Saturday, October 17, 2009

love and language

I often feel that "love" is an inadequate word. Sure, I use it all the time. But that's the problem. It's become such an integral part of most people's conversations that it starts to lose its power.

I love chocolate. I love my new phone. I love sleeping in. I love soft blankets. I love kittens. I love seeing the sun rise. I love walking on a beach when no one else is around. I love my family. I love my friends. I love my boyfriend. I love reading. I love shopping.

Each of these objects (for lack of a better word) of my love holds significance for different reasons. There are different implications attached, some of which are obvious by their context, and others of which are a bit more ambiguous. For instance, what is the difference between my love of sleeping in and my love of blankets? Both "objects" bring me comfort. But not in quite the same way. One is more tactile and the other is more mental/emotional.

Recently in class, one of my professors said that, contrary to popular belief, eskimoes do not have 30-some ways of saying "snow." But that got me thinking about the English language and how some very complicated concepts are condensed to simple and limiting verbal expressions.

I'm curious to know if any other languages have multiple words that express the diversity of "love." I don't mean simply tacking on a modifier: romantic love, friendly love, etc. I mean one lexical unit exists for a specific connotation, another lexical unit exists for another connotation, etc. This could be an interesting research project.

I think too much when I'm home sick.

Friday, October 9, 2009


I had bought it on sale. It was a simple red hoodie with no real emotional value attached to it. I mean, I'd worn it lots of times over the past year, but there wasn't a moment that stood out in my mind where that hoodie was prominent. Now, my red dress from Deb, that's a different story. I wore that silky little thing to two important events, and it has very special memories attached. This hoodie didn't have that type of history in my sentimental mind.

But as my eyes scoured my hotel room before sealing the luggage one last time, I suddenly realized that my hoodie was nowhere to be found. After some intense rewinding through the past few days, I concluded that I must've left it at a certain restaurant the previous day. I called there, but apparently no one had found it.

Feeling sad but not overwhelmingly so, I finished up the last-minute things and left the hotel. Without thinking much would come of it, I decided to stop at the restaurant since there was a bit of extra time. Why not inquire in person just in case?

I walked in and felt rather silly, inquring about a red hoodie. The host said he hadn't seen it, but would look around one more time. A few minutes later, I heard him say, "Is this it?" as he held up a little red garment. I was surprised at how happy I felt when I nodded in affirmation and swiped my lost-now-found possession from his grasp.

I know this will sound a bit absurd. But it was like, for a moment, I was claiming back a part of myself. I suddenly felt oddly attached to that hoodie, which, before then, had only been a nondescript member of my full-to-bursting closet. Just seeing it there, being held by a stranger, having been in some drawer (where "no one would have thought to look for it") since the previous day, made me feel strangely sentimental. I held onto it throughout the journey home and felt comforted by its softness and warmth.

I know you're not supposed to get attached to "things." They are material and superficial and not important in the scheme of things. But really, they are important. They're certainly not more important than love and family and friends, but they're not meaningless, either. And we shouldn't feel guilty for valuing our "possessions." In our fast-paced and fleeting lives, it's okay to have something to hold onto.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009


Normally, I don't bother to answer such questions as, "if you could have one super-power, what would it be?" I think they're silly and pointless and only make you feel depressed since you know you'll never have that super-power, anyway.

But this time, it's okay because I wasn't asked the question. I just thought of this, randomly, as I'm sitting here reading... as I'm sitting here surrounded by books that I want to read but physically don't have the time to read. It's like food; I can only consume so many delicious favorites before my stomach tells me that one more bite will send my intestines into chaos. I can only physically consume so much text before my eyes start to hurt, or before I realize that it's 3:30 a.m. and I should probably sleep, or before something more urgent gets in the way of my novelistic rendezvous.

So here we go. My super-power.

I want to read as long as I want without having the time subtracted from my day. I want to walk through that wardrobe and enter Narnia, and have the "real" time of my life become suspended. I want to sit and read and read and read and read and read

and read and read until I feel like stopping.

Then I want to go back through the wardrobe and enter my real life again. And no time will have evaporated. And I'll proceed as usual until the next time.

Yeah, I'd probably choose that over flying or shooting lasers from my eyes.

Saturday, August 22, 2009


This is just a brief post because I don't have a lot of time. But I just have to mention something I heard on TV a few moments ago that truly incensed me.

My mom was watching a program on EWTN, the Catholic network. Occasionally, there are shows on this station that I like. And I think it's beneficial to offer programming to Catholics of all ages that discuss the faith. However, as far as I can tell, the outreach to young people could use some work. Especially to women.

Some woman (I don't know her name but she's on EWTN a lot) was discussing purity and the importance of it for today's youth. At one point she had the absolute nerve to say, "I can take one look at a girl and tell when she's lost her purity."

Let me count the number of things wrong with this statement. A) She's assuming that you can judge someone by their appearance, B) She's acting like purity is something you can lose once and irrevocably, C) She sounds like a self-righteous idiot.

How much pressure does this put on young women to be "pure" and appear "pure"? Who defines what "pure" means, anyway? And why impose such harsh standards on women who then must live in the fear that someone can look at them and instantly know if they're pure or not? And worst of all... to cloak such beliefs in the idea that God supports it all!

Yes, this is really going to help the youth come to the Catholic church and feel welcomed and loved. Oh yeah. So smart. Keep it up.

Wednesday, July 1, 2009


Unexpected compliments are the best. Like standing in line waiting to pay for groceries, and the person behind you says "I love your purse!" and then you launch into a 5-minute conversation about Vera Bradleys while the customer ahead of you digs in their purse for 100 coupons (and then pays by check).

Like e-mailing your students their essays, with comments, and receiving a response from one that says you've been very helpful.

Like looking in the mirror and being shocked by how your happiness radiates through your face, making make-up unimportant and causing you to stuff that "all over bronzing powder" back into your bag, unused.

Three different kinds of compliments. All important.

We need the superficial ones because sometimes they're the best way to strike up a conversation. We need the action-based ones even more because they remind us that what we do affects others, and even if we don't feel like our actions are always appreciated, they are. Perhaps most of all, we need the self-created ones because they remind us that even without outside validation, we can be pleased with who we are, what we look like, and what we do in our daily lives.

It's the last kind that's the hardest to generate, though. I find it easy to tell my friend "Oh you look so pretty today!", or "thank you for all your support." But it's easy to forget to compliment myself, silently, or especially in front of others. Sometimes it's even easier to put myself down, silently and in front of others.

On the day I received my Masters degree, I made a random self-depracating comment that I thought would slip by unnoticed (except perhaps with a few laughs). Yet a professor, there to lead the commencement procession, heard me, and immediately reproached me. She said "don't put yourself down," in a tone that surprised and really affected me. She didn't even know me, yet she probably recognized the tone that so many women (and men) take with themselves. She told me that I was clearly smart and had earned my degree; therefore there was no need to put myself down. I hadn't seen my light-hearted comment as damaging to my self-esteem, but over time, talking about yourself negatively can probably take a toll.

So I've now promised myself to work on correcting such comments. Making fun of myself is okay, as long as I remember to compliment myself more often.

I may make silly mistakes. I may have lots of quirks with no logic behind them. I may say stupid things that make no sense at all. But I definitely am loving and caring to everyone I know. I'm definitely forgiving. I'm definitely generous. I definitely need to remind myself such things every day until this pattern of self-celebration becomes second nature. Walt Whitman knew what he was talking about.

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Late-Night Reading

What is so special about reading late into the night, and early into the morning? Midnight approaches, arrives, recedes... leaves nothing but solitary darkness. A few scattered noises from afar punctuate an otherwise ethereal silence. Word upon word, page after page; I turn over thoughts and centuries in my hands. And I enter other worlds. And I defy all that's temporal.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009


Every time I drive downtown, I can't help but notice the contrast between daytime and nighttime. It's like after sunset, a veil is lifted, and the true beauty of the city can finally be seen. Sure, the city can be appealing in vivid sunshine too, and yes, the night contains crime and ugly things as well. But I don't know; there's just something about a city at night that seems haunting and magical, and nothing else really compares to it.

So, I started writing this a while ago. Browsing through my old Word files, I stumbled across it tonight, and did a bunch of editing. It's still not perfect but I wanted to share it anyway. Lately all I've written are essays for school, and so revisiting something non-academic was refreshing.


Navigating the city streets, I inhale chemicals and impatience. The factories emit their plumes, and sulphur mingles with vanilla as I sip my latte. I accelerate. Horns honk, tires squeal, and I narrowly miss another disaster. Death hovers in the next lane, but I pass it yet again. Construction scaffolding threatens to break and crumble and thunder down upon progress. I desire nothing but quick escape only so I can return, later, to a different world…to a tipsy twilight intoxicated by magic that bubbles forth from a simmering cauldron beneath the ground. The vapor slowly rises as the setting sun infuses its heat into every shadow; until headlights become roving spotlights and streetlights become suspended chandeliers. Couples linger hand-in-hand beneath tall ladders to the sky. Gliding across the city streets, I inhale cologne and passion and life. I pause. Moonlight gently caresses me, and so do you, and I desire nothing but this forever.

Monday, March 30, 2009

Story Weaving.

"I have a feeling that no matter where we end up, we'll be together."

Do you ever hear snippets of conversations while walking down the street -- or walking anywhere, really -- and wish you could hear more of their context? It's rather nosy, I know, but sometimes certain bits of information are simply too intriguing to abandon.

I heard the words above while walking across campus earlier. Spoken by some random boy, probably 17 or 18 years old, who I'll probably never see again. Yet for a moment, I had insight into his life as he spoke to his companion. And this single sentence -- so simply yet elegantly spoken -- inspired his life story in my mind.

He's likely about to graduate and fears leaving the person he loves; maybe their individual goals diverge in opposite directions across the city, or the country, or perhaps even the world. Maybe their goals aren't even formulated yet, but the idea of the unknown makes them hesitant and uneasy. The idea of being apart makes them fear the future even as they crave its exciting embrace.

But no. They won't be apart. They don't know this. But he feels it. Somehow he believes; it's intuitive. And this innocent faith inspires his honest comment, and his honest comment inspires my weaving of his story, which may be completely inaccurate. I'll never know. But if I've spun it correctly...? Oh, how I hope they'll end up together.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Academic Paper Writing

Sometimes I think that the longer and more frustrating the writing task, the better it feels to finally reach a point where an answer seems within reach. For easy writing assignments, there's really not much struggle: you read the question, an answer automatically pops into your mind, you write it, maybe proofread, and then that's it. But for longer, more complex and challenging questions, you have to really delve into the material and the language and find ways not only to answer the prompt, but to use language in a sophisticated and nuanced manner.

Over the past two days, I've enjoyed a few moments of "wow, I can't believe I wrote that." Amid hours of angst, those moments seem small. But they're powerful.

Friday, February 27, 2009

Spiritual Void.

I can't remember the last time I attended mass. Or accepted the Eucharist. Or went to confession.

I guess I'm trying to make up for my religious neglect, at least in part, by giving up desserts for Lent. And by pledging to exercise every single day. I believe that one of the best ways to honor God is to honor the bodies he gave us, and it's my hope that by Easter, I will be both physically and spiritually healthier.

Sometimes I miss the days of my childhood religion. I miss accepting everything because it was taught to me. I miss the comfort of knowing God would hear my quietest prayer and the faith of knowing that when I die, I'll be with the people I loved while on earth.

It's not that I no longer believe in those things. Most of the time, I do. But I feel like lately, my faith has wavered even more, to the point where I rarely stop to pray -- or if I do, it's mechanical -- and I've been questioning things more than ever.

I miss blind faith. I miss believing that blind faith was not ignorance but instead true wisdom.

Today, while at Arabica on my lunch break, I noticed a group of 3 people poring over some texts. I soon surmised that they were reading the Bible, specifically a passage about the construction of the temple. This portion of the Bible interests me greatly, and as I finished my mac-n-cheese (no meat on Fridays), I was greatly tempted to approach their table and ask if I could join their discussion.

Yes, they were 3 strangers. Yes, my interruption may have been unwelcome to them and embarassing to me. But they seemed friendly enough: an older lady and two guys around my age, probably a little younger. I almost mustered the courage to join them. I craved something spiritual so badly.

But as I eavesdropped on them for a bit longer, I was disheartened by their conversation. They weren't delving into the word of God. They were talking about the measurements of the temple as if those were the most important things. I heard "cubits" spoken at least a dozen times, and they were performing multiplication facts repeatedly to determine exactly how much of the tabernacle was covered by the curtain, etc. I'm sure precise measurements have a place in restoring the true appearance of the temple. But they went on and on for literally twenty minutes. Cubits. Curtains. Numbers. "No, it was 20 times 12, not 8 times 10", etc, etc, etc.

I cleared my tray and left the coffeeshop. My momentary gusto for joining a religious conversation was extinguished by their seemingly senseless chatter.

Maybe that's why people get so frustrated with religion. There's this focus on nit-picky details, and on all the nuances of those details, until eventually the details become the heart and soul of the religion rather than the issues that really matter.

I guess details like "no meat on Friday" and "give up something you like for Lent" are nit-picky. But I'm not doing those things because I'm "supposed to." I'm doing them because I want to. I want so very much to reconnect with the spirituality of my younger years. And if giving up cakes and cookies will help me along that path, then I openly welcome the change.

And maybe at some point I'll stumble upon another religious conversation at a coffeeshop (or anywhere) that's actually meaningful. Or maybe I'll start one.

Saturday, January 17, 2009

Tuesday, January 6, 2009


It started, I think, in the sixth grade. My best friend Kelly and I couldn't stand our science class, or our teacher, and so we ignored discussions of the food chain in favor of mindless, girly chatter. We didn't talk out loud, of course: no, we weren't that bold. Instead, we covertly scribbled onto any pieces of paper we happened to have available. Sometimes we shared one piece and slid it secretly across the table; other times we used multiple pieces, each one folded into an intricate shape such as a triangle (more commonly known as a "football"). Occasionally, we included a fashion design, sketched with care in the margins of the wide-ruled notebook paper intended for academic purposes.

In junior high, it continued. Tonjia, Nikki, Ashley, Amber: my most frequent letter-writers. Again, notebook paper served as the most common medium. Now, the letters most often contained snippets about crushes; Natalia referred to her object-of-desire as "Chocolate" in case a meddling teacher intercepted our communication. I've never had a note read aloud in front of the class; I'm convinced that if I were a teacher of kids, I would never inflict such a punishment. Letters are too personal, even when you're 13.

I still have some of those messages, folded into neat geometric shapes, mostly from Nikki. We bonded over our mutual love of Omar Vizquel. She was infatuated with a Biology teacher. I liked some boy who, of course, liked some other girl. She always said "W.B.S." We always signed our scribbles, "Love, your BFF." I haven't talked to her in ten years, but these vestiges of my early teenage years remain in print.

So, there was note-passing. There was also note-mailing. My cousin (a year and a half my senior) and I used to mail letters, written on pink and flowery stationery, to each other on approximately a weekly basis. We'd include questions so that the respondent would have something to talk about, in addition to any other random tidbits she'd choose to mention. One time she sent me a set of homemade "Full House Trivia Cards." At some point, we started using e-mail instead, but I remember missing the envelopes and postage stamps and stickers-used-as-seals.

I can't remember the last letter I wrote. It was months ago, at least, I'm sure. AIM usage is constant, though, and I actively use two e-mail accounts. However, I had been writing to a lady -- probably in her 80s or 90s -- who helped me with my book a couple years ago. She's apparently suffering from alzheimers, and she's now living in one of those senior living communities. We most recently exchanged Christmas cards. Her message is clearly the product of an arthritic hand; slanted lines, nearly illegible cursive. But there they are: written words, communication between two people made possible by paper and ink.

Now, instead of choosing a style of stationery, I most often select a style of font. Maybe I change the color; emoticons add some more personality. But receiving a real, tangible card in the mail -- from someone who was born when e-mail could've been nothing more than a sci-fi fantasy -- makes me yearn for a tri-folded piece of paper, with ink that probably soaks through to the other side, containing words that were unmediated by a keyboard. Maybe it's because the paper was once held by its author, as he or she transcribed words intended for me and no one else. Maybe it's because I can stow the paper away and take it out again, decades from now, and remember. Love letters are typically bemoaned as a lost art; but sometimes I crave letters, of any type, that will connect me to someone else without wires or wireless.

Is that too romantic of me?