Wednesday, August 5, 2015


I took up the cello in high school, either my sophomore or junior year. I had to drive (or my mom had to drive me) to Galesburg, a solid 40-minute trip, to take lessons from the lovely Carolyn Suda, who worked at both Knox and Monmouth colleges.

I was never very good at it. I would forget to cut my nails, and chew them off in the lobby while I waited for my instructor to finish with the lesson before mine. I would not practice enough, although I did actually practice approximately 100 times more than I ever practiced clarinet. But I did have a good ear. I could tell immediately when I was out of tune or if my tone wasn't just right (it rarely was).

I enjoyed it. I loved it. I loved feeling the strong notes flow through me and out of me and around me. 

I was at my best with Ms. Suda. She is a gifted performer and teacher, and she worked with me to not be afraid of being L O U D. I even joined her string ensemble at Monmouth College for a concert sometime before I graduated from high school. It was the one of the most nerve-racking performances I've ever done. I still have the black shirt that I bought for it- it has sparkles down the front by the buttons.

Before I went away to college, I bought a cello-- a beautiful instrument handmade by a man in Monmouth, and it came with an awesome red case. It was a big purchase, and my parents went half-in with me, because they are the type of parents to help you cultivate passions. I was going to a small college- one that didn't have a string program, but had just built a new performance hall and was looking to possibly start one up. I thought it would be perfect. I had some skill, and I wouldn't have much competition yet.

The string program was slow to start up. It started as a piano trio, which was piano, violin, cello. This was when I was at my worst. I hated practicing in the practice rooms because they weren't soundproof at all (not great for practice rooms IMO), and the instructor of the piano trio knew nothing about strings. She was an awesome pianist, but could not help me at all with fingering, bowing, tone, etc. and I felt pretty lost.

We performed once or twice, I've blocked it from memory because they were the most awful performances in my history. Just truly bad. Put me on stage naked for a play, and I'd be fucking fabulous. Put me on a stage with a cello, fully clothed, and I'm shitting bricks. 

After those terrible shows, the piano trio disbanded, but the next semester something better came along-- the string quartet. We were directed by a small Japanese woman-- Ms. Fisher. She was a very talented violinist who would often count to us in Japanese when we got off tempo. "Ichi, ni, san, shi! Learn to count, girls!" I will never forget that.

The string quartet was my favorite of all the string things I did. We would meet in the chapel and play, and I loved it. I was the weakest of the performers, but I grew as a cellist during those years.

I also took private lessons from Ms. Fisher. Although she didn't play cello, she was able to use her violin skills to help me out. She even took up cello to better understand how to teach me. What a gal!

After college, I haven't had much of a reason to play. It was hard enough for me to practice in practice rooms where other students were playing and not always sounding great, so a small apartment with paper-thin walls was a fucking nightmare.

I swallowed my pride for a while, when my Uncle Wayne was sick and I wanted to make him a CD of me playing. After he died, it was even harder for me to play. Thinking about playing still makes me sad.

When my in-laws visited in July, they begged me to play, so I did. It took me a good ten minutes just to tune the thing and then I sounded like absolute crud, of course- my hands were out of practice and out of shape. But it was a nice... reintroduction. It made me want to play more, and now that I have a house and no Round Man living under me, I can feel less like an intrusive idiot when I play.

I went to see a movie tonight, and as it so often happens, I felt like I needed to do something more with my life. Working all the time and not doing life-giving things just isn't cutting it, and sometimes movies and books point that out to me. So I decided to pull the ol' girl out- Henrietta Cecelia III (that's her name, duh.) I strummed the strings with my thumb- out of tune again- and I had a small moment of sadness, thinking about Wayne. It's silly, I know, because he would want me to keep playing. 

I was so excited. I just wanted to feel it again, those notes coming through me and out of me. 

And then I broke a string- the first one I have ever broken. It's not surprising to me. The strings are old, and haven't been used in so long.

But god damn, I just wish I could play.

Monday, February 3, 2014


The thing about Philip Seymour Hoffman dying with a needle in his arm is that it's pathetic... but it's the weirdly perfect ending for a man who showed us the light side of the dark.

I'm devastated that he died. It has a lot to do with selfish reasons. Because I'll never see him in any more great roles (except for The Hunger Games, but that's not the same). I'll never get to see the way the character fills up his whole body, his lungs, mouth, hair, feet, hands. I'll never get lost in a new character he brings to life with such grace that even the most repugnant person is likable and relatable and a true reflection of what it is to human.

And I'll never get a chance to work with him. To be intimidated by his greatness, to learn. Not that if he continued to live for a hundred years, I'd ever get the chance to work him, anyway... or even meet him. Just the thought that now it will absolutely never happen is depressing.

And then I think about the needle in his arm. Of course he used drugs. Of course. Is it possible to be that good-- to be able to bring likability to terrible people-- without having your own demons? I'm worried that I will never be as good as he was-- at anything-- because I don't have enough demons. (Even if I did, could I use them to create?)

I guess I just hope that at the end he knew how much his performances meant, how he made it easier to love people because he reminded us that even the most demon-riddled of us are human.

Bravo, PSH.

Thursday, July 18, 2013

July, July

It was about a year ago. The cicadas were buzzing and there was always a dripdripdrip in the background from leaky window air conditioners. I got out my cello a few times to practice, the back of my hand sore from the stretch from first to fourth position. And when I knew I wouldn't improve any more, I set up a microphone, turned off our air conditioner and ceiling fan, and recorded myself playing, the cicadas and drips keeping not-so-great time. Or maybe it was me who was off.

Wednesday, July 10, 2013


I see the woman I want to be
in glimpses caught through the trees of too little time and torpidity
like a ghost she floats
and I cannot touch her

Tuesday, July 2, 2013


I stopped shaving my legs. And I don't intend to ever start again. Why should I waste my time, energy, money, and water on doing something that does not benefit my life or well-being in any way?

I remember the first time I shaved my legs. I think I was in fourth or fifth grade. We had had a school assembly of some sort and I noticed that one of my classmates had no hair on her legs. I knew what shaving was-- I had two older sisters and a mom who all shaved. But for some reason, seeing those hairless legs on one of the "popular" girls made it suddenly click: shaving my legs was the only way to be cool, pretty, popular. Looking down on my hairy legs that day, I was ashamed. Because how dare I have cute little blonde hairs growing out of my legs when they should be smooth and shiny and hairless. When I went home that day, I asked my mom to show me how to shave. She lathered up one leg and demonstrated. Told me to do the other by myself.

It took me a while to get fed up with shaving. I was on the swim team in high school, after all, and I had to shave to be faster. (This is a funny statement because I was slow, no matter how much hair I had on my legs.) And after that, I didn't really think about it. It's just something that I had to do. But then I started thinking about it, and it's just so ridiculous.

My worth as a human being should not be determined by how hairy my legs are. My worth should not be determined by if I wear makeup, how much sex I have, what clothes I wear, how I do my hair, what my body looks like when it is naked. But because I'm a woman, I'm told that those things are exactly what determines my worth as a person because someone somewhere along the way decided that women should be judged on those types of things.

It was probably a man who made up how a woman's worth is determined. But today, it's mostly other women who make sure these judgments stay firmly in place. And I'm not innocent. I have judged other women for looking slutty, for being too skinny, for wearing too much makeup. It's ridiculous, isn't it? It's almost like a mastermind planned it: "Get them to turn against each other, and they will never rise up."

So I decided to stop shaving my legs. Because I'm a mammal and I grow hair all over my body and it is stupid to pretend like I don't grow hair on one part of it. This does not make me any less of a woman, or more importantly, any less of a human being. Just like a fat woman wearing skin-tight clothes does not make her a disgusting person, but rather someone who is comfortable in her own skin and doesn't give a fuck what you think of her.

And that type of woman is very dangerous. And that's exactly the type of woman I am.

Because this is not disgusting-- it's natural! Albeit not very long yet.
I'm not writing this to say that women should stop shaving or that I'm better than other women because I did stop shaving. I'm not better than anyone else. We all have worth. Regardless of what we look like or what we wear. And my hairy legs remind me that I'm awesome, even if by societal standards I'm a freak. And my hairy legs remind me that this skinny bitch next me is not a skinny bitch, but a person who has thoughts and feelings and worth.

Monday, June 24, 2013

this morning

laying in bed
man woman cat
listening to birds chirping 
and the last dregs of raindrops falling from the clouds
and tree branches
cool breeze through the open window
lulling us to sleep

Thursday, May 16, 2013

The end

The Office aired its final show tonight, and I am devastated. For nine seasons, I cozied into the lives of the strange, beautiful people of Dunder Mifflin in Scranton, PA. I laughed with them, groaned, cried, and I grew up with them. They were my companions from high school through college and into my adult life. And I can't believe I have to say goodbye. It's like saying goodbye to a person you love and care deeply for, knowing that you will never see or hear from them again.

I know it's a little silly to care so much about a TV show. I know it's silly to say that the characters were there for me. But they were. They were a constant in an ever-changing world. Their problems reflected my problems and I could laugh for 30 minutes (or if I was really lucky, a whole hour!) about them.

I love The Office for so many reasons. The writing and acting was perfect. It was genuine and funny and sometimes deeply profound. The show made me care for all of the characters, whether they were despicable, awkward, stupid, or awesome. I loved them all. So I'm not just saying goodbye to one friend, or six, but to 20. I'm heartbroken.

This week, probably last week too, I've been crying whenever I see an old clip or think about it too much. I think every episode since January has made me cry. Maybe even before that. I guess because I knew the end was coming. And I was so worried about all of my friends, what would happen... if they'd be happy. But tonight's finale gave me peace. It was perfect. It was funny and sad. It wrapped up everything, but not too tightly, and not forcefully.