Reading and writing can be so exciting, come in, this text is inviting.

The nice thing about libraries is you can pick out a book, take it home without paying for it, read it, bring it back, and pick out another one. Did you know that’s how libraries work? It so neat! I recently checked out a small collection of books that I probably should have just gone ahead and purchased, because I’m sure I won’t finish them before they are due and furthermore I’ll probably wish I owned them once I do read them, books by David Sedaris, Truman Capote, Jim Wallis, and Lauren Winner. Assuming that I’ll probably only finish one of these books in the month that they are in my possession, I decided to start by reading Lauren Winner’s book: Real Sex – The Naked Truth About Chastity. Yowz! It may be the first time I’ve used the s-word in this PG rated blog! Anyway, it’s good, and without creeping into my personal life here I’ll say that it offers a lot of relevant wisdom (particularly to Christ-following singles) and a dose of humbling intellectualism (to anyone who once thought herself smart. Mostly I just envy Winner’s vocabulary.)

I’ve put a few more posts into the All Star section. It is a little bit embarassing to dig through the old blogs like this, there really isn’t much of value. It is also a little alarming, at times, like when I came across a post I wrote in May of 2006 about the man who would become my boyfriend 11 months later, and my ex-boyfriend five months after that. Maybe somewhere along the way I have already written about the man who will one day be my husband, who knows? Blogs can really make your head spin, man. They are a time capsule. Get one.

The great Push and Pull.

On a recent drive home with my brother I explained, amid a battle over the climate control, the way that I experience hot and cold. I won’t try to fluff it up for you, it’s pretty simple: Hot is a pressure, and cold is a vacuum. Maybe this is nothing new, but my brother seemed to think it was a pretty silly idea. But for me, that’s how it works. Heat presses snugly against my body, while cold pulls away. It’s a simple matter of security. It’s why I’d prefer to wear a turtle neck or a scarf than to wear a shirt with a wide or low-cut neckline. It’s why we prefer hugs and human contact. It’s why we sleep under blankets or at least a sheet even when it is warm out. It’s why we wear clothes at all. It’s that pressure against our skin.  Does this ring true to anyone else?

When I am driving in the winter by myself I crank the heat up to levels others would find cruel. I love to do this to myself. I love it for the same reason that I love cooking in this bedroom where I am currently sitting. I can’t be hot enough. Cold, to me, is the same thing as floating in outer space, with that ever present pull against every inch of your body, threatening to tear you apart. Just thinking of it makes me curl into a tighter, sweatshirted ball here. Am I crazy? Is there some scientific truth to this?

The cold is lonely, that much I know is true. And warmth, naturally, is companionship.

But at this point, even those who “prefer it cool” are on tenterhooks for spring. Good grief!

One man’s trajectory, another man’s tragedy.

She would have guessed that the Novocaine would be the worst part of her day, that deft little needle in her cheek and the roof of her mouth, and the dead sensation that followed.  Pain, she realized, discomfort even, is not the worst part of going to the dentist.  The smell of burning enamel, the terrible squealing sound as they drill your teeth away, the vibrations that rattle jaws and every vertebrae, none of those things are the worst part of going to the dentist, or at least they weren’t today.

“If it sounds like someone is working on the roof, it’s because they are,” said the dentist from his perch.  She could hear them walking around above her, pushing ice and snow off of the building in order to remedy damage inflicted by Sister Winter.  All the while during her procedure she could see ice falling past the window from the corner of her eye.  How was she to know it was foreshadowing?  She simply needed to have her tooth repaired.

Paying a modest fortune to have that tooth repaired isn’t the worst part of going to the dentist, but she wasn’t aware of that either.  Rather, when she crossed the lobby to exit, her thoughts were consumed with the promise of future dental work, more invasive, more expensive.  “You may need a root canal,” her dentist had said with equal parts regret and hope.  “We’ll see you soon to finish this up.”  She did not want ever to return to the dentist.

Another patient was exiting with her.  They descended the stairs together and listened as the noise of the men on the roof grew louder, their scraping of snow and ice becoming much closer.  She and this other patient were both numb in the face, and they joked halfheartedly together with drooping mouths and stupid tongues. “Do you think they’ll know to stop when we step outside?” The two of them looked nervously up at the overhang from whence blocks of ice and hearty tufts of snow fell at irregular intervals.

Of course they would know to stop–they were professionals, right?  They would surely know when to stop, wouldn’t they?

Perhaps they weren’t professionals, who knows.  But it is safe to say that on this day, for this woman, the worst part of going to the dentist was when she stepped outside just as a particularly dense chunk of ice was pushed from the roof.  It struck her in the back of her skull, and that was it.  It killed her instantly, while the other patient managed to skitter away untouched.  “Hey, look out!” came a cry from the roof of the dentist office, but it was moments too late, the damage was done.  The other patient, although unharmed, turned around and yelled up at the workers, “Are you crazy?”  They didn’t have much to say to that.  But secretly, in the furthest corners of her mind, this other patient was a little bit envious because she, though still alive and with a future full of promise, would continue to make these visits to the dentist, while the other woman would never have to.

Once upon a time I was falling in love, now I’m only falling apart.

There is a lunar eclipse tonight!  I stepped outside to look at it just now, and in the thirty seconds that I stood there watching the moon glow faintly orange and pink my hair froze into icy little Medusa locks (because I had run directly from the shower into the bitter cold to watch the eclipse!)  It is cold these days.  But you’re from Wisconsin, right?  You knew that, right?

Are you from Wisconsin?  I always assume that most people who read this are, but then I look at my stat counters and I become terribly confused (can you tell I am the kind of person who is confused by stat counters?)  According to the stats I average about 80 hits per day, with visits from over 30 countries and countless US cities.  This makes me a little bit skeptical.  All of my previous blogs raked in about 6 or 8 hits a day, mostly from friends whom I begged to read my blog.  I feel like I’m in the middle of some kind of digital hidden camera joke, maybe.  Like, “Watch this girl’s face as she sees her numbers sky rocket!  She been p4wned!”  According to my stats, most of my traffic goes to a single post that I wrote a few months back, and if you’re curious it is this one.  Some how I must have gotten locked into the Andy Gold$worthy circuit.  That’s cool, I still like him, and I only misspelled his name just now so that I wouldn’t mislead the search engines to thinking this post had anything to do with him.  And okay, yes, he’s the money.  He’s so money and he doesn’t even know it.

Mostly I’m just nervous for my dental appointment in the morning.  I’m having my tooth prepared for a crown.  And by “prepared” I mean numbed and then sawed down to a little peg.  Youch!

Cheese is good; we like cheese sandwiches, right?

I’ve been going back and forth between two equally cheesy Doogie Howser opening lines for today’s post. One reads like this: “Giving something up is difficult, especially if it is something that you have come to rely on. But as time passes, the benefits of giving up such dependencies compound at a fairly rapid rate.” Can’t you just picture the Doog typing something like that? The second went thus, “Sometimes when you have been waiting for something for a long time it only makes that thing better when it arrives. Sometimes, though, waiting so long for something brings expectations that can’t possibly be met.”

I’m sorry that my writing style has somehow boiled down to something so bland. But I do think I will go ahead and finish those two thoughts because, in spite of their initial presentation, I think they are some blog-worthy ideas. So here, just imagine me sitting at a circa-1990 IBM, wearing that white medical coat and maybe a fluffy blond crew cut and maybe somehow that will make this more easily digestible:

Giving something up is difficult, especially if it is something that you have come to rely on. But as time passes, the benefits of giving up such dependencies compound at a fairly rapid rate. (Haha, okay.) For Lent I gave up drinking soda and listening to music, at least in environments that I had control of (my car, my home, my computer). At first my body screamed for caffein and sugar, and my ears felt neglected as morning passed with alternating silence and the crackling murmur of talk radio. I have only been “fasting” in these respects for 13 days now, but I have already lost my appetite for soda and find myself relishing my self-imposed silence. I don’t say this to boast, because surely it is an act of grace that I can leave these idols (perhaps temporarily) behind me, and surely, as my parenthetical hinted at, I risk returning to them with equal or increased devotion after the fast has ended. But maybe I won’t, because I feel healthier, in small ways. When I stop drinking soda I drink more water and milk and juice and tea. These things are good for my body, or at least they are better for it than Cherry Coke. When I stop listening to music I spend more time thinking, which I admit can be an idol in itself and can be just as inward and unproductive as habitual consumption of prerecorded sounds and images.  But thinking, for me, is one step closer to prayer, which is the ultimate goal. That is to say, not all thoughts are prayers, but by allowing myself to be incessantly distracted I run the risk that few thoughts turn into prayers. I realize I am sounding very self-righteous by typing these things, but be assured I am referring always back to my own practices and my own habits, not anyone else’s who may be perfectly healthy and productive in the way that they consume.

Next thought, and slightly more concrete: Sometimes when you have been waiting for something for a long time it only makes that thing better when it arrives. Sometimes, though, waiting so long for something brings expectations that can’t possibly be met. Such was the case with my recent viewing of Persepolis, which, while fantastic, wasn’t quite what I had been hoping for. Visually it exceeded my most demanding expectations, and if only for the animation you (anyone who has ever loved a line or the way it moved) need to see this film. I guess that leaves the story, then, as the element which disappointed me, and I’m afraid it’s probably as simple as the Harry Potter fansters who object to every detail that was left out for sake of the flow and duration of the movie. And certainly there was much less omitted from the Persepolis canon than the Harry Potter canon, so probably it’s just that some of my favorite parts were gone, or else a scene was there in picture but Satrapi’s narration was not. For example, the scene where Marjane first leaves Iran and her parents are seeing her off at the airport: Marjane writes, “I couldn’t just go. I turned around to see them one last time.” We are then hit with an image of her mother who has fainted and lies limp in her father’s arms, and Marjane is looking on this horror-stricken and she writes, “It would have been better to just go.” The scene’s equivalent in the movie was gripping, but without that line it lost some of its impact, it lost that fist in the gut crumpling effect. I want to see the film again and force myself to view it separately from the books, because I know it was beautiful (everyone is saying that it is a beautiful film) but I couldn’t quite get past the marks I felt it was missing.

I always get nervous when I play the critic here, especially when I am criticizing someone I admire, and try not to do too much of it (although I think I mentioned earlier how completely disappointed I was with Satrapi’s “Embroideries“). After all, you never know who might read, and what if I’ve just destroyed my chances at being Marjane Satrapi’s best friend? But more than that I think about my own creative pursuits and how quickly I can be cut down to size and left with spirits trampled. I don’t want to hurt anyone’s feelings. Maybe that’s presumptuous on my part, to think I even have the power to. But words are strong, man! I guess you have to give up your right to the kid-gloves when you step into the public light. I’ll continue to enjoy my gentler, more private world as an amateur. Still, I’m sorry if you’re famous and you have, for some reason, read something here that hurt your feelings.

And finally, since today is Superficial Monday I will say something about the appearance of this blog, which you may have noticed has changed a few times in the past couple weeks. I am trying to settle on something that works both structurally and aesthetically, and haven’t found it yet. I appreciate the individual feedback you have given me, to those who have given me individual feedback, and hopefully it won’t be long before Easel Ain’t Easy is looking pretty and also functional. Thank you for reading this long-winded and rather disjointed post.

Quitting can be noble.

There are a few things that happened this week that I didn’t write about. Okay, all right, there are more than a few things that happened this week, especially if you are speaking globally, which I am about to, in which case there are billions of things that happened this week that I did not write about. Something that I’ve been meaning to comment on, though, was news this past Tuesday when I was busy getting swept away by Barack. This Tuesday news to which I refer is Steven Spielberg’s announcement to step down from his role as artistic adviser in the 2008 Beijing Olympics to protest China’s role in the Darfur conflict (story here). Although I wouldn’t consider myself a huge fan of Spielberg–his movies, though nice, are a little too polished–I think that his statement is an especially loud one and I give my applause (if it means anything to a Hollywood giant). These are the kinds of drastic actions that shake people into noticing.

China, Khartoum’s staunchest ally, makes the following claim on their website concerning the 08′ Games’ slogan:

“One World One Dream” fully reflects the essence and the universal values of the Olympic spirit — Unity, Friendship, Progress, Harmony, Participation and Dream. It expresses the common wishes of people all over the world, inspired by the Olympic ideals, to strive for a bright future of Mankind. In spite of the differences in colors, languages and races, we share the charm and joy of the Olympic Games, and together we seek for the ideal of Mankind for peace…

Peace? Really, China? By being the leading seller of arms to the Sudanese government? By snuggling up next to Omer Hassan Al-Bashir and battling off any attempts at UN intervention and peace-making? By investing heavily in Sudanese oil and funding violent “policy” for an embarrassing amount of time? Would you consider that charming, China?

China’s response to Spielberg was one of indignity, claiming, “”As the Darfur issue is neither an internal issue of China, nor is it caused by China, it is completely unreasonable, irresponsible and unfair for certain organisations and individuals to link the two as one.” So this “bright future of Mankind,” though global in ideal, is really only local in practice, is that what China is suggesting? We could be upset if it were the Chinese who were being persecuted by their government (let’s not even get started there) but not a country on another continent? That’s not China’s responsibility? It’s totally irrelevent either way, because the fact is that China is not simply turning a blind eye to the violence in Darfur, it is propelling it, with its money, with its weapons, and with its unabashed “diplomatic,” political support. I don’t know what happened to the “Genocide Olympics” label that cropped up a while back, but I think it still applies. (Some more facts here, and something you can do.)

Subconscious art of… Valentine… removal…?

Will all of you people reading this be my Valentines?  Yes?  We’re so in love!  Here is my Valentine’s gift to you:

(I really love this).

Can Barack fix this country after wrecking my car?

Well, I made it through most of the day before I realized that I was wearing my shirt backwards. I suppose that is some kind of achievement, isn’t it?

Last night I went with some friends to see Barack Obama at the Kohl Center. I will skip right to the injustice of the evening, in which I was rear-ended while navigating the mess of traffic in search of parking. That in itself, the minor accident, was not the injustice. The injustice was that the woman who drove her car into the back of mine was seen once again later that evening, on the Jumbotron, shaking Barack’s hand. Smiling her face off. As if she hadn’t just hours earlier cracked bumpers with a girl sitting much higher in the stands, much further from the man who could be President and without any chance of a handshake.

But the car is okay, it seems, and the woman was apologetic and very friendly, and mostly I owe her a big “thank you” that I actually have something to write about now. Heaven knows the rally itself wasn’t noteworthy. Well okay that was obviously a joke, because in case you have been living in a cage, nobody is more exciting than Barack Obama these days. I’ve never been to see a politician speak before (unless you count the time that Russ Feingold spoke at Spaight’s Plaza when it was cold and rainy and windy and the speakers blew over and I left early because I was offended by the weather and a few of his talking points), let alone a presidential candidate, let alone a man with so much energy behind his message. Is Barack Obama sincere? I’m pretty convinced he is. Can Barack Obama deliver on all of his promises? Probably not all of them. Can Barack Obama give a good speech? See for yourself:

(I didn’t shoot this video. We were sitting on Barack’s right, in the first balcony.) So what you’re really wondering is, will I vote for him?  Well, that is what I’m wondering too.  Maybe?  I could certainly like to listen to him give more speeches.  Although I should prepare you, I have no plans to broadcast my final political choice here, so keep a’movin’, pokes.  I learned that from Elizabeth.  Want to know who I’m voting for on Tuesday?  Ask me.

Waxing and waning, and generally waiting.

I must have gotten into a pretty comfortable routine, because I never seem to have much to write about anymore. Just now I almost wrote an entire post about how much I love my bathroom, because it is 100 degrees at any given time (but maybe you knew that already?). Maybe what this tells me is that I ought to be working on my supposed novel, or turning out a few short stories, or at the very least spending some time writing a poem or two. Poems are the easy ones, right? Take a look it’s in a book, you little crook.

Poems aren’t that easy, I guess. I manage to write about two or three poems a year, and I’d say they take a lot more work than my average blog post. Or maybe that’s not true. I wrote my best (or at least my personal favorite) about a year ago, maybe you read it in that old blog of mine:

There is a woman who listens and a woman who speaks.
Seldom do these two women meet.
Seldom they sever; their discourse is never
too clever
if ever they discourse at all.

This source of life has no remorse for strife inflicted by the fall.
We are all, each one of us, a knife plunged deeply in the wherewithal.

Celeste! Celeste! This is your quest, can you find meaning in it all?

I like to go back and reread some of my old blogs, as I’m sure most bloggers would admit to, and usually I like to go back and check where I was a year ago today. It’s a little bit harder for me to do that at this point, because a year ago these days I was so hopeful, so giddy and falling. The small quantity of writings from this time period last year attest to that, how absorbed I was becoming in something new, something nice. It’s difficult to read the words of someone who has no idea how much things will change. My how cryptic I can be when the mood strikes me! This has little to do with the approaching Valentine’s Day, I swear.

Oh, it’s Superficial Monday, isn’t it? (I always forget about Superficial Monday.) Well, here, I am thinking about cutting my hair. It is almost that time. Tufts of silken hair, wafting gently to the tile floor, collecting ’round two pairs of ankles, shorn, but never scorned.

Good grief. I can really miss you.

Things I think but never do.

I am thinking about buying an electric guitar. I was at Holly’s house on Friday night and I mentioned this to her, and she offered to sell me a Les Paul but only after we spend some time guitar shopping and making sure that I have found the guitar that is right for me. It’s good advice, and if I wait long enough my electric-guitar-urge will probably subside just like my bass guitar one did. Here is the thing: what I really miss is playing the drums. All you melodic instruments can tempt me, but the drums have clenched my heart strings.

Giving up music for Lent hasn’t been nearly as hard as everyone seemed to think it would be. I’ve actually been enjoying the silence immensely, and survived a four hour round trip drive this weekend without any tunage (since Juno says it, can I say it?). Sometimes I listen to public radio and have listened to more political analysis than may be healthy. I have listened to some messages by Ravi Zacharias which require an ample amount of attention (an amount I was never able to muster in college) but which get me fairly excited about theology and philosophy. I wish I was friends with someone like Ravi Zacharias, actually, someone who is familiar with all kinds of philosophers and yet remains grounded in his faith. It’s encouraging at the same time that it is challenging.

I feel like my brain is ready for some real exercise. Oh malaise! I’m thinking about signing up for some psychology classes. I’m thinking about learning Spanish. I’m thinking about starting to exercise and eat healthy. I’m thinking about buying an electric guitar.

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