I was one of at least a thousand students who attended Frank Warren's lecture about PostSecret, a phenomenon that Warren describes as "an ongoing community art project where people mail in their secrets anonymously on one side of a postcard." Since then, the project has gained international attention, and Warren has received more than 200,000 postcards at his home address in Maryland. Personally reading each secret desire, criminal act, and naughty habit, he was approached by The All American Rejects about using some of his postcards in their music video "Dirty Little Secret." Offering to pay him $1000, Warren instead asked them to donate $2000 to the National Suicide Hotline, to which his is a volunteer.

Since then, Warren has published four PostSecret novels and is working to produce four more. (The next,
PostSecret: Confessions on Life, Death & God will be released in early October.) His blog, PostSecret, receives around 3,000,000 visitors a month and was awarded six different weblog awards in 2006. He has also appeared on The Today Show, 20/20, CNN, MSNBC, Fox News, and NPR, and has been called "the most trusted stranger in America."

This year, in 2009, Warren is lecturing at more than two dozen universities around the country, as seen in this YouTube video that describes the project itself.

At the lecture, he said that it all started a few years ago when he stood on the streets of Washington D.C. and handed out blank postcards, informing people that he "collected secrets."

"Some people took the cards, others didn't," he said, explaining the history of PostSecret. "Many ignored me, assuming I was some crazy homeless person who picked up a new gimmick. There were also the ones dressed up in their black suits who said, 'I don't have any secrets!' Of course, I
always made sure that those people got one. They have the best secrets."

(Then again, Warren also said that "young women have the best secrets because they have these rich, inner lives." I admit--we
do hide things.) Warren elaborated on this fact.

"There are two kinds of secrets," he said. "There are those that we keep from others, and there are those that we hide from ourselves."

I would think that the latter of the two kinds is the most painful; the denial of a problem, the past. Warren articulated further: "There was a woman who emailed me a couple of years ago," he said. "She told me that she had wanted to send me a postcard. However, once she had written her secret down, decorated the postcard, and addressed it, she had second-thoughts. Her secret was right there, staring right back at her. So, instead of mailing it, she picked up the postcard and ripped it straight down the middle." He paused dramatically. "'Frank,'" she told me, "'I never felt so relieved; so free.'"

That's probably why nearly a dozen University of Iowa students took the floor after Warren's lecture. They, too, had secrets to share; facts that they could no longer hold from themselves and others.

The first girl bravely approached the microphone, her breath echoing throughout the hall. "Sometimes when I'm really constipated, I push too hard and I pee my pants a little."

I laughed, looking at the girl I had attended the lecture with. Her face was scrunched up just like mine, and we giggled as we clapped for commendation.

Another girl stepped toward the mike on the opposite side of the room. "Sometimes when I see an acquaintance coming towards me, I pull out my phone and pretend to talk on it so I don't have to talk to them," another girl shared.

Frank intervened. "Now, come on," he said. "How many people in this room do that?" Nearly everyone raised their hand, which caused us to laugh again. "See?" he said. "That's the secret-holder's biggest concern. They are afraid that they are the only ones who do these things when, in fact, they are
not alone." This prompted him to discuss the National Suicide Hotline, an agency that he is an adamant supporter of. "People do cry out for help," he said. "And that is what this organization is for. I want the people who share their depression and anxiety with me to be able to find help."

His point was further accentuated when yet another young girl stepped up. "I have some friends back home," she started. "I never fail to see them when I go back. What they do is a little, strange, though. They never ask me how I am, or what I'm doing, or if I feel fine. Rather, they ask me, 'How is your soul?' And now," she said, starting to get emotional, "I can't look them in the eye, because I don't have an answer."

Hers was not the only downhearted secret that was shared. Another woman confessed that she could not, for the life of her, remember whether or not she said "Goodnight" to her mother the night before she died. A young man approximately my age stepped up right after her and said, "After my mom died, everyone told me that I didn't care. And I couldn't tell them, they couldn't see it, that on the outside, I did hurt, and that it was the most painful thing I have ever felt, and have never gotten over."

A hush fell over the rest of us as we watched him walk away from the microphone and promptly exit the Main Lounge.

There were other secrets that were more light-hearted, however, and entertaining; most of which were shared by Warren himself. One of the first ones he told us was from a girl in college, one who said that "Whenever she and her mom go out in public, they talk in British accents so everyone treats them nicer." Another postcard declared, "Whenever I use a Q-tip in my left ear, I cough." One of the most interesting (and creepiest) ones said, "I cut the hair off of the children I babysit when they sleep."

Others included on his blog address sexual lives,

opinions about humanity,

and the pangs and burdens of past relationships.

I would recommend that you check it out; it provides a great deal of insight, and is incredibly interesting. Furthermore, it makes me think of my own secrets, as well as others'. I'm both curious as hell and deathly afraid about the things that my loved ones keep from me.

Driving to University of Iowa

On Thursday, my mom and I set off in separate cars to drive to Iowa City. Though hesitant to leave, my mother assured me that if I were to change my mind, we could turn around and go home. (Or keep driving on to Indiana; whatever my little heart desired.)

We had planned to arrive at the University of Iowa and move my belongings into my dorm in the afternoon. After that, we would find a place to park (Iowa City is a great pain to park in) and camp out for a couple of days. However...that plan didn't quite pan out the way we thought it would.

The drive started out normally. After stopping in a neighboring town to eat lunch, we continued our journey on the interstate, where I got a little reckless. Switching lanes and driving at about seventy miles an hour, I grasped my camera in one hand and steered with the other, catching a shot of this silo.

In a way, I took this photo for my grandmother. She has this "thing" for silos; a fetish of sorts that only evolved after a 1974 tornado completely destroyed the one on the farm my mom grew up on.

After about an hour, it started to get cloudy, and rain sprinkled my windshield. We drove past Walnut and Adair, and I noticed that nearly all of the wind turbines that dot the fields were on.

However, I wasn't able to enjoy the rolling green hills and "driving music" on the radio for much longer. An hour later--halfway to Iowa City--my car blew a tire. My mom, at least half a mile ahead of me, noticed that I pulled over into the break lane. She then preceded to reverse up the breakdown lane to get to me! I was half-laughing, but remarked aloud, "WHAT ARE YOU DOING?"

After realizing that we were, in fact, without a jack, we realized that we would not be able to change the tire ourselves. To further complicate matters, our wrench didn't even fit any of the bolts! As a result, we waited for three hours for the Iowa Highway Patrol to come and change our tire.

We were tired. We were frustrated. We had to pee.

The Highway Patrol man was rude. He was inconsiderate. He snapped one of the bolts in half.

Not a fun experience in the least...

That's my car in the corner.

When we were finally back on the road (past the time when we thought we would be finished unloading), I noticed a large rainbow; one that spanned from one terrace to the another, across the Interstate. It was beautiful, and I was able to point it out to my mother--while passing her. I knew that she would appreciate it--just as my grandmother has a "thing" for silos, my mom has a "thing" for rainbows.

To make a long, frustrating, depressing story short, my mother and I decided to stay in a hotel Thursday night. Sadly, the receptionist that checked us in that night was the highlight of my day.

My mom had slowly made her way into the lobby ahead of me, asking the young man if there were any non-smoking rooms available.

"Why, yes, there are. Would you like one?"

"Yes, please," my mother said. "Is there a room with two beds, or will we have to share one bed?"

"We have rooms with one bed and rooms with two beds," was his articulated answer.

"Do you have rooms with no beds?" I quipped. My mom laughed and receptionist smiled.

"I can give you the ballroom if that's what you want," he said. "I cater to your needs."

Once checked in, we stood joking around with the receptionist, as well as his fellow co-worker. We discussed the University of Iowa, where I transferred from, the city of Council Bluffs, and Chex Mix. When we were ready to head to our room, my mom spoke.

"Umm...where are our keys? We don't have them yet," she said in her you're-a-cute-puppy-and-would-like-to-cuddle-with-you voice.

"You are the most demanding guests, Pssh! KEYS!" he said sarcastically, and we all laughed.

One of many pictures I took in the bathroom (the 180-degree mirror provided some interesting abstract photos).

Exhausted, I jumped onto one of the beds, looking forward to "sleeping" in a surprisingly comfortable hotel bed.

The next day (Friday), my mom and I checked out of the hotel and headed back to the dorm. We unloaded the rest of my belongings, moved the cars, organized furniture and said belongings, skipped lunch, replaced my tire, killed time at the Coralville mall, went grocery shopping, unloaded the groceries, moved the car, organized the room, and moved the cars back again. This time, however, I was dropping mine off in the designated lot...a lot that happens to be seven miles and a forty-minute bus ride away.

After parking the cars, my mom and I walked over to the Cambus bus stop. While waiting for the next bus, she suggested that I take a couple pictures of the payphone.

Current Mood: Lamentable

A pit of apprehension grew in my stomach today, pairing with the taut nerves and racing mind that I have been experiencing the last few days.

It is dread.

I actually dread leaving for college tomorrow.

Why, do you ask? After all, it’s not like I haven’t left for college before; heck, this is my fourth and—supposed to be—senior year. (I have two years left...perhaps more.) It’s not like I haven’t been away from home before, and it’s not like I haven’t previously transferred to another school.

Rather, I dread leaving because I think that I have made a mistake.

It is not a grave one; it is not one that I can never fix. However, I realize now—a bit too late, as always—that I should have listened to my intuition. (You know, the part I usually listen to?) No. This past spring I tried to think logically...and now I’m regretting it.

Sadly, I tried to tell myself that I would not regret my decision to leave Purdue. I tried to convince myself that it would be okay that I wasn’t going back. I openly vocalized that I hated everything about Purdue, and that things would be much smoother, more enjoyable—not to mention cheaper—at the University of Iowa. I really did focus on the negatives then...except this time, I did it because I needed to; I needed to try and convince myself that it was unnecessary, illogical, and too expensive to go back.

I should have listened to myself, not what everyone else was trying to tell me; not what I was forcing myself to think.

I should have stayed.

I think of this now, a year after I left for Purdue...the first time. I was devastated when I had to come back; I had been looking forward to attending there several months beforehand. Had the circumstances been different in January, I’m sure that I would have been just as enthused to be there. However, I let those emotions bury what should have been a great semester. After all, I loved being away from home. I loved the opportunities I had there; I loved knowing that I wasn’t grounded to Treynor, Iowa. I also loved campus; I did from the very first time I visited. Furthermore, I really did enjoy some of my classes—Italian was fantastic, and I certainly learned a lot of information in Linguistics. Yes, my World Literature class was terrible...but then again, what could I expect? I had a foreign TA who could barely speak English and classmates who were so naïve that they did not bother to learn the correct pronunciations of the authors we read. (That class was bound to be my most hated from the beginning.)

Are there downfalls to Purdue? Certainly. Is their financial aid department a bureaucracy? Of course. Have a lot of people I know gotten screwed out of classes or degrees or money because of the way Purdue has “done things?” Most definitely.

Most colleges are that way, sadly.

And, unfortunately, the “bad” things are all I have seen of Iowa so far. It’s disappointing; especially since I knew in June that I had made a mistake. The day I set foot on the campus and registered for classes, I knew I wasn’t happy.

My mom and I started packing the cars this morning. After filling my trunk with boxes, we shoved what textbooks, linens, and miscellaneous items I have into the back seat.

I opened the driver’s side door, sat down in the seat and grabbed a hold of the steering wheel.

“Can you see out the back all right?” my mom asked. I knew she was concerned about anything blocking my view. After all, in January, we had fit everything—including a mini fridge and two humans—into one car. (It was so crammed that my mom found it necessary to drive in order to fight off the claustrophobia she felt in the backseat.)

I checked the review mirror, noticing that some of my bedding could be seen in the reflection. I then looked over my right shoulder, then my left, double-checking to make sure that nothing was obstructing my view. “Nope, I’m fine,” I concluded.

“Okay. Thought I would check.” My mom moved from her position and started towards the house, slowly making her way up the trio of back steps.

I got out of the driver’s seat and pushed the door shut. “At least I’m not driving ten hours away, anymore,” I said.

“Yeah!” my mom exclaimed, even though she is aware of my regret and insists that I need to do what I think is right. “I’m glad that we don’t have to do that anymore! That was too long!” She opened the back door and allowed it to slam shut behind her.

Left standing next to the car, I dropped my head down and sighed. “It was worth it,” I whispered.

I Declare This a Blog Entry

My brother came and visited my us (my mom and I) yesterday.

Well, that's partially true. He did visit...but his main purpose for dropping by was to deposit that monstrosity of a mini-fridge I'm borrowing from his girlfriend.

It was quite enjoyable to see him, though the first half-hour was filled with discussion as to why my brother has, for the last four years, been billed for a credit card debt he isn't responsible for. Keith (my brother) is afraid that it is identity theft. I say it's a scam.

For instance, each "bill" looks entirely different from the others; each comes from a different bank. Secondly, Keith is "not authorized to receive" personal information about his card (activation dates and such)--something that the jerk-face at the other end of a threatening phone call told him before hanging up when Keith asked for his name. Lastly, Keith does not have a credit card, nor has he ever had one.

After mom listened to a deranged computerized voicemail on Keith's phone and promised to "do something about it," we ate a wonderfully delicious meal: turkey, mashed potatoes, roast, carrots, homemade bread, fresh fruit, rolls, cucumber and onions...there were even two types of gravy. "One for the turkey, and one for roast," my mom declared.

"What about the mashed potatoes?" I inquired.

"So sorry," she quipped. "I didn't have time to make three gravies."

"It just reminds me of that Friends episode when they are all spending Thanksgiving together and Monica attempts to make everyone their favorite type of potato."

"That's right," my mom remembered. "And then they get locked out and everything is ruined."

"Correct," I added. "'Potatoes are ruined. Potatoes are ruined. Potatoes are ruined,’" I quoted Monica.

Keith shook his head and handed me a plate. "ROLL," he said deeply, more of a statement than a question. I ripped one off nonetheless, beginning to fill my plate like the other two members of my family.

My mouth was watering before I even took my first bite of turkey, for my mother is a wonderful cook. In fact, she is--as I must boast--the best cook I know. And, no, I'm just saying that because she is my mother. She really is just that fantastic of a culinarian. (She can even read my internal clock and be able to tell precisely when I am hungry.)

When I was finished eating, I pushed my plate off to the left. My elbows found their way onto the table and I propped my chin up, my hands stretching up to my ears. "Thanks," I smirked.

"He-ey," Keith drawled, looking at me. "I didn't know you had dimples!"

I gave him what my mom calls my "what the hell--" face. "What?" I asked, looking back to my mom. "How do you not know? I've had them since I was born!"

Mom laughed as Keith answered. "No, I knew you had them. I just forgot."

Now it was my turn to giggle. "How did you forget such a famous quirk of mine?"

Instead of immediately answering, Keith poked his right index finger into my left 'divot.' "DIMP. LE," he articulated deeply.

Mom and I laughed a bit harder as Keith dug his finger even deeper into my dimple.

"Get your finger out of my facial crevice!"

A loud belch that stretched across four octaves was his answer.

Later, the three of us were in the living room. My mom was seated in the antique rocking chair while Keith and I were parked on the couch. I was flipping through the Sunday World Herald ads trying to find a bargain-priced futon. Keith sat to my right, reclining on three-fourths of the couch. He languidly turned through a K-Mart advertisement, meticulously analyzing each item.

"You need these! See?" He pointed at the bottom-left-hand corner of the second page. "Two for six-dollar file crates. You NEED these."

"I'm sure."

"No, but look! You could stock up on intimate apparel!"


"Seriously! They're starting at only $3.99!"

A couple minutes passed by quietly. I searched through the ShopKo and Target ads, still looking for some item that might appear necessary for college this year.

Keith broke the silence. "You sure you don’t need a blender?

"No, I'm good."

"It has fourteen different speeds..."

"I'm fine."

"How about three pounds of some really good chicken? Mmmm....chicken." He drooled like Homer Simpson.

"No, Keith," I giggled. "That's okay."

Each item held the same pattern: Keith would jokingly praise it, make up reasons for why I would need a trampoline or a sixteen-pound bag of cat food for college. I would repeatedly shoot him down, decline with a "No, I already have it," or "No thank you. I don't need it."

Finally he reached a $60, five-in-one air mattress. "THIS!" he said, excitedly pointing to a picture of a couch-like structure below a printed picture of a strangely-decked out tent. "You NEED this! It can be a twin double-high, a king-sized bed, even a sofa! See? And it's cheap!"

"Yes, and then I could build a fort around it using the pizza boxes and duct tape I told you about."

Mom, who had been bemusedly listening to us, laughed along with Keith. "Yeah," he said. "Make a nest in your castle and sleep." He clapped his hands to together, placed him by his ear, and began to snore.

A castle. "Yeah," I could use a moat," I mused.

"You could even put up a flag to declare it as your area," Keith said as he mimed poking a flag about the size of a straw into the ground. "Dawn's Bed."

Mom, by this time, was completely giddy with our antics. She leaned over in the rocking chair, her face buried in one of her hands. She shook her head in laughter.

I thought back to the air mattress. "It would pop, Keith."

"How?" he inquired.

"Well, I would probably have some enemies that would try to get in," I reasoned. "They would shoot arrows at my fort. Some would go over the walls and into the air mattress. And, well, you know..."

He nodded sadly. "True."

He casually flipped through the last of the glossy pages before tossing the ad back onto the coffee table. "How about I just buy you groceries?"

This is How to Have Fun

Yesterday, I was invited to eat lunch with a set of identical twins, whose names also both begin with the letter ‘D.’ Since the last time I had seen them was in January, I was looking forward to a scheduled rendezvous, especially since we would be eating at Perkins.

Our waitress was incredibly pleasant, especially when she learned that the boys were from Elk Horn (the same place as the Danish Windmill). As she was originally from a neighboring town, she shared a little of her family history with us before taking our orders, which were turkey and gravy, a chicken BLT, and a “Triple Hero,” which D1 claimed to be.

The boys and I joked around for a little while, discussing school, the Danish Windmill, and the mutual friend that built the LEGO windmill. Between identical laughs and identical fake accents, I was finally able to distinguish one from the other. D1 is to my right. D2 is to my left. D1 is the one with the freckle above his lip. (I have to remind myself of this every time, for there has been several occasions when I have encountered them—together or separately—that I am not entirely sure with whom I am speaking.)

“I was just at Village Inn last week,” I told them. We were seated in a booth, the boys opposite me. “They give you a piece of free pie when you order a meal on Wednesdays. Free pie Wednesdays.”

“Really?” They asked in sync. “That’s awesome.”

“It was delicious.” I smiled. “What was even better, though, was the fact that the meal I ordered already came with pie. So I got two pies.”

“No. Way.” They slowly sounded out, concluding that free pie Wednesdays at Village Inn was, by far, the best covenant in Council Bluffs.

“That wasn’t even the best part,” I continued. “I actually had the awesome coloring sheets that they offer the kids. I sat there with my mom and grandma and colored and drew and did all sorts of things before my food came. It was amazing.”

With that, D2 got up and went to the front, grabbing three coloring pages. His brother and I giggled in our tucked-away booth, watching as D2 asked the hostess where he could ‘locate some colors’. We shook our heads in laughter.

I can’t say that “I never would have thought” I would be found coloring children's menus in Perkins with twenty-two-year-old identical twins, but I must say that it was considerably surprising. Predictably, we fought over the crayons just like any other five-year-old siblings would do; grabbing them out of each others' hands and whining, “But I wanted the yellow one!”

We teased as well. “You can’t color your muffin red! What kind of muffin is red?”

“A sun burned one, of course.”

“Oooooooooh,” I said with realization.

A few minutes passed by as the three of us continued to eagerly fill out “The Bakery Buddies’ Outdoor Adventure” map. I quickly flew through the “Plant Puzzles” section while the twins fought over which was the best way to navigate through the “Nutty Nature Trail.”

“Boys, you’re hogging the purple.”

“Key Lime Patty Pie reminds me of that lady on The Jetsons.”

“D--, can I borrow the brown? I have a raccoon to color.”

The only thing that made this afternoon even more enjoyable was the fact that I talked the boys into doing our own miniature “fountain run.” (Similar to the one I did at Purdue with A., only on a much smaller scale.)

Being that it was 90-something-percent-humidity and about the same temperature, the cool water spraying up from the Kids Fountain at Bayliss Park felt wonderful. Though we felt awkward at first—as we were surrounded by a dozen small children and their parents—we took our turns walking straight through the water spewing up from the ground like Old Faithful—only not as powerful, and slightly more intricate.

After the “fountain run,” we headed back to the apartment, where we subsequently spent the next hour and a half searching for the movie Clue, discussing the recycled barber’s chair in the kitchen, and teasing Linus, their striped tabby who proved to be a fan of “haunch-scratching.”

By the time I was ready to head home, I felt wonderful. It had been fun hanging out with the twins, luxuriating in the simple things that Council Bluffs offered.

I can only imagine what we’ll do next week...
perhaps another go?

Positive Reinforcement

Most people who know me will say that I am overtly critical, and I would agree. I find it hard to see the 'good' in something even if there is only a hint of imperfection. That's the downside in being a crazed precisionist; I focus on the things that I have no control over.

Upon hearing that, I know that you will tell me I'm being ridiculous; I can assure you that I am. Not only would I agree that I am insanely critical, but I would also agree that I fuss, fret, worry, and whine about things that I cannot change...factors that no human has any control over (such as the weather).

I suppose that I could learn to have faith in the simpler things in life. This is, at least to me, much easier than learning how to be genuinely optimistic. (I feel artificially cheerful when attempting to do so. Perhaps this is because I, ashamedly, take pride in my negativity--especially since it purveys my friends and family with entertainment.) It's not as if I lack the ability to find joy in the simple things; more or less, it is that I fail to recognize them.

I often take daily life in stride:
this is the TV commercial that drones while I make a trip to the fridge; this is the buzz of radio static; this is the high-pitched whine of a child; this is the on-again, off-again hum of the A/C; this is the fly in my ear, the mosquito on my shoulder. To me, it's all a forgotten hum. It is only when I focus on an element in the background--such as the ticking of the kitchen clock--that the little things become significant.

Take the clock, for instance. Physically, it is nothing more than a four-dollar, Wal-Mart investment. It is not fancy: it does not have a pendulum; it does not chime. Instead, the simple black clock steadily beats; tells me that I have both the time and the ability to listen to it count every precious second that has been given to me.

I think this is why I took the opportunity to go out to a local quarry yesterday. I didn't want to sit at home and have the ticking of the clock mock me. Rather, I wanted to take time away from what has so recently overwhelmed me: loans, bills, unanswered questions, and the relationship with my mother. I knew that the peaceful atmosphere and cool water would calm me.

Sure enough, the quarry offered a simple, beautiful moment to relish.

The water, cold and clear, massaged my skin and danced reflections across my face. Fish tickled my toes as I swam. The shadows of the trees rippled in the water, and as I trod through their reflections, I gazed up at the clouds passing through the open mouth of sky.

Words can paint a picture, true, but they can't fully describe the openness of the quarry; the vulnerability it has when clouds pass over the sun or what I feel when the water is disturbed and becomes more than an expanse of soft wrinkles. (This is similar to the feeling I have when I step into fresh, pure, smooth snow. Do I dare tromp through the placid blanket of icy, microscopic beauties?)

No. I do not dare disturb the rigid harmony that lies amicably before me. Instead, I leave it to the joyous mother and son who, just like me, came to escape. And although their activity sends out countless billowing rings into the quarry, I take it in stride. After all, my moment of serenity has passed onto them--the ones who, I'm sure, are less critical of their surroundings, more positive in their general outlook, and are-certainly-more aware of the simple joys in life.

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