioned the whale by name in the last chapter. I may need to find a lighter, more compelling book to read on the side while I plow my way through Ishmael's adventures. Any recommendations?

I have this lingering sense of discontent that I can't identify the source of. I wish I knew how to eliminate it and feel excitement for life again. Because there's a lot to be excited about in my life right now. New (to me) house and car. Practicum. Road-tripping to Portland. General Conference this weekend. Leaves changing color. I just need to figure out a way to let myself enjoy it again.

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

On disagreement

From my textbook for Science Teaching Methods:

"Change came about as the result of disagreement, the marshaling of systematic evidence, sustained investigation (which involved some surveying of students, adults, and local gardeners), and even the help of outside experts. "

Isn't it cool that disagreement can be a catalyst for positive change?

We don't have to all hold the same opinion, we don't need to bash each other over the head when our ideas differ, and sometimes we don't even need to "agree to disagree," pretending there isn't an issue. We can use disagreements as a springboard for investigation, exploration, and learning, eventually coming to a consensus.

The idea gives me shivers (the happy kind).

Monday, August 26, 2013

In which I need to figure out what happiness is made out of

Let me tell you a secret:

During my month working at camp this summer, I think I took my medication...twice.

And guess what?

I was fine. No, I was happy.

Let me tell you another secret:

Last week, I only took my medication twice.


I was not fine. I was miserable. The world fell apart and I found myself crying about things like not being able to eat at Chick-Fil-A because I'd forgotten my debit card.

And so I've been asking myself...what made the difference? Why could I be blissfully content without my medication at camp, if I still depend on it for my happiness back at home?

There has to be something, and if I only could put my finger on it...

Maybe it was singing all day, everyday, sailor songs and whaling songs and songs about nature and songs about fish heads and songs about friends, just letting my voice ring out because that's what humans do, they sing.

Maybe it was always having opportunities to help others, or seeing the effects of my work with my own eyes. Maybe it was working with my entire body instead of just my fingers.

Maybe it was living in a redwood forest and waking up to the scream of blue jays in the morning.

Or maybe it's that I was in love...with the forest, with the songs and the games, with the people at camp...with a person at camp.

Or maybe it's something I haven't put my finger on yet, something that I can recreate and incorporate into my day-to-day life now that I'm home.

Whatever it is, I'm going to figure it out. I need to figure it out.

Thursday, June 13, 2013

In which everything about my life is happy right now

My brother is home.

I have friends who make me grin just talking to them.

My research group was selected to present at a conference in Portland this October.

I was offered an assistantship at a children's choir camp for the last week in June.

Today was my last day of class until September.

I'm going to Disneyland next week.

I leave for Scout Camp in less than a month.

Oh, and did I mention that my brother is home?

Life could not get much better.

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

In which I pose questions that I really would like answers to

Do you remember the first time you began to love your body?

Was it all at once, one fine day, when you realized, "My goodness, I am lovely"?

Or did you grow, piece by piece into the knowledge, beginning perhaps with an ambivalence (or even a loathing), and then sliding into a contentment, a satisfaction, a love?

Did you catch a glimpse of your eye in the mirror one day and find yourself mesmerized by its depths and patterns?

Or did a friend tell you that your smile was radiant, and you let yourself believe them?

Did you fall in love with the way your muscles throb when you run, or the way your hands smoothed your crying child's hair out of her face?

Have you ever glanced at yourself in the shower and shivered with delight at what a completely matchless, flawed, ever-changing wonder you are?

Or catalogued your list of wishes: that your armpits would sweat less, that those three perfectly stacked rolls wouldn't appear whenever you sat down, or that your hair were just a bit less stringy; and once your list was complete, determined that you still love your hair, your belly, and yes, even your pits?

Have you ever just realized that you, your body, your mind, yourself, are magnificent?

And if you haven't yet...I promise, you can. Because you are magnificent.

Thursday, May 30, 2013

In which the ol' wanderlust is acting up

Hey, guess where I want to go?


Tuesday, May 28, 2013

In which these topics seemed more related in my head

I know a hobby is going to stick when I start finding metaphors for life in it. It's obviously woven itself firmly enough into the way I process existence that I can use it as a mental filter to help me understand other experiences.

This past weekend was about as beautiful as a weekend could be, with the perfect balance of activity and lazing, new adventures and bursts of nostalgia, old bosom buddies and new friends. Also, there was plenty of cheesecake, and a new baby joined my extended family (can't wait to meet him!)

Today was my little brother's birthday. This kid is amazing, you guys. He speaks Spanish like a native, plays basketball like a pro, and cuddles like the best teddy bear you've ever known. Now that he's old enough to date, I think the ladies will be flocking to him right and left. And how could they not, eh Gus?

One of my best friends is getting married this weekend. And I really thought I was going to go when all of the sudden my plans dropped out from under me. I'm amazed at how not upset I am about this. I mean, I wish I was going, don't get me wrong. But I've done everything I can do to make it there (short of throwing down $100 to take the Greyhound), and it still hasn't been enough. If the wedding reception is where I'm supposed to be this weekend, God will find a way to make it happen. And if it isn't, then it will be for the best.

Thursday, May 16, 2013

In which I'm feelin' great

Got to class practically on time.

Played the organ for a couple of hours.

Was all of the productive at work.

Played a wicked game of ultimate Frisbee.

Sat on the grass with my friends while talking about zoo animals.

Ate frozen yogurt.

Took a refreshing shower.

This was indeed a wonderful day.

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

In which I go for a run, think some thoughts, and then type them up as soon as I get back.

I don't know why people say rainy days are gray. Have they ever been outside on a rainy day? The grass looks like it's about to start leaking green all over and even the houses are brighter. If nothing else, rainy days are brighter-colored than pale sunshiney days.

On my run today, I saw a boy just standing in the middle of the sidewalk. Maybe he was thinking or maybe he was waiting for someone, but I like to think that he was looking at how green Y mountain looked today, feeling the rain on his face, and listening to the birds. Anyway, once I was a little further away, I stood and looked too.

When I have a house I want it to be small but beautiful, with a lot of flowers and trees. I also want  a porch with some latticework and a swing.

Monday, May 6, 2013

In which I am itching for an adventure

Things I would like to do this spring/summer, in no particular order:

Tube the Provo River
Climb Y Mountain
Climb Mount Nebo
Get a library card

Visit the Springville Arts Museum
Go to Llama Fest at the Krishna Temple (update: I'll be in California. Maybe next year).
Visit the Living Planet Aquarium in SLC
Go to a fair, where I will ride the most vomit-inducing ride I can find, eat a funnel cake, and get a henna tattoo. 
Go to the Sheepdog Festival (It sounds silly, guys, but this is one of the cooler events I've been to in Utah)
Rooftop Concert Series! (update: done! Thrice over!)
Go to Boise for Jenni's wedding! Hooray! (update: couldn't get a ride. But a visit is in the works)
Meet Gail Carson Levine (update: done! She's really short!)
Go to the rope swing in Mona (update: done! And I went off the highest platform)
Go to the natural waterslides in Alpine (update: done! Highly recommend)
Actually make use of my Pass of all Passes at Seven Peaks
Sidewalk chalk!
Go hiking. A lot.
Rock climb. A lot. (update: started!)
Go camping and/or backpacking
Party at Disneyland (update: done! Huzzah!)
Swim in the ocean (update: done! Woo!)
Play with my brother (T minus 37 days!) (update: he's home!)
Buy produce at the Provo farmer's market
Go fishing on Free Fishing Day (update: went hiking this day instead)
Run through sprinklers (update: done!)
Eat a snow cone
Go to Canyonlands on August 25 for Fee Free Day

Run the Beat Beethoven 5k in Pleasant Grove (update: did something else instead)
Get a Slurpee on 7/11 (update: this is the day after I go to camp. Bummer.)
Go to the Utah Lake festival (update: missed it. Don't remember what I was doing that day)
Attend the Springville World Folkfest (update: happens while I'm at camp).
Go see the Spiral Jetty

And of course....climb a lot of trees

Sunday, May 5, 2013

In which I fail to overcome my gag reflex

When I was little, I was a picky eater. I wouldn't touch zucchini, peppers, onions, tomatoes, spicy food, or any kind of fruit. I would throw tantrums at the dinner table, pretend to throw up, hide food under the edge of my plate, anything I could do to get out of eating the foods I hated.

Fast forward to now.

I consider myself a fairly adventurous eater. I've eaten goat, octopus, squid, and eel (warning to everyone: dried squid is nasty). I love spicy foods of all varieties and have learned to love squash, peppers, onions, and mushrooms. If I forget to ask for no tomato on my burger, I leave it on, and enjoy the juiciness. But there is one area where my tastes have apparently not matured.

I still hate fruit.

Usually when I tell people this, they look at me in horror, as if I'd just said that I drown kittens for fun on the weekend or I think Saddam Hussein was a pretty cool dude. They tell me fruit is the nectar of the gods, that I'm missing out on something amazing. And I believe them. I love fruit juices and I love the smell of fruit. I just can't handle actually eating it.

This makes for some interesting experiences. I'm all for being polite and eating things when offered, but sometimes I think it would be more polite to pass on an offer of fruit and spare my host the experience of watching me desperately fight my gag reflex. This was demonstrated on my study abroad in Austria, when my host mom served us apricots coated in brown sugar for dessert one night. I didn't have the German expertise to politely decline, so I choked a few down. Eventually, she was alarmed by the faces I was making, and in explanation, I could only say, "Ich fuhle mich krank heute (I'm feeling sick today)". Which got me out of eating the apricots, but also gave Frau Feest an excuse to insist that I drink chamomile tea and eat fruit compote (her cure for every illness).

Another time, I was meeting a boyfriend's parents for the first time, and at dinner, was given a dish full of watermelon, raspberries, and strawberries. I don't mind watermelon, and I was able to muscle down two of the raspberries, but strawberries were out of the questions. So every time his mom looked away, I would spoon some of my fruit onto my boyfriend's plate.

I'm not actually sure why I have such a hard time with fruit. Usually I tell people that it's a texture thing, which is true. But I'm still not sure why I can handle raw fish textures and tomato textures and octopus tentacle textures, and not bananas. It might be the intense sweetness combined with the bizarre textures. And fruit textures are bizarre. Bananas and raspberries are furry, oranges are stringy, melons are squishy...I don't know how people handle it.

And that is why I can eat raw fish twice in one week (ceviche at Se Llama Peru on Thursday and nigiri at Wild Ginger yesterday) but I almost threw up when I discovered a grape in a chicken salad sandwich last weekend.

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

In which we mean intensely and we mean for good

Today was my last day of one of my favorite jobs. For the past year and a half, I've worked as a writing tutor for BYU's Writing Fellows program. While it has been wonderful being able to combine my love for writing with my passion for teaching, and increase my skills in both areas, I think the best part of this job was in the bizarre and wonderful Writing Fellows culture. I mean, how many people can say that their job has a theme song (with an official band to boot)? Or a never-empty cookie jar in the office?

Because of Writing Fellows, I've gotten paid to talk to new people, and to share my knowledge and experience. I've had many chances to improve my own writing and help others improve theirs. I've learned to treasure the moment when someone who has never considered herself a writer realizes how to express her thoughts in a clear, effective, and even beautiful way. There's just something kind of magical about seeing someone discover that beautiful writing isn't an ability reserved for an elite group; it's with their reach. And being able to clock in for that? I'll admit, that makes it even sweeter.

Yep, I'm going to miss this job. From hanging out at the Writing Fellows tables talking about tiger sharks to racing to the office after each test to see if the cookie jar's been refilled, it's been a great ride. To all my Writing Fellows friends, remember: Genius breathes in atmospheres of FREEDOM!!

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

In which two heads are, surprisingly, better than one

Today, I worked on a group project and didn't hate every second of it! In fact, throughout our meeting I continuously found myself thinking, "Man, I'm so glad I have a partner for this assignment. This is way better than working alone."

If you know me at all, you know that this is a very rare experience for me. I hate group work. When it comes to academics, I prefer to work at my own pace, with my own ideas. But today, my partner and I were on fire, bouncing ideas off of each other, and working with much more speed and quality than we could have managed on our own. Maybe it's just a matter of finding the right partner?

All I know is, that is one less project I need to worry about as finals approach. Success.

Sunday, March 31, 2013

In which I take whatever excuse I can to write about myself

So...Andria at Is this Awesome? Y/N nominated my blog for a Liebster award! I'll be honest with you, I'm not really sure what that is (are there prizes if I win? or do I just get warm fuzzies for being nominated?), but I like German words and I like friends, and I like having other people give me ideas of what to write about, so I'ma roll with this.

So, conditions for the Liebster award require me to post 11 things about myself. Thus, in no particular order:

11 facts about me:

1. I have an inordinate fondness for reptiles. Especially turtles and snakes. I would love an albino corn snake (they're so pretttyyyyy) but barring that, I would be happy with a box turtle.
2. I once peed my pants while on a date with a boy I really liked.
3. This one time I went scuba diving in the Caribbean and threw up. On my sister's head. She didn't notice though, because we were underwater so the vomit just kinda...dissipated. Honestly, I'm just glad I remembered to remove my regulator first, because nothing sounds worse than inhaling your own puke.
4. I don't like fruit. The textures make me gag. Except apples. And pineapple. Pineapple is wonderful.
5. When I was 14, I had the lead in my junior high's production of Annie Get Your Gun. This marked the apex of both my acting career and my popularity.
6. I have a thing for beards. I will readily admit that not every man can pull off a beard, but those that can...holy cow.
7. I sort of have an obsession with webcomics. Here are some of my favorites: Wondermark, Dinosaur Comics, Hark! A Vagrant!, and Nimona.
8. I love Chacos. My Chacos have accompanied me to 7 different countries, 6 castles (if I'm counting right), several mountaintops, a few church meetings and both an LDS temple and a Hare Krishna temple.
9. I once climbed a bookshelf in my sleep.
10. I play the ukulele. It is my antidepressant. (Well, actually Zoloft is my antidepressant...but the ukulele is my other, slightly more effective antidepressant).
11. When I acted up as a small child, my parents had to ground me from books instead of from friends, because I didn't care enough about friends for that to be much of a reinforcer.

My 11 answers to Dria's questions:

1. What is your favorite type of book to read? All of them. All the books in the world. Or anything with really beautiful prose. Even if the story is nonexistent, give me some pretty words and I'm happy.
2. What is your dream job? Professional napper. Oh wait, a real job? Elementary music specialist.
3. If you could visit any country, which would you visit? Just one country? Well, I think the next one on my list is the United Kingdom. Specifically, I would like to backpack the entire British Isles for a few weeks. Maybe I'll do that next year, after graduation.
4. Where do you think you'll be in ten years? Earth, probably. I mean, I guess there's a chance that there will be colonies on Mars by that point, but Mars seems kinda...barren. And far from my family.
5. If your 16-year-old self could see you now, what would he or she think of you? She would be surprised that I am planning on teaching elementary school, disappointed in how little I practice the piano, ecstatic about how much I've traveled, and slightly scandalized by how much I like kissing (my 16 year-old self was seriously considering not kissing anyone until she was engaged).
6. If you could donate one million dollars to any charity, which would it be? I think I would first put it all into Kiva loans. Once they were repaid, I would donate the money to the United Way, the Liz Shropshire Foundation, the Beverly Taylor Sorensen Foundation, and Water for Life.
7. What do you consider to be your greatest strengths? Passion. For my life work, for the people I care about, and for life itself. Also, I'm pretty hot.
8. If you had to describe yourself as an animal, which would you choose? An otter. Because they're adorable, and smart enough to use tools, and playful, and awesome swimmers. And also they are rather fierce when provoked.
9. What is your favorite type of music? The kind that makes me remember what I love about life and opens me up to experiences and feelings beyond my own. 
10. How old were you when you had your first kiss, and how did it happen? I was 19, and had been exclusive with my first boyfriend for just about 24 hours. I was terrified of kissing, and told him I wanted to wait like, a week. That night, we were watching Beauty and the Beast and I was reminding myself over and over that I wasn't going to kiss him that night, because he was sick and I didn't want to catch it. After the movie, we both fell asleep on his parents' couch. We woke up around 3:00 am and were talking. I was only half-conscious and saying a lot of thing that didn't quite make sense. He asked if he could kiss me. I tried really hard to remember why I didn't want to kiss him, but I was too sleepy, so I let him kiss me. The next day I woke up coughing, and remembered why I wasn't supposed to kiss him. Thankfully, it was just a cold, not mono or anything.
11. Who is your favorite figure from history? Hmm... Hildegard von Bingen was pretty rad. I would pick either Hildegard or Abe Lincoln.

11 blogs I'm nominating for the liebster award:

Andy's blog: the joy of life
Bekah's blog: From the Mixed-up Files of Ms. Rebekah E. Westrup
Callie's blog: sunshine
Matt's blog: matt's blog
Meilina's blog: Good Things to Come
Emilia's blog: In Which I Start a Blog
Whitney's blog: Hypaethral
Ellie's blog: life is beautiful 
Todd's blog: Fritter and Waste the Hours in an Off-hand Way
Jenni's blog: the breadbox
Jacob's blog: A Thomas or a Paul?

Questions I want the nominees to answer:

1. What is the most impulsive thing you've ever done?
2. What is your favorite breakfast food?
3. If you had to choose one holiday to repeat every day for a year, what would it be?
4. What is your favorite type of weather?
5. Why do you blog?
6. Cats or dogs?
7. If you had to choose one, would you rather spend the rest of your life on a vegetarian diet or a gluten-free diet?
8. Would you rather backpack Europe staying in cheap hostels along the way, or take a Mediterranean cruise?
9. What is your favorite national park?
10. If you had to live in the world of one science fiction or fantasy book, which would you choose?
11. What song is stuck in your head right now? (bonus points if you include a video of yourself singing along).

note the first: if you don't feel like doing a liebster post in response to being nominated, no pressure. Though I would love to hear what all y'all have to say. Also, I'm way too lazy to go through and comment on all 11 of these blogs to inform you that you were nominated. So...hopefully you see it on here? Maybe I'll tag you on facebook or something, too.

note the second: there are a lot of other people whose blogs I love. way more than eleven. if Dria picked you in her post, you were automatically disqualified for mine. sorry, friends.

Friday, March 15, 2013

Top o' the Mornin' To Ye

Perhaps it's just a manifestation of my spring fever, or the fact that I watched Leap Day last weekend, but I have been incredibly psyched for St. Patrick's Day this year. (Which is a little ridiculous, because what would I even do on St. Patrick's Day? I don't drink, which seems to eliminate...the majority of options). So far, my plans are to listen to Irish pub rock all weekend (good thing I already have a Pandora station in place for that), get friends to play some non-alcoholic drinking games with me (Fresca pong, anyone?), watch Waking Ned Divine, and go see Natalie MacMaster perform some Celtic fiddle tunes. Some of these activities won't actually happen until a few days after St. Patrick's, but that just means longer celebrations for me! Hooray!

Commenters: what do you usually do for St. Patty's, if anything? Do you have any vaguely Irish plans this weekend?

And, for your listening pleasure:

In other news...if any friends want to come with me to the Natalie MacMaster concert on Tuesday...let me know, yeah?

Sunday, March 10, 2013

A post about medication? I guess?

Here is the bizarre thing about antidepressants:

I know that they work. I know because the times I have forgotten to take them for more than 2 days in a row have been miserable. Picture a weepy mess unsure why she can't get off the couch. Picture 5 naps a day. Picture grumpy and snappy. Picture...picture me before the meds, I guess.

But I also know that really, I can go 2 or 3 days and be safe. Except that these little pills make wonderful placebos. So if I start to feel down and I remember I haven't taken them yet, I just pop a pill and feel much better (Even though I know that it is physically impossible for Zoloft to have that quick of an effect). And if the depression strikes on a day where I have taken the meds, I just have to tell myself over and over again that I took them that morning, so I should be feeling all right. And, pretty often, that does the trick.

It's kinda like how when you realize that you forgot your deodorant that morning you instantly start dripping sweat. I mean, you would probably sweat more either way, having forgotten your antiperspirant, but knowing you forgot just makes it worse. And telling myself I wore deodorant (even when I didn't) will usually keep me from sweating.

This mind-body connection thing is crazy.

And now, if you'll excuse me, I still haven't taken my meds today...

Saturday, March 2, 2013

In which I am content.

For the past few weeks, I've felt myself disappearing.

It was terrifying, because it was reminiscent of these days, or these ones...

dark times.

(heck, I'm not afraid to say it: pre-Zoloft times).

I couldn't remember what I loved, or even what I liked.
I didn't want to do anything.
But not doing anything was even worse, because it turns out...when you can't remember who you are, being alone is unbearable...

because you don't even have yourself to keep you company.
And so you stay busy, you stay around people, and you sleep a lot.

But then, over the last few days, I found myself waking up a little bit, like a perennial popping back through the soil in the spring. It wasn't ever dead, the bulb was there all winter long, waiting for the sun to come back.

And I don't know for sure what it was...
but it might have been being in a classroom, teaching music for the first time in far too long
and then spending almost an hour just chatting with the teacher I work with.

It could have been spending an hour talking with a new friend about moray eels, free diving, and the new edition of the scriptures.

It might have been the Duke Ellington/Super Mario Brothers mashup that a kid in my jazz class improvised the other day,

or the look on the face of a woman I had barely met as she sang to me, (just for me) to "outshine the sun" and looked at me with as much love as one stranger can look at another.

Whether it was all of these things or none, it feels like someone who loves me has whispered, "You didn't disappear. You were here all along, you just forgot. See, let me remind you who are."

And now I'm smiling at strangers again,

and singing because I want to

and talking to people because I love them, and not because I'm afraid

because I'm not afraid

and maybe tomorrow all of this will go away and I'll feel like a shadow again but for now, I feel light (it's amazing how heavy nothingness can get) and I feel complete.

And best of all:

I'm still here.

Saturday, February 23, 2013

Speaking from the Dust: In which I pull another post from the unpublished drafts folder

Dear Body of Mine,

I think you're pretty great. Sure, I wish you had 20/20 vision. I wish you didn't feel the need to break out every other day. I would love it if you knew how to produce the proper amount of serotonin in my brain or if you didn't funnel all of my stress into stomachaches. But I have to admit, you are pretty fantastic. I mean, there are all the normal, miraculous things that you do every day, like digesting my food, and pumping blood through my arteries, and allowing me to walk to class. And then there are the crazy, exceptional things you can do. Like my double-jointed elbow. That one's a great conversation starter. And have I ever told you thank you for having such a remarkable immune system? Remember that year when two of my roommates got swine flu and I didn't catch it from either of them? All you, my friend. So hey, I know a lot of people talk about hating their bodies, and I just wanted you to know that I think you're pretty all right. I really appreciate you. You aren't perfect, but you're mine. And you are remarkable.


P.S. Also, you have really pretty eyes and great lips. Just sayin'.

Friday, February 8, 2013

Sometimes, this scary, insidious thought pops into my head, and it goes like this: "Karissa, what are you even doing with your life?" And then there's this split second where I don't know. I don't know what I'm doing or why and maybe I should be disappointed in myself?

You see, when I was little, I knew I was going to do big things. Because, as my teachers, friends, and the kids who picked on me at recess said, I was smart. And since I was smart, I knew that I could do anything in the world. I could play in the WNBA, or become a world-famous landscape architect, or design bridges as a civil engineer. I could become a world-renowned author or a concert pianist or a rabbit breeder (yes, these are all careers that I considered during my childhood. Let us disregard the fact that I was the least coordinated kid on the planet, so the WNBA was out. Let's also ignore the fact that I hated my pet rabbit, so why I wanted to help bring more of those into the world is beyond me).

And then I got a little bit older and found out about things like human trafficking and genocide and hunger and disease. And my dreams got a little bit bigger. I was going to write world-changing editorials that would cause everybody to lay down their weapons and give each other hugs. I was going to start a non-profit that would wipe out world hunger. I was going think up an economic system that could somehow create financial equality while still preserving individual freedom. I knew I was going to grow up to save the world, because I was passionate, and I was informed (well, for a high-schooler) and yes, I was smart.

And now, a year from graduation, I look at my life and wonder if I'm still dreaming big. If little me or teenage me would be disappointed if they could see. Because, you see, I'm not going into a glamorous field. I'm not going to cure cancer or go to the North Pole or have a documentary made about my life. I'm not going to be famous, and I'll count myself blessed if I can just continue to make rent each month.

I don't even know if I'll be good at my chosen profession. It's going to require a lot of early mornings and long days, both of which I struggle with. It's going to take organization, planning, and people skills...none of which are strong points for me. And I know plenty of people will think that I'm choosing this path because I wasn't competent enough for more a prestigious career...because those who can't do, teach, right?

So maybe I'm not living up to my potential. Maybe I should be off saving the world or curing diseases or being a concert pianist, instead of aspiring to a life of planning lessons, grading assignments, and attending parent-teacher conferences.

But you know what? These dreams might be small, but they are mine. They feel like mine. Because I can spend hours absorbed in reading about educational philosophy. Because the highlight of each week is the time I get to spend tutoring Eli, my first-grade buddy. Because my voice gets high and loud and intense when I talk about educational reform. And because movies with children in them make me cry when even the most tragic of love stories cannot.

And maybe my dream of becoming a teacher will go the way of my dream to play in the WNBA. Maybe in 5 or 10 or 15 years I'll decide that I'd rather be a travel writer. Or a yoga instructor. Or a paramedic. And it will be okay that I'm not famous, that I'm not saving the world, that I'm not doing what I thought I'd do when I was ten. No, it will be more than okay. It will be awesome. Because I will be living my life, the way I want to live it, and doing my best to make my corner of the world a little bit better.

Thursday, January 31, 2013

Speaking from the dust: In which I believe

I was perusing my unpublished drafts folder the other night, and realized that, by golly, there is some good stuff in there (if I do say so myself). So I figured, why not let my past self be a guest blogger once in a while? Blogging "as one speaking from the dust," as it were. I'm not sure when this one was written, but I like it.

These are the things I believe in:

I believe in snow and sunshine and rain and thunderstorms. I believe in conversations that last until 2 am, in letting another person see a part of your soul, in trusting that you can be vulnerable without getting hurt. I believe in love of all kinds and shapes and forms. I believe in kindness and smiles and spontaneity and service. I believe that eye contact is terrifying and important. I believe in exploring the mountains. I believe in adventure. I believe in discourse and dialogue and argumentation, and I believe in respect for other's viewpoints and being flexible enough to change your mind. I believe that every person is infinitely important. I believe that there is a reason for life, even if the answer is simply that life is its own reason. I believe that people matter. I believe in individuality and uniqueness and common ground and unity. I believe in forgiveness, in revising first impressions, in change. I believe in art and beauty and music. I believe in hugs. I believe in holding hands and in cuddling. I believe that bodies...all of them...are wonderful and beautiful and powerful and awe-inspiring. I believe that we are very small. I believe in laying on the ground and realizing that there is so much happening underneath us that we will never see. I believe in learning. I believe in my own ignorance. I believe in immortality, whether through corporeal resurrection, spiritual afterlife, or simply the reverberations our deeds leave in the patterns of the universe. Everybody makes an impact, and their impact is what lives on. Therefore, I believe in making my waves of impact good. I believe in connections, in finding the sublime in others. I believe in expression, in words, in touch. I believe in family, both born into and chosen. I believe that this world has more to it than meets the eye, that there is an infinite amount of things we do not and wil never understand. I believe in climbing trees, jumping in puddles, and blowing bubbles. I believe in treating children like adults, and remembering as adults to stay like children.

I believe in more than I thought I did.

Thursday, January 24, 2013

In which "moist" was intentionally left off the list.

The Worst Words in the English Language, according to Riss:
(we're talking aesthetics here, not definitions)

  • Ointment
  • Phlegm
  • Nuptials
  • Strengths
  • Bladder
  • Jowls
  • Pulp (or pulpy)
  • Raucous

You're welcome.

Coming next: The Best Words in the English Language (Maybe. We all know I'm way better at negativity than optimism).

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

In which my creativity is frozen

Sometimes...I really want to post something in my blog.

Just so I can point at something and say, "See! I'm still creative! I created that block of text right there on the screen!"

And I want to solidify many of the thoughts bouncing around in my brain about love and truth and freedom and uncertainty and ukuleles and how badly I want to have a classroom to set up and why I love pizza so much...

but...I'm just...really tired. And my brain is foggy from studying. Also, I think my mental functions have frozen as a result of the frigid temperatures outside. Seriously, I do not ever remember a Utah winter this cold, and I've lived here for almost 23 years.

Suffice it to say, people, my life is great. And I'm learning a lot every day and spending time with people I love and having adventures whenever I can and trying to suck the most experience I can out of this thing called life while contributing at least a little bit to the world's net happiness.

Also, I'm learning to play jazz piano. So...there's that.

Thursday, January 10, 2013

In which I salute the sun

I made an observation today. My yoga DVD, which I used to ridicule for it's hokiness, is no longer hilarious to me anymore. And while I still giggle a little bit when the yogi says that a pose feels like "somebody licking ice cream off your body," and tells me to "feel the sweet honey of your hip," I really appreciate the admonition to breathe in all of the green plants in the world, or to carry yoga with me by lighting someone else's fire.

So...maybe I've become less cynical? Or more hokey? 

Either way, in the words of Eoin Finn, "Let love rule. Namaste."