Sunday, January 30, 2011

a sad little post

from 2007
(from 2007: when I lived here; when graduating from college seemed impossible; when I'd just dropped all my chemistry classes; when I felt like I do now)

I think I will abandon my original goal of making this a potentially family-friendly zone-- a place to build writing samples on lovely, light things in my life (when did I ever even do this?)-- and let it devolve into a straight-up LJ as it was always destined to be. Because, to be frank, the last time I was in this crappy place in my life, out of school with absolutely no plans or purpose, I needed a place to vent and this is where I did it for about five years.

Yes, I did it. I put it out there again. Those posts used to be a part of a blog that had regular commenters, comments obviously and picture links that worked but I moved it to wordpress because some people thought they knew me too well and it got rather sickening. I'm not sure why I'm linking to it, but it just seems like the right thing to do now. That is who I was-- and maybe still am-- even though it is embarrassing to read sometimes. Annnnd I took it back after remembering that this account is tied to my school email address.

Northwestern rejected me on Wednesday. I was watching the phones at work, in between running back and forth from the sanitizing room (I work as an assistant in a dental office), when I checked my inbox for the thousandth time and saw the nice email from Northwestern's graduate assistant. It had "with regrets" in the subject line so that the poor souls receiving it couldn't for a second be confused about its intentions. This was at the end of an hours vigil that began during lunch when I checked the gradcafe's results board and saw that someone had been called with an acceptance. Needless to say, I began checking my phone, email, and application status whenever possible-- and simply twitching like a little chihuahua. Really, taking into account my recent weight loss (I was never FAT but I wasn't skinny either) and the fact that I haven't found time to do my eyebrows since September (I usually dye them then wax; they are now completely invisible/white) I do look quite diminutive, and if I was tanner I would look irrefutably Scandinavian. But have you noticed that young swedish people tend to look very pretty while the older ones look like raisins? This is because they don't use sunscreen. I refuse to sacrifice my skin. I digress.

I had to share with my colleagues that I had been rejected because I'd shared the venture with them in the first place and it was quite obvious that something was wrong. This situation really cemented the fact that I am not a crier, which doesn't help me when I am pulled over for speeding, but was quite useful in preserving my makeup in this case. I sort of sucked it up and added extra time to my workout afterward at the gym in a haze of complete disbelief. I texted the news to my family so I wouldn't have to bring it up in conversation if they asked later.

That. was. it. Really? I mean, after all the work I put into the application? Northwestern was truly the only place I could see myself going. Quite apart from a certain professor I wanted to work with, and other academic motivations, I have close relatives who live in Evanston, I lived there a long time ago and my brother will be studying at NPU next fall. It seemed perfect.

And then it slowly washed over me that I'd felt this way before.

I applied to a LOT of jobs last year before and after graduation and I'd always put too much stock into the possibility of getting each job and what that would mean. At the beginning I was just so happy to have a B.A. to put on my resume that I felt that this was a time of possibility and that, despite the horrible job market, things would happen to me. Because, really, they had to. A few months of waiting in the summer led to the first wave of rejections (though many didn't even bother to contact me at all) and this feeling. There was something about me that was universally unattractive to employers and I soon started to approach the whole job search with dread, knowing that it would come to nothing. I never did get a real job. I work for my family's business now and, though they need the help, it isn't satisfying to me.

So, I now think that Northwestern is probably just the beginning of the end. I'd checked gradcafe's result board to see when English notifications started rolling in last year and I was eager to get out of bed in the morning to see if there was anything new in my inbox before this happened. Now I just sort of lay there, if I don't have to get up, because I'm certain that the rest of my notifications will follow suit.

I was aware of the competitiveness of the programs I applied to; all English programs are insanely hard to get into. But I let myself be fooled into thinking that I might have a chance. Literature, writing, reading, and curiosity is all I know on earth (and all I need to know?) and I can't imagine that my life will be much better without the challenge of being a part of an intellectual environment. Without graduate school (or with it maybe) I'll just end up being someone's secretary, if I'm lucky. I mentioned this to a TA last year who inquired about my plans after graduation and she, formerly a lawyer, said that she once had a very nice college-educated secretary. As if that made me feel better.

I'm not sure at all what I will do or could do if all my applications are rejected. A diminishing part of me feels like the openness and opportunities are exciting and that I could do whatever I want. The larger part of me knows that these things-- like traveling, my own apartment, a job that pays more than $20K a year-- will never happen because that would actually make me happy and some force out there seems to be bent on keeping me as downtrodden as possible. (Me, probably.)

The worst part is that in this free time, living at home with my parents (oh joy), I haven't been able to do the creative things I've been wanting to do for years and that I planned on doing after graduation, like reading "with abandon," crafting and baking. I just fritter away my time trying to make it...go away, I guess? Trying to just not fully realize the reality of my situation. I could easily exchange my activities for more fulfilling ones but I can't seem to do this. It is painful living this way.

At the same time-- I'm incredibly lonely. I don't need a lot of interaction with people, obviously, but my own elemental separated-ness from cultural norms and lack of meaningful relationships grates on me every once in a while. When everything is going well I don't think about it much, but now...I don't know. It would be nice to fall back on someone who wanted to take care of me, as so many people in this world are able to do to some degree. I think I have a better chance at getting into graduate school than having that happen to me.

Ну, беда никогда не приходит одна. Да?

At the risk of being melodramatic, this is the song that always comes to mind:

Friday, January 21, 2011

some resolutions that I wrote on the third day of the month

(opps! just getting around to posting this)

No more Christmas! Only white decorations that try to make the winter seem less dark.

I woke up yesterday to find that my mother had rid the house of everything red and green except the Christmas tree. Literally everything, as she said, that was "red and green." Even the Scandinavian decorations, such as a nice little apple wreath, that could be left out all year round, or at least during the winter, were gone. The tree was left up because she didn't want me to be too "traumatized." I suppose this is to be expected as everyone else has left and gone back to their real lives in St. Johns (well, not real life there), California, or on tour. We used to have our decorations up until the middle of the month at least, but no more. One day my mother will turn into her mother who doesn't put up a tree at all.

I also woke up with a sore throat that has since developed into a cold/flu/sickness, so this made the whole de-christmasing more depressing, but there is something freeing about being sick and giving up for a little while. No gym. No makeup on. No people around, hardly. No expectations. I've been doing little domestic things that have been in the back of my mind for a while but I never get around to. Like putting out a bird feeder, planting the paperwhite bulbs, quilting my quilt that I've been working on since fall 2009...hopefully I'll get some knitting done, but at the moment all I want to do is sit and eat cookies while mindlessly watching Top Chef.

I really need to get away from the TV/movie watching mentally that I developed during college wherein I basically drown my anxieties in any free time by watching TV shows etc. that require no thinking, and even no emotional involvement (ie. Top Chef)-- sometimes I don't even like what I'm watching but the point is to turn off. Since I am no longer IN college and have few tangible stresses*, I need to start doing the imaginative things that I used to do that brought me success in college in the first place, because I feel that I've used up my reserves. In 2011, I want to:

-Read a lot more for pleasure and keep a list. I probably read 40+ novels last year, not counting short stories, poems, non-fiction and criticism, but this isn't really good enough for me. I want to burn through and absorb all the books I've been collecting for the last few years and haven't got around to reading. I feel like they are experiences that have been on hold for a long time.

-Live with more...deliberation. I know it sounds cheesy and very Martha Stewart (who I love), but in the last two years I've found that there are a lot of little choices I can make to be happier like: organizing my clothes by utility and in stacks so I can see the texture of different materials; growing cut flowers and recycling seeds from the garden when the flowers are finished; arranging meals on a portmeirion tray; having a fun alarm clock (my siblings thought this was HILARIOUS at Christmas); living with the seasons; and generally being a museum-like caretaker with the things I already own in a deeply materialistic way that is also deeply satisfying. The goal is to synthesize what I do-- have to and want to-- into an aesthetically pleasing whole.


-Take care of myself so I don't feel, well, old. After the debacle that was Banana's bridesmaid dress last June, I started going to the gym five days a week and this makes me feel younger, lighter and stronger, more ready to be involved in life. I lost about twenty pounds-- or 15% of my body weight-- which is not bad at all. I love adventure/fantasy and it is harder to imagine that you're Galadriel (or someone) when you have jiggly bits.

-(at the same time) Bake more nice things that I read about in books. I've been dying to make bacon buns like in This Side of Paradise.

-Write! Arrive in a place where I again feel the rhythm of sentences and the combination of words in a way that compels me to write. Writing for me is more wordsmithing than storytelling but I'd also love to have a brilliant idea for a story. For whatever reason, I think of myself as a writer-- at the bottom of everything-- and I want to bring this out into my everyday life.

-Figure out my life. Ah, impossible, but necessary. I've put in a lot of graduate school applications but can't expect them to come to anything and need to start living in a way that I could continue on if they don't. At the same time, life looks pretty bleak in that direction: no one wants to hire me, and even if they do I'll have to move and live alone again. This is probably why I applied in the first place because I need something to distract me from this terrifying prospect wherein the uselessness of life is always in the forefront.

-Find a way to make vegetables taste like noodles.

-Go over my Russian textbooks to relearn everything I've forgotten. I'm finding this difficult because I can't do things unless I wholeheartedly commit to them and I tend to get really intense. For example, yesterday I machine quilted for eight hours straight, which didn't make me feel any less sick; small bottles of product that one needs to use copiously everyday are my pet peeve; I was hesitant to start exercising last year because I felt it was just going to be a drain on my energy that I couldn't sustain (good thinking, right?). I don't like the idea of expensive one-week vacations as they're so transient-- if I'm going to spend seven hours on a plane I better be staying somewhere for at least 2-3 months. Anyways, why bother trying to relearn Russian if, down the line, I'm just going to forget it all anyways? There are no Russian speakers in my area at all and chances are that I'll probably never have an opportunity to take more courses or even live in Russia...I need to stop thinking this way.

-Be slightly better with people, less misanthropic.

-Blog more. I don't live in the moment at all. I try, but it doesn't happen for me. Most of my enjoyment in life is from the before and after: reflecting on what has happened and anticipating what will happen. Blogging and photographing make me recognize that life is good and that I've reached my goals.

-Worry less.

*Ha! How things have changed since I wrote this post. Life seems more stressful than ever now.



I've made cinnamon rolls twice this year. The first time, I used Alton Brown's overnight cinnamon roll recipe but it let me down-- they weren't fluffy or soft at all. I probably rolled the dough out too thin. The second time I made this recipe from Bella Eats with some alterations (cardamom in the cinnamon mixture and more cinnamon; vanilla and less orange extract in the glaze; princess flavoring in the dough) and they were DELICIOUS. These ones were put in the fridge for my mom to bake in the morning. I froze the rest. I adore sweet yeasted breads with citrus zest in them. Well, basically any baked thing with orange zest.

Sunday, January 9, 2011

better late then never: christmas post 2010


At my house, Christmas always starts by having to wake up too early. It is the only time of the year that we eat breakfast together as a family, because many of us are not early risers and most of the time we're not all at home. Some of us (uh, me) have eschewed the world wide custom of fellowship during meal times and like to eat alone. At any rate, we've always stayed up too late the night before and since we're all adults now, the thrill of presents sometimes has competition in the form of snuggly warm duvets.


Stocking are magically filled overnight by Mom Santa and can be opened right away when you get up. This year I had the best stocking presents ever. Because they're a part of the presents that I don't pick out, they're usually a pair of socks, chocolates and a little notepad that Mom's found in a bin at Target, but this year I got very pretty grey-hued wool socks from Gap (OK, I picked these out) and a tiny lacquered Russian box from the giftshop here. I LOVE LOVE LOVE things from giftshops, partially because they tend to have a certain depth to them (ordinary, useful objects endowed with the artistic/significant edge of whatever museum/gallery/castle you've got them from) and partially because I was completely deprived of any pocket money as a child when I got to travel around Europe and see a lot of giftshops, sadly unable to buy anything. Anyways, good job Mom!


Breakfast (wherein I learn that my twin doesn't wash eggs before she uses them; yet another reason not to eat someone else's cooking) is next, usually hamlink sausages, lefse, scrambled eggs, berries and some sort of baked item. This year it was danish kringle from a bakery the parents had stopped at on the way home from Chicago. If I got up earlier I would make muffins or something but anything before 1PM is too early. This is Steph's plate, hence the (horrifying) brie and bad picture.


We begin tackling the excess under the tree after this nourishing breakfast. It does rather take a long time, so perhaps we'll scale down next year? There was a rather depressing moment on the 23rd when Banana-- my older, married, PhD candidate sister--had a pout fest because we took too long to wrap her presents. Now, this isn't really indicative of the rest of us (it is ridiculous), probably just her, but maybe should be taken into account? They were all suffering terribly under the burden of wrapping eachother's presents as I hadn't had time to do it this year before they came home.


Dad finally got a holder for the state quarters he's been collecting. After putting them in he realized that he'd lost Arizona, only to find it later that night.


Mom got rather a lot of presents (and deservedly so) this year. Both parents had many to open, which is why the present pile was a little more excessive this year.


Staz will glitter ANYTHING. She glittered our dog once. I am more of a sewing/baking person while she likes to glitter/glue-gun, cook and generally stay on the tackier side of things.


My haul was absolutely brilliant, so I felt bad about the whinging I'd been doing on this blog and in real life. The thing is, though, I'd been ordering and wrapping my own presents for years and it really did take some complaining to change things. Of course this doesn't make me exactly unfortunate in any sense, but opening presents is much more fun when you haven't picked out and wrapped everything yourself.


Everything left of the Dalek alarm clock is mine! (I swear I'm not this much of a brat all the time.)


After present opening-- around...noon-- we begin to make Christmas dinner. When I say "we" I mean my mother and sisters because my father and brother are lazy (and a little sexist).



The windows steam up from the heat in the kitchen. My camera couldn't catch it, but it is snowing outside as well.


(The "after" scene in the living room-- completely deserted.)


Our porch becomes a walk-in freezer during the winter, which is actually quite useful when preparing food. Things that are easier to make during the winter: pie crusts and sugar cookies. Things that are harder to make during the winter: yeast breads-- our house is usually about 60-something degrees, if not colder, and they just don't rise.


I make the best snowflakes, yes? Paper decorations are the easiest, cheapest way decorate a space.


This cake was my contribution to the dinner time festivities. Unfortunately by the time everyone was done with their dinner no one had room for dessert. The recipe is from here and, although I like her blog, I wouldn't make this recipe again. It just wasn't delicious. The chocolate part wasn't very chocolately and, though I don't have a problem with corn syrup, I felt like I could taste it in that part and it turned me off. It wasn't a rich chocolate flavor at all but rather cheap, like the barely-chocolate cupcakes you'd find with four inches of inedible icing on top at a bad bakery.


It gets dark very fast.


An erstwhile brother appears in the kitchen...


...and pretends to help.


It may be busy, but there is always time for a little snuggle with HB.




This year we had a luxurious roast beef instead of our usual ham. My sisters added several ~sophisticated~ side dishes, such as creamed pearl onions and beets with goat cheese, that ultimately no one ate but themselves-- though they made much of a to-do about having toiled to prepare them for everyone. We all just wanted our cheesy broccoli with velveta!



There are never any good pictures of us eating Christmas dinner because we sit in the dining room and, as it is always dark by 5PM, the lighting there is horrible for photos.


Our little bun-bun with her Christmas present from Grammy and new Christmas pajamas-- complete with artificial butt flap:


Snookered out after having to run away from the oven door opening one-to-many times.


Well, that is pretty does it for our Christmas day. There is always a feeling, after opening presents, that Christmas is over. Every christian religion tries to battle this feeling but I don't think you could get rid of it without getting rid of the presents and no one would stand for that. Christmas eve always goes by in a blur because we wake up and pack off for the grandparent's house and then get back at 10-11PM, talk and fall asleep. Here is a surprising not bad picture of me sitting on the floor there:


My lovely grandmother gave Steph and I hideous matching, pink lepoard print fleece pajama sets from JCPenny this year. She also taped the gift receipt to the front of them, so all was not lost.

I hope your Christmas was as happy as mine was! Tell me about your family traditions.

Sunday, January 2, 2011

happy new year!

I no longer get Christmas videos from Barney (the best part of the Bush years, undoubtedly) with awkward cameos from government officials, so these will have to do. The president of arguably the most powerful country in the world talking to his dog, no really conversing with him, about Christmas decorations? Some may find this disturbing but I find it hi-larious. This just doesn't do it for me-- so generic and PC. They need to embarrass themselves just a little bit and start doing videos with Bo, not just mention him. So, I'm trying to garner some holiday spirit by watching the New Years/Christmas addresses from my two favorite foreign countries.

I can't understand everything he is saying, so I look over the Russian text here, and then check out the English translation here. Tomorrow I'll probably go through and actually look up the words that I don't know and write them down. This is going to be the beginning of my New Year's resolution of not-forgetting-all-the-Russian-I've-learned and trying-to-learn-more. I'm pretty excited about the time I'll have to do this.

And, of course, the Queen:

To be honest, I think this address is a little lackluster. Usually I watch the Queen's Christmas addresses when I'm feeling a bit down and I want to listen to her carefully measured speech and keep-calm-and-carry-on message, but this year the video was a bit depressing. They should go for farther away shots so you can't see her eyes darting back and forth from her prompter. And "sports" plus the King James Bible? Very odd.

As always, there is a certain amount of absurdity in these videos that is always amusing. The ridiculous singing children and the princes playing soccer in god-knows-where-but-Britain-probably-invaded-at-some-point in the British one, among other things, and the almost humorously stark/stoic scenes in the Russian one. I think the presence of people in the British video is a nice contrast to the blatant lack of people in the Russian one. All those shots of the buildings in red square and where are the дорогие друзья? I don't think it would kill the Kremlin to put in a few shots of happy Russian citizens, or is there some reason for this?