Friday, September 16, 2011

You Get What You Need

     Do you ever listen to a song a million times thinking you know exactly what it means and one day…BAM! That singer is singing something totally different. Sometimes, I’m pleasantly surprised with a deeper meaning than I’d originally thought (Insert “Homeboy” by Eric Church). But most of the time my response is “EW! I didn’t know they were singing about that!” (Insert any Lady Gaga song). So many “good” songs ruined… *sigh* Life is full of mixed messages and simply unexpected ones.

     When I first picked up Sisterhood Everlasting by Ann Brashares, I thought I knew exactly what I was getting. Flooded by all of that girly, happy sentiment from the preceding books in this series, I was certain I’d get the answer I wanted. My Question: Do I really have to make new friends? Can’t I just stick with the old ones? The introvert in me has been dreading it. All of that stress trying to make new friends. Then, some will end up making other/better friends, some will skip town, and some will be kidnapped by cows in cool-whip armor (10 points for that reference). In the end, you do all that work for only 1/5 of the friends you started with! Let me tell you---it’s tiring being an introvert. No, I’ll just skip the headache and the heartache. And what better people to support my opinion than the 4 friends who’ve stuck together since birth? Sisterhood totally has my back.

     Then, I opened the book. I won’t give away too much, but it’s pretty obvious that the fab 4 have let themselves fall apart in the 10 years between the last book and this one. 

Brittany’s Internal Monologue: Great. But honestly, I’d never let this happen to my friends! Never mind them all deciding to get married and move far, far away. We’ll still get together. Who doesn’t need a break from their spouse? Like Bre. We’re still friends and she got married like forever ago. Then again, there was that one canceled lunch date. But I forgot I had to work. When was the last time I saw her? Crap. I’m just like them.

     Life-changes and distance are hard to compete with. But life is a book, and you have to keep reading. Fear not. By the end of the novel, you’re reassured that sisterhood is indeed everlasting. After all, who would read Sisterhood Broken or Sisterhood Ended?

     Right before the sisterhood reunites, Carmen brings me my real answer. After a dead cell phone, a rude train attendant, and some serendipitous seating, Carmen makes an unlikely friend. Two long nights of talking lead Carmen and I both to have a revelation. We don’t have “that certain skill some people use when they need to hunt and gather people to love them” (311). Our hearts are “the most exclusive clubs in history” (312). Yet, there Carmen sits “clinging to a man as though she hadn’t first seen him two nights before, but had known him and needed him and depended on him the whole time, from the very beginning” (311). Way to be a traitor, Carmen.

     Okay, okay. If I’m being honest, some of my best friendships started just like that. What is seemingly chance never is. So maybe I’m not convinced that I need to make a ton of effort in friendship-making. I do have a sisterhood that’s everlasting. But I am reminded that every person we meet is given to us (and we to them) for a purpose. When those meetings occur, I’ll at least try to force my heart to “expand its membership” (312). And with any luck, fate/destiny/karma/God will do the hard work for me. 

                            Not knowing
when the dawn will come
                                    I open every door.
--Emily Dickinson

Writing Music: “Son’s Gonna Rise”* by Citizen Cope and “Strip Me”* by Natasha Bedingfield
*Caution: Song titles may not accurately reflect the meaning of the song

Thursday, September 8, 2011


This man perfectly describes everything I have ever thought about my writing. To all of you fellow creative writers out there, take heart!

*Gasp* That's the first time I've ever even hinted that I maybe-might-sorta-kinda want to pretend to be a creative writer.

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

The Help Helped Me

Startling Confession #1: I have a serious aversion to history. (Yes, it's weird that I like English and not history

     That being said, when a book starts with a date more than 10 years ago I'm never too thrilled. I tried to set my aversion aside for The Help by Kathryn Stockett mostly because I'm a sucker for the South. And I am proud to say I made it through all 444 pages through which I laughed and cried...a few times. Though I started with this blog in mind, I didn't really have a question to answer. I've been feeling something missing in my life, but I assumed it was school. No answer needed there.

     So, I made it through the book and started reading the author's comments at the end called "Too Little, Too Late." She talks all about her inspiration for writing the book and her own experiences living in the South as a child. And all of a sudden my heart was pounding, my mind was racing, and I swear I could hear the neurons zipping through my head. I frantically pulled up Microsoft Word, opened my senior paper and started reading---editing. 

     If you're smart and you know me, you're saying "WAIT! You already turned that paper in...and graduated!" That's exactly what I realized 3 pages in...I was so caught up in my rush that I'd forgotten to be logical. Confused, my heart calmed a little and a second realization hit. "This is what's missing."

     The question I needed answered this week was "What excites me?" And this is what excites me: reading something and understanding that it serves a higher purpose, that it can change something or, even better, someone. When I understand that higher purpose in my life, I feel a thrill and then a calm. Reading gives me the reassurance that everything will be alright.

     If you've read The Help, you know that's exactly why the characters write their own book. Because they had faith that it could create change. And it does....for the three main characters and many more.

     I extend the same question to all of you: What excites you? It's so different for everyone. Maybe it's raising your family or being a rocket scientist or making giant fortresses out of laundry baskets. Whatever it is, it's worth doing. If you don't know what excites you, find out. Then, do it. It may not make you loads of money or even be convenient or easy (see laundry basket fortress). But your life will be rather dull and empty without it. 

(Apology: Sorry I didn't do a great job at summing up this book. It really is a great read!)
My favorite phrases from the book

Aibileen: "Maybe I ought to keep writing"
Miss. Skeeter: "Please, please let some good come out of this"
Aibileen: "Go find your life"
Brittany: Thank you, ladies, for speaking my thoughts. 

Writing Songs: "Sandcastles" by Kate Voegele and "Wait and See" by Brandon Heath

Sunday, May 8, 2011

The Cure to Homelessness

     Don’t be alarmed. I have food, clothes, shelter, and a bed (though be it a shared bed). I’m not actually homeless---at least not by the common definition. But moving back “home” after four years of school, I don't feel at home. If anything, my home is in all of my boxes of things sitting in the basement (see picture). Don’t get me wrong. I absolutely love my family, but this house isn’t my home anymore…and neither is SVU. For those four years, it was my home and I probably have never been more attached to a home (as evidenced by the pool of tears that appeared when I left). Unfortunately, as Carrie Underwood would say (or sing), these were only temporary homes. So, here I am searching for my next temporary home and praying that this feeling of homelessness is not permanent. Here lies the perfect opportunity to prove to that lit therapy works. My cure for homelessness? Angle of Repose by Wallace Stegner

     Anyone who has read this novel either knows exactly where I’m going or is questioning my sanity. Are there characters more homeless than these? Each of the 9 sections in the novel is the name of a different place. Talk about temporary. Maybe it wouldn’t be so bad if the main characters Oliver and Susan Burling Ward were the free-spirited, adventurous, traveling types. But it’s painfully obvious that Susan is the rooting type. As her grandson/the narrator says, “There was a real nester in that woman,” and her husband’s big dreams and constant job-chasing simply aren’t conducive to that. At the very least, I understand Susan’s frustration. Our hearts are homeless together. Sometimes, it’s therapeutic just knowing you aren’t alone.
     When I first read Angle of Repose, I thought that all of the cities Susan lived in were just stops on the way to her real home --- which I wrongly assumed would be the last “stop” in the novel. But as I was re-skimming, it dawned on me that there were moments when she was “home” even when she was in the throes of a strange city. Exhibit A: Boise Canyon. “Abandoned in its gulch, its garden gone to weeds, its fences down, its ditches drifted full, its windows out, [etc., etc., etc.] it would look like failure and lost cause. But while they were there it was a hopeful struggle, not lost cause, and for a while it was a little corner of Eden” (371). Exhibit B: Michoacán. I couldn’t find a good passage to prove it, but she was totally ready to be a Mexican mama. My point is this, if Susan could find that feeling of home in a run-down house in the middle of Boise or on a Mexican veranda, just maybe “home” has nothing to do where you’re at or even how stable/permanent the place is. Home is a feeling, an attitude. Here's the real kicker: we're in control of that feeling. Why else would one city be so homey to Susan and another so the opposite? Even when they are equally strange to her. I have to blame how open-minded or bitter she was at that point in time.
     Some of the last words in the novel are: “Wisdom is knowing what you have to accept.” What I, what we, have to accept is that life is full of temporary homes. Changing homes will always hurt. I think Susan would say (in much more eloquent language, if she could speak from a fictitious grave): “It’s like breaking a bone. When it’s time to leave, accept the pain. Think of me and know that you (thee) aren’t alone. Learn from my bad example and never forget that ‘a broken bone thickens in healing’ if you let it” (381). Well said, Susan, well said. But break it must...break it must.
Writing Song*: “Coming Home” by Gwenyth Paltrow and “Temporary Home” by Carrie Underwood
*I write to music. It’s usually one particular song each time, and I wouldn’t be a good music missionary if I didn’t share with all of you.

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

The Beginning

As much as I love writing essays, I hate writing the introductions. I just sit there glaring at Microsoft Word waiting for the words to appear. In my mind, those first words can destroy an entire paper. So, instead of moving straight to the middle, I sit for hours paralyzed with fear until something creative comes.  Not just something creative either---something perfect. Sitting here as a 3-day-old college graduate, I realize that how I write my papers is exactly how I write the chapters of my life. I’m sitting here waiting for my perfect beginning. I have tons of questions about where to go from here and how to start. I'm not sure when I'll find the answers, but I have a sneaking suspicion that my answer will come as it has so many times before---from a book.
It’s the best English major secret ever kept, and my goal is to share it with all of you through this blog. The secret won’t mean a lot to you until you’ve seen it in action, so I’ll tell you now if you promise to keep reading. Ready? *in a whisper voice* Every question you ever asked has already been answered…in a book. Obviously, I’m not talking about one book. I’m talking about all of them. Sometimes, if you’re really lucky, you’ll find several answers in one book. And if you’re reading this you’re really, really lucky because I’m going to do the work for you! I’ll pick a different book/question combination each week and prove to you the success of lit therapy or “word therapy” as my friend Mary Locke calls it. The best therapy ever: free, fun, and can be done from the comfort of your own couch (not across from a shrink with a quizzical brow and a notepad).  
Special thanks to Dr. Cluff for reminding me of the truth of this idea and to Mary Locke for being my fairy godmother and blog design expert (Yay for pretty blogs!). She’ll also be a contributing writer, so this won’t be the last you hear about her!
By the way, feel free to write in questions or recommend books or share your own experiences. I certainly do not have the corner on lit therapy.