Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Something important

Well, I certainly hope that people still read this, because I've got a great cause for all of you!

One of my cousins was recently diagnosed with diabetes, and it's been a little difficult for my family. My aunt and uncle have undergone their fair share of struggles in their life, most notably in 2006 when their little boy was fatally struck by a vehicle on the 4th of July. The news about Abby's diabetes is just one more thing adding to the pile. Any little thing helps, and my aunt found a wonderful blog which is hosting a contest for one family to win a matching set of bags to help store and carry the things that Abby needs with her on a daily basis-- in a non-intrusive, adorable way. Instead of being embarrassed by her pump and her bag of supplies, she could actually enjoy carrying them, and even be able to show off the adorable pouches that she won! Even just getting that out in the open could provide a lot of support and awareness for diabetes... instead of hiding it, it's out there for the world to see.

If you could please go visit this website...
...read through the contest rules, "Like" each of the pages, and comment saying that you are a new fan, sent by Cheryl Speights. Just by doing this, you help give my cousin the opportunity to win this contest!
Thank you so much!

Monday, January 9, 2012

Fragments and Inspiration

                What is inspiration? I wish I knew. Then maybe I’d feel some sort of motivation to write more often—or at the very least finish a thought before abandoning it.
                I have not written a blog post in quite a while. (Durr.) It’s not really because I don’t have the inspiration, but more that inspiration seems to hit at really stupid times. While driving home from work, I will compose a fantastic poem, clinging desperately to at least the first three lines!!!!... only to forget them the moment I pull into the driveway. I watch the man in the cubicle next to me glare at me over the flimsy partitions which really don’t block anything (really, buddy, there’s no way in hell I could possibly be louder than you. Seriously. I don’t know why you’re glaring at me.) and get the idea for the few lines of a short story, floating around in my head… and then my supervisor emails me and gives me another project to work on. I’m in that silly half-awake stage of sleep, my body jolting me from deep sleep in an attempt to capture some thought that I just have to consider right away… and I either fall back asleep or my darn cat starts purring and jumps on my head.
                Inspiration is everywhere. If something as mundane as my cubicle neighbor glaring at me can trigger it, it must be easy to find. So why does it always disappear as soon as you try to capture it? I think one of my biggest problems is that I think in fragments, rarely in whole, cohesive thoughts. This makes it much more difficult to capture and maintain the thought process. When I find inspiration, I find pieces of lines, not full ones. I get conceptual, not concrete data. I suppose that’s the way it works for a lot of people, but I just don’t seem to be one of those people who can transfer those moments and fragments from my mind into reality.
                I think that’s what I liked so much about being in school. I didn’t really have to be inspired, per se, in order to write my papers or complete my assignments… but inspiration seemed to come and to stay much more easily. True, I generally had prompts and guidelines to help me, but I think that was part of what I enjoyed the most—creating something completely my own within the lines enforced by someone else. In school, I didn’t have to worry about anything else except the inspiration—I had to do it, and there was much less distracting me from the inspiration which would hit. I was usually in a position where I could immediately write down whatever came to me, and had much more motivation to rework things so that they fit completely and coherently. I was much better at taking the fragments floating around my head and molding them into something which fit with whatever I was trying to do. I guess I’m just a “color inside the lines” type of person…but I’m also the one who uses the bright purple crayon for the person’s skin, even while meticulously keeping the crayon from going outside the pre-defined borders. Cornell allowed me to do that, encouraging the occasional oddness.
                Part of the difficulty after school has been finding those lines; or, in most cases, attempting to work outside of them because they simply don’t exist. At school I enjoyed taking classes as a sort of “means to an end.” Not that I didn’t want to take them—I did! But I liked that I knew (with few exceptions) exactly which classes I needed in order to complete my degree. Yes, there was a little bit of leeway; many of the classes fell into categories, and you could take one of several different classes to fulfill the requirement. But I knew that I needed one of that type of class, and I liked having that guideline in place to sort of show me the way.
                Now, I don’t have a distinct set of steps showing me the way, and I find myself at a loss for inspiration and motivation when it comes to life as well. I’m going to be honest—I have no idea what I want to do when I grow up. And, now that I’m not in school anymore, I’m having trouble even figuring out how to come to that decision. I am interested in a lot of things, but they are like the fragments of thoughts within my head—they just seem to disappear or refuse to come together to create something cohesive. I can’t even seem to figure out what interests me more or less than anything else, which is really frustrating and makes the whole process even more difficult. I can’t seem to process my own thoughts, or see what I’m good at, or what career path would be best for me. I think, in many ways, I’m trying too hard to piece the fragments together, and find a way to combine certain interests together. I know that I’m not going to be able to incorporate everything that I’m interested in—but since I am leaning toward going into one of the fields of psychology, I need to be able to decide what, specifically, interests me within psychology. And the biggest problem is that there are far too many fragments for me to seem to be able to determine the answer to that.
                I have a lot of interests when it comes to psychology. I love the concept of language, and language function and acquisition, and the way that language shapes our views of the world. I love figuring out the “puzzles” of people; being able to determine why they’re acting a certain way, or what’s causing them to think certain things about themselves or others or the world as a whole.  I love figuring out what’s going on in the brain, and how the structures of the brain influence people. I love having solutions for people based on what I know about how people act and why, and being the person that others come to because they know that I’ll be able to help them figure out what to do in specific situations. I think most all of these things lead me toward a career in counseling psychology, especially as I’m not a very “science-y” person (meaning that doing things like brain scans and all the things that go along with neuropsychology would be really difficult for me and not make me happy in the long run; while there is certainly interaction with people, there is generally no focus on or opportunity for providing treatment [unless I was a medical doctor, which I don’t want to be]).
I also really love the idea of psychology as a means to understanding literature—it combines both my love of psychology and my love of words and reading. This is probably the most difficult one; I’m not entirely sure how to turn this into a career, but I think that, over time, this would be the one that I would enjoy the most. It’s part of why I did so well as an English major at Cornell—I used my knowledge of psychology to analyze whatever we were reading, and was able to write more unique papers and understand the works in a different way than most people as a result. Again, though, this path would mean that I was unable to work with people. And even though I hate people as a general rule, I’m really good at understanding them and helping them (not to sound arrogant, this is based on experience in classes and with helping friends). Plus I enjoy that aspect of psychology a lot.
Each time I think I’ve found the way to piece these fragments together, the same thing happens as when I’m trying to write—I get the general concept, but as soon as I try to solidify the thought, I get distracted or it disappears. The inspiration is there, but it keeps slipping through my fingers. But every so often, I manage to get a grip on one of the fragments and expand it, am able to use it and understand it and reinforce it until it’s a concrete, tangible thought. A written piece. A completed work. Hopefully the inspiration for this blog is just the first step—maybe capturing that inspirational fragment means that I’ll soon be able to ensnare the fragment of enlightenment which will allow me to determine what I want to do with my life, and make it easier to function without the benefit of other peoples’ lines.

Or, maybe, I'll finally be able to just finish a thought.

Sunday, August 28, 2011


    When I moved back home after graduating from college, I brought my cat (Jaxx) into our already-two-cat-too-many (according to my dad) household. So now, including Jaxx, we have three cats. My dad, suffice it to say, is not too happy.
    Of course, that doesn’t include my mom Cat. He has no right to complain about her, especially because she (unlike the furry cats) does not poop in the laundry basket or cough up hairballs in front of the fireplace. She doesn’t even run through the house like a maniac at all hours of the night!
    Anyway, the point of the matter is that our furry cats do ALL of those things and more, and Jiffle and Joe (yes, we have a thing about cats and “J” names... It extends to the racing cars as well) have only gotten worse since Jaxx arrived. I think they’re a little ticked off that I brought an intruder into their house, especially since he just won’t seem to go away, loves to pick fights, and insists on having everyone’s full attention at pretty much all times. Their solution is increasingly poor behavior, forcing all of us to put up with their crap (literally).
    And CRAP is exactly what my dad is threatening back-- the Cat Reduction Action Plan. He announced this to us tonight at dinner, and went on to elaborate that “it’s funny because that’s what they do! Crap!” (he may have had just one or two beers). He thinks he’s so clever.

    Some potential elements of CRAP:
1: Stop feeding them. If you don’t feed them, they can’t produce poop, right?
2: “Accidentally” leave a door open and hope one of them escapes. If they leave to go make friends with the mountain lion prowling around the neighborhood, that’s an unexpected and welcome bonus.
3: Watch helplessly as they plummet off the staircase railing... Or, even better, the ledge over the mantlepiece. Too bad they weren’t more graceful... And didn’t know better than to stand on narrow railings.
4: Lock them in the pantry for an extended period of time. Not my fault they don’t have thumbs and don’t know how to open bags or cans.

    Okay, so it’s not really all that funny, and the only reason it’s funny at all is that I know my dad would never follow through on the threats. Though he would never admit it, he loves the cats and would be devastated if anything happened to them. He loves that they love him, too, even though that’s part of why he threatens them so often. Joe in particular has laid claim to my dad, and gets jealous if the human Cat is even sitting next to him on the couch. Joe hangs out in my dad’s office, sleeps on his legs (or face) whenever he gets the chance, is aggressively affectionate toward him all the time, and has created a bald spot on my dad’s head from licking him in that same spot.
    My dad won’t do anything to them because he enjoys the furry attention, and will be the first to lean over and pet Jaxx’s belly when he flops over, or give Jiffle a taste of the leftover steak juice on his plate (even if he usually dabs it on Jiffle’s fur, so the cat has to do some fancy yoga work to get it off). Even when he “accidentally” pushes a sleeping Joe off the top of the couch, exclaiming “Oh! I’m sorry! Were you sleeping there?!,” he does so lovingly, with no intention of causing any real harm. He just thinks it’s funny.
    Though the cats may continue to be complete miscreants, we don’t have to worry about my dad’s wrath and the implementation of CRAP. No matter how upset he gets, my dad is still the one who likes the cats enough to sit on the couch beside them and give them wet willies.

Saturday, August 6, 2011

You can't be a blogger and write about it too

    I’m a little bit confused right now.
    I started this blog, on this website, under the assumption that the whole point was writing. Not necessarily writing well, or writing much, or writing anything remotely interesting to anyone else-- but writing nonetheless. Writing is an aspect of English language and studies, am I correct? I sure hope I am; I went to college for four years and obtained a Bachelors degree in English, so it would really speak poorly of the American educational system if I wasn’t even sure of that.
    However, when I went to the “edit profile” section of the website and attempted to update my “industry” under work information, I found no option for “English” or “Writing” or anything of the sort. Sure, it included “Communications or media” and “Publishing,” which sort of fall under the same category, but aren’t very inclusive. I don’t feel either of those incorporates who I am and what my degree prepared me to do.
    Why? True, I don’t have a job in my field yet, but some other people blog (or similar-- they write) for a living. Are the creators of the website just assuming this is a place for individuals whose interest in writing doesn’t extend beyond relating the details of their lives? Are professional writers, or literature snobs, or people who proofread students’ essays unwelcome here? What if I chose to make my living studying dusty tomes written in Old English, or analyzing character development in modern literature, or any of a hundred things which don’t actually fall under the category of being a “student” or someone in “publishing”? I know it’s a technicality, but to me and perhaps to many others whose industry can only be summed up by “ENGLISH” or “WRITING” or something similar and slightly broader, it’s an important technicality.
    I suppose the simple answer is “don’t respond; don’t choose an option on the drop-down list and just let it go.” I could, but writing is a piece of English, and I was trained to read and write and analyze. Thus, I write about the things I see and experience-- and yet, this website doesn’t give me the option to exclaim that to the world in any other way.
    So, again, I write. I analyze. I explore and explain my frustration with the fact that I cannot choose the proper industry from a list to complete a profile which (most likely) very few people will ever notice or read.

Friday, August 5, 2011


I thought that I would share a few of the creative writing pieces I wrote for a class I took in February. Enjoy (or not... it's all about personal preference!)

**Note-- this piece is based off of a sonnet by Ted Berrigan. The exercise was to take the lines of the sonnet and omit or add words where we saw fit, to create something entirely new.**
Shattered Words

Twists and curves among images
Point instead to broken traditions.
Hungering for truth and newness, he faded from sight,
Torn and scattered by imaginative hands

Bright in contrast to other thought weary grins,
Uncertainly sauntering past contemplative frowns--
I am drowning my weariness in gilded laughter.

The gnarled and twisted hand,
Scattered in sorrow, looks cold and dim.
I think, and watch it break, time and again,
Toward images with only one meaning
Shrieking words which nothing else will utter.

The sonnet is not dead,
But words themselves may be, instead.

 **Note-- these two poems are intended to be side-by-side (so the first on the left half of a page, the second on the right) but I can't figure out how to make it do that here. If you want to see it as intended, just let me know, and I'll send a copy via email**

Haphazard limbs
wayward intentions
crouched, the
Flattening against the

sliding drowsy
downward diffused
flailing, the
Twisting beyond the

frantic exposure
exotic verbs
browbeaten, the
Shattering buttons tremble


Haphazard limbs and
wayward intentions crouched
against the
Flattening against the

Sliding drowsy and
downward diffused, wildly
flailing, the
beyond the bookshelf

frantic exposure and
exotic verbs, browbeaten into
phrases, shattering connections
ferocious and unstoppable

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Crazy must be contagious

    For those of you who don’t know me very well, I am NOT a runner. I’ve always been the kind of person who thinks running is only acceptable if something is chasing you. Something extremely terrifying-- like a mountain lion, or a bear, or the loud fat guy who used to coach my swim team (although, on second thought, I would really like to see him try to run...).
    For some reason, though, I joined my mom and her friends at an event called 24 Hours of Towers (24HoT). They wanted as many people as possible to do as many “laps” up the mountain trail as their poor tired legs and lungs would allow. Of course, my mom and her friends are the FORT COLLINS TRAIL RUNNERS.  A jaunt up Towers Road is basically a walk in the park, only with more elevation gain! No problem!
    Towers Road is a deceptive name. Towers is not a road. Towers is a seven mile trail leading 1,650 feet straight up the side of a mountain into insanity. If you aren’t careful, Towers will (literally) chew you up and spit you back out. Towers has it’s own personality, and it’s one sadistic SOB.
    Unfortunately for Towers, the FCTR are more masochistic than normal humans should be, and the level of crazy hit a new high at 24HoT. Days before the event, goals were in, and some of the more ambitious runners (my mom included, of course) were gunning for 10 to 12 laps. If you don’t want to do the math, that’s 70-84 miles and 16,500-19,800 feet of elevation gain. MY goal was to do one lap, just to say I did, and help the trail runners add to their mileage, both regular and vertical.
    Then came temperatures over 100 degrees. Runners quickly revised their goals, cutting one or two laps. Water, though plentiful at the base, rapidly became a precious commodity on the way up the mountain. Basically, it was HOT. Hot for 24HoT... Not that anyone should have expected that, at the end of July. No matter how logical it seems, the extreme heat still took everyone a little by surprise. Many people decided to go home during the heat of the day, and come back when the temperature was more reasonable.
    Ah, but I am my mother’s daughter, and everything I did that day served to prove that point, time and again. I received a call from her at about one o’clock saying that she needed more water and to please bring her Camelbak. Of course, she promptly started back up the mountain, so when I arrived at about 1:30, I had missed my chance to give it to her at the base. At this point, the temperature felt well over 100, so I decided to begin the trek up Towers to meet up with my mom so she wouldn’t die of dehydration.
    By the time I met up with my (exhausted and thirsty) mother and her (surprisingly chipper) friend Celeste coming down the hill, I was just over halfway, so I decided to push on to the top. After Celeste partially refilled my severely depleted water bottle, and accepting my mom’s half-empty Amphipod waist pack, I left them to make my weary way upward.
    Suffice it to say I hurt when I finally slapped the building at the top of the trail; however, once I made it back down the last two hills (which went, with limited exaggeration, straight effing down-- which meant I’d just gone straight effing up them) I started to feel pretty good, and even began running the downhill portions (as opposed to the “slightly closer to flat” parts).
    Side note here-- even though I am not a runner, I love to run downhill. I love the way it makes my legs feel. I love the breeze on my face, especially when it’s a bazillion degrees with the sun beating down. I love the challenge, and the threat of falling flat on my face. In this, I am the opposite of my mother. She and I would make the perfect running team-- she could run up the hill, and I could run down. We would be unstoppable.
    Running down, I met up with my mom and Celeste again. Two and a half miles into her fifth lap, my poor mother was looking even more exhausted than before, and Celeste was probably the only reason she was still on her feet. We stood and talked for a few minutes, with Celeste forcing my mom to drink water mixed with Gatorade. After another partial water bottle refill (thank goodness they both had Camelbak backpacks!), I ran on.
    When I reached the bottom, I declared that I was never doing that again. I sat with my father and grandfather, who had come to provide home-brewed beer, and ate salty foods because my hands were getting puffy. When my mom came back, I made her drink more and eat something, though she wouldn’t eat much. She was eager to go again, as she was running (haha, no pun intended) behind schedule in her attempt to reach 10 laps.
    And then I proved, once again, that I am my mother’s daughter-- I agreed to go with her. Part of the intent was to make her go slow, since she had been running for nearly 11 hours, part of it to spend some time with her, and part of it because some insane piece of my brain told me that it sounded like a really great idea. I must have still been on an endorphin high or something. Or maybe I was just suffering from heat stroke.
    The second trip up was both more painful and more enjoyable. The sun was going down, and the temperature dropped to a more comfortable level. On the other hand, my quads and lungs were burning. Neither my mom nor I was feeling very well, and at one point, in not-so-silent agreement, we turned our backs on one another and began retching into the bushes in harmonious unison. Lovely. I kept saying to my mom that I really needed to stop... At the next curve in the trail. Or the next one. Or at the top of the next hill. Each time I would stop for a moment and take a drink of water, watch my mom continue along the trail, and soon find myself following her once again. Before I knew it, we were at the top, less “slapping the building” than “hanging over the propane tank” (thank you, Scott). I was officially as insane as many, if not all, of the Fort Collins Trail Runners.
    On the way back down, we walked instead of ran. As I mentioned, my mom does not like running downhill, and it was a particularly bad idea as the daylight faded and rocks and erosion became more difficult to see. My mom has also been suffering from an injury (which began immediately following a 100 mile race, so I don’t feel too sorry for her) and has been attending physical therapy, so I wouldn’t let her push herself too hard (at least not while she was with me). Fortunately, a few other people joined us, and the final descent became more about socialization and less about time and speed.
    My mom turned right around after our lap and went up again, but I decided to go home. It was dark, I hurt, and I was tired. I had officially completed my longest “run” (even though most of it was hiking and not running) ever, completely blowing away my previous best of six miles.
    Crazy must be either contagious or hereditary, because I plan on doing it again. Maybe (hopefully) not two in a row, but one lap at a time. The benefits, both physical and psychological, of forcing yourself straight up the side of a mountain are incredible. Even though I hurt more than I can remember hurting in my life, it subsided quickly. The pain in my quads didn’t last as long after 15 miles as it did after 6, which makes me irrationally happy. My body is getting used to being active again, and it feels wonderful. I miss being in shape, and I miss the mental clarity that comes from pushing my body near and beyond what I think is it’s limit. I often find that the limit is further than I’ll let myself believe, and that the body is truly incredible. I had forgotten just what my body could do, if I let it.
    Most of all, though, I miss the camaraderie that comes from this type of mutual masochism and shared suffering. One of the greatest things about the FCTR is that they are not an exclusive group. They have all welcomed me in with open arms, and I really consider them my friends as well as my mom’s. Yes, they accepted me before I joined the dark side and did two laps up Towers, but it also feels good to know that they are proud of me, and that they understand-- and that they would be just as happy if I had stayed at the trailhead and never attempted to venture up Towers. Even if running doesn’t become my whole world, as it is for many of the Trail Runners, it seems it will remain at least some part of my life-- even if it’s only through the (absolutely bat-shit insane) adventures of my mom and our friends.