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Wednesday, January 25, 2012

TIB 2

Post your This I Believe essays here before class on Friday!

23 comments:

  1. 24,000 people coming together for one purpose. It’s the largest crowd I’ve ever been a part of. 24,000. We fill the seats in Rupp Arena and instantly become a family. This sense of community is what makes me love the world of UK basketball. I love the chants, the eRUPPtion Zone, the fight song (I actually know all of the words to it), the bad refs I can yell at, and even more so the good ones I can praise. However, when I think of UK basketball games I don’t instantly think of these things. Instead I think my Pawpaw. It’s the moment that my Pawpaw and I become 2 out of the 24,000 people in Rupp that means that most. It’s that the two of us are singing the fight song, clapping together and calling out the bad calls. We both grew up with UK basketball and getting to experience the madness of it together is a true blessing. When we get a basket in Rupp 24,000 people erupt in applause but, I always look over to see the one out of the 24,000 who matters. I look over and see my Pawpaw smiling and I see a younger version of him, not the serious business man he appears to be but, that little boy who is falling in love with a team. We clap and whistle together. Forgetting all else for those 2 hours. It’s just Pawpaw and Kristina and Basketball time in the Bluegrass. I do love the team, the colors, the players, the band, the cheerleaders and the dance team but, more importantly I believe in the amazing bond between grandfather and granddaughter that has lasted nearly 20 years because of all of it.

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    1. I really like how you transform an experience that, presumably, 24,000 people share into something that only you and your grandfather share. I imagine he feels about UK basketball games the same way. You should consider giving him a copy of your reflection. Your love for your grandfather is so obvious in it.

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  2. I only remember pushing myself up from the ground and promptly picking the bits of gravel out of the palm of my hand. I was, for a few seconds, completely oblivious to the swelling in my lip, the horrified expressions on the faces of my friends, the ringing in my ears, until I saw the first drop of blood. It was huge and accompanied quickly by others until my palm was completely splattered. I could taste it too. Yet, I couldn’t feel anything, except the eyes of everyone on the playground. A friend pulled me up from underneath the monkey bars and began dragging me over to a teacher, who looked horrified as she hesitantly took my arm and escorted me into the nurse.

    I was 9 and I had practically split the space between my nose and upper lip. I had to hold a bag of frozen peas on it for 2 days. The swelling gave way to a nasty scab that I covered with the sleeve of my coat when I eventually had to return to school. You can still see hints of it. I’m reminded that I was once a terrible show-off.

    A few days after my 14th birthday I remember tearing home. The cold air stung my already red eyes. My mom greeted me in the kitchen with a hug and it was different. It wasn’t the consoling hugs I had become accustomed to the last two months. It was the most excited I had seen her in a long time. She led me into my older brother’s room where he was sprawled out on his bed. He was still weary from the amnesia, but was aware of my presence. He half smiled and apologized for worrying me so much around my birthday. Little did he know that his misdiagnosis was enough of a present for 14 birthdays let alone one.

    I took a long time for his wound to heal. But it took him awhile to heal too, both physically and mentally. He was only a biopsy away from signing the papers to start chemo. It didn’t happen, though. He got away with a small indention in his neck, right above the collarbone, a constant reminder of his narrow escape. He likes to make light of it though. That has always been his way. He tells people he was shot.

    I believe these aren’t the only ones. I know there are more. More stories, more memories, more waiting to happen, more still to be told. I believe in their abilities to tell you things you want to forget, those things you may not have remembered otherwise. I believe they can be visible or invisible. I believe they are not simply flaws out to make us look damaged. They serve more purpose then to make us feel self-conscious and vulnerable. We all have them. I believe they speak volumes about people, about life. I believe they are beautiful. I believe in scars.

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    1. What a beautiful narrative, Kristina. And you manage to withhold its main focus--scars--until the very end. You did this masterfully. And you made me want to write about the scars I still have, scars that tell stories about where I've been and who I was.

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  3. Pearls and malachite. Velvet and lace. Silver and gold. Shine and shimmer and sparkle. Softness and smoothness and luxury and simplicity. I believe in these things.

    I believe in bright colors that can send joy from my eyes to my limbic system, and darker ones that can be rich and elegant. Teals and reds and grays. Colors so deep I can fall into them and swim there forever without once coming up for air.

    I believe in the curves of shoulder blades and the lines of collarbones. I believe in wide smiles that bare a thin strip of white teeth and the shadows created by eyelashes. I believe in blue veins under skin and warm amber eyes.

    I believe in music, in all its forms. The crest of a symphony that sweeps you away or a vivifying dance beat. The swell of a laugh, welling up like a bubbling brook, smooth and free. I believe in brooks, and streams, and the ocean. The ocean has music, too.
    I believe in the sacred wisdom of trees and the ancient power of the wind. I believe in fog on the days it sits so thick and low that the whole world is dyed a purply-gray. Then there’s the opposite, when sunshine cascades down and everything feels like a Disney movie with signing birds and blooming flowers. Despite evidence to the contrary, I believe I can smell sunshine, like I believe I can hear snowfall. I believe in lightning and the smell of dust after rain.

    I believe a kind word or an action of compassion can change the trajectory of a stranger’s day or week or year or life. I believe in giving back and leaving every room at least as bright and happy as it was when you came in. People are so small and so powerful, insignificant and meaningful all at once.

    I believe beauty is everywhere, all around us, if only we know where to look. So I try to remember to open my eyes and take it in.

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    1. Your reflection is packed with so many beautiful images, Mindy, there are enough for 20 reflections in it. You make a good case for the beauty around us. You describe objects and parts of bodies that in your narrative become sensual. Well done.

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  4. A beautiful sunset on a disheveled deck. Three stories up. Overlooking the harbor. The people walk by below, shoeless. Some of them are on skate boards, some of them are on bikes. Some of them drive by in their rented golf carts. (This is a new addition to the scene.) The ferry horn blows as the sky grows darker, and over to the left, I can just make out the gleam emanating from the white lighthouse. Ocracoke Island, the Outer Banks. This is the place where I bought my first hermit crab; it is the place where I ate my first shark’s blood snow cone. It is the place where a dread-locked hippie showed me the ways of the hemp-maker, in a fashion that I still use today. I believe in the only place where my family is truly alone, when, no matter how old we grow, no matter how teenagery my brother becomes, no matter how far away I go to school, everything settles back to the way it should be in that second week of July. Just my dad, my mom, my brother, and I. Every summer we venture to our hidden island. I guess it’s not so hidden anymore, it gets a bit busier every year. But it doesn’t matter, true family is in Ocracoke. True hotdogs and bottles of water. True sticky, sandy, hot feelings. My mom loves it, my brother can’t wait to get into the shower that barely works. It’s like no other family vacation. I believe in it, now and always. An ageless place.

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    1. Though my family vacationed in different places every year (and still does), returning to the very notion of summer vacation with my parents and my siblings does this same thing for me. Your reflection is the kind of admission to understanding of this tradition that your entire family would probably like to read. I hope you share this with them somehow.

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  5. they don't look like much, that's for sure. although it is probably pretty hard to keep up appearances when you're the one someone keeps walking miles in. (such an odd saying; i understand the empathy part, but what did the shoes ever do to deserve it?)
    i remember the day i bought them. from a little over-priced shop my mom always liked. i went without her that day though. she hated those shoes. she hates them even more now. i thought they were beautiful.
    i remember the bright, clean white of the rubber and the way it contrasted so nicely against the black canvas upper. they were beautiful.
    i remember when i started drawing on them. for no reason at all i decided to fill all the white spaces. a flower, a bumblebee, the alphabet song. permanent markers marked them up good. i made them beautiful.
    i remember spray-painting them. purple. simply because i thought that wall would look better with my footprints on it. it did. it was beautiful.
    i remember each and every photograph i've taken of them. at the beach, down my holler road, on a dirty apartment carpet. each one showed more holes, more rips and tears, than the last. i don't remember putting those holes there, but i still think they look beautiful.
    i have put those poor shoes through hell the last five years. i keep saying that i'm going to retire them and get a new pair. but i don't. they still look beautiful with a skirt and some leg warmers.
    i believe in my shoes.

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  6. It’s a simple movement. Pumping my legs to create a gradual momentum that pulls my whole body back and forth. It makes the things around me seem like the outward view of a pendulum. I’m clenching the chains tightly and I know the metallic smell won’t leave my hands for hours. I hate that smell.

    My hair cascades fluidly in my wake. Then it flies forward, leaving just the perfect amount of strands caught in my mouth, which is arguably one of the most irritating feelings. Then it flows behind me once again, and all is well in the world.

    They’re also good for spinning. Swings, not the hair. When you twist and twist and twist until the chains have been wrapped around each other as close as they can possibly be, so close the braid reaches the top, you know you’ve done it right. But the best part is letting go of all that tension and feeling your body go faster and faster in exhilarating, centrifugal motion (it’s perpetual bliss!).

    Swings are a nice place to sit down and talk. I don’t mean chat, though I’m sure you could chat on the swings as well. I mean really talk about how “It’s just... different.” They don’t mind a few tears either; they’ve seen plenty, I’m sure, due to daring feats of leaping. They make a great little spot for pulling yourself together too.

    Swings are a wonderful, completely unexpected delight when you walk through campus and see it hanging from a tree which previously did not have a swing the day before. Swings are time machines that reduce young adults to giggling children that gladly drop all book-filled bags and coffee cups to jump on and have a turn.

    So. Yeah. I believe in swings. I believe in their ability to bestow the gift of flight upon beings not naturally equipped for such freedom. In their ability to comfort. In their ability to reverse time.

    I believe in swings.

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    1. We hope, of course, that you recognize that same swing that you found in Haupt Plaza some time ago when we are at Bullhorn each Wednesday night. Maybe you will be able to swing on it again before the semester is up. And we are really glad to hear that people enjoyed it. We still notice the spot of dead grass that sits beneath where it hung on campus: it is like a fingerprint that will take some time to dissolve back into the grass.

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  7. I believe in late nights. Those nights when you force yourself to finally read that stuff for your Western Civilizations class for weeks. Those nights where you just might explode because of all the stress. They bring me back down to Earth. They tell me to get back on track.

    I believe in late nights and Sonic. Especially the latter. Both the hedgehog and the restaurant.

    I also believe in those awkward moments when you’re sitting at Sonic, talking to the person you really, really like, and you have nothing to say. Once you finally come up with something, you stutter. Those awkward moments are the best.

    Why do I no longer care about awkward moments? Because I also believe that life is way too short. Yeah, after an awkward moment, everyone has that 5 second period of self-loathing. Laugh at yourself. Don’t doubt yourself. Because I believe in those really awkward moments, I also believe in myself.

    I also believe in sushi, even though I suck at working chopsticks. I believe in going on first dates to sushi restaurants, dropping a piece of sushi into your soy sauce because you can’t control your chopsticks, and splattering it everywhere…Even though that was funny, I’ll try my best not to let that happen again. Because what is life without the little imperfections, anyway?

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    1. It is great to see your willingness to quickly embrace moments that are awkward and potentially embarrassing. I imagine this is something we could all benefit from.

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  8. I believe in clumsiness. I believe in being so clumsy that when I rounded a corner in a store once, I slipped on an article of clothing that had been tossed carelessly aside by a customer. I believe that when I slipped, I fell flat on my face because even though I’ve been clumsy my whole life, I was only eight years old, and I still hadn’t quite grasped the right way to fall yet. I believe in not really remembering what happened after I fell because there was a lot of blood and I passed out. I believe in waking up in the bathroom and staring dumbfounded at my reflection because looking past the blood, I saw that I had chipped my front tooth. I believe that even though my tooth has a cap on it and that it’s been a while since it happened, I can still tell that I chipped my tooth. I believe in chipped teeth.

    I believe in teeth. I believe that my grandfather only has six teeth but every time he sees me grin, he flashes a toothy grin of his own and tells me that my teeth are nice. I believe in my grandparents. I believe in having a grandpa that tells me how much he loves me and then having my grandma make a face and tell him not to be such a pussy. I believe that my grandmother may not be the most sentimental person in the world. I believe that she cusses like a sailor and is quick to show her anger but she still loves me because I am her (favorite) grandchild. I believe that my grandpa is the perfect person to balance my grandma’s headstrong personality because even though they argue a lot, they’ve been married for seventy-five years. And I believe that seventy-five years is a long time.

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    1. I chipped a huge piece of my front tooth in 3rd grade in a very similar situation in front of a lot of people...talk about mortifying. I like how you believe in chipped teeth. After reading this, I realize I think I can too. I also love the bit about your grandparents...it makes me want to run home to my own quarrelsome set.

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  9. It has been 84 days since I last stayed up working all night.

    56 days ago I slept for 11 hours straight for the first time. I did it again 8 days later and a third time 22 days after that.

    It has been 129 days since I woke to a thud: my wife landed on the floor. The skin of her leg softer than the fangs of wild dogs I had to kick off me while I slept.

    126 cups ago I committed to drinking coffee though I hated the taste of muddied and burnt paper it left in my mouth. I hated letting go of the narrative that I had clung to for 38 years: coffee is for old people. I don’t drink coffee on weekends. I have had 2 cups in a single day 10 times. The last time, I felt that my ribcage was crushed in a vice. My body dislikes caffeine.

    It has been 208 days since I stopped taking my pills. Though I have taken 19 pills since then, 12 were in the first 400 hours.

    211 days ago my doctor accused me of being a junkie for the drug she prescribed to me 10 years earlier. 10 years earlier she ordered me to take one pill every day for the rest of my life to try approximating normal, allowing her to feel safe sharing the roads with me. She cautioned me, way back then, that though my narcolepsy may never get worse, I may one day experience cataplexy: a sudden collapse due to transient loss of muscle tone, often triggered by emotions. I did. I collapsed 3 times in 1 night 23 days before she accused me of seeking her out for a chemical fix. 59 days later I collapsed again, face-first, into a gravel parking lot, into the shadow of a blue car. The broad ripples of this collapse washed hours of my waking life from memory.

    It has been 1,057 nights since I started recording my sleep. I have slept for 6,906 hours since then. It should have been 7,399. In spite of napping for 428 hours, I am still 493 hours short.

    Though I know that it cannot save me either, I no longer believe that sleep will kill me.

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  10. I Believe in Sweet 18

    I believe in counting down the seconds, in happy dances and exclamation points and “it’s my special day!” I believe in oh sweet jesus that’s right, I don’t have class on Thursday, in hallmates that beat down your door at 12:02 and sing poorly, proudly handing over a card (a happy birthday printed in curly cues and polka dots, the paper is red). I believe in running downstairs, in leaving all the doors open because you forgot your key and it’s late, in knocking on doors and dancing again, in bouncing off the walls – in “I’m actually not that excited.” I believe in breakfast with mom, in fake coupons and earmuffs and gift cards that make you feel guilty.

    I believe in Masterpiece Theatre, in Netflix instant play, in laundry that’s gone unfolded too long, in “when did I wear this?” I believe in catching up, in friends that don’t knock, in being caught without pants… In “it’s MY room okay?” I believe in being kidnapped, in misdirection and funny voices, and pretending I hadn’t been suspecting this all along.

    I believe in friends, the best kind, that steal cakes out of unsuspecting parent’s cars, in balloons under shirts, in static electricity and frosting. I believe in felted flowers, and bookmarks, and voter’s registration forms, and IOUs. I believe in unflattering pictures that’ll end up on facebook tomorrow, today?

    I believe in cryptic texts and surprise parties number two and too much cake, in BAMF Family and sage advice. I believe in dropping the chocolates – want one? – one, two, three, no! four times. I believe in brutal improv shows, and Joseph Underwood’s girlfriend, in watching the facebook messages roll in – they don’t really know me, but it’s nice, thanks – in fun facts and 50 Cent (it’s “fiddy” right? Am I saying that right?), in inappropriate pictures of Ryan Gosling and swing dance partners that remember your name.

    I believe in counting down the seconds.

    I believe that childhood is a kingdom where nobody dies, nobody that matters that is, but I’m sure as hell going to buy spray paint, and porn, and cigarettes, and vote, and get hit on by older dudes, and go to concerts, and and and do everything because I am finally – finally – an ADULT.

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  11. I believe in trees.

    I believe in strong roots grounded in rich soil. I believe in sturdy, confident trunks standing tall, firm in its foundation. I believe in barriers, in bark protecting you from the harsh seasons. I believe in branches, in expressing yourself and stretching, ever so far until you reach the limits of your own potential. I believe in leaves, in barring fruit and flowers.

    I believe in shade, in finding relief under a giant oak on a hot summers day. I believe in sharing that moment with someone that you love. In carving your initials into the wood of your favorite elm tree, where it can there weather with the ages but endure throughout your lifetime. I believe in kissing under a tree, in Transy’s “kissing tree”. The place where it’s not taboo to express the overwhelming emotions you feel for the first person you’ve ever truly loved. I believe in public displays of affection.

    I believe in growing old. We weather with the seasons until our one strong, durable bodies began to feel fragile and tired. I believe in finding rest on an old stump. Take a deep breath and let the fresh oxygen from a Kentucky spring day fill up your lungs. Exhale, and be glad.

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  12. Brown Butter Almond Brittle
    Goat Cheese with Cognac

    In the fall of 1996 his list stretched to 123 flavors. Provided Penny didn’t need him to scratch her back just as he was whipping the cream cheese and the vanilla in his blue ceramic bowl, each took him 2 hours from start to finish. Besides my ex-step-father, he was the only man I knew who enjoyed making food. My ex-step-father prepared special birthday meals. Richard measured his life in cheesecakes.

    Pistachio and Late-August Honey
    The Milkiest Chocolate in the World

    Richard collected hand-made grandfather’s clocks, old radios, and—because he was reportedly in love with a woman who graduated from Hope the year before I arrived—Bulgarians. He mixed new cheesecake flavors for us, hosted graduation parties swollen with food, and bought birthday gifts.

    Wildberry Lavender
    Whiskey and Pecans Soaked in Rum

    The year before I arrived, Richard had taken two Bulgarians to Chicago for an Indigo Girls concert. Thanks to a pair of Ugandan Vanilla Bean cheesecakes he had donated to a local radio station—WRFL, The Bear—they were driven in a limousine.

    Lemon Frozen Yogurt
    Askinosie Dark Milk Chocolate

    My first outing with Richard was a trip to Grand Rapids. We saw ZZ Top in a crowd of men with long beards and tight leather pants. I wondered how many of them would spend two hours making a cheesecake for somebody else. Our trip to Grand Rapids cost Richard a Riesling Poached Pear cheesecake, a flavor he made to satisfy someone’s craving for summer bubbles.

    Vanilla Cedar Wood
    Queen City Spicy Cayenne

    For my first Christmas away from Bulgaria, Richard presented me with a comforter: an American treat I had secretly wished for. He handed his gift to me after a story about surviving testicular cancer and building a radio. He had done both the winter before I met him. He did not know he was the first man to purchase a gift for me, the first man to speak freely about body parts Bulgarians would not mention.

    Dark Chocolate Mousse
    Double Black Coffee

    I believe in cheesecake: baked to perfection near old radios.

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  13. I believe in a barbed wire fence standing before a field stretching like an ocean into the vast wind. I believe that there are pieces of garbage scattered across the scene, acting as inconvenient reminders of a world beyond this moment. Plastic shopping bags with torn logos rustle in the braches above my head while other pieces of abandoned debris are tangled in the cruel barbed wire. It is a polluted shoreline- windswept and raw- there is just fence, the nothingness beyond, and I stand there, forgetting everything.
    I believe that stories can change you, become a part of you that never disappears completely. I believe in sitting on your parent’s couch, crying your eyes out because what you read was too beautiful to understand completely, and you’re never sure if you ever will understand it until you are standing there behind the barbed wire fence surrounded by the litter of your life, looking into the nothingness. And God isn’t it depressing? But it is also the most real image that has ever seared itself into your memory, so you just go on waking up in the mornings and reading other books and listening to your favorite albums like everything is normal and simple, but you know deep in your soul that nothing will ever be normal or simple again because you have finally realized the beautiful truth that you will one day die. You don’t know how or when, but inevitably, you will come to the fence and cross into the vast field beyond, leaving behind the stories and relationships and the mishmash of existence.
    And now, as your concerned mother comes to see why the “better adjusted” daughter is crying, you silently say goodbye to everything, just in case if you forget by the time you make it to the barbed wire.
    (My musings are based off of the novel Never Let Me Go by Kazuo Ishiguro.)

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    1. I loved this. And I love that book...this brought me back there and gave me some of those frighteningly beautiful feelings again that I still can't quite understand.

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    2. absolutely beautiful, aimee.
      i too love that book and it definitely impacted me in ways i don't think i'll ever understand.

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