Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Boston Bound!

In a few hours I'll be heading out to the airport and taking off for Boston, MA.  This will be my second of five residencies with the Solstice MFA Creative Writing Program.  I'm thrilled that I'll be able to reconnect with my classmates and faculty members, all of them wonderful people and excellent writers.  This Friday I will be introducing my mentor at the faculty reading and I hope I do well.  He was a fantastic mentor to me this past semester and I know I definitely want to have him as a mentor again in a later semester.  This next go around might see me working on a YA novel and so I'll be looking for a YA geared mentor to guide me through the next six months.

All I have left to do is finish a pinch of packing, do a clean up of my computer - it's like fingerprint heaven, get my computer bag all together and decide if I need blanket or not... for the sake of space in the airplane and in my luggage I'm thinking no.  I've had two cups of coffee (and will have a third en route) and we need to stop at WinCo and grab some Idaho Spuds to add to my host gift.  E was Solstice Buddy first semester and we had a great time getting to know each other at the residency.  She invited me to be her roommate while on campus and she's also letting me stay with her and her family before and after our time at Pine Manor.  This is just so wonderfully generous!  I wish I could do more, but as it is, I have a little gift bag of goodies - not much but just a few fun Idaho things - for her and hers.

Next on my list of things to do is to get a shower real quick and get all dressed and ready for the day.  It's going to be an all night journey with lots of reading and snoozing.  We have fun planned for tomorrow but I worry that at some point I'm going to just crash.  Crossing three time zones does tend to take its toll on poor old me.  By this time tomorrow (give or take three hours) I'll be relaxing with E and getting my brain all set for round two of my time as a grad student.  I'm nervous and excited.  I'm going to be super busy with classes but whenever there's a free moment I'll be socializing with my friends and enjoying copious amounts of coffee.

No Fun for Fat Chicks

"I'm not going to miss out on fun just because I'm fat." That's what I told my boss today at work.  This statement arose out of casual conversation about the upcoming residency.  I'm going to Boston for the Solstice MFA Program and the wonderful girl who is housing me the day before and the day after the residency (as well as being my dorm mate during the residency) informed me that I need to bring a swimming suit because we're going to have a pool party after we're done at Pine Manor but before I leave for home.  I'm thrilled about this!  I love water, I love fun, I love it all!  I told my coworker about this and she commented that I was brave because she'd never go about in just her swimming suit (or something to the degree of she wouldn't be caught dead with so little cover) and I gave her a puzzled look and sort of shrugged.  I think it was the mention of 'pool' and 'party' in the same sentence.  An intimate gathering of swimmers might be okay, but the fact that there will be many people... I suppose I can see her point, but at the same time...

Then I told my boss about the pool party.  She had asked if I was all done packing yet and I told her I hadn't even started that I better remember to bring a suit.  She gave me the same sort of shocked and awed look that my coworker had and she shook her head saying she'd never go for something like that.  Both of these women are a good deal older than me and both have a few extra pounds, but both of them are mothers and strong in their own rights.  Why are they so damned afraid to be in a swimming suit?  My boss even told me that she was impressed that I was going to participate because she was way to self conscious to ever do something like that.  I know that when they look at me and see a big old gal (Rubenesque, as I like to call it) they find it hard to believe that I'm actually fairly comfortable in my skin.  I don't like being heavy - I want to be thinner so that it's easier to find clothes.  I want to be thinner so I look better in those clothes.  And I want to be in better shape and healthier all around.  But what good does it do me to hide away until such a time as I might be less of a 'big gal'?   It occurs to me that maybe if I were a skinny-minny and had announced a pool party to my coworker and boss that they would have said 'oh, that sounds great, have fun!' and left it at that, but I don't think they were trying to make me feel bad - I think they just see some of their own physical flaws in me and immediately put themselves in my shoes wherein they decided that fun was a sacrifice they needed to make in order to hide. 

My mother is a source of inspiration to me for many things but in this matter, she shines brightly.  She has been heavy pretty much all her life and yet she never let it stop her from doing everything that a mom of average weight does with her children.  She probably even did more than most mom's of our financial status did with their kids. She took us on hikes, took us to the pool, played with us in the pool, encouraged me to take dance, helped out with my brother's Boy Scout's troop, took us shopping, took us to Silverwood Theme Park, and all sorts of things like that.  She didn't hide herself away all embarrassed because she was heavy.  I don't hide myself away either.  Some days I feel like I want to, like I am just gross and I feel like I'm going to break anything I sit in, or that I can't sit close to people because my fat will somehow rub off on them.  But most days, I realize that I am what I am and right now I'm big and maybe some day that will change, but it isn't changing this very second so I might as well put on the damn suit and have fun with my friend in Boston!  

Friday, June 21, 2013

Hummingbirds and other stuff...

I learned some things recently.  Firstly I learned that I am a pawn in the game of Murphy's Law.  Hannah and I went camping with some friends earlier in the week.  All in all it was a fun trip aside from the fact that 1) it rained like a mother fucker and 2) I started my period as I was setting up the tent.  And it wasn't one of those bad but not-so-bad periods, it was full on shaking pain.  Pads and pills later I was back on the learning wagon.  I learned that my friend - someone who one wouldn't typically peg as a camper - can get along quite well in the outside world as long as she has a chair, a fire, a pokey stick, and something to cook.  It was kind of adorable actually and as a result I ingested many, many crispy marshmallows and toasted Starbust.  Also learned that earwigs love moisture - sort of knew that but the fact really gets hammered into you when the tree above you spits rain drops and bugs simultaneously.

Thanks to the Google Machine, the learning continued on into the next day.  For instance, hummingbirds typically live between 3 and 5 years but, if they aren't killed, can live over a decade.  Also, anemia can cause hair loss - we're not exactly sure how that works chemically and physiologically, but it has something to do with the iron and apparently iron treatments help with hair loss issues even in people who aren't actually anemic.  We also looked up what to call animals who can change sex from male to female.  As it turns out they are still called hermaphrodites (which was our guess) but, if you want to get fancy, you can call them sequential hermaphrodites.  Returning to earwigs (we wanted to know when they typically hibernated - if they do indeed hibernate - so that we can plan future trips accordingly) we learned that they do indeed hibernate, but only during months cold enough that we wouldn't likely be camping.  But we learned too that male earwigs have curved pincers off their abdomens while female earwigs have straight ones.  And the moms are really protective and caring but also slightly stupid.  They clean their eggs every day to make sure no fungi grows on them, but sometimes they collect up little balls of wax, thinking those are also eggs, and give them the nice treatment until they finally figure out that it doesn't small right, at which point they kick it out of the nest.  So, they aren't all that bright, but their maternal hearts are in the right place.  They also eat bad eggs but that's fair since, if the mom dies while looking over her babies, they will help themselves to mommy burgers.  They don't kill their mom, they just eat her if she 'happens' to die.  I'm strangely comfortable with this.

Today I worked and then immediately went to BioLife to donate plasma.  I am trying to save up a little money for my trip to Boston.  All I really need is some petty cash for souvenirs and a few Starbuck's runs.  Also I will be staying with a friend before and after the residency so I want to have some cash for whatever shenanigans we find ourselves obliged to take part in.  I'm very excited to get back there and see my writing friends!  I'm excited for the classes and for the overall high that comes out of such an intimate and intense experience.  When I get back I'm going to try and sneak in some more camping while the weather is warm and then I'm going to saddle up for round two of Solstice.  I have some serious homework to do tomorrow - namely contacting the workshop mentor and starting with the worksheets for everyone's stories.  I have a couple more books I need to finish before I go but all I really have to worry about is the one that's 'required reading.'  I'm getting nervous, anxious, excited, and all manner of synonyms.

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Books, Bras, and Blood

Lately my life has been one of naps and cuddles.  I do not regret this - I do, however, regret not being a bit more driven about my residency prep.  Tomorrow is going to be a day of reading, cleaning, and grocery shopping and at some point I'm going to do a massive print out so that I can also read while I'm at work.  We've have bi-polar days: it starts slower than shit and ends with a rush of people so that we are still typically making our quota but we feel very whirl-winded, too.  Speaking of work, after six months of working there, I have finally had two dirty calls.  Same guy.  He calls up and asks in a frat-boy tenor, "Hey, do you guys have any push up bras?"  I tried to be helpful the first time but then he started asking which ones I wore and if they were comfortable and what size my breasts were.  It was very uncomfortable.  When I answered his call yesterday I skipped the pleasantries and said, "It's really best for you to bring your girlfriend in so she can try them on."  And he replied, sounding somewhat miffed, "guess I'll do that.  What time do you close?"  I told him.  But we'll never see him.  Apparently he's called and talked to the third key as well, pulling his same lewd shit.  Next time it happens my manager wants me to hand over the phone and I hope and pray that I'm there that day so I can hear her put him in his place.

In other news, I sold plasma again today.  My needle phobia is still alive and well - about half an hour into the donation is when the panic starts and my shoulders shake.  Today I tried to imagine my body as a machine - like a car - and that I was doing something like an oil change and that the tiny pinch of pain was nothing.  Well, the pain really is nothing.  It's the fear that hurts.  Isn't that strange?  Fear hurts.  Physical pain (to an extent) isn't really pain in my mind - it's all levels of intensity.  Some of those levels feel nice (a good hard flogging and spanking) while other levels (burst ovarian cyst and severe ankle sprain) just plain suck.  But as far as the fear goes, it's harder to get away from it, because it's all in your head.  I realize now why I was able to donate blood.  You have to wait well over a month between donations and that would give me more than enough time to heal emotionally.  But with plasma donation, they allow it twice in a week and eight times in a month.  I think I may have to limit myself to either once a week (which is less money for me since it's the second time in the week that pays well) or I have to do it every other week.  I just don't think I can handle it so often.  I am planning on going Saturday with Hannah... but that depends on if my bruise (which I'm sure I will have after today) is gone and if I can handle it emotionally.  My parents both went in to try and donate but were unable to due to being insulin diabetics.  So much for my plan to have a family outing at the BioLife clinic!

Saturday, June 8, 2013

Not today, my friend...

I went with Hannah to the BioLife Plasma center today.  She looked fabulous with her peacock color themed eye shadow and her side swept bangs; I looked like a rosy cheeked delinquent with my raggedy hair and stripey tank top.  Anyway, appearances aside, I was unable to donate today because of a little bruise in the crux of my arm.  It will be gone tomorrow, and maybe even gone tonight.  It's really faint.  But they don't poke through bruises and they couldn't get to the vein on my left arm so, c'est la vie!  No poke for me today and no extra money.  Not a huge deal.

On a lighter note, I have hit 2K page views on this blog and while that isn't anything to really crow about in the long run, it's a small thing that makes me happy.  Other things that make me happy are: I got a new book, I carried a 40 pound box of kitty litter and a fifteen pound bag of kitty food in from the car all by myself and at the same time, we rented Beautiful Creatures again so that my Aunt and Mother can watch it tonight, and I bought Zesty Lemon seasoning today.  Again, these are small things but I've had a few rough days lately and I take what I can get.

Thanks for the hits!

Thursday, June 6, 2013

Plasma Girl

I walk in and I'm such a badass.  I strut around saying, 'yeah, I've donated whole blood before.  Never plasma, but lots of whole blood.'  Because saying 'whole' blood makes me better than these plasma wimps.  Right.  I go through all the prescreen stuffs and finally end up on the chair.  Nic so-and-so helps me get comfy and explains this and that.  He says my heart might race a little and that my mouth is gonna taste funny.  He says that my lips might tingle too.  That's because of the anticoagulant.  Then he calls over some super smooth operator (cause Nic can't find my vein) to put in the needle.  I have to make a fist over and over again - squeezing air - whenever the arm cuff tightens.  I can relax when the band relaxes.  This pattern of squeezing and relaxing goes on for an hour.

Immediately I feel myself get twitchy and hot.  I start to sweat and my tummy gets tight.  Waves of panic manifest in giggles and I put my hand up over my mouth to cover my contorting lips.  For the next hour I feel like a crazy person, counting in German, squeezing air, watching the others around me and giggling and giggling and giggling.  So I text my friend and I pretend that I'm giggling over her texts.  She's talking to me about the novel chapter I submitted for workshop and she's ranting at me and after a while I'm no longer pretending that her texts are making me smile because they really are.  She gives me feedback of a different sort - not the kind that my mentor usually gave - and she has a true emotional response and I feel like 'Yes!  I'm doing okay!'

Then I'm just about done with squeezing air and laying there with a palpitating heart.  I feel saline going into my veins and that means I only have four minutes left.  It's cold.  Nic told me that it would be pretty chilly since the saline is room temp and my body is a raging 98.6 degrees.  He's right. It's cold but not just cold, it's so cold it almost burns and I feel funny up along my shoulders.  I wiggle and finally it's over.  He comes back and pulls out the needle, presses gauze down into the crux of my arm and then wraps me up with pink tape.  He asks me how it went and I pretty much shrug and tell him it was great.  After he shows me how to check out, I go and wait for Hannah.  She waltzes over just perfect and pretty as a peach.  She's got purple tape on her arm and it matches her shirt and her eye shadow.  I try to sound cool as I ask how it went and she shrugs, but she really means it.  She says it was just fine.  She asks me the same question I asked her and my eyes get all wet and I tell her I'm about to have a mental break down but at least we got paid, right?

We're going back on Saturday.

Sunday, June 2, 2013

Memories of Mrs. Scoggins

I recently read Sweethearts by Sara Zarr.  It was a great read, very enjoyable despite the angst.  The ending leaves you with a sort of unfinished feeling which is appropriate since that is a recurring theme of the novel.  More than anything, the back and forth of 9 years old to 17 years old and the mixture of memories both past and present tense, stirred up some strange (happy as well as sad) memories of my own youth.  From the myriad of these flashbacks (if my odd day-dream memory phases can be called that) I present a recollection of one of my favorite teachers.  In high school there was Mrs. Aten and in middle school there was Mr. Schneider.  But in my 3-5 grade school, there was Mrs. Scoggins, my fifth grade teacher.  She was not only a great teacher, but a wonderful person, always volunteering her talent with the piano to accompany middle school students during Solo and Ensemble.  This is how some people knew her and would always remember her.  There are three things I remember very distinctly from my fifth grade year - okay, four - and I would like to chronicle those here in memoriam of this woman.  Sadly I don't even remember her first name.  She was always Mrs. Scoggins and that was that.

One time she asked us to write down on a piece of paper what we wanted to be when we grew up.  I cannot for the life of me remember what I had written down.  Probably veterinarian or singer. That sounds about right for ten-year-old Amanda.  But what I do remember is what Adam Ashley wrote down.  "First First Man."  It caused our heads to tilt and Mrs. Scoggins asked him what exactly he'd meant.  He replied that he wanted to be married to the first woman president thus making him the 'first' first-man.  This was just too brilliant to let it slip into vague nothingness.  I told my mom.  I am waiting patiently for a Mrs. Ashley to run for president with her doting husband, Adam, beside her.  This should happen sometime in the next ten years so keep your eyes peeled and, remember folks, you heard it here first!

The next memory of Mrs. Scoggins I have also deals with Adam Ashley.  One day she came into class looking a bit preoccupied.  Toward the end of the day she had us all sit down quietly in our desks.  She said she had something she needed to tell us.  The words "breast" and "cancer" changed everything.  There would be surgery, there would be a substitute teacher for nearly three months, there would be a chance she could die.  And right then, in class, many of us sobbed.  Adam Ashley was the only boy who cried and I thought that was very sweet of him, like he was taking on the burden for me, because at that moment, I was too shocked and upset to shed a single tear.

Before the cancer scare (which she beat that first time!) she had us read a book about some youth or other who had a genius level IQ.  It was a nautical book and I don't remember the name but I do remember this one part.  The older brother, probably near or in his early twenties, is talking with his younger sister and he gets impatient because she isn't grasping something that he feels ought to come quite easily to her just as it comes easily to him.  The little sister snaps back with one of the most eye opening things I'd ever read at that point in my life.  She tells him not to get mad at her for not understanding, that it was like getting up in the middle of the night, stubbing your toe on a chair that was left out too far from the table, and then getting mad at the chair just for being!  It was a good lesson for me.  To this day I have issues with patience and it's good to think back on that damn chair.  This doesn't always curb my frustration but it allows me, in the end, to see how stupid I'm being and that's better than nothing.

Another memory, and perhaps one of the best, was the day she gave me a B instead of an A on an assignment.  It was a geography paper.  We had to label all the countries and then color some of them in green and some of them in brown and I can't readily recall right now what the two colors meant but apparently I didn't know at the time of the assignment either because I went ahead and labeled everything nice and neat then colored the map with gorgeous and dynamic colors, drawing attention to mountains and streams and providing a ten-year-old's scope of depth to the art piece.  That's what it was to me - not a map, but an art piece.  Well, Mrs. Scoggins apparently saw this as an opportunity to pull my head back from the clouds a little.  "Nice coloring job, Amanda.  But you didn't follow the directions.  B"  That was the note I got back and when I went home that night I raged!  Later on I realized that... yeah, I hadn't followed the directions.  And had Mrs. Scoggins not held me to the same standards as everyone else I might have gone on to think that the rules did not apply to me.  I might have fallen harder and further when this lesson of reality hit during college or during a job.  I still have a grandiose sense of self and feel that my creativity allows for a great many concessions to be made in my favor... but I also now am aware of this and know when to reign it in and when to let it be.

The other lesson in that assignment was 'overkill is bad.'  Mrs. Scoggins once told my mom and dad during a parent-teacher conference that I could do half the work and still make straight A's.  She was a smart woman.    And she could tell she was dealing with a smart kid.  She never favored or mistreated me.  Just gave me what I needed to carry on and be a successful student.  About three years later (I'm not sure if it was more or less than three years, high school was a blur to me and many of the facts surrounding it are also blurred) the cancer finally won and she passed away.  I was really heartbroken.  I didn't cry.  I don't know that I've ever cried for Mrs. Scoggins but she was such a strong woman that I don't think she would have wanted my tears.  I think instead she would prefer me to think on her fondly.  She would rather know that her life affected me, made me a better person in some way.  And I think she did know that.  As I said, she was a very smart woman.