Cow Lake


The horizon stretched itself thin across the windshield, endless and unencumbered. It snaked to my right out the passenger window and I reached for it, smoothed it, as if it were a strand of hair out of place. My arm out the window was carried upwards by the car’s momentum and my hand became a fleshy crow against the clouds. I let myself float there a minute, musing. Then his voice broke the silence. When he was younger, his family had an exchange student from China who was overwhelmed by all the open space. How appropriate, I thought, that abundant space had made a kid from crowded Hong Kong uneasy. How funny that, as I sat passenger-side and wide-eyed, I empathized.

As the road funneled us forwards, filtering us through town and out into pastures, I leaned on his shoulder and watched the huge, placid sky through the sunroof, I pointed at horses, I took in big gulps of Eastern Washington air and audibly sighed them out. He smiled at my wonder and drummed, one hand on the steering wheel and the other on my knee, to Radiohead oozing through the car speakers. A native, the vastness had swallowed him long ago, but I needed to savor every blade of wheatgrass, every inch of azure sky. I couldn’t help but be filled up, as perfume does a bottle.

When the narrow gravel road began shooting pebbles at the windshield and the car tires seemed unsure in their muddy tracks, he said that we were getting close. Hills came into view, and I squinted, trying to make out what was in the distance. We were looking for a lake, but I pushed the memory of a giant, grey Lake Washington out of my mind. We were looking for a country lake, for Cow Lake.

Sure enough, it appeared, a large puddle in the midst of low, grassy hills. He stopped the car and we got out, my brown leather boots squelching as they touched muddy ground.  From his description, I’d expected a pool of sooty water. While it may have been just that, all I could see, as it sat there frozen over and illuminated in the sun, was an intricate stained glass window or a piece of icy Venetian tile.

I meandered along the lakeshore, skipping in the dry grasses like a little girl and letting the cold wind bring out the rosiness in my cheeks. He lingered back from me awhile, perhaps musing on the day much as I was, or reminiscing about times spent swimming in the hot sun with his siblings. I smiled, thankful that my footprints would be left in the mud of his memories.

Suddenly desiring to meet his kind gaze and push a hay-bale blonde lock from his face, I turned back. Finding his outline in the distance, my walked turned to a run. Every pore drank in the sweetness of the day, and for a moment, I flew.


Ripen and Release

In the yard of my family’s first house grew an avocado tree creeping up like a great praying mantis. We waited eagerly for its sporadic offerings, attuned to the thud of its leathery eggs against our dry California grass.

The day we moved away, I watched my parents collect dozens of these strange fruit in large wooden crates. My mom crouched repeatedly, balancing several in her cradled arms. My dad’s soft hands gripped each delicately and lowered them into the crates. Both of them seemed entranced by a strange catharsis of starting anew. Of ripening, tumbling and rolling away from their roots.

I was young then but the move impressed me like the pit does the green flesh. There was the hot plastic of my car seat, the steady rhythm of the sun-visor vibrating against the window, a large cardboard box marked ‘BOOKS’. And then there were the avocados that sandwiched me against the car door. They looked like the dark circles under my dad’s tired, road-lulled eyes. They looked like three-dimensional bruises. They looked like stepping-stones.

The hardest part of leaving that house was leaving the avocado tree. My parents remind me. Dad uses the prongs of the fork to smash the green meat into his quesadilla. Mom strikes the pit with a sharp knife and twists to lift it from its imprint.

I’m grown now. My bare feet stick to the kitchen linoleum in my first apartment as I take one of those familiar ovals in my hand and squeeze it, feeling its surface give. My knife cuts through to the dense pit leaving the rind split like an old tire. I pull the two halves apart and I spoon the insides into my mouth. I am halted by the uncanny sweetness. How similarly we ripen and release from what once held us up.

The Crane

She starts as a square piece of paper, pink side up. Crease and open again.  She gasps for air. Crease and open again. Her limbs are reaching out like a pinwheel. Gentle hands turn her over, pat her doe white behind, and set her down. She’s a small delicate beginning lying face-up on the metal table.

The fingers of time swaddle her, and mold her to life’s geometry. Pudgy hands touch her knees and help her rock back and forth. Mom takes a picture to crease that fold, before she teeters forwards.

Her arms become bat wings that fold around doggies and daisy bouquets and teddy bears. In, crease. Out, crease. Hugs are becoming a habit.

Her first word, “Dada,” escapes and her head bows down reverently. Crease there, where her Adam’s apple slowly rolls under the skin like the tip of a ballpoint pen. This is her new command room of expression, the cockpit of the bird.

She lifts her corners up until she’s sailing high like a kite, legs straight and strong. She steps with the crutch of her blue toy car, Mom’s hand, the staircase bannister.  Her walk is new, and her  precarious legs begin to crumple under newfound weight.

But she grows tough and precious like a diamond, letting fingernails crease her into the puzzle of self-actualization. Her legs come up into crisscross applesauce, hopscotch and then in the dance steps of the Texas Tommy. Her wings pull straight out, fan towards Lake Union, extend towards a friend, and point her like a compass. Her mouth becomes a beak, prodding for the next adventure, gaping with the next song.

Used Heart Shopping

Last month, I was hunting for a good used car at a reasonable price. This was not an easy task. I mean, it’s a good thing I had my dad with me going from dealership to dealership, because if it had been up to me I would’ve bought the first car we looked at. I just wanted the whole process to be quick and easy. Eventually I did find a good Honda, though, which I am extremely thankful for.

But…where am I going with this?…Oh, that’s right.

Despite the fact that car shopping is not half as enjoyable, I couldn’t help but draw a parallel between it and dating. Yep, I’m going there.

Firstly, you and the person, like you and the car, have to find each other. Maybe you’ve known each other for a while (say, the guy, like your neighbor’s Camry, is an old friend of the family) or maybe you run into a guy on the street holding a figurative ‘For Sale’ sign. Or maybe, you meet online–eHarmony is to dating what Craigslist is to cars.

Then, like you did with any car that catches your eye, you collect the basic details. Age, appearance, personality, interests. And after this preliminary screening, maybe you decide the person (or the car) isn’t for you. Or, you two like each other enough to dare a first real date–a test drive.

The test drive is where things can get hairy. Just like a car salesman knows you’re more serious about a car when you test drive it, the stakes are raised between you and the person when you attempt a real date.

You go on the date and as the car starts up and comes to an initial hum, everything about the both of you is being scrutinized. You listen to his words like you’d listen to the gears shift. You watch his eyes when he looks at you like you’d test headlights. You touch his shoulder and his hand like you’d touch the dash, the steering wheel. You quiz him on his music tastes like you’d test out the radio.

And as the car rolls forward and set outs on the side streets, things feel uneasy. You’re self-conscious about your driving because this is not your car yet. If you crash, it could get really messy. So you proceed slowly and eventually, things begin to feel a bit more natural.

Next, like any wise shopper, you decide to take the car on the highway. You tell your date something personal about yourself. You make a racy joke. You talk about one of your obscure interests. All of this is a test that he can keep up with you at 60 MPH.

As the night dwindles to a close, you exit the freeway and pay the bill. You drive the car back on to the dealership lot and take the key out of the ignition. Your mind is busy weighing the pros and cons of pursuing a relationship with him as he walks you to your door. Maybe you’re thinking it needs new tires, but it’s a good car, or you’re thinking, this is a freaking hot rod, but it doesn’t really suit you, or you’re thinking, SOLD! Then you snap back to reality and dig for your house key in your purse.

You say goodbye, perhaps exchange a hug. Of course, the test drive was fun. Dating, like driving, is fun. But, after you shut the door behind you, the salesman (in this metaphor– your brain) freaks you out. Is this car something you want to invest in? Do you want to see it again? It pressures you and confuses you and tries to get the sale. Your brain wants your heart to make a decision—yay or nay–because then you’ll know how to proceed.

But if there’s one thing I learned from car shopping, it’s that you don’t rush into things. You must shop thoroughly, cross-check prices online, and negotiate with the salesman.  So, similarly–you can’t rush love. You must date intelligently and never give up on those high standards. Because in the end, the key to someone’s heart (not that new SUV), is the most important key you’ll ever hold.

Gossip Girl here

Hey world, its Gossip Girl.

I’m not a good show, in fact, I’m despicable. But still, I’m remarkably addicting. Why?  Well, Alexa has been watching it for two reasons: 1) she thinks it would be amazing if Serena finally choked Blair with one of her stupid argile neck scarves and more importantly, 2) she enjoys how it’s a giant scavenger hunt of all the ridiculous messages that popular TV tries to shove down our throats.

Alexa is fond of the following example.

In one of the early episodes, Jenny, a 14-year-old freshman just desperate to fit in, weasles her way into a party of popular kids. Once there, she gets lured outside by the much older skeeze-ball Chuck Bass and he begins to get physical with her against her will. That’s right, she is resisting and yet he is relentlessly trying to get in her pants. Even after Jenny is rescued from the grasp of this sicko, everyone acts as if nothing that happened was wrong and Jenny just blames herself for believing he would, “just want to talk.” Alexa wants to note that Chuck just tried to RAPE Jenny and all the characters act like it’s par for the course.

Alexa wants to make sure she’s being clear. Not only is the CW telling male audiences that girls will eventually give in to them if they pressure them enough for sex but also that it’s all on her if she does get taken advantage of. And CW thinks it’s fine to communicate that young men shouldn’t be held accountable for their actions, that it doesn’t matter because boys aren’t going to end up pregnant, that boys will be boys.

Man, do the messages in my show smell like a giant pile of manure.

Guys, despite what happens on my show I think it is important for you to analyze how you treat women, and more importantly, how you are portrayed by the media. Don’t be this stereotype. Rise above it.

And in general, I hope my audience watches my show with a grain of salt!

You know you love me, xoxo,

Gossip Girl


If ya’ll go by the Romans, we are days from the new year. And as many do before hanging up the new calendar, I’ve been reflecting on what 2012 has shown me. Here are the important highlights:

1. Love comes in all shapes and sizes. A favorite song of mine refrains, “my love’s too big for you.” It can be so true. If someone can’t meet your heart half-way, it is best to let them go.

2.If you aren’t into reading something–it’s not you, it’s the book. Find something that interests you more rather than forcing yourself to drudge through Moby Dick. Who care’s if it’s a “classic?”

3. Friends drift apart, and that’s okay. You don’t have to try so hard to keep every person you ever met in your life. Some may stay, some may leave and reappear, and others may disappear completely. Let life dictate that game of musical chairs. All you need to remember is to make effort with the people that miss you when you’re not around. They’re the one’s who deserve your energy.

4. People need boundaries just like yards need fences. You sure as hell have the right to tell the crazy, the dangerous, and the mean to keep out!

5. Take risks. It’s so cliche, but I’m telling you it’s so freaking LIBERATING. I went streaking with my entire dorm floor. I read in my first poetry reading. I told someone how they really made me feel. I started writing songs, recording and sharing them with others. I asked out a cute brunette from my English class. I started sharing my writing on this blog. No, it hasn’t been all peaches and cream, but life has never been so exciting!

6. If you are lonely or sad or frustrated enough to call an ex, don’t. But do take a nap. A good sleep will remind you why they’re an ex to begin with.

7.We are all worthy of what we want, but whether or not we believe in our own worth dictates if we will get what we want. Confused? I’ll be clearer: our success is a self-fulfilling prophecy. For instance,  I never thought my writing was good enough to share and I never called myself a “writer.” But when I started identifying as a writer I noticed that inspiration and opportunity revealed themselves to me.

8. There is a song to get you through any and every situation. And once you find it, repeat it as many times as you need. Let it be your 24/7 anthem without an ounce of shame. Music is solace.

9. Never underestimate the power of emotional stress on your alcohol tolerance! Good lord, that was a rough night.

10. Tom Cochrane knew it all along: Life is a highway. And like any well-traveled road, life is full of potholes. Embrace the mistakes and hardships and stay positive. Who know’s where you might end up because of them?

My Way

Okay, I’ll admit it. The last two weeks have been some of the hardest for me in a long time. I’ll spare you from the nitty gritty detail, but I do think I should share with you the insight I’ve taken from it all.

The premise? I have been struggling with a particular situation that presented me with two choices. Naturally, I tried to categorize each option cleanly into two extremes, “good” and “bad,” as if life was that easy. Then, to heighten the self-imposed stress, I decided that whatever extreme I chose dictated who I was as a person. So, if I chose the “good,” I was “good” and if I chose the “bad,” I was “bad.” (Cue the foreboding organ.)

Thus, a should-be manageable situation became  an identity crisis that has gnawed away at me for weeks. Seriously, I’ve been an utter mess.

My only solace has been Pinterest. Yes, Pinterest. I like to scroll through the Quote page and absorb all the positive bits of wisdom I can. And the other day, I stumbled on these words  from none other than J.K. Rowling (via Sirius Black.)

“I want you to listen to me very carefully, Harry. You’re not a bad person. You’re a very good person, who bad things have happened to. Besides, the world isn’t split into good people and Death Eaters. We’ve all got both light and dark inside us. What matters is the part we choose to act on. That’s who we really are.”

Annnd, cue epiphany! Life is not black and white. We are not black and white. Sure, society  may condition us to see categories: right and wrong, good and bad, left and right, boy and girl. We flock to categories because categories make things easy. But life isn’t meant to be easy, easy is boring and teaches us nothing about ourselves.

So instead of forcing myself to fit into these dark, cramped corners, I chose the sunny, open field I was scared of before–my own way. Sure, it’s the least traveled and the loneliest, but it’s for me. And in the end, I bet it will lead home.

Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday

Not gift-full Christmas!? Not Hallowscream?! Not Cinco de Drinko!? Not the (blow off your) Fourth (finger) of July?! What has gotten into you, Alexa?

I swear, I swear, I can explain!!

Firstly, I LOVE food, especially Thanksgiving food.  (Pie. Mashed Taters. Cranberries. Turkey. Yams. Did I mention, PIE?!)

Secondly, I love our annual tradition. My family spends the holiday at my godparent’s house with a bunch of our closest friends. My extended family lives far away and we rarely see each other, but for me, family doesn’t really mean blood relation. These friends are my family and I love them all dearly.

Thirdly, I love that the whole night is full of laughter and playing music. It’s not like Christmas where there’s an expectation for gifts. It’s about being together!

And most importantly, I love that it gives me an excuse to go on and on about why I love my life so much.

I mean, check this out: I have a family that loves and supports me, a plethora of amazing friends that know and love me for who I really am, I’m going to a great University studying exactly what I love most, I’m good at what I’m studying, I live in a beautiful city, everyday I encounter more and more opportunities and great people, I know and love who I am becoming and I’m excited for what the future holds. Seriously, I could go on all day, but I’ll spare you my corny, self-indulgent list.

In short, I’m incredibly thankful. I have a beautiful life.

And to be honest, so do you! We all have beautiful lives, or at least a little beauty in our lives to be thankful for–it’s just a matter of looking for it.

So today, even if all you really want to do is escape your bizarro family and shoot off a bottle rocket, I challenge you to find something beautiful that you’ve never noticed before. Find it and be thankful for it.

Oh yeah, and eat that fourth piece of pie with no regrets. STUFF YOUR FACE.

Textual Healing

Alright, I have to admit it: Sometimes I really hate texting.

Sure, it allows me to talk to my best friends in Greece and New Haven like they’re sitting right next to me, but it also gives me reason to be obsessive. I find myself ascribing these little grammarless, spur-of-the-moment messages too much importance. I analyze text messages like holy texts, WHICH IS COMPLETELY CRAZY.

We live in a culture of instant gratification–we hate waiting–and texting is a result of this. We don’t have time call someone on the phone, or email them, or post them a letter, or go to their house but we still want to talk to them. RIGHT THIS SECOND. So, we send them alphabet soup (OMG my BFF JILL totes luvs u!) while our professor drones on about Conceptual Art in the 21st Century. But every time you press that send button, the gods of real conversation cry bitter, bitter tears. In actuality, text messaging is detrimental to our communication with others.

1) At least 60% of what we want to say is conveyed through body language/voice inflection. You have to be able to see and hear the person to read these signals. So even with emoticons, non-verbal communication is completely neglected.

2) While most people love to talk, most people find texting utterly annoying. Hence, someone’s lack of response to your message is probably only a product of their hate of texting, not of you. But still, this miscommunication can cause fights and resentment.

3) While conversations are active, texting is mostly passive. You can ignore a text and respond in your own sweet time. But text messaging makes us more passive and rude in our face-to-face conversations! Often we forget to make eye-contact, to acknowledge someone’s presence.

4) Conversations happen in real time, in the real world. Text happens in your phone or computer, in the cyber world. Sure, some of you out there studying Augmented Reality may argue that the technology world is just an extension of the physical world. But to us laymen, the cyber world suspends the constraints we put on the physical world, like time and space. Thus, it suspends reality and confuses messages and meaning.

5) Conversation can inform on the factual and on emotional level while texting can only convey flat fact. Still, we’ve begun using text messages for dating and talking to family and giving advice–for things that are heavy with connotation. Uh…duh! It’s no wonder things get misinterpreted!

So, stop obsessing over a text message (or lack of text message) from your boyfriend, or your mom, or your best friend. If you want to have an actual conversation and/or get to know someone, it’s time to meet up with them in person. Call them or invite them over. Trust me, it will save you stupid, pointless anxiety. Hearing a lovely voice and seeing a smiling face is way better than staring at your iPhone screen anyhow.

A Personal Essay From NW Writer’s Retreat

In my pocket I keep nothing. Not even my cell phone. I am determined that I will get some weird form of ovarian cancer from cell phone radiation that close to my hinterlands. I mean, cell phones haven’t been around that long, we have no idea what kind of weird diseases they might cause? It makes me think of Body Talk, this beautiful play I performed piano for. It’s sort of like Vagina Monologues. The stories about cancer left me breathless, foreboding like it’s a struggle that eventually every woman will have to face in some way or another.

I worry about my mom. She takes care of everyone else, but never of herself. I know she neglects doctors appointments and mammograms for piano recitals and dinner parties. I wish sometimes she would kick dad and I out and sob over Sleepless in Seattle for the billionth time. Time for herself. She needs that.

In her pocket, she keeps pens and an ID badge with the various colored codes listed on it. She’s an ER nurse, still, 24 years later. She is good at her job, smiling, dedicated and a friend to almost everyone. Her twelve hour shifts seem like nothing to her, but I used to listen to her ready herself quietly at six am, astonished at her resilience. Remnants of her are everywhere in our house, but she’s hardly ever home.

In her pocket, she keeps coupons and change. She’s frugal, my mother, the oldest of twelve. She got used to having nothing, so she makes sure I have everything. I’m grateful, but sometimes I get buried under all of it. It can be suffocating. She calls herself out on it. “I know, I’m such a mother,” she says in self-deprecation.

She loves to buy me things, and when we spend time together she always takes me shopping. Don’t get me wrong, I love it, but sometimes I’d rather sit with her at the park on a soft fall day and listen to her stories. The ones about her favorite teachers and her first pet and her last boyfriend before dad. But she doesn’t like to talk about herself, her past. She keeps it all neatly in her pockets.