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.

His Music Room

He hides in his music room

When mom’s upset or

When presents need wrapping

He shuts the door and

opens the black case

Like alligator skin to the touch and

I listen in the dark, dank hallway

For the click of cases closed and

For the stinging notes of Stella by Starlight,

Seeping from the cracks in the door like tears.

He hides in his music room

Knowing that this space is his

For forgetting

For collecting

Cluttered and mysterious

With the answers to the questions

I will never have or know or understand

But I will always hide outside his door

And love

Chivalry is Not Dead

Lately, I had begun to doubt if gentlemen truly existed, especially in light of the last two guys I’ve spent one on one time with this fall.

1) Asshole guy with giant ego who legitimately insulted me to my face.

2) Mr.Over-Eager with a case of bad pick-up lines.

But then I hung out with this guy yesterday, and sheesh. (I’m trying to play it cool, but I just had to blog about this.)

He opened the door for me every single time. He paid for me every single time. He complimented me and never once made me feel bad about myself. He didn’t try to put the moves on me like I’m just some piece of ass. No, he hugged me goodnight and texted me a sweet ‘thanks again’ after he dropped me off. (Thank me? Are you kidding?! Thank you!)

Earlier in the day we discussed how people can be so deceitful, mean and awful. And yes, lately, I’ve noticed they really really can be. But then I spend time with him and I remember how kind, humble, and fun people can be too. So don’t ever think chivalry is dead, because it isn’t. Good people are hard to find, but they’re out there. It’s confirmed to me again that we should never settle or make excuses for jerks. I’m thankful for that reminder.

Rapunzel Knows Best

Last night, I watched the movie Tangled all by my lonesome. I ain’t ashamed–that movie is an hour and half of sheer adorableness. (Long-haired singing princesses, unrealistically attractive animated men and hilarious animal sidekicks for the win!) But more importantly, it helped me put words to a feeling I’ve been having for a while.

There’s this scene (SPOILER ALERT!) where Flynn Rider and Rapunzel are sitting in a boat waiting to see the lanterns. The movie is all about how Repunzel has been dreaming of this moment her whole life, but as it’s about to happen, she says, “I’m scared.” Perplexed, Flynn asks, “Why?” She replies, “What if it’s not everything I hoped it would be?”

And BOOM! A fictional princess makes one of the most profound insights ever to be uttered in the middle of an animated children’s movie.

We’re all afraid of our lives turning out how we’ve imagined them.

I know I’m afraid, every day. My dream to be a writer scares me, because it is such a hard field to break in to and such a hard way to make a living. And the fact that I just met a ridiculously awesome guy yesterday scares me. My brain fills easily with “what ifs?!”

But it’s important to note that anxiety and excitement feel the same in our bodies. (Darn those identity-confused chemicals.) Therefore, we are the ones who choose how to label our feelings. I choose to be excited. I will become a writer because it’s what I’m meant to be! And I’m excited that I may get to know this great guy better!

Rapunzel is scared too, but she sits on that boat and waits for the lanterns to rise in the sky. She perseveres. And the pay off? Well, she gets to cross that dream off her bucket list and find a new one. Lucky for her, the new dream is a dark-haired, bad-boy, smooth-talking, hottie named Flynn Rider. (Please categorize her previous lantern dream under ‘L’ for ‘LAME.’)

So the moral of this little tale? Follow the example of this fictional princess. Don’t let the unknown cripple you–be brave. You never know what might happen.

My life is a Joni Mitchell Song

1) All I (really, really) Want is for a love to bring out the best in me and in you too! I am looking for the real thing with a partner and in my career, family, friendships. I’m not one to settle and you shouldn’t be either! You’re worth it!

2) They come for Conversation. I listen and I care, sometimes too much. And I am an open book. I will talk someone’s ear off about a problem because it’s the only way I can sort things out in my own mind. Just call me Miss Honest Extrovert.

3) I don’t Know Where I StandLike Joni (and most people, I think) I worry about how other people see me. I spend way too much time thinking about what people think of me. My dad always says, “Who cares what they think? They aren’t paying your bills.” I try to remind myself of that every time I second-guess myself.

4) A Refuge of the Roads is the best kind of refuge. When things get rough all I want is a change of scenery. Even just a walk or a good book can supply the vacation. But I have to get away and give into my wanderlust. In a world like this, escapism is necessary and cleansing!

5) Help Me! I think I’m falling in love again–with people, with music, with writing, with life. I try to fall in love everyday. What I mean is, I try to remember to stay inspired! There’s so much beauty in the world if you look for it.

6) When I go to People’s PartiesI’m that girl who is ” fumbling deaf, dumb, and blind.” This may be partly due to alcohol consumption, but also because I’m awkward (and proud of it!) And I have actually been to a party where someone wore a “lampshade crown.” Cue you being impressed.

7) I have never ridden in a Big Yellow Taxi, but: I don’t know what I’ve got until it’s gone, I am always telling people to put away their DDT and to leave me the birds and the bees, and I’ve watched people I love leave my life. Many times. Not to mention I really want to live in New York, and there are big yellow taxis there. (That’s relevant, right?)

8) The idea of the lonely, ignored musician in For Free always makes me want to cry. Some of the best musicians are unknown! Be that one person watching the singer-songwriter in the rain, you have no idea how much they’ll appreciate it. (Believe me, I’ve been there!)

9) I Dream Flat Tires. I have high expectations for everything and if something doesn’t go how I wished, I’ll have this deflation of elation (internal rhyme, hells yeah!) and my cynicism will kick into overdrive. But I’ve learned that going with the flow puts way less pressure on you and the situation, allowing things to exceed your expectations! (Oh, and five minutes into my last bike ride I ran over a nail. So I literally have a flat tire issue.)

10) My life is a Circle Gamea “carousel of time.” The other day, I ran into a best friend from childhood and it was like nothing had changed.  I love bagels, donuts, pizza and basically any food that’s circular. I often talk in circles when I’m embarrassed and/or tired. I believe that what goes around, comes around. And even though I’m almost 21, I still try to approach every day like a “child who went out to wander.”

Ignore the Poetry Nazis

As a creative writing major I get to study what I love, and take TONS of writing classes. Fun, right? Well, you’d sure think so. But the fun keeps getting sucked out of my current poetry class because of the presence of a certain Poetry Nazi. Okay, so this might be an insensitive name for her, but my goodness, I’ve never met a person so intolerant and close-minded about writing!

On the first day of this class, she told me that my poem, “wasn’t a poem” and that “if I wasn’t going to adhere to official poetic forms–why am I in a poetry class?” And today, she made me feel terrible about a haiku I had written because it wasn’t conventional. Sheesh! I’m not a perfect writer, I know, but her comments are more mean than helpful. What’s worse, is she does this to everyone. So it’s time for me to passive-aggressively blog about it.

I’m not trying to slander this girl for the sake of slander, but rather because I want to say this: create whatever the hell you want to create. Be you. Art was never meant to go in a neatly labeled box but rather, it is designed to challenge arbitrary rules and to make us think beyond them. Sure, tradition is important and necessary when learning your art, but being true to who yourself and to what you have to say is what’s most important. That is what resonates with people and inspires them.

One of the biggest mistakes an artist can commit is making their art inaccessible and elitist. Art is for everyone and if you get wrapped up in “supposed tos” you are going to alienate people. I mean, when you look at a painting, do you count how many brush strokes are used or critique the color palette chosen? No, where’s the fun in that? Most of us consider the feelings the painting evokes, and what it makes us visualize.

So maybe I’m just a liberal-minded, accepting, supportive, hippy artist, but I absolutely ABHOR when people belittle art because it isn’t technically perfect. Being an artist isn’t about becoming one of the master race with perfect technique and flawless adherence to tradition.

So, you, yeah, YOU! Ignore the poetry nazis! Create in a way that represents you and don’t conform to notions of “perfection.” They’re relative anyway.