Simply Grandmother

I love my grandmother. She is a mixture of a gambler, Carol Burnett, a ‘50s schoolgirl, and her sister (a 73-year-old cougar who, after delivering “dirty magazines” to gas stations for decades, now resides in an un-air-conditioned trailer near Tucson). My grandmother embraces kookiness, but denies that she is crazy. She has talked herself into believing that her emphysema is “just a cold,” and she eagerly combines purple pants with red sweaters (and, no, she is not a member of the Red Hat Society). She chain-smokes, loves Charlie Rose, and “knows” that “that Facebook” is “making the world go to pot.”

Before she was seventy, our physical similarities were striking—my bones mimic hers to a point that, seven years ago, a waitress at the Ameristar Casino remarked that we looked very much alike. Her positive attributes reach beyond her now-aged body; the irrevocable and equal love she has for each of her twelve grandchildren is quite remarkable. However, she has one terrible, awful, habit (in addition to smoking a pack a day, that is): my grandmother is a hoarder.

She’s not a scatter hoarder, unlike squirrels. If she was, I’m sure that many a tree and plant would be able to sufficiently spread their population through her mountainous caches of collections.

No, she is not a scatter hoarder. She’s not even a perceptive hoarder—one that assumes a shortage may occur in the future. Mormons do this. Well, certain Mormons, anyway. But their hoarding is more of a natural process—one that involves the careful building of a resource that may be of great use some day, especially if a sudden spurt of civil unrest occurs.

No, my grandmother is not a scatter hoarder. She’s not even a larder hoarder. She doesn’t believe in a healthy (and eventually useful) cache of items.

For instance, I have amassed quite a collection of Bath & Body Works products. There is a cardboard box in my closet that houses numerous shower gels, hand soaps, body lotions, body creams, loofahs, hand sanitizers. One could say that I hoard such products. However, the products are of use: I gradually work my way through gels and sponges and smells and scents after every Christmas, slowly depleting my stores. By the time Thanksgiving rolls around, my choices have narrowed: to moisturize my dry skin, I am forced to use Dew-Kissed Raspberry Freesia or some other illogically named odor, like Magic Powder Peacock.

Grandmother (which is what I call her when I am acerbically describing her unpleasant habits) would probably find my collection too small. She would wonder why I do not acquire greasy bottles of unmixed emulsion from the dollar store. She would ask if I would prefer to use a cracked, potpourri-scented bar of soap that she “inherited” from her mother, who died ten years ago.

No, Grandmother. No. I do not wish to be the recipient of your bags of “stuff,” as you call it.

“Stuff” is the generic name for the old and unusable objects that Grandmother thinks we (her children and grandchildren) need. She routinely shoves objects from around her house—Tupperware, old socks, shoes, children’s gloves, hideous jewelry, cedar shoe trees, calculators with dead batteries—into plastic sacks and delivers them to our homes. We regretfully open the sacks in front her, the stench of Pall Malls filling our nostrils. Though each member of our family handles the bags of “stuff” differently, my mother and I unwillingly accept them, automatically collecting the entire pile and setting it in a box that may as well be labeled “Goodwill Donations.”

If my grandma knew that the objects she presented us immediately ended up in Goodwill (which is, honestly, where she purchased them to begin with), she would—in all seriousness—return to the store and re-purchase them.

It’s a hideous process, the bags of “stuff.”

Just a few days before Christmas, she stopped at our front door with three bags of “stuff”—one for mom, one for my brother, one for me. I do not remember the majority of the items, but our conversation went something like this.

“Do you need a tarp?” she nearly shouted as soon as she entered the living room.
Mom and I looked at each other. “No,” she said. “I use an actual blanket on my car.”
“Well, here’s a tarp for you to use instead,” my grandmother instructed.
“We don’t need a tarp, mom,” my mother insisted.
“Then Keith can have it!” my grandmother exclaimed. “He needs a tarp.”

My mom had already begun sifting through the sack labeled Keith. As always, the bag spewed out a vomitrocious scent of Pall Malls—something that Bath & Body Works might call Sparkling Cigarette Dreams.

“What is this?” my mother urgently questioned, pulling out a bag of snacks that resembled cat treats.
“Those are...” my grandmother started. “Well, to my son, who eats all those sunflower seeds, it looks like bird seed.”
“And that is any more edible for humans to eat?”

My grandmother ignored my mother, who looked at me and shook her head. We were standing on opposite sides of the couch, with my grandma between us. As the eldest of our family rustled through “stuff,” we were able to look up at each other and give awkward, nearly-laughable looks to each other.

“This is for you,” my grandma said, handing me the cedar shoe-trees.
“Umm, okay,” I said blatantly.
My grandma bent down again. I raised the shoe-trees to my head, mockingly hitting my forehead with them. “Why?” I mouthed. “I don’t know,” my mother mouthed back, her forehead wrinkled and mouth agape with hilarious confusion.

“And these are for you. You like pears.”
“I do?” The four-pack of pear chunks had been tossed into my lap.
“Of course you do. You loved pears when you were in elementary.”
“And now I’m in college.” I slowly, but bluntly reminded her. My mother giggled.
“Yes. You still like pears.”

Every Breath that Stirs the Trees Doth Cause a Leaf to Fall

Autumn is my favorite season. I think it is the crisp smell in the atmosphere. Or the warmth of a bonfire while a cool, autumn mist threatens to chill fingers, toes, and noses.

In high school, I anticipated each Friday night, which would include a quick excursion into Council Bluffs for franchised nourishment. Satisfied with grease and MSG, my friends and I would race back home to change into our uniforms. And then we would walk.

We would walk to the football game, my friends donning constricting, out-dated band uniforms and I an itchy, synthetic, guard costume. As we neared the field, the temperature gracefully lowered, demonstrating a ideal example as to why September and October are known for "sweatshirt weather."

Now in college, I gleefully take pleasure in the deliciously radiant colors displayed throughout campus. I photograph inconsequential things, admire leaves, and don skirts & tights three times a week.

When I walk through the Engineering Mall to work, I pass lines of trees just beyond the Physics and Materials & Electrical Engineering buildings, a panorama of burning bushes. My skirt flounces as I cross Northwestern, my face tickled by an October breeze while, beneath my black suede boots, a spectrum of sanguine foliage crunches and crumbles into minuscule dust.

I love the sweaters. I love the surprisingly seamless blend of short skirts and over-sized dolman-style cardigans; color, gray.

I love the moments when, walking to and from campus, the wind presents me with detached leaves--and, literally, smacks me in the face.

The leaf, brown and dry, cracked and stiff with petrified veins, clings to my cheek. I peel it from my profile, twirl the stem between my thumb and forefinger, smiling. Nature.

I love corn mazes and pumpkins and pumpkin pie and Halloween decorations and marching band competitions and raking leaves and roasting marshmallows and candy apples and football games and last-minute, the-weather-is-still-good-to-do-this-adventures and sweatshirts and squirrels and cider.

Actually, that's not true. I do not love cider. I do, however, love alliteration.

I wish I were a child.

If I were a child, I would help my mother rake the leaves in our front yard, rake and rake and mold into a monstrous pile. West of the house, I would run and leap into the mound, my crunchy, brown impact kaleidoscoping leaves into the air.

I would tease our living room with fake cobwebs, soften the room with pumpkin-spice candles. If I were a child, I would watch Ray Bradbury's "The Halloween Tree" and wonder with a childlike wonder the days of Halloween yore.

It makes me reminiscence. It reminds me of childhood, adolescence. Each time a breath of autumn carries a leaf to me, dances my skirt, touches me--I remember. I grab memory's snapshots, piece a collage: the whisper of fabric twirling just beyond my nose, a rake with a jagged teeth, a purple sweatshirt. Flames dance, rain falls, spicy aromas fade.

There is a leaf on my desk. Just to the left. A brown leaf with holes and veins and the brown crispiness of a burnt potato flake. Just beyond my nose, I twirl it between my thumb and forefinger, smiling. I love autumn.


As you can tell, I have not been able to post many things since this term started. Actually, to be honest, I have not posted anything. The "Monday Scribblings" that appear each week only occur because, in August, I scheduled posts through the end of next March.

This semester, I am taking 18 credit hours (a first for me). I am still working, and still have to find time to entertain my "sad," "lonely," "bored" boyfriend, who only has to "suffer" through 12 credit hours four days a week.

I'm jealous.

Anyway, this weekend is Fall Break; we have next Monday and Tuesday off, which is quite exciting. With the little bit of extra time, I thought I would post this little bit of nonsense...

I provide no explanation.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

I’m a dreamer. I say this, but do not mean that I am an idealist. I am an Idealist, yes, but not an idealist. I wish I was an idealist; I wish that I could classify myself as a romantic. (And, of course, the lines are further blurred when comparing a romantic with a Romantic.)

No—idealists are romantics. Little ‘i,’ little ‘r.’

I’m an Idealist. I’m abstract. I view my surroundings and ache for deeper understanding; for the reasons behind a world rich with possibilities. I am tortured by the radio static that hums in the background, a gnat of abstruseness buzzing about my face.

Donnie Darko torments me. Weeks after watching it, I still expect to see Frank—a manipulated dead traipsing through my reality.

Frank himself does not scare me; his method of transport does.

I skim forums, read through others’ beliefs about the fourth dimensional construct. I try to make linguistic sense of a tandem universe in which actions have no explicit meaning, but manipulated dead are a necessity.

“This makes no sense,” I say, frustrated that I am unable to philosophically define what, in essence, is a cult classic about teen angst.

I read recently an article that explained why people sleep certain ways. There was the “Early-to-Bed, Early-to-Rise” sleeper, the “Long Sleeper,” and the “Peaceful Sleeper.” I, however, fit into three categories: the “Restless Sleeper,” the “Necessity Sleeper,” and the “Dreaming Sleeper.”

The “Necessity Sleeper” typically receives less than eight hours of sleep. This type of sleep usually accompanies those who are self-critical, anxious, and who are in a “chronic state of tension.”

The Restless Sleeper is usually a person who can be classified as a “perfectionist.” “People who expect a lot of themselves and who don’t meet their own personal standards are more likely to have insomnia,” the article said. The article also implied that perfectionists also try to control their sleeping patterns as well. Hmm. This does sound like me; I am a self-declared “perfectionist” who, just two days ago, burst into tears over the grades I may receive on work I had yet to do.

That, however, is just a minute detail in the amount of control I do have, or wish I could have. Not being able to compromise? Sure—it is the result of other factors as well...but my hesitancy to compromise means that I am yielding my opinion. I want that control. I want it because I am insecure.

So insecure, in fact, that I can’t even hold to a set moral. I fail to define my world in black and white constructs because, each day, there are too many factors that alter the ultimate outcome.

I think I think in three dimensions. Four, perhaps. Trying to wrap my gray matter around the idea of “thinking” in a tandem universe is almost like attempting (and ultimately failing) to place infinity on a number line.

No wonder physicists are depressed.

I’m not depressed, though. Just crazy. In fact, the article says that “Dreaming Sleepers” are individuals are who “odd” and “quirky,” and have a higher risk for schizophrenia.

So, perhaps, I really am crazy.

I’m so glad the article states that “most are perfectly normal.”

How delightfully comforting.

In addition to having a higher risk of developing schizophrenia, “Dreaming Sleepers” are described as individuals who are “highly creative in [their] waking life.” Personally, I wouldn’t describe myself as “highly creative.” I am certainly not innovative, and I often struggle to fully complete a thought, project, paragraph, or sentence. It’s like diagnosing Pablo Picasso with attention deficit disorder, handing him a pencil and a pair of safety-scissors, and saying, “Go!”

That’s what my creative mind is like—a kaleidoscope of intangible rainbow vomit. And glitter.

I bet that, right now, you are trying to imagine what rainbow vomit looks like. I’ll tell you this—whatever you dream of, whatever you picture; that is what my dreams resemble. I don’t dream black and white, I don’t dream concrete thoughts. I dream beyond reality, beyond (insert cliché) space and time.

One of my most horrid nightmares was around two years ago. I was dead; this I knew. I was dead, and there was nothing around me expect a suffocating void. An empty, dark, inescapable blackness that I could taste and feel and see, though I had no body, no physical form. It choked me, that blackness. Evil.

I am similarly tortured by tandem universes and a weekly dose of déjà vu.

I’m not a Republican. I’m not a Democrat. I’m not a feminist. I am a feminist. I’m crazy, you’re crazy, he’s crazy, we’re all crazy. There is no black and white.

My only issue with being a “Dreaming Sleeper” is this: if I cannot define my creativity, déjà vu, or paranoia of a psychological fantasy film, I do not have the ability to place myself in physical state of either “asleep” or “awake.” Dreamers can’t categorize...and their lives are defined by the blurred line between those states.

This is why Donnie Darko haunts me, and why I find a cartoon-ish Picasso (who, in my mind, is sitting cross-legged on the floor) with a pair of safety-scissors amusing.

Remember: I’m supposed to be abstract. And incoherent.

I’m a dreamer.

Lessons Learned

It is hard to post anything now that I am back at school. I knew that it would be this way, given that, in addition to hammering myself with eighteen credit hours, I am working part-time. I wish I had the time to be creatively witty and post things on here but the sad fact of the matter is...I do not. In truth, many of the posts I have for you now are scheduled. (I set them up over the summer, months in advance.)

However, just to prove that I am still interested in sticking around, I thought I would share with you the few things that I have learned since the beginning of the semester.

1. My Gothic literature professor is amazing.

I took a class with her last year and determined that I would once again like for her to be my professor. In my opinion, she could be characterized as a brown-haired Tonks. (An Auror from the
Harry Potter works.) She is vivaciously spunky, intelligently wide-eyed, humanely and humorously ironic, and prone to the sufferings of buttered-popcorn flavored Jelly Bellies. Her short, spiky hair is always a contrast to the skirts she dons every day.

Also, every semester, she dreams that she must teach a classroom full of monkeys.

We also happened to be discussing Freud's philosophy of dreams that day. As Freud, of course, believes that nearly any symbol has to do with either a vagina or an erect penis, the class as a whole--and this includes my professor--concluded that the monkeys in her dream were subconscious fears of her father's phallus, and that the classroom must, in turn, represent her female anatomy.

Thank goodness I didn't share my dream from the prior evening: My father and I had been laying green and blue carpet down in his childhood home.

2. My Italian instructor wears green underwear, brief-style.

I happen to know this solely because the white dress that draped her palely fragile body today was see-through.

3. The word "douche" is a word that has fallen victim to semantics.

Other words' meanings that have changed include "retard", "hot", "sick", "text", and "epic". In other words, "epic" is no longer typically considered to be a lengthy narrative poem that typically centers on the details, deeds, and events of a seriously heroic character, nation, or culture. Today, the meaning is less insignificant; it may mean, as the girl from my class explained, "cool", as in, "That was an epic hot dog."

4. There is a different student in my theatre class who, I believe, most people would like to kick.

5. I can only spell the word "receive" in my casual life.

In my professional life, I now have the tendency to misspell headlines in our daily campus newspaper.

6. Admiring the tattoo of the guy who sits in front of me in ENGL 351 keeps me awake.

7. I cannot understand any of the sixteen minutes of Italian videos I must watch.

However, I can tell you exactly which Italian ballads and rock songs are playing in the background.

8. Bicyclists (without reflectors) may or may not pedal down the wrong side of the road and/or in the middle of the road after eleven at night.

9. Field trips in college are not as fun as field trips in elementary school.

10. Don't trust anyone.

Summer Shoestrings

Yesterday, I shared a dozen or so photos summarizing the activities of my summer. Today, I feel like sharing more pictures of my "adventures." Unlike the ones I shared yesterday, however, these photos depict more of the humorously exiguous affairs.

This summer, I inconsequentially:

...rearranged salt and pepper shakers to make a face.

...rode a stationary bicycle under a set of stairs in a hotel hallway.

...admired mud.

...photographed purple sunsets from the hospital parking garage.

...contemplated the use of plastic U.F.O.s while at a thrift store.

...rode a gorilla.

...caught toads.

...took more than 500 photos of my yard.

...looked at stain-glass windows.

...donned my grandmother's straw hat and my brother's mortarboard as a response to my how-come-I-don't-have-a-hat jealousy.

...modeled Willy-Wonka-meets-old-woman-from-Ratatouille-and-gives-birth-to-magnifying-glass sunglasses.

...photographed meters. Of all kinds.

...attempted to become creative again.

...get ready for Christmas.

No, I'm serious about Christmas. But Hobby Lobby is.

Summer Snapshot Series--August 22

Today is going to be a busy day; after church, I plan to attend a presentation by Khaled Hosseini, who is speaking at Purdue this afternoon. Though I did not necessarily enjoy The Kite Runner or A Thousand Splendid Suns, I wish to listen to him speak about his family and his life in Afghanistan. After the lecture, I must attend a desk meeting for work.

Furthermore, today is the last day of summer for me; my first day of the fall semester starts tomorrow. As I will be taking more than my usual number of credit hours and working part-time, I will be kept busy.

At this moment, I am unsure of how many times a week I will be able to post. However, I must move forward with an open mind and a positive attitude...
I can do this!

Having said that, the following photos are a tribute to the summer that passed so quickly.

Here are some of the things I did:

...warp photos. This is one of many photos that I have made a collage out of.

...attend the "Colin & Brad" Show in Omaha. It was on my twenty-second birthday.

...visit the community college I once attended.

...enjoy a mini vacation while watching my brother graduate from college.

...try shopping at a new store. In this case, Avanza (a Mexican grocery store).

...teach Vacation Bible School for the tenth year in a row...and make crafts aimed at five-year-olds. the sun rise over Lake Manitou. the sun set behind the Iowa hills.

...attend the last ever fireworks show at Rosenblatt Stadium.

...enjoy Council Bluffs.

...explore the Old Market up and down, cross-ways, diagonally, right-side up and inside out.

...stroll across the Bob Kerrey Pedestrian Bridge.

...complete a five-hour, fourteen-mile canoe journey with the boyfriend.

...spend time with family. I attended my family's annual reunion as well as join the celebration for my aunt and uncle's 25th wedding anniversary.

...note the damage that wind shears do.

...swim in the cool waters of the local quarry.

...go "golfing" with three retired-men who exude hospitality, kindness, and innuendo.

...go boating and tubing with my family. (And, in the process, erase the skin from my elbows.)

...enjoy my time at home with those whom I love.

Forget Follett's; I'm Going to Von's

I am back in West Lafayette!

The drive itself was uneventful (which was good). My mom and I had a pleasant drive through the uninteresting cornfields of Iowa, Illinois, and Indiana. I-cubed.

Moving in went well, too. It went well until I realized that, somewhere along the way, I had lost my debit card. Not being an individual to lose things, I was quite devastated. Luckily, when I called the bank, no action had occurred. Most likely, my debit card is in the back pocket of my pin-stripe, navy blue short shorts. Those shorts happen to be sitting in the laundry hamper.

At home.

Six-hundred miles away.

When my mother arrives home later tonight, I am sure that the first thing she will do is check my card.

One of the other two large mishaps that has happened was the lack of Internet.

Today, my Internet has finally been restored (thanks to the "No-I-insist-that-it-is-your-computer's-fault-and-not-a-problem-on-our-end-you-must-have-a-virus-and-it-isn't-our-fault-because-obviously-we-would-have-remembered-to-turn-on-the-switch-for-the-building-in-which-you-live" ITAP guys). With that, I wanted to share a trip to Von's, an amazing store in West Lafayette in which you can find comic books, records, stuffed animals, jewelry, used books, and clothing.

It is wonderfully retro.

It belongs in the Old Market.

Yesterday (Friday), I took my mother to Von's, who had never been there. She, of course, was in heaven. While I wandered about the store, she spent many a minute looking at beads and records.

The store is quite large, and its many rooms host a variety of purchase opportunities.

Jewelry strands of every color line nearly every wall.

Customers can choose from countless options of beads, medallions, charms, and the like.

Marbles are also a common sight.

Spider paperweights, however, are not. They are found in a back room along with all the rocks, stones, and geodes.

The store is so large that sometimes it names certain areas; here, this dead-end hallway was filled with stuffed animals...and beads.

Anyone needs a pink, polka-dotted dog?

Outside the "Animal Den", a few sets of jewelry were pre-made and ready to purchase.

I nearly purchased one of these rings.

Personally, I thought the scarves were incredibly soft. I could have gone for one of the more vivid purples or yellows.

These cats were interestingly colorful finds.

There is a steep set of stairs that lead to the used books.

Von's is just as satisfying as any used bookstore in the Old Market.

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