This began as a Lenten blog-- a goal to write every day for 40 days during Lent. I failed miserabley and only wrote for about two weeks. But I'm keeping the blog up for my random spurts of writing that I want to share with my friends all over the world.

So here 'goes. A blog full of craziness, absurdity, and sass. Full of poetry, fiction, and non-fiction all inspired by my life.

23 November 2010

La Cucaracha

I wrote this on the plane on the way to San Francisco. Long flight.

La Cucaracha

I killed a cockroach today. No, I suppose I cannot say certainly that it was a cockroach because I have never seen one before in real life. In fact, I'm not sure that I've ever even seen a picture of a cockroach. But somehow I've developed an idea of what one should look like, and so when I saw this large brown beetle-like insect scurry across the bathroom door this morning, I was convinced that it was one of theses creatures, mythical in my mind up until that moment.

I'm not sure why there are no cockroaches in Wisconsin, were I'm from. I'd venture a guess that they like to avoid cold climates, but then they survive in seedy apartments in New York, right? Maybe it's just one of those ideas I've made up in my mind, but I've always associated "la cucaracha" with hole-in-the wall apartments in NYC, restaurants that aren't up to code, and Mexico. That's all we really hear of them, after all. Perhaps I've only lived in houses clean and new enough to block out cockroaches, but then the apartment I live in now is newer and probably better insulated, so that can't be it either. So, I guess I've avoided roaches my whole life because they've, like anyone who prefers cities and warm destinations, avoided my homestate of Wisconsin.

I was home alone this morning when the roach appeared. I had woken at 4am to catch an early flight to San Francisco to spend the weekend with my sister who offered to fly me out for my birthday weekend. Incidentally, that morning was my actual birthday. But the cockroach was not quite the surprise gift one might hope to find on their b-day morn. My boyfriend, a Naval officer, was on duty for the day, and so I was by myself when I found the bug.

As soon as I saw it, my heart began to thump dangerously against my chest as if a miniature man was trapped inside trying to get out. I think it was the surprise of something moving that got my blood flowing so early in the morning--my reflexes thinking it might be an intruder. And indeed it was an intruder.

When I pushed the bathroom door open, it ran from the crevice where it was hiding, no doubt as afraid of me as I was of it. When the door stopped moving, we both froze, considering our next moves. My mind went first to the shoes in the bedroom closet, an obvious weapon for the job, but the closet was too far. I didn't want to risk losing track of the bug, after which I would not be able to shower or sleep in the apartment ever again. So I used my peripheral vision to scan the tools at my reach. I needed something small and light enough to be swung quickly, but long and thick enough to prevent me from having to actually touch the roach. It had to be hard enough to smush it in one blow, with enough surface area to get the whole bug. next to me was a laundry basket filled with clothes. There might have been something in the laundry closet that would work, but my best bet was the linen closet behind me.

We kept all kinds of miscellaneous things in the closet--tool box, drill, light bulbs, towels, and cleaning supplies. One of the latter would have to do, so, attempting to keep one eye on my intruder, I turned quickly around to choose my weapon and spotted an almost empty bottle of Scrubbing Bubbles bathroom cleaner that was flat and light enough for the kill.

The bug hadn't moved, and so I took my stance. Suddenly, the words of my father, the softball coach, came flooding back to me. Feet shoulder width apart. Elbows down. Grip the bat right hand over left. Swing level. Eye on the ball. "Step on the egg, and squash the bug," meaning step lightly with your left foot and pivot on the ball of your back foot as you rotate your body.

I did just as my father had told me all those years from T-ball to high school. I was never very good at softball. Not a natural athlete. But as I followed through and blew that cockroach to oblivion, all those years in the batting cage seemed to pay off. It was the home run I'd been waiting for, and I could almost hear the crowd cheering in my head as my dead enemy fell to the floor, smashed flat in one swing. I thought, maybe, that my dad would be a little proud.

Now, I couldn't actually touch the thing, or I would risk throwing up the cold chicken and garlic toast I'd had for dinner just a few hours earlier. Bugs don't scare me as much as they disgust me, and I needed to stay as far away from the thing as possible. I made sure it was dead and then ran to the kitchen closet for the broom and dust pan. I swept the dead bug into the yellow dust pan and walked it carefully to the toilet. A bug in the garbage meant I might see the bastard again and be reminded of the traumatic event, but a flushed bug would guarantee he'd be gone for good. (Although, after years of flushing insects, alive and dead, down the toilet, I've always had this irrational fear that somehow the insects would gather in the plumbing and conspire against me. I imagined a crew of lady bugs, house flies, spiders and grasshoppers in a huddle, brainstroming ideas on how to get their revenge until finally, one day, I would be sitting innocently down to empty my bladder and an entire flock of bugs from my past would swarm up at my bare bottom, attacking and taking no prisoners. But, it's one of those irrational fears that pop into my mind and must be ignored in order to live a normal life--like the fear of darkness, a fire or house thief in the middle of the night, the fear of a plan crashing down and taking you with it. You just have to put these fears aside--for your own sanity.)

So I flushed the bitch. I know I shouldn't be so harsh--the poor bug was probably just seeking shelter in the weather changes of November in Jax, Florida. Probably had a family at one time. But somehow I think that the bugs are always out to get me.

When I looked in the mirror, I half expected to see myself transforming into a giant version of the little brown beetle, and wondered if that was what Gregor Samsa had done wrong to deserve his metamorphosis. But my reflection showed just me--my normal self. Wild permed hair sticking out in all directions, mascara smudges circling my eyes, and all at once I felt pity for that little bug--that this was the last sight he or she saw.

24 August 2010

Summer Update

Monday 23 August 2010

Hello, everyone!

It’s been awhile since I’ve blogged, and I’m currently in a new apartment with no internet, no TV, and no books, and Colin has gone to bed, so I thought I’d sit down and write an update for awhile and post it for you all tomorrow.

For those of you who don’t know this already, I’ve just started my first semester as a grad student. I’m pursuing my Masters of Fine Arts in Creative Writing from Goddard College. The college is in Plainfield, Vermont, but the program is LOW RESIDENCY, meaning: we go to the campus for one week each semester for intensive workshops, meetings with peers and professors, readings, etc, and then the rest of the semester, we just send in 40 pages or writing every three weeks. People always ask if it’s an online program, but it’s NOT! We actually don’t do anything online. The packets of writing we send in is through the mail, and the program was started before online programs were even a thought. Low res works really well for writing because you don’t need to sit in a classroom and listen to someone lecture you on how to write. You need to just WRITE! Our relationships with our professors is more like a writer/editor, and we have to build a habit of writing every day, so it’s definitely going to be a good transition into being a writer forever.

I attended my first residency in Vermont at the end of June. The campus was in the middle of nowhere Vermont, and it was so beautiful. I’d never been to Vermont before, and now I most certainly want to live there. We flew into and out of Burlington, and that’s where I went to get my tattoo (see previous blog entry), and I’m in love with that city. It’s adorable and exactly where I imagine myself living.

I was really nervous about going because I’d made a bit of a snap decision about going there. I had applied to three low residency programs because I was considering grad school for writing, but I didn’t want to be away from my Navy boyfriend any more (2 years of long distance was long enough), so the low-res thing seemed perfect. I applied in February and got rejected from the first two schools, so I just sort of assumed I’d be rejected from Goddard too and started making other plans. Then, in May, the week before graduation from Saint Mary’s, Goddard called and said they were missing two of my three letters of recommendation! I couldn’t believe it! I had given my boss/professors the info in FEBRUARY! When I said “take your time,” I meant take the next few weeks, not the next few months! I quickly emailed my boss and professor, they got my letters of rec in the next day (so it clearly didn’t take them long), and I got accepted the week after. I then had about two weeks to make a decision. I went back and forth for the two weeks and decided that if I was ever going to do grad school, it might as well be now. And with the low-residency thing, I’d be able to figure out other things in my life in the mean time. I could write from Florida where Colin was, or I could write from home. So I enrolled, figured out financial aid and housing, booked a ticket to Vermont, and prepared to leave in less than a month for Goddard.

It’s crazy how such a spontaneous decision turned out to be the exact perfect thing for me. Vermont was beautiful, Goddard was amazing, the people were fantastic! It was so wonderful and inspiring to be around so many other writers—people who knew what it was like to BE A WRITER. The students ranged from 22 to probably 80, and every age range in between was represented equally. In fact, I think I was one of only 2 or 3 people who were attending Goddard right out of undergrad. We’d all love to be published, of course, but at Goddard, the writers are mostly there for themselves. To these people who had families, other jobs, and other lives, writing was just inevitable—it was something we had to do. And Goddard is our way to make ourselves write.

I met so many fantastic people and so many amazing experiences including swimming in a stone quarry down the road in my underwear at 2am with 4 near strangers and getting my first tattoo in Burlington. I have a great network of writers now, and I’ve only been to one residency! I’ve continued a novel I started in undergrad, and we’re also required to read at least 45 books (of our choosing) and write 2-3 page “annotations” (kind of responses) to them. Additionally, we have to do a teaching practicum and a few other critical papers. The program is four semesters, and I’m so excited to see where the next two years will take me.

So since June I’ve been trying to get ahead in my work, reading books, writing critical papers, annotations, and working on my novel. Also, my job-life has been a rollercoaster.

Before I moved down to Jacksonville, I secured an internship with the National Association of Event Planners and the National Event Planner Institute. My boss also had an event planning company as well. When I got down here, I met with my boss, and I was super excited to be working with her. She’s a very strong and driven woman, and I realized I’d never worked for a woman like that before. The internship was to be on a 30-day trial basis, and after that, if she liked me, it would become paid. After two weeks of the internship, my boss decided she wanted to make a paid position for me. I started as Administrative Coordinator of the NAEP, and I was really liking it. I was working on a lot of administrative stuff, making lots of phone calls, working on the curriculum for the NEPI event coordinator class, and doing some marketing among other things. But, after just 2 ½ weeks, my boss told me she’d talked to her accountant and wasn’t going to be able to afford me.

I freaked out and started looking for jobs online that day. I really wanted to get into the wedding planning business, but I couldn’t afford to do another unpaid internship, so I had to find something that paid. But I also needed something part time so that I could also focus on my writing.

And that same day, a bridal store called me for an interview. I had applied a month before that and didn’t think I’d ever hear from them. I went in for an interview a few days later, and was offered the job that same week. I started training the following week, and I was very overwhelmed. There’s so much to remember! There are so many forms we have to fill out for various things, and the computer is very confusing. But I’m catching on. My favorite part is, obviously, working with the brides. It’s so fantastic to get to talk to them during this exciting time in their lives, AND I get to basically play dress up every day. I’ve only sold a few dresses so far, but it’s so exciting when I get to help someone find a dress they love and tear up over.

Our store is as reasonably priced, however, and since I’m in Jacksonville, Florida, we get a lot of lower income brides—I’ve seen people with no teeth. We get lots of very young brides, courthouse weddings, 2nd wedding brides, brides who’ve just had children, and brides of all different age and race. Although with my previous job with the NAEP it was great to sit in my apartment all day doing work, at the bridal shop, it’s great to get to interact with people all day, and it gives me a reason to shower, get dressed up, and get out of the apartment. Everyone I work with is so great and helpful, and I almost always have an interesting story to bring home to Colin.

I’ve also had quite the cultural experience at the shop. I had a bride from the Philippines who didn’t speak much English. She had just arrived to the US and was getting married as soon as possible in a courthouse. She needed something simple and cheap that was a perfect fit so she could buy it off the rack. We found one dress that almost fit and would just need a few alterations. However, to wait for the alterations, she would have needed to push the wedding back a week. So, she and her friend (who spoke English) put the dress on hold and went to another store. They found a dress somewhere else, but the friend who was with the bride is also getting married and ended up making an appointment with me for next week!

I also had a bride who was quite young and was engaged to an army boy. The woman’s fiancĂ© had not yet met her mother, and her mother didn’t know she was engaged. You see, the bride was from an African family, and she required a dowry to be offered before she could officially become engaged. She said her sister went for $450,000 and she expected to be worth $500,000. Quite the price tag for an American soldier. Also, the girl’s fiancĂ© was white, so she expected some resistance from her mother about that as well. I also found out that the bride was Mormon. She explained to me that the church planned the ceremony AND reception for her, so all she really had to do was choose a dress. The bride was there to look at bridesmaid dresses with her friend and decided she wouldn’t be ready to try on actual wedding gowns until her mother was with her in two weeks. She’s made a comeback appointment for next week, so I’m interested to hear the end of her story.

The other most interesting bride I’ve had so far was from Kuwait. She came into the store with three family friends who live in the US. The girl spoke little English, and her friends did most of the talking. She was covered from head to toe, and wanted to try on some very big, poofy, flashy dresses. We tried on the first one she picked out, and she didn’t want to take it off. It was the dress she had dreamed of. We put her in a veil and tiara, and she was in love. However, she had to bring her mother in the next day so she could see the dress and make the final decision. The bride (who was only 18), saw a boy in the back of the store, and with her head uncovered, exclaimed something I didn’t understand and disappeared into the fitting room. We wrote everything down for her, and hoped she’d return the next day (her purchases would have been my first big sale).

I called the bride the next afternoon to check on her. It turned out the number she’d given us belonged to her American friend. I reminded her that we were only open until 6:00 on Sunday, and if the bride wanted the dress, she’d have to come in soon so we could get it altered in the two weeks she would still be in the US. Every time the door buzzed that day, I turned to look, hoping they would return, and finally at 5:45, they walked through the door. I was helping another bride, but she was passed off to a manager so I could return to my Kuwaitian bride.

Her mother took one look at the dress and decided it was too “old fashioned.” She shuffled through the dresses, and we chose another designer gown for the bride to try. The mother loved it. It was an ivory trumpet silhouette, strapless, heavily beaded, with little ruffles every 4 or 5 inches all the way from top to bottom. It had a medium-length train, and was very beautiful. The bride didn’t like the color, but the mother did. We added two heavily-brocaded veils (a cathedral and an elbow-length), a tiara, and TWO slips because the bride wanted it poofier. Her friend told us it’s not what SHE wants but what she thinks other people want—what they will remember.

Finally, at 6:30, a half-hour AFTER our store closed, we rang everything up for her. A bra, two slips, two veils, a tiara, shoes, and of course the dress. BUT when we asked the bride’s mother how she’s like to pay for it, she said “oh, I just wanted to know how much it would cost. I have to talk to my husband and get the money from him.” So, a half hour after the store had closed and after we’d bagged everything up for her, the bride left the store with an appointment for the following Tuesday.

Tomorrow’s Tuesday, and if that woman doesn’t come in and buy EVERYTHING, I will be very… mad. I wasn’t even too broken up about it until my manager blew a gasket and got me all fired up. They KNEW each time they came into the store they would not be buying anything. Fingers crossed everyone that they make it in tomorrow! It would be a $1,800 sale!

So, working at the bridal shop has been interesting, and I’m getting better, I think. I’m not the greatest saleswoman out there, I know that, and I don’t think this is something I’d want to do forever, but I try to be honest, genuine, and just really nice, and I think that helps. I’m trying my best, and hopefully my sales go up as I get better. It gets more fun every day, although it’s actually quite tiring: running around the store carrying big heavy dresses. But I’m glad to get my foot into the door of the wedding industry, and hopefully I’ll get the chance to try out wedding planning someday soon!

So that’s work and school. In my personal life: I’ve been living with Colin for three months now, and I love it so much. It’s incredibly wonderful to get to see him every single day, and I feel quite spoiled. But now, even when I go a week or a weekend or even a day without seeing him, I get upset and miss him. I don’t know how I’ll ever survive another deployment. We both go back and forth just about every day about whether we think he should stay in the navy when his four years are up or not. I’ve even been trying to talk to anyone at the bridal shop that I meet who’s part of a navy family for advice. I’ll keep you updated on our decision.

Our roommate just left the navy a few weeks ago, so the past week we’ve been moving into our new apartment. It’s our first apartment just the two of us, and it’s the first apartment I’ve for which I’ve ever signed a lease! We’ve got just about everything moved over, and I’m loving the apartment. It’s much smaller, but we don’t really need much space. The apartment complex is a bit farther from work, but it’s very homey and feels more like a neighborhood. There’s a basketball court where kids are always shooting hoops, two pools, tennis courts, and a playground. And there’s lots of trees, unlike our old complex, which means we can park in the shade! The definitely helps keep the car cool.

We live on the first floor now, which is amazing. We have a very large patio outside the living room that overlooks the little lake, and it almost feels like we have a big yard. There’s even a weeping willow just a few feet from our patio, and a fan above it! I can’t wait to get some chairs out there so I can sit outside at night and write. It’s screened in, so once it cools down, we’ll be able to leave it open.

We also got a turntable, and I bought our first record last week: Johnny Cash. It’s a fantastic compilation, and we’ve been listening to it non-stop. It really is true that vinyl just sounds better somehow. I can’t wait to keep building our collection.

Aaand last weekend two best friends from home (Andy and Morgan) and my brother, Dan, came down to Florida to visit! We went to the Wizarding World of Harry Potter at Universal Studios for a day, which turned out to be really cool, but there were only three rides and not much to do. The Three Broomsticks was my favorite part. It had great food, great atmosphere, and AMAZING butterbeer! The ride inside the castle was really fantastic, but the second ride we went on made me sick and gave me a case of vertigo for the rest of the day, so I had to take a break and didn’t go on any more rollercoaster-y rides after that. We did a few other things at Universal, got SOAKED on the bilge-rat barge, and then had dinner with my brother’s and my friend Emily from home who is working at Disney for the semester. It was great to see her and get the inside scoop about working at WDW.

The second two days we went to Disney, and it was absolutely fantastic. I said to my brother as we approached the Transportation and Ticket Center: “doesn’t it just feel like you’re coming home?” And it really did. I’ve been to Disney seven times now, and it never fails to be just as magical as I remembered it. This was my third time with Morgan, and we had a blast. We managed to hit all four parks in two days and got on every ride that we really wanted to at least once. Highlights of the two days in Disney: riding Splash mountain four times in a row during the parade, watching the fireworks from Thunder Mountain, and the new Yeti ride in Animal Kingdom—fantastic! And Tower of Terror never fails to be one of my favorite rides. It’s just so terrifyingly wonderful.

So after our three days in Orlando (and spending nearly all the money in my bank account), we returned to Jacksonville, shopped, had dinner at my favorite restaurant on the beach, Ragtime, took a stroll along the ocean, and played a few rounds of “Who? What? When? Where? Why?” to recapture all of our inside jokes. It was an amazing 4 ½ days, and I’m so glad I got to share it with two best friends, and especially my brother. We never used to get along when we were younger, but we’ve gotten closer over the years, especially after being in the musicals together. I’ve been surprised at how much I really really miss him when I’m gone. He’s definitely become one of my best friends, and I had a great time at Disney with him for our seventh visit.

I also managed to make it home for a weekend last month to see the summer musical at home. It was Cinderella, and although my brother was “only” a chorus member, I decided the week before the show that I wanted to come home to see it. My dad also built the pumpkin carriage, and he was so proud of it. My mom booked me a ticket, and only she and one of my sisters knew I was coming home. I surprised my other sister, my brother, my dad, the director, and the whole cast. It was great to be able to see the show, which was hilarious, and especially my brother in his gold metallic “Hammer” pants and blue light-up LA gear shoes. It’s so cool to see him on stage and see how far he’s come. I’d never have thought when he was a kid that he’d ever have the confidence on stage that he has now, and he’s so much fun to watch.

I guess that’s all the excitement of the summer for me. I’ve got to try to get caught up on some reading and writing tomorrow, and I have to be at the old apartment in the morning to let the movers in to get our old roommate’s stuff. I’ve spent way too much time writing this, so I’ll bid you adieu now.

Hope everyone out there is doing well!


14 July 2010


There’s no summer in Florida
Not the summer that I love

Outside summer
A bike ride to the ice cream counter
In the flower shop: Blossoms and Bows
For two scoops of Wisconsin-made,
Thick and creamy, maple ice cream

Or a float on the lake and a soak
In the sun on an orange inner-tube
At the end of the dock
Covered in sun-screen
Shades sliding off the end of my nose

Or popsicles at the softball diamond
Red and white and blue
Cold and sweet and summer
Sunflower seed spitting on the bleachers
And the crack of the ball on the bat

Or a drive along Hwy KK
Windows down
Sweet songs slipping through the sunroof
And into the summerness
On a Tuesday

Or an afternoon on a park bench
Throwing pennies In the fountain
And snapping pictures of the tulips
And each other
So we never forget

Or the walk back in the warm dark rain
No umbrellas
Shoes in our pockets and jeans rolled up
The black-topped road hot on our bare feet
Fleeing from summer thunder

Or a bonfire
Reflected in the faces
Of friends across the pit
Hands in our kangaroo pockets
Warm and dry and summer

Or a night in the grass of the soccer field
Beneath the water tower—star gazing
Flat on our backs on a patchwork quilt
Licking plum juice from our fingers
And swatting at busy, buzzy mosquitoes.

Or falling asleep at night
To the sweeter songs
Of crickets and bullfrogs
And the train in the distance
Through the screen

On my

07 July 2010

Independence Day

I pulled my worn teddy bear and my red felt travel blanket out of my pink nylon carry-on and stuffed the bag under the seat in front of me. I settled into 17a—the last window seat on the left side of the plane—and snuggle under my blanket. The plane was frigidly cold, and the engine was already buzzing just behind me. I could feel the vibration under my seat. I fastened my seat belt, tugged it tightly around my stomach, and made myself comfortable—ready to let the lull of the engine sing me to sleep. I’d been in a long distance relationship for the past two years and was used to traveling by myself, and I was usually sleeping before the plane left the ground.
“Excuse me, sir, you can put that under the seat,” said the pretty young Asian flight attendant to the thirty-something man who was trying to fit his small grey duffle bag into the overhead compartment.
“Oh, under mine or his?” he asked, pointing to the man seated in the row in front of me.
“Under his,” I said, noticing that the flight attendant had disappeared into the back of the plane without hearing the man’s question. “We’re in the last row, so there’s no empty space under our seats.”
“Thanks,” he said, sitting down next to me and pushing his bag under the seat in front of him. “I’ve never done this before.”
“Really?” I exclaimed. “How is that possible?”
“I’m afraid of heights,” he said. And then I noticed the beads of sweat dripping down his face. The man was in his mid thirties, the big and strong type, so it was hard for me to imagine him being afraid of anything. The first time I flew in a plane, I was in seventh grade, and I had flown probably twenty or thirty times since then. I didn’t even think about it anymore. I was used to just relaxing and enjoying the ride.
But this man next to me was clearly not enjoying himself.
“I’m Kelsey,” I said, offering my hand to the nervous man.
“Jason,” he said, “it’s nice to meet you.”
I could feel the dampness of his hands when we shook.
“I just got my first tattoo today, so I understand the nerves,” I told him, trying to make conversation to keep his mind off of the impending take-off.
“Oh, really?” he looked over at my newly tattooed wrist with the word “write.” printed in courier font, like a typewriter.
“I like the period. It’s like—“
“A command,” I said, finishing his thought. “A command to myself to write. To make time in my life for my writing.”

I had spent the past week at a grad school residency at Goddard College for creative writing, and it was life changing. It was incredible to be around so many other writers who knew what it was like to be a writer—to know that writing is inevitable for us. I had never felt so focused and so full, and I had met some of the most amazing people and had some amazing surreal experiences. So I decided to commemorate my week by spontaneously getting a tattoo the morning before I left.
My friend Jen and I had caught a ride with our other friend Angela into Burlington that morning, checked our bags, and took a taxi to Church Street in town to keep ourselves occupied until our flights left that evening. I had thought all week about getting a tattoo, and when we stumbled upon a little tattoo parlor called “Moose Tattoos,” I dropped in to see if they might have time for a walk-in.
“Sure, just come back in a half-hour,” said a tattooed man with messy hair who was tracing a design with marker onto a woman’s bare back.
I was terrified, but so ready to make my mark—on myself.
Jen and I went to the City Hall Park across the street and took a seat on the benches on either side of a granite chess table next to the fountain at the center of the park. We sat in the shade of a giant oak tree, and I felt the warm new-July breeze combing through my hair. We sat quietly in the sun, watching children scooter around the fountain and other young people lounging on the grass, squealing suddenly when the sprinklers sprouted from the grass and sprayed water across their picnic blankets.
“You ready?” Jen asked me after a bit, looking down at her watch.
“As ready as I’ll ever be,” I said, taking a deep breath as I stood up.
My week at Goddard had finally proven to me that I was a writer. It proved to me that I had a precious talent that I shouldn’t forget. The people at Goddard ranged from 22 to about 75, and most of them there had other jobs, other lives. They were going to Goddard to make writing a priority again. For them. Because many of them had forgotten to make room in their lives for their writing.
I attended the graduation for those who had completed their MFA, and a professor said in his speech “don’t fit your writing into your life; fit your life into your writing.” Goddard convinced me that I was a writer, and I never wanted to forget it. I never wanted to forget to write. This tattoo was my commitment to write. For the rest of my life.
But as I sat in the chair, as Paul Martinez sharpened his needle and dipped it in his bottle of ink (or so I imagined) and prepared to write, I was terrified.
I had thought before about getting a tattoo. Although I knew it would hurt, that wasn’t what I was afraid of. I had discussed it online with a graduated Goddard friend a few days before I found myself sitting in that chair with Paul:

irishbelle2010: there's some other fear there
irishbelle2010: it can't quite be the fear of my mom
irishbelle2010: because she actually is supportive of a tattoo
irishbelle2010: which shocks me first of all
irishbelle2010: but maybe just the fear of not being....
irishbelle2010: like i just feel this pressure to be...
irishbelle2010: appropriate?
irishbelle2010: is that the word...
irishbelle2010: I don’t know
Thomas Deans: I know where you're coming from
Thomas Deans: Too much permanence for you to not be sure
irishbelle2010: right, like... i just really like to be accepted by superiors
irishbelle2010: the teacher's pet thing
Thomas Deans: There's nothing wrong with that
irishbelle2010: i wouldnt feel confident with, like, a boss or teacher
irishbelle2010: if i had a tattoo
irishbelle2010: because i DO feel that pressure to be the best
irishbelle2010: and i feel like being inappropriate would somehow hold me back or something
irishbelle2010: I don’t know
irishbelle2010: i've never tried to articulate this before
irishbelle2010: so i'm having trouble with it
irishbelle2010: even though i know consciously that my mom would be okay with me having a tattoo
irishbelle2010: she's still responsible for my perfectionism
irishbelle2010: for raising me with a need to be accepted by her
irishbelle2010: and other authority figures
irishbelle2010: teachers/bosses/in-laws
Thomas Deans: That's a good thing. I'm a perfectionist in many respects, which is why I have to get my tattoos in certain places now
Thomas Deans: If you got one, that'd be awesome, it'd look good, but to be unsure, nah
irishbelle2010: like, i'd be fine with a tattoo if i was constantly in a group of my peers
irishbelle2010: i'd be fine functioning with it in college or here [at Goddard]
irishbelle2010: but when i'd go to work for the wedding planner
irishbelle2010: meeting with clients
irishbelle2010: i crave their approval
Thomas Deans: I got it! This is genius
irishbelle2010: so part of me wants to get one so that i can overcome that
irishbelle2010: that thing that is so ingrained in me
Thomas Deans: Like a form a rebellion
irishbelle2010: not really
irishbelle2010: like a conscious way to...
irishbelle2010: to try to breakdown this
irishbelle2010: this
irishbelle2010: this thing that my mother created in me
irishbelle2010: i guess maybe rebellion
irishbelle2010: but i'm not actually rebelling against the authority figures themselves or against my mother
Thomas Deans: True
Thomas Deans: Wrong word-choice
irishbelle2010: but against this psychological thing in me that craves their approval
irishbelle2010: it's a rebellion against my psychological need for approval from authority
irishbelle2010: so when i finally get a tat, that's what i'll tell people
Thomas Deans: Haha, you're so gonna get one
irishbelle2010: "it's a rebellion against my psychological craving for approval from authority"
irishbelle2010: that's why i never drank before I was 21
irishbelle2010: well, that and other reasons
irishbelle2010: that's why i got straight A's
irishbelle2010: that's why i never break rules
irishbelle2010: terrifying

So, sitting in that chair at Moose Tattoos in Burlington, Vermont, I was overcoming that burden. I was overcoming my fear of being a disappointment.

And back on the plane from Burlington to Dulles International, Jason was overcoming his fear.
“Well, my hand is right here if you need to hold it,” I said.
“I might just have to take you up on that offer,” said Jason, clutching my hand in his. He started breathing heavily as the air plane began making its way down the runway, so I started asking him questions to distract him.
“Why are you flying alone?” I asked him.
“I’m moving to Vermont,” he spoke between heavy breaths. “I drove over here from Cincinnati, and I’m flying back to get my wife and her car."
I saw an opportunity for distraction. When Paul was painting on my tattoo, I told my friend Jen the story of how I met my boyfriend. Everyone loves to talk about their own love stories, so I knew this would be a good way to distract Jason too.
“Oh, tell me about your wife.”
And Jason proceeded to tell me the story of how he and his wife met—at a party thrown by his ex-girlfriend at which he was supposed to be meeting a different friend of hers who never showed up.
“We’ve been married for six years,” he said.
“Why are you moving to Vermont?” I asked him.
“We were both born and raised in Ohio, and we just wanted to move. We did some research, decided on Vermont, and started looking for jobs. I got a job first, so that’s why I’m the one flying.”
I asked him if he had any kids next. He had none but told me about his two Jack Russells. I learned he and his wife were both accountants.
“Oh, where did you go to college?” I asked next.
“I didn’t,” he said, unembarrassed. “I worked for a theme park for fifteen years.”
“Oh!” I squealed, excited because I had decided to write my book on the circus and thought he might be a great source for technical questions about rides if I needed him.
“What did you do there?”
“I had different jobs—even joined the police academy when they needed a security guard. But most of my time there I was a supervisor for The Beast—America’s longest roller coaster.”
“Roller coaster! But I thought you were afraid of heights! Didn’t you have to ride it?”
“Yes, I did,” said Jason. “I had to climb it and check it every day. And if the roller coaster stopped, I was the one who helped them off and led them down to safety.”
“Weren’t you afraid of heights then?” I asked him.
“Yea, I was, but I guess I just got used to it. Because I had to. It was my job. I’d be climbing it, and the coaster tracks would be on one side of me, and there was nothing on the other. It was terrifying. But I learned just to look straight ahead of me and not at the distance between me and the ground.”
“Well, even I would be scared to do what you did. This plane ride should be a cinch.”
We talked more about Jason’s time at King’s Island—how he ended up there and how he ended up as an accountant after that. I told him about Goddard, about my family and my boyfriend. I told him about writing and about developing characters, and about studying abroad in Ireland.
When the plane landed, we de-boarded, and he treated me to a slice of pizza for my chivalry.
“It was nothing,” I said.
“Oh, no, I wouldn’t have been able to get through that without you. You don’t know how lucky I was to end up next to someone like you.”
It was fitting that it was Independence Day weekend, because Jason and I had both gained our independence that day. Our fears had been controlling us, and by overcoming them, we were finally free. Getting my tattoo was the first independent thing I had ever really done. It was important to me. I wasn’t making that decision based on what my parents or teachers or other grown-ups would think. I was now free to live my life for me.
Jason and I were free from the anchors that had been keeping us from flight. We were both liberated that day—he a thousand miles in the air, and me with my butt in the tattoo parlor chair.
Jason and I sat together for a bit and talked until my next flight down to Jacksonville, Florida began to board.
“You might end up one of my books now, you know,” I told Jason.
“I would be honored,” he said: the roller coaster man who was afraid of heights.

26 April 2010


Hey, guys

Sorry I didn't live up to my promise of writing in my blog every day of Lent. But I'm back now, and I'm going to try to write as much as I can. Here's something from Easter weekend...

My parents dropped me off at LAX at 9am. My flight back to South Bend didn't leave until 2:15, but theirs left at 10:30. I had some time to kill, and there wasn't much to see at my concourse aside from a McDonald's and a couple of shops cluttered with best sellers, those weird horseshoe travelers pillows that had suddenly become popular, a few bags of potato chips and some viscose scarves. I planted myself on a terribly uncomfortable black leather chair at my gate, cracked open my David Sedaris book, and held my camera close, ready for the celeb siting I was sure I would experience. It was Easter weekend, and my sister and I reasoned that it was the perfect weekend for celebrity airport sitings.

My roommate Erin was obsessed with celebrities. Whereas I felt guilty at the amount of knowledge I had about famous people and their families, Erin actively sought it out. She complained about having too much homework and not enough time to finish it, yet she somehow had time to study Perez Hilton's blog every half hour or so. When I told her I was flying out of LAX, she got excited, squealing "ooh! Maybe you'll see a celebrity-- like Zac Ephron or David Beckham," but then corrected herself, "oh, no, David Beckham's in England right now." She was the first among my friends and me to learn that poor Sandra Bullock's husband had cheated, and she kept us all updated on the disappearance of the actor who played "Boner" on Growing Pains. As much as her celebrity stalking sickened me, I had to admit that the thought of seeing a famous person in the flesh got my heart beating as much as finding the perfect pair of red patent leather shoes in my size at TJMaxx.

So there I sat, next to the gate for the LA to NYC flight that left at 11:30. I scanned the crowd, acutely aware of anyone wearing sunglasses or a pair of heels that seemed too fancy for the average traveler. I wasn't sure what a celebrity flying United airlines would look like-- would he or she be accompanied by two bulky bald bodyguards? Would they be wearing normal clothes like the rest of us-- even if it was Lady Gaga or Cher? And then I wondered why a celebrity would be flying United at all-- don't they all have private jets? I hoped I'd see an obscure celeb that only I recognized, like the indie artist I was into at the time, or one of the one-line actors from an ABC Family Channel show that not many people watched.

I didn't see any celebrities that day. I spotted a man who looked remarkably like my Uncle George but was too afraid to snap a picture. My family saw the owner of the Milwaukee Brewers at MKE, but after an hour or so of pretending to read while periodically scanning the concourse, I got sleepy and crawled into a corner to catch a nap.

Howevever, I did have the pleasure of sitting next to the most beautiful Brazilian man I'd ever seen. I'm not sure that I'd ever seen another Brazilian man before that, it's true, but this man deserved a title, so I awarded him in my head with "most beautiful Brazilian man I'd ever seen." His hair was dark black and was perfectly manicured as if he'd perhaps come all this way for an American haircut. His skin was a perfect caramel, the color of my tan leather Fossil purse, and glowed from the California sun. I can't remember what he was even wearing as I was so focused on his immaculate face-- cheek bones perfectly chiseled as if from stone. But I did notice the homely woman he came in with-- hair dyed blond, but her greasy brown roots growing through. She clearly hadn't visited the salon with my Brazilian dream boat. Her skin was orange, and her nose protruded from her face at a dangerous angle. The woman shoved her Disneyland bag into the overhead compartment and made her way to a seat a few rows back.

My stomach did a turn as he sat next to me. Realizing we were in the bulkhead seat and he couldn't have anything in his lap, the stewardess asked him if she could stow his blue camera bag for him. He looked at her blankly, and when she took the bag from his lap, he stood and started speaking rapidly in a foreign language.

"Do you speak English?" the stewardess asked him.
"No, Portuguese," he responded.
"Oh, then you can't sit here."

Again, he stared at her blankly. The stewardess spoke louder, as if that would make him understand her, and motioned to tell him she was going to change his seat.

"No, I... here," spoke the Brazilian Dreamboat.
"I'm sorry, you can't sit in an exit row if you can't understand me."

The stewardess went on about how she only spoke Italian and that wouldn't help her communicate with him in case of emergency. Brazil just looked at me with the most precious half smile, and we shared a soft laugh.

"Hi," he said.
"Hi," I said back.

And in that moment, I almost asked the stewardess to move me with him. He never would have known how we ended up next to each other again. I'd never had the urge to carry on a conversation with someone on a plane. Most often, I'd be asleep before we had even left the ground. but on this day, all I wanted to do was sit next to Brazil and ask him how to say "hello" in Portuguese. I imagined him laughing at my pronunciation and me trying to peice together some Spanish from high school in the hopes that he might understand it a little better.

"Yo studio Espanol en escuela," I would say, and he would smile the other half or that half smile and think I was adorable for trying.

All my dreams of a whirlwind romance with Paolo, as I named him, were shattered when the flight attendance moved him to a seat next to the woman he'd boarded with.

"Here, you can sit by your girlfriend," she said, as if she were doing him a big favor Paolo shook his head, and I know I wasn't imagining it, looked my way and said, "sister." I smiled a half-hearted smile at him and glared at the woman who had practically murdered our potential children-- Marisa and Paolo Junior. An overweight businessman took his place, and I pulled out my sleeping mask and was out before we left the ground.

02 March 2010

Luke Wilson

I used to like Luke Wilson. He was cute in Legally Blonde, funny in That 70s Show, he rolls with Wes Anderson once in awhile.

But now-- now...

I want to punch him in the mouth.

Too many AT&T commercials, too often, no emotion. I actually want to cancel my AT&T service because of those commercials. Seriously.

Second: I'm an aunt! (Sort of). Colin's brother's wife had a baby on February 28, 2010. Her name is Clare Mae Morrissey, and I love her already even though we've never met. And I CAN'T wait to meet her! We will be friends, I think.

Now, can we talk about the Bachelor? What the H was Jake thinking? I have not spoken to anyone who has even liked Vienna a little bit. She is 5 years old and annoying and has trashy fake blonde hair and a tramp stamp. Get real. Tenely was so perfect for Jake, and he will regret his decision.

Okay, now I've got that off my chest and I don't have to think about it any more.

Annnd, this is a crappy entry tonight, but I have a quiz tomorrow, and I have to study.


01 March 2010

I Fell In Love By The Seaside

I Fell In Love By The Seaside
By Kelsey Knoedler

I fell in love
By the seaside
By the seaside
In my red coat
In December
On the coldest day of the year
At the end of the pier
By the lighthouse

As you talked to the seal
By the seaside
By the seaside
And he stuck out his whiskers
And you kissed back
And called him Humphrey
And you held my hand
In your pocket

I fell in love
By the seaside
By the seaside
As we pulled apart pieces of fish
And ate it with our fingers
And the vinegar
From the chips
Stung my hangnail

As we waited for the train
By the seaside
By the seaside
On a bench
Near Dublin
Where the air
Left salt
On my lips