Hi! As of February 2013 I have made the leap on over to, and I hope that you will join me : )

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it’s spring. (well, it was. nine months ago.)

April 6, 2012 (draft unfinished)

It’s spring — we know this because the calendar says so (and also because here in Michigan it was 87F the other day — WHAT). What the calendar doesn’t say is that winter is over. For me that’s always been something you feel; it comes at different times for different people. It depends on a lot. How’s your job? How’s your love life? Winter ends without a fight if your life is ready to let it go.

I changed the header to reflect this: where there used to be a picture of an ornament on my dad’s Christmas tree, there’s now a picture of new blossoms on a tree.

I never explained “A Sufficient Universe”, which started as a working title but which I think I might keep. It comes from an NPR story – that I unfortunately can’t find record of after hours of googling – about a woman who traveled a great deal and eventually found within herself “a sufficient universe”, which reminds me a bit of the Camus quote about finding within oneself “an invincible summer”. I like both of these quotes a lot. I like the idea (especially as I go deeper and deeper into a long-term relationship – verging on four years with one person is a lot of time) of becoming and maintaining an independent self, a self borne of a lot of reflection and changing rather than just the one you happen to be. I think of woodworking: getting one ideal image in your head and then constantly chipping away, getting ever closer to whatever it is you want to be. I also like the idea of constantly starting over, before you ever finish.

I’ve been talking a lot recently with a friend about seasons and how they affect mood (particularly mine). A lot of overcoming depression has been about finding that invincible summer: finding that happy person and committing to being that person, every day. I know for a lot of people it isn’t that simple – I almost typed easy there, but it isn’t easy, at least not for me – but it’s what worked for me.

January 27, 2013

It’s not spring, yet, as hard as I’ve wished this week.

I’m a really bad blogger, which means that this page will (now) contain both my new year’s resolutions for 2012 and 2013. Last year I placed my own emphasis onto the Desiderata and I called it a resolution: “As far as possible, without surrender, be on good terms with all persons. Speak your truth quietly and clearly.” For me, it was a year of defining the phrase “without surrender”, and of learning to balance the concepts of quiet and clear.

In some ways, growing older for me has been a lot about growing quieter – about speaking less and about listening more; about slipping more and more firmly out of the spotlight and into the wings; about learning to be an instrument, and finding my place in a profession built around the stories of other people. In other ways, growing older has been about growing clearer – about sharpening, refining, re-evaluating myself. In this sense, I have finally grown merciless.

What I haven’t grown is visible. It is strange to report this, but I’m taking my last semester of classes right now, and in April I’ll  be ready to start a year of practicum and internships: one year from when I wrote the first half of this post. One of my classes is Ethics – more completely, Ethical, Legal, & Professional Issues in Counseling. My first assignment is due Thursday and I’m dragging my feet on it: write a resume and a cover letter for an entry-level counseling position and submit it for review. It shouldn’t be so difficult. I feel like I already have 90% of the assignment languishing in bits and pieces on my hard drive. But that’s just it, isn’t it? That’s my entire life: writing things – almost-finishing things – saving them with obscure filenames into obscure folders and then never showing anyone. Is it that I don’t think I have a story to tell? Is it that I think people won’t listen? That it’s not important enough, that it’s not unique enough, that in any/all dimensions it isn’t whatever enough?

Whatever it is, I’ve had enough of it. I believe endlessly in the power of other people’s words and stories – why not my own? Blogging, in 2013 I will begin you anew.

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vita, from the latin for life

I have been quiet for a bit, but I’m hoping to get back into the swing of things.

Right now I am working on putting together a CV. The process is… enlightening. Initially I wrote “awful” there instead of enlightening.

The (enlightening? awful?) thing about writing a CV as compared to the dozens of resume drafts I’ve produced over the years is that it’s much more reminiscent of two years ago, when I was beginning to think about grad school and writing statements of purpose: they’re so focused on the future, on what you will do instead of what you have done.

I’ve never been very open about my grad school search because frankly, it wasn’t very good, even though (by all accounts) it was supposed to be. The whole thing was actually very symbolic of a problem I’ve had my whole life, one that I think I’m finally starting to shake off, although my goodness, has it been difficult.

The long story short is that I applied to higher ed/student affairs programs without thinking very hard about it because it seemed like that was where I should go, when the truth is that that wasn’t where I wanted to be. I had always been good at school. How could I not get in?

I’ve always been good at school, usually without trying too hard – I just never realized how much of a double-edged sword it would prove to be when the years of not-enough-effort caught up to me and the world demanded: what do you want to be? where do you want to go? what do you want to do? and while other people, you know, knew the answer to that question, I could only think: I don’t know? this?

Which is, of course, the worst possible answer. It shows in the personal statements I wrote for that first round of applications. I didn’t show my statements to anybody for review, contrary to what I knew was the best thing to do, and the reason I didn’t show anybody was because I am a good writer but the content just wasn’t there. You can add an apostrophe here and switch out a phrase there, but you can’t hide what was glaring in those early statements of purpose: there wasn’t a purpose.

The first round didn’t go well. I didn’t get accepted to the schools I applied to, and I half-heartedly didn’t even apply to half the schools I’d selected, knowing that something wasn’t right. Too late I found counseling. All the deadlines had passed before I figured out which program I was truly passionate about, and I was backed into a corner of “take a year off, or start at your alma mater”. The idea of taking a year off was so distasteful that truthfully I don’t think I considered it an option (although, funny enough, two years later I can think of a million ways I could have filled that time). And that’s how I came to start a master’s at the school I’d finished my undergrad.

I’m halfway through my master’s program’s coursework right now. A year from now I’ll start a round of practicum and internships and every day I feel like I’m closer to a purpose. I can articulate more clearly what I want to do with my life now than I’ve ever been able to before. But the CV is throwing a wrench into everything. It’s forcing me to dig deeper and thrust my entire life into the light – enclosed please find an archeological record of everything I’ve done, with dates affixed to show my varying levels of commitment. It feels more like geology than anything I’ve done since I closed my notebook on my last sedimentology lab the week before receiving my diploma. And yet.

This last year, I have been focusing on getting things right. And probably rightfully so – my first year in a new program, and really (for me) an entirely new field. Last week, I finished my last “beginner” class – theories of counseling. The goal was to “begin to develop a theoretical orientation”. (More on this later.) I think that’s a perfect demarcation into a second year – a year that right here and right now I devote to digging deeper, to developing my own purpose, to applications. I’m starting a CV to keep myself accountable. I’d like to upload it later this week. I’d like to update it regularly.

No more excuses. I’m in the groove, I know the neighborhood. I bought a desk lamp last month, for crying out loud* – I am 100% ready to start finding a voice.

(*Not a euphemism. I have just always thought that people with desk lamps have it together, and I certainly didn’t break down and buy one just so I could shatter my own reality perception.)

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i dreamed i called you on the telephone to say: be kinder to yourself

Adrienne Rich died about ten days ago, which, if I can be frank: is some bullshit. It’s almost unbearably sad. The way I perceive loss has been changing over the last few years (I do a lot better with death these days than I used to, is the short story) and at first this didn’t affect me too much, but I’ve been thinking about it more and more this weekend, and as the days have worn on, the sense of loss is beginning to take shape – and it’s significant. I wasn’t entirely sure why until it hit me all in a rush this morning, in the shower of all places, but after I realized it, I wasn’t really sure how I couldn’t have known this plainly, right after I first heard: I owe so much of who I am to Adrienne Rich, and Adrienne Rich is dead.

She was such an amazing woman, and I won’t go into too much detail because there are far better worded and more eloquent tributes elsewhere than I could ever create (witness the trainwreck that is this sentence, for crying out loud) but I will say that the main things in my life that I have ever wanted to be are as follows, in chronological order and grouped into general themes: writer, teacher, advocate, feminist. And Adrienne Rich did all of those things – she was all of those things – so beautifully and so perfectly that I didn’t even entirely realize how inspired I was by her until about a year ago, after I’d been reading her for the better part of a decade. Even after I could identify her as a primary influence in my life, I still thought of her as some larger-than-life superhuman removed entity – except she wasn’t. She was an exactly-the-size-of-life, very human, very connected woman, and now she’s gone, and the loss I feel is almost indescribable.

I guess I don’t really know why I’m writing this, other than that I think it’s terribly sad that the world has lost such an outstanding poet, feminist, advocate, and woman, and I think it’s terrible that we aren’t talking about it – that I’m not talking about it.

Here is the first poem of hers, by one of those eerie coincidences that the universe throws at us sometimes, that I read after I heard that she died: For the Dead, which I didn’t remember having read before, but which resounded in me immediately and, it would seem, permanently.

I have always wondered about the left-over 
energy, the way water goes rushing down a hill 
long after the rains have stopped

or the fire you want to go to bed from 
but cannot leave

Me too, friend.

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“a conscious, purposeful, and on-going process”

I was just telling my friend John the other day that I’m antsy right now in a way that I never was during my undergrad. I find a lot of peace in getting outdoors and handling rocks, and a counseling degree isn’t really an easy place to get that. (For those keeping track at home: that last sentence is an abbreviated yet complete summary of How Did Any Of This Become My Life.)

There’s a theory in the career counseling world called Planned Happenstance*; long story short, Krumboltz, Mitchell, & other PH subscribers believe that our life paths are influenced most significantly not by the planning we do, but by our decision to lead lives that introduce new, sometimes completely unforeseen potential opportunities to us — and to remain open to following them. (Maintaining both of these mindsets at once has proven more difficult for me than I’d thought.) Last month I volunteered to help out a friend at work with a project which meant coming into the Student Center early, where I passed a professor in the geology department that I hadn’t seen in almost a year. We spent a little while catching up, and she asked whether I missed geology, and I didn’t know how to answer truthfully (“I vacillate every day of my life between oh god yes, desperately and wildly and nope.”), so I mentioned instead how much I missed being in the field, and she mentioned that she was short a TA for an upcoming trip she was running, and I waggled my eyebrows suggestively (i.e. how I have come to react in times of social confusion), and then we said goodbye.

Fast forward a month and I’ve cleared my schedule between April 18 and April 22 to drive a van up to Michigan’s Upper Peninsula and trek around the Marquette area for a few days. I will be breathing fresh air, climbing hills, taking pictures, touching rocks, and not looking at budgets. (what.) There are so many reasons I shouldn’t go – a final exam on Monday 4/23 not insignificant among them. But there is one large reason I should go, which is: I feel tired. This has been a very long, very draining year, and I preach self-care so regularly but follow my own instructions too infrequently.

And so: a vacation. An unplanned vacation, and a vacation wherein I’ll be helping students use compasses and identify igneous & metamorphic suites which hopefully won’t turn out to be too much of a joke, but a vacation nonetheless, and I am so excited.

*I can neither confirm nor deny this post existing in part as an opportunity to type Planned Happenstance more often in hopes of someday NOT reading “Planned Parenthood” instinctively instead.

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on a lighter note

In addition to the worlds of counseling, student affairs, and rocks, one thing that I hold near & dear to my heart is cooking.

I’ve always loved to bake, and I’ve been “seriously cooking” for about five years now, or since I moved out of a college dorm and into my first true apartment. It’s been a series of ups and downs: how do I poach an egg? How do I know when meat is done? etc. I would say that until now, most of my cooking journey has been about acquiring mechanical skills (and cookware — heh), and the internet has been a truly amazing resource for that.

I think a lot of my friends & family think of me as someone who likes to cook, and who is good at it. There’s a fine delineation that I’ve always made in my head, though: I think of myself as someone who knows what I like, and I’ve gotten very good at following recipes and learning how to make those things. I think I’m ready to move on, though. I’ve spent a lot of time learning how to cook, period and now I’m ready to start learning how to cook, for me.

This includes two major goals. I want to cook more at home, and also to stop relying so heavily on recipes. I can swap ingredients if I don’t like something or I’m out of it, sure. I can make something vegetarian, or gluten-free, or [insert your food modification here]. I can even sometimes say “I think I’d like that pasta better as a pizza,” but it’s not very often, and that latter is what I’m looking to do more of. Here is an excellent Gourmet article detailing reasons food tastes better at home, and basically summarizing why I’d like to cook more, and do it right.

The second major goal is that I want to start shopping at farmers markets more often, and shopping more seasonally. Yesterday, Billy and I were at Plum Market at my mother’s suggestion (verbatim text: “In Plum Market. Have you ever been? O! M! G!!!”) when I saw some enormous dark red strawberries. I am ashamed to admit that the first thing I thought was, “so does that color mean they’re fresh or not?” Pushing a cart through the store and continuing to come back to it, I realized that there’s no excuse for being somebody who likes to cook (or even, quite frankly, being someone who’s been on this earth for 20+ years) not knowing what a naturally fresh, ripe strawberry looks like. Time to get more in touch with fresh, local food.

I have other cooking goals, but most of them are at least tangentially related (in some way or another) to these two main objectives. I am hoping to come back here often and share this journey as I get deeper into it for reasons of both documentation and accountability. I would love your feedback – cooking is deeply personal, but for me it’s not in a private way. Cooking for me inspires conversation; everyone is at different levels with different skills and everyone has different solutions for common problems. I would love to answer questions (probably rarely), get advice on the questions that I ask (probably much more often), and ponder shared questions together (hopefully most often!).

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blogging about real issues: activate

This is a pretty good article about some of the controversy surrounding Chris Brown performing at the Grammys tonight. For the link-phobic, a quick summary: Three years ago, Chris Brown, at that time in a relationship with Rihanna, beat her so badly the night before the Grammys that she ended up in a hospital and he turned himself into the LAPD. Neither wound up performing. What followed was an absolutely ridiculous storm of apologeticism from most of Hollywood featuring such alarmingly neutral statements as “we should try to support everyone” — either not realizing or not caring that half of the “everyone” in question was someone who had, you know, beaten a woman. Now, three years later, Chris Brown is being invited back to the Grammys (who somehow managed to view themselves as the victim in this situation?) and it’s being treated like the return of some prodigal son, and like a landmark we should all celebrate as we ponder the ideas of redemption and second chances.

I have a few beefs with this.

The first is that honest to God, Chris Brown is one of the least repentant people I’ve ever seen. I’ve been following this whole story with some interest ever since February 2009, and I’ve never once seen him issue, formally or casually, anything that even came close to approximating a sincere apology. He’s been like a kid who was caught eating cookies before dinner: “sorry you caught me”. In addition to the seeming lack of any remorse, especially any made public, he’s also expressed a ridiculous number of sexist, homophobic, and other generally disgusting sentiments since then through the wonders of social media. (I’m hoping to come back and add links to this post, but for now I’m just struggling to get this content out.) Basically: he’s gross. When you’re a celebrity there’s a certain personality that you maintain for the general public, and from what I’ve been able to see while paying pretty careful attention to Chris Brown over the last three years, he really does seem to be a genuinely bad person. So where do redemption and second chances fit in when the guy in question isn’t sorry at all?

My second problem with this whole thing is what the article touched on: ignoring (at best) a domestic violence issue of this magnitude, focusing on a young, attractive, successful woman with an extremely broad fanbase, as a lot of mainstream entertainment media have done — and  completely blaming it on her at worst — sends a message to women who are not Rihanna that is endlessly hopeless.

I’m carrying a pager right now. I’ve spent the last six months learning to respond to domestic violence in Washtenaw County. I spend 96 (volunteer) hours a month responding, by phone or in person, to women who, immediately before I get to talk to them, were abused in intimate-partner relationships. Last week I went to the hospital to hold a woman’s hand while she struggled not to cry through a freshly-broken nose, and later that evening I counseled a woman who wasn’t sure whether to seek shelter because her husband isn’t always violent and he probably wouldn’t try to kill her fresh out of a jail release because he will probably respect his bond conditions.

Here are some things that I’ve learned through this volunteer work that I don’t think people are always aware of when they think about domestic violence:

No matter where you live, it happens where you are.

Domestic violence happens to women of all demographics. It happens across races. It happens across income levels. It happens across sexual orientations. It happens across ages. It happens to our neighbors, to our baristas, to our doctors, to our teachers, to our friends… and it happens to women who are often too afraid to come forward and ask for help. Because why would you ask for help if this is what happens to someone like Rihanna?

Unlike many of the calls I get every shift, nobody doubts the facts surrounding the incident between Chris Brown and Rihanna in February 2009. Nobody says “maybe she punched herself in the face”, nobody says “maybe she made everything up”. The doubt comes in when people have to make the connection between “Chris Brown hurt his girlfriend by hitting her in the face” and “so Chris Brown is an assailant”, a connection which frankly should be instantaneous. We live in a world where that somehow isn’t an instantaneous assumption — this entire case just highlights that disconnect — and that makes it very, very hard for any woman who’s even peripherally seen any coverage related to this case to come forward if something similar is happening to her and there’s even a chance that someone in her life may not believe her, or might blame her. And this needs to change, because that isn’t a world where domestic violence goes away.

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