Monthly Archives: December 2016

A report from yours truly

Here are some of Alice’s thoughts in the space between the miraculous birth of Christ and the party of the (end of) the year, which resembles the revelry of a Gatsby extravaganza.

Christmas carols are our oral (and singing) history. They tell us of Christ’s birth, the wise men, Herod, all the parts of the puzzle that make up the origin story and the story of my faith. Through them, our history is preserved.

I need to value my physical health more. It’s a blessing, seriously.

Also, I need to reflect more on how unglued I get from the slightest discomfort. I’m not even trying to put myself down; I simply need to reassure myself that I am weak and because of my imperfectness, I, and my body, will fail me. Be okay with that, Alice, it’s life. It’s being human.

Helping with a task like untangling lights and zip tying them to the railing, when done together, takes a fraction of the time and can actually be enjoyable when a warm pair of shoes and a coat are involved. Helping out around this time of year will make the people that always do all the work appreciate you so much.

Just go. Even if you think you’ll be late, the “so what’s the point of going,” feeling is sometimes a lie. Jump when even a small door opens.

I also realize that people are not this black and white. They are not keys on a Steinway or Yamaha. Rather, they are the vastly diverse strings on a glossy wood guitar.

We cling when we are insecure. I remember someone telling me once “when I find something in my house, like a piece of clothing or a toy that I forgot I had in my possession, then I know I have to throw it out or give it away. I wasn’t thinking about it twenty minutes ago or last week – so how could I still need it if I didn’t know I had it?”

This resonates with me. It’s times like these where I feel sobered by the way in which most people in developed and/or westernized countries lead lives consumed by objects, things, junk, whatever it is.

Of course I set aside things that hold sentimental value. That is one part of human nature that is both blatant and natural.

But I never understood why it was attractive in American culture to have a messy basement or attic, buried with “junk.” Why was the style of decorating with undertones of clutter and miscellaneous possessions so pronounced? Does it make the family that chose to decorate that way seem more wealthy because of the amount of things they have? Or more eccentric because they clutter their living spaces?

Mandy, Carrie and I grew up watching Arthur, this 1990s animated show about a family of aardvarks living in a place called El Wood City. I remember one episode where D.W. and Arthur go to visit their grandmother in her big cluttered house. They are super bored until their grandmother takes them to her attic to clean it out. They end up finding a trove of cool things like clothing and accessories from the 1980s and a reel of film that depicts their teachers and parents when they were younger. In the final scene of the episode, one of Arthur’s classmates asks if all grandparents have old, cool things in their attics and basements. Arthur’s grandmother says “Probably more, why don’t you ask them?” This seems to be the didactic message of this episode. While it is charming and not necessarily harmful, it drives home my point even more: American culture advocates for the cluttered, possession-oriented lifestyle and décor.

I am simply wondering why this is. Are any other cultures like this in the world? Are there cultures out there that are the direct opposite?

I have a playlist for anyone who wants good music to listen to, in conclusion of this report.

 

Lightning Bolt by Jake Bugg – for anyone wanting a joyful song to strut or sing along to

 

Stay Gold by First Aid Kit – for encouragement or a drive into a sunset

 

Canyon by Joseph – this song is just good

 

Blood & Tears by Joseph – this song depicts a healthy relationship, and I like it a lot

 

Digital Witness by St. Vincent – my friend Sarah showed me this one, and if you are down for a whimsical musical experience, this song is pretty weird, and I like it

 

Kings & Queens by Urban Cone – this is a good one for New Years Eve, whether you are throwing a party or need a good tune for the drive through the city at night, all to celebrate life with a joyful clatter

After the commercial break, I will go into weather and traffic.

Alice will be signing out now, wire again soon!

ASL influences in my life

I grew up watching the 1990s version of Miracle on 34th Street. It was one of those Christmas films that was not animated or stop –motion, and it had a deeper sense of Santa Clause as a person instead of just a character that says “Ho Ho Ho,” in a deep, jolly voice. When Kris Kringle is sitting in his chair meeting all the children that come to see him, there is one little girl that is placed on his knee who is deaf. Here is the clip:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pMXk048h3XQ

I think this may have been my earliest memory of sign language. I remember another part of this film where it is revealed that Santa knows several other languages like Russian and Swahili; but the awareness of ASL was awakened in me at this very moment.

Jump to high school, my senior year. I was still seventeen when the school year began, and I walked into my math class on that first day. I despised (and still do, to this day) math, and I always shed my more happy and outgoing self when I had math class, and kept my head down and just did the work without stopping to look around. I noticed that there were three teachers in the classroom – a head teacher, a teacher’s aid, and a third one who didn’t seem to hold any particular position in the classroom. Odd, I thought. I sat near the front, and our first task for the class was to introduce each other to everyone else. I got paired with a boy who sat beside me, and we both wrote down things we liked and did for fun outside of school. We were asked to stand in front of the smart board and tell the class about the other person.

It was only then that I noticed that the third woman, who was standing between us and the TA, was an ASL interpreter. The teacher aid talked funny, when she did decide to use her voice. She had dark skin and thick glasses, I recall. The only signs I remember the interpreter using in this memory was the sign for boxing, because I had several student athletes as classmates. I also remember the open palms of the interpreter, her hands moving like a dance in the space in front of her.

Freshman year of college and I was in a big residence hall with all girls. One girl who lived below me thought it was astounding that I was taking Latin at Mary Washington to fulfill my language requirement. “That must be so hard!” she said. I asked her what she was taking, and she told me about this community college right down the road from us that offered sign language. I was intrigued. She told me the credits would transfer back into UMW if you chose to take ASL as your foreign language. I asked her how her class would do tests or quizzes, and she explained. I put that thought of sign language into my back pocket, and never really forgot about it.

This past summer, I began to look at all my classes that were left in order for me to finish my two degrees and graduate. I began making plans, and I found that I could finally act on this interest and take a sign language class. My schedule allowed me to have one “fun” class during this fall semester, and I signed up.

Funny thing was, this class wasn’t just fun for me. It became serious. I soaked in every sign we were taught, and I intently and religiously did my homework in order to nail down a new plank for the bridge I have begun to build. My biggest desire in this regard is to cross over and connect the world of hearing, the one I have always known, with the deaf one.

I have found myself looking up movies and TV shows that have signing in them, or wanting to find deaf communities that would help me learn and grow into this language through everyday practice. The major need I have right now, though, is someone who can answer questions. Questions, specifically, about interpreting. This is my new charge and path that has been placed under my feet.

I have never had a clear job position and/or title that I’d label my “dream job,” and it always felt like everyone around me had one in mind, or one that they always knew they’d want to pursue. It is only divine intervention that now, when I have uncovered something I really want to do, it happens to be when my college experience is coming to a close. I have been telling shocked friends and relatives about my apparently out-of-the-blue newfound interest, and how inconvenient it has been to “just now” find what I want to do. And yet, after some time of evaluation and reflection on this past semester and looking ahead, I have come to a new conclusion: College is about preparing for the future, and finding a passion and hopefully, for the lucky ones, a potential job they will bask in and love.

Sure, I wish I had made this discovery sooner, and been able to begin preparing for the rest of my life (at least my potentially professional life), but that is not how life works – at least that is what I have experienced. Of course people would love to have met their husband or wife sooner so that they would have that clear path and security about whom they will be spending the rest of their lives with. But not everyone is lucky enough to find his or her soul mate at a “convenient” time. I am one of these. There is no such thing as a convenient time – I know for experience.

I have no idea if what I want to happen will work out, and I need to find peace in that up-in-the-air space. I need to be okay with not having anything carved in stone, while also having the clarity and sense to take opportunities when doors are opened for me.

Tomorrow, Carrie and I will be driving home for a month of Christmas, New Years and birthday celebrations. I am excited to have leisure time to think about, pray and continue discovering where I want to go, as well as where I am called to be.

 

With love and a joyful noise,

 

Alice

Color The Swallows And Hang Them From The Ceiling

Have you ever heard of the legend of 1,000 paper cranes?

Carrie has always splashed the world with color – it is no wonder she is so inspired by studying art and its rich history. Last week Carrie presented her project on origami (Japanese paper folding) and how it affects architecture, and I took some photos of her display. I thought I’d share our personal backstory, and honor Carrie’s diligence in her study of art.

Carrie and I first read Sadako and the Thousand Paper Cranes when we were in fourth or fifth grade at Rivendell, our Kindergarten-through-eighth-grade private school. I recall the beginning of the story relating to me a lot; the Japanese twelve-year-old girl loved to run and had a great life in Hiroshima. I remember Sadako collapsing while running, and the rest of the story blurred away into obscure, forgotten memory. I think this was the first book that really rattled me as a reader and student because the narrative did not end happily. Of course that kind of exposure is perfectly healthy for any student when they come of a good and appropriate age. And we read a lot of emotionally difficult books during our time at Rivendell – I want to collect all of them and give them to any kids I have someday.

The legend of the cranes says that if one person made one thousand of them, they would be granted a wish. Carrie took this story from our childhood, and used it to demonstrate how the cranes, and origami in general, relate to architecture today. We learned how to fold the vibrant squares of paper and morph it into a modest, stout little bird. All our classmates were taught, and tons of these flying creatures began to appear everywhere around the school. Desks, lockers, windowsills and bookshelves.

I remember making one. It was puny. And a solid, ugly lime green color. And then I remember all the other attempts involving ripped paper and bitten cuticles. I have lost the ability to fold two-dimensional paper and creating a three-dimensional winged animal – but Carrie always remembered. She even left a crane for the cashier at Cookout last weekend when we needed late night fast food. Carrie put in a lot of time and effort into this art project, constantly folding and pulling the paper this way and that while we watched movies or studied in the library tree houses. I think she did a great job, and I am proud of the beauty she has released into the world. She has paid homage to a Japanese legend, our childhood, and her love of art.

I promise to write again.

With love,

Alice

Things currently

I felt compelled to write about my life when this past Friday the restaurant I serve at got slammed with customers and I walked home limping in the aftermath of countless Pepsi refills and ragging down red sauce and spaghetti-crusted tabletops.

This semester has been a ride, and I have uncovered a few things that I wanted to make clear, in writing, so that I won’t loose them in the dark crannies of my brain.

I was having a conversation with my roommate and friend Sarah a few weeks ago, and this is the metaphor we came up with:

The job I am currently working will cease to exist next semester because the restaurant is changing hands. I feel like this change reflects the changes that will come not only next semester, but within the next year.

Things will change and the world will keep spinning no matter what I do or don’t do. Nothing and nobody will wait for me, even though I love the idea and feeling of walking alone, looking up and seeing someone waiting and watching for me.

I always stress about not having enough time. I always wish I had more time to research and plan my future, even though it feels silly of me to try and “research” my approaching life. To me, researching my future is like trying to connect lines between faint stars; I know the stars are there and that I want to create those networks that will make the picture of the sky legible and less daunting, and yet it seems counterintuitive and without reality.

I do know this: Just because my college experience will come to close in May of 2017 does not mean that I wont stop learning. I want to learn skills that are not just found in a lecture hall, I want to find something that I can use to interact with other people, or that will open up the real world even more for me. An example I have already found is my new found love of ASL (American Sign Language). A little deaf girl came into my work a month or so ago, and I knew right away by the way she used her voice to get a hearing person’s attention, and the way she signed C-O-K-E to me when I asked her what she wanted to drink. I signed O-K back to her, filled her glass, and when I placed it in front of her, I knelt down beside her and asked her what her name was. I had never felt more useful and happy than I did in that moment. Her hearing family stared at me in amazement, and I even heard her teenaged brother whisper “She knows sign!” It is this kind of real-world usage of academic skills that I want to do every day of my life after graduation – I just need to find my place in world. Make no mistake, though – I don’t want to stay in a comfortable niche in one edge of the universe (though I’d love to do that, it being the easiest form of living), I want to go everywhere and serve without a set limit.

In the throws of finals and packing up to go home, I feel strangely content. I know what I believe in, and I trust who holds my foggy yet bright future. Peace is essential to mental healthiness, and I encourage you, reader (whoever you are, or if you are out there at all), to embrace peace and joy, and hold on tight because there is always a good reason for it.

I’ll be writing again soon, once school has quit for the semester.

All my love,

Alice