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Thursday, March 8, 2012

TIB whatever-number-we're-on


Post your This I Believe essays in the comments by Friday's class time, and don't forget to check on the photos blog (link in the sidebar) for more fabulous pictures of our class and workshops.

18 comments:

  1. The teacher pointed to a girl sitting on a bean bag and said, “I’ll have you work with Karina. She’s one of our newest speakers but, she’s very bright. You can help her learn her two’s today.” I had no idea what “two’s” referred to until I was handed a set of flashcards with multiplication on them. Yes. Those two’s. The ones we all had to memorize. The same multiplications with time tests in first grade. I sat down on the bean bag next to Karina and introduced myself. She smiled at me and started speaking. I couldn’t understand her very well because she was talking so fast and she had a heavy accent that I couldn’t quite recognize but, she seemed excited that I was there to help her. That was good enough for me.

    I wasn’t sure how far Karina had gotten in multiplication but, I felt like showing her the concept was important. I took out the yellow counting blocks and asked her to show me how to make each multiplication problem. We went through every card this way. Once where I helped her and the second time I let her figure them out on her own. She counted each of the sets of two, looking over at me for encouragement. Each time her eyes caught mine I would check her work saying “that’s right, keep going.” Or “Could you count that one more time for me?” If I said the second she would count more carefully and realize her own mistake. After I knew she understood the concept we began memorizing the problems. 1x2 =2, 2x2=4, 3x2=6, 4x2=8. We got through the whole set. Repetition was key. Every time she knew the answer, her eyes lit up.

    Once we were done with math we played candy land. I hadn’t played the game in a while so we played by Karina’s rules, which I believe were pretty close to the real ones. We went through the jelly bean forest, over the licorice lake, and finally Karina won after I was sent back to the gingerbread house on the opposite end of the board. By that time it was time for me to leave, and I took Karina outside to play with a few of the other children who had completed all of their homework. On the way down the stairs she grabbed my hand and held it in hers until we got to the door by the playground. She let go and hugged me and ran out to join her friends. I believe knowledge can unite us all, and with a little patience the amount we can share with others is endless.

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    1. I've worked with those kids. It's so rewarding, right? I'm glad you got to have that experience.

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  2. If you walk across the road, jump over a muddy bit, and weave your way in and out of some little trees that have sprouted up in the recent years, you might find a path. Faint though it may be, if you can continue to follow it, you’ll run into the old broken down house from which my dad has made so many furniture pieces. We used to explore that house and pull the newspaper-clipping wall lining down and read what was left of the headlines. We could find old bottles and other various artifacts that lead us to concoct the lives of the people who must have lived there. Since then, the house has become much more dilapidated, but the great explorations of it remain vivid in my memory.
    There was a man who used to work for my parents back when I was little. His name was Dennis, and he was tall with a face always immersed in a brown beard. Now that I think about it, his other facial features escape me. Anyhow, he was a very soft spoken and kind man. As far as I remember, he did good work, too. He was going to build a house in the trees out by the old broken down house. It was going to be magnificent, like something out of a fairy tale. If you walk back there today, you can still vaguely see the area he cleared out. One day I came into my room and there was a handmade, very simple, card on my windowsill. It said, “HAPPY DAY, HAPPY LIFE. HAPPY, HAPPY, HAPPY. HAPPY BIRTHDAY STEVIE,” or something like that. I loved it. Underneath the card lay a small book, full of odd quotations that I didn’t understand. Dennis even knew my birthday. After a while, he stopped coming around. My parents said he wasn’t a very good man, unreliable, or something. I think he moved to Washington, the state.
    A couple hundred yards down the road, Sheree’s house sits, now with a young college couple living inside. They have followed the many barn workers who come and go throughout the years. The house will always be Sheree’s house though. Sheree had a wonderful, warm smile, and bright red, curly hair. I used to say that I wanted “hurly cair” just like Sheree. She drove a little red truck and her little white dog rode everywhere with her in it. It saddens me now that I can’t remember the name of that small creature. Sheree was one of my best friends when I was younger; although I don’t really remember the things we did together, aside from riding around in the little red truck. Mom and I used to make her angel cookies for Christmas, and she always came to the New Year’s Eve parties my parents threw. Like the others though, Sheree eventually moved away. Barn work gets a bit tedious after a while, I guess. I used to say I wanted to work at the barn for a living when I grew up. Funny how things change—Mom always told me they would, but I didn’t believe her. But here I am now, two hundred miles away from the home I never thought I’d leave. I still email Sheree from time to time; I don’t think she can believe I am as old as I am. Neither can I, for that matter.
    In one of my classes, we have been learning about how our minds can deceive us, how memories are altered and become unreliable over time. We glorify our old memories, and they stray from the actual concepts we think we remember. Last night though, a man with a mighty beard mentioned that he cherishes the ways in which our memories ornately recreate the past. He adores the fact that our minds make things more beautiful than they really were. What an interesting concept, I think I agree though. My childhood memories of places and people may not truly represent the actual relationships or events, but I love them all the same. I believe in the beauty of our reconstructive minds.

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  3. i am so close now i can almost touch it.
    not in proximity, of course. there are still approximately six-hundred and fifty-four miles between here and there.
    but in time? only four more days.
    four days stand between me and exactly where i want to be.

    i am so close i can almost feel it. can almost feel the sand beneath my feet, sinking and shifting as i run across the dunes. can almost feel myself growing shorter as the tide washes the sediment from beneath my feet. can almost feel the lap of the waves against my skin as i step farther into them.

    i am so close i can almost smell it. that sweet humidity that blows in with the wind. can almost smell the freshness of air blown in from across miles and miles of deep, blue water. can almost smell that ever-present odor of fish that i never quite mind at the time.

    i am so close i can almost hear it. can almost hear the rush of the wind and the crash of the water as it splashes its way towards shore. can almost hear the birds calling as the wing along their ways above me. can almost hear people talking, laughing, playing, swimming.

    i am so close i can almost taste it. can almost taste the salt on my tongue, a taste that pervades the senses no matter how tightly i close my lips. can almost taste the grit of sand that never fails to make its way to my teeth.

    i am so close i can almost see it. the ocean. water, sand, sun. enormous, grand, intimidating. i am sure that it will still look more amazing than even my most vivid memories remember it being.

    i cannot wait to be there. i cannot wait to be back on its shore.

    i believe in the ocean.

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  4. It never came in clearly—81 WGY—their voices interrupted by a stream of spitting static before technology was developed to diminish the volumes of poor reception. I lay in bed, two rooms away, listening for Cherry Valley Central in an alphabetized list read aloud. Schools were delayed and closing for snow. I heard, through long scratches and patches of silence, the droning voices of AM radio from the moment the alarm turned on at six in the morning. I asked my father how he slept through it. He told me that he was already up, that he was downstairs and didn’t hear the racket.

    Twice in the course of one fifty-minute period, the image that projected from the back of the room toppled and tipped over. It landed sideways with a bang. I turned to look and saw nothing but bright light spraying through darkness and a rising shower of dust kicked up as the projector hit the table: hard. Pushed over by the drooping head of an invisible projectionist—a work-study student dragged into inky darkness by a voice droning on and on and on and on about brushstroke and composition—the projector itself never closed its bright eye. A new voice, one attached to the disembodied hands that emerge from the darkness to upright the projector, twice denied succumbing to sleep.

    My heavy hands hold the lllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllll which I have to erase again and again to get this far.

    Like my father who insisted he was awake and out of bed long before the alarm sounded, and like the woman with a disembodied voice and hands that emerged from the darkness, I am certain I could believe in sleep if ever I had experienced it.

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  5. Shakespeare in the Dark
    Our voices float lazily through the cool night air- muffled by the dampness surrounding us. I can feel it on my arms and in my hair and when I speak I have to boom out my lines to the trees, but my words do not- cannot travel. They are slow as molasses- sticky and greasy and stagnant. So I take a breath from the very bottom of my existence and hurl the earnest prose as far as I possibly can." If ever as that ever may be near you meet in some fresh cheek the power of fancy…" The power is surprising and exhilarating and absolutely terrifying. I cannot hide my mistakes anymore.
    In the light falling from the street lamp, I can see the faces of Orlando and Rosalind, Oliver and Celia and I almost believe that we may be in Arden, surrounded by pastoral satire and dirty jokes. After a session of complicated blocking, my jeans are soaking wet in some rather uncomfortable areas, but that’s okay because now I get to sing horribly and do a Julie Andrews on the mountain in Austria twirl. And then I run away shouting "Oh Phoebe, Phoebe, PHOEBE…" And my arms are swinging at a ludicrous angle and I am pigeon-toed and I don’t even know how I am accomplishing this feat of dorky awkwardness, but I am really enjoying it nevertheless.
    Then my scene with Orlando is… beautiful- "I will follow thee to the last gasp with truth and loyalty." He grasps me by the arm and we hurry off behind the tree to confront our impending journey. It feels perfect- our words are fluid and we become our characters for a fleeting moment. I am lost in those amazing lines- lines that are so rich in imagery and poetry that they don’t even have to be acted- just handled with care.

    I believe in words that create an unforgettable world populated with vibrant and varied characters. I believe in singing "Oh mistress mine where are you going…" to myself when I am feeling sentimental. I believe in stage fighting and poison plots, yellow cross-garters and cross-dressing. I believe in prideful old men and youngest daughters and useful old drunks. I believe in wise fools and foolish suitors and monologues that transcend centuries- "sans teeth, sans eyes, sans taste, sans everything." I believe in "the winter’s winds" and "hey ho the wind and the rain" and "books in the brooks and good in everything."
    I believe in Shakespeare.

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  6. I believe in flashlights wrapped in red cellophane. Waving them over bushes and holes in the dirt roads we stumbled across, in everyone’s faces and over our charts of the sky.
    I believe in scratchy blankets that were clearly big enough for two, maybe more, but eventually gave way to one inhabitant by the end of the night. It would be rolled up and cocooning its sleeping owner, while I pretended to be content lying on the grass saturated with summer dew, feeling it soak straight through to my skin. I held a piece of paper, the corners curling away from the lake mist, preventing me from logging observations, from documenting any skyward phenomena from those Wednesday nights. Maybe this was some weird way of guarding me from those now hazy memories that might explain why things sometimes fade, no matter how bright they seem at first. Just like iridium flares or dying stars or even friendships crafted upon the very existence of these things.
    I believe in shooting stars that land twenty feet away, illuminating your campsite. Believing it was just the flash of a camera held longer than normal, for this eerie amount of time, only to realize it was something that had fallen through the atmosphere, almost burning itself entirely up as it landed. So suddenly it does enter into this world, into a little pocket of your life. And once its there it’s hard to retrieve and even harder to remove if you’re lucky enough to chance upon it.
    I believe in the Milky Way…or at least the way it looks in a perfectly dark sky. I believe in trying to find the right words to describe it to you, lying on my back, following it over with my eyes. But you sleep on and I pretend to be content again. I pretend not to feel so small and insignificant as I view these treasures of the night sky. I pretend not to feel alone, despite being in such close proximity to another human being. Was it written there that night, in the steam from Sagittarius’s spout? That we’d never be closer than this? That someday you might burn out as you plummeted back toward the ground, while I did everything to keep shining brightly on? Is it possible that I’d never get a chance to formulate how glad I was to at least spend 5 nights much like this: me pretending to navigate the vast galaxy of your mind like I navigated the constellations, as you fell asleep, somewhere deep inside yourself and possibly away from here, from me.
    I believe we may have drifted apart, but I still believe in stargazing and I hope that at some point you did too.

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  7. Dandelions. They aren’t hard to find. I see them spread out through the wide expanse of the side of my yard. They congregate at the edge of the sidewalk. They infiltrate my mother’s garden. I pick a good one, a full and round one with almost no bald spots. Then I fill my cheeks with air and let go of my wish. The fluffy white seedlings carry it as it is picked up by the wind.

    An eyelash resting on the page of my open book, so delicate and small, attaches readily to my finger as I press down upon it. I bring it close to my mouth and release a short whisper of a breath and try to follow the thin curve as it floats away.

    The massive waterfall fountain sits before me, prompting me to vehemently beg my mother for spare change. I am rewarded with a lackluster penny. I hold it tightly in my palm then toss it into the rippling water. At least pennies are good for something.

    Her wings settle as her tiny legs settle on my skin, right next to a freckle on my arm. I admire the orangey color behind her smattering of spots as I bring her closer to my face.

    I believe in the first star I see at night, and shooting stars that stream across the dark night sky, though I don’t think I’ve seen one yet. I believe in losing track of time and noticing it is 11:11 when you turn to look at the clock. I believe in holding your breath as you cross a bridge, or pass through a tunnel the whole way through. I believe in blowing out ALL the birthday candles in one breath, because that’s the only way it works.

    I believe in wishes.

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  8. My oldest memories are of him. Bath time as a kindergartner where I would beg him to sit in the bathroom with me and tell me a story. I would always get to pick the name of the characters and the plot would always have a valuable moral for me to learn, one that all daddies would want there daughter to know. I use to invite him into my hand built “forts” as a young child and beg him to tell me about the past and explain things I was learning in Social Studies class; I was always putting his history minor to good use.

    Daddy/Daughter date day was always my favorite. It usually consisted of us going to the movie of my choice (I made him go see Good Burger three times) and blowing way too much money at the local arcade. On those days I knew he was wrapped around my finger, so I could usually bribe him into a trip to Clair’s, too. Thinking back, he was always wrapped around my finger. This is the man that waited in line nearly four hours in 98-degree weather so I could spend 5 minutes meeting the Hanson brothers. This is the man who wrote me a letter every single day for a month while I was at summer camp so that I would be sure to have my name called out when it was mail time. In three years of camp he never missed a single day. I have nearly 90 letters from him and they all start the same, “Dear Princess, …”.

    These days they aren’t letters they are text messages, always still beginning with “Hey Princess”, followed by an encouraging “thinking of you” or a formal “I put money in your account today”. We don’t talk as much. For a while, I didn’t allow us to talk as much. The truly special bond that we both shared was somehow tattered, torn by a broken marriage and a slew of bad decisions he made that didn’t involve me. I couldn’t bear knowing the flaws of the only person I ever really thought was perfect. I didn’t know how to handle them, so I didn’t. I shut them out. I shut him out.

    There were signs before I found out, signs that I never caught on to. I would never let myself get close enough to read between the lines. I knew he had lost a lot a weight, and that his coloring was off, and that his energy levels were down, but I believed him when he said he was fine and that it was just a bad reaction to some medicine. His life over the past few years had been a mystery, and I didn’t want to know anything else that might hurt me.

    What I didn’t know was going to hurt me. It was also going to save me, save us. The day that I found out he was sick, and that at any moment in the next few years he could be taken from my world, was the day I stopped seeing his flaws again. I didn’t see him as an illness, I saw him as my daddy again. The dad that traveled to every single ballgame I ever cheered at so I would have a fan in the stand. The dad that paid way too much money so we could have fourth row seats to the Backstreet Boys. He was the dad that I had desperately missed. The daddy I had desperately been yearning for. On that day I realized that I was wrapped around his finger too, and that I always had been.

    I believe that all girls are princess, that all men are flawed, and that my daddy will always be the best man I know.

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    2. You are so sweet. There is something very beautiful about the father/daughter relationship-- I was never as close to mine as you and yours, but there's still a kind of sentimentality for it that's different from what I feel for my mom (who I am much more like). Your dad sounds incredible and I am glad you've had this worthwhile relationship. You moved me to tears. I'm going to call my dad tonight.

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  9. An idea strikes me and I begin typing furiously, eager to get it on the screen. And then, suddenly, my brow furrows and I frown. I don’t like it. I punch the delete button viciously and smile. I’ve been told I’m a violent typer.

    I wait a moment, willing words on the screen. Unfortunately, the screen is blank and I open the internet and I check my email. It could be school related, I reason. But then I open Tumblr and there’s no explanation for that. It was an accident, I swear. I exit out of Safari and I look back at my word document. The insertion pointer blinks mockingly at me, reminding me that yes, my page is still blank.

    Looks like it's time to brush my teeth. For those that live on the hall, me brushing my teeth at odd times is a familiar sight. I brush my teeth compulsively. I brush my teeth before I do my homework, in the middle of writing an essay, anytime really. But then I return to the blank word document and I still don’t want to write it.

    It’s then I decide to clean my room. My clothes usually litter the floor and I pick up each shirt and hang it. When I'm done, I glance sneakily over at my laptop. Yup, that document is still blank.

    Oh, that trashcan looks pretty full. I should probably take that out. I take the trashcan down the hall and then I see someone I know. I stop and chat with them for a while and then I remember that I’m taking out the trash and continue on my way. After all, I have a paper to write.

    Bringing the trashcan back, I plop down at my desk and stare at my computer screen. It’s still blank. ...Maybe I'll write it tomorrow.

    I believe in procrastinating.

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    1. I (also) Believe in Procastination

      I believe in papers born of early morning alarms and tricks that make 2.5 spacing look not illegal, in clock watching and whining and pirated movies to be watched ONLY when you have something else you should be doing. I believe in “waiting for inspiration,” “recharging,” in knowing you can get it done anyway. I believe in cleaning and folding and vacuuming, in making beds and packing to avoid other work that isn’t even that hard, not really. I believe in a very specific breed of sloth.

      Oh! On that note! I believe in watching videos of Kristen Bell (xoxo) crying, in debating the decentness of celebrities and fictional characters, in cats that stand and egg songs, and misbehaving dogs, and cats cats cats (I love every kind). I believe it’s possible to spend something like eight hours in somebody else’s room without realizing it – whoops, sorry guys. I believe in YouTube and Facebook and Tumblr and Pottermore and Google Autocomplete – all worthy applications of my time.

      I believe in dear sweet Jesust that’s right, that’s due today, at 3, in oh crap, I guess I should probably get started on this 5-7 page paper if I want to survive tomorrow. I believe in friends that will stay up until the wee hours with you, chatting and not being weird about me reading things aloud and hoping its okay to be in Conference Room C past 4 in the morning – fingers crossed. I know he wasn’t really doing homework, but he still owes me for January, so I don’t feel quite so bad about keeping him up past his bedtime.

      I believe in that awful moment when you go to turn a paper in online, only to find that the post immediately above where yours’ll go is, well, exactly the same, only better, written as the one still warm on your hard drive. Damn you Alyssa O’Bryan…damn you… Maybe I can settle for birds of a feather or something, how can I spin this so I don’t have to rewrite an entire paper….? Yeah, it’s not happening. What are the odds? Really? I should have written about this! But it’s too late. I’ve waited too long. I’ll have to settle for this.

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    2. Alyssa and Hanna, these are two of the most enjoyable essays I've read here lately. Awesome.

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  10. Ever since I can remember, I've been a sucker for a good story. All the way back to closing my eyes during story time to absorb the words of whatever book my mom and I were reading together-- the Little House on the Prairie series was the last, though we'd read many books by then-- or even longer, all the way back to staring at the pictures to make the characters into fuller people (or bats or mongeese ((mongooses?)) or whatever the characters were in the book in question). I believe that fictional stories can be as true as real ones.

    My favorite thing to do, when I was bored, was to ask my mom to "tell me a story about when you were a little girl"; I continue to love these stories today. Stories from my father are rarer. He doesn't talk much about old girlfriends or his little brother or his parents, neither of whom I ever knew. Stories from his side of the family are treasured, and mostly acquired secondhand-- I learned his first wife's name from my mother's sister. I believe that family history is relevant to my identity.

    Stories don't have to belong to someone I know to be sacred. I like to listen to people talk-- we consider that nosy, probably, but I honestly love other people's business, and I would much rather talk abut them than about me. I believe in not spending the time someone else is talking to plan what I will say when it's my turn.

    I believe that the stories you tell define you, almost as much as the stories you do not tell.

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  12. Floating in January skies that darken above rush-hour traffic, Garrison Keillor promises more stories of prairie homes and ice-covered lakes on February 14: Give your sweetheart the gift of a Norwegian bachelor farmer. He looks tired. Loose sacks of bruised blue skin hang under his eyes. I wonder why no one photoshopped exhaustion out of them, how come he looks this old when all along I’ve heard a man in his vigorous 40s, voice thick with enchantment. I think that I would not want to go to this old man’s show for old people. And I am surprised by my revolt against age, against its slackening and shrinking and drying up.

    Sticky bumper-sticky wisdom waves a manifesto about being a good student. Being a good student, I focus on grey letters pressed against black Fit: Prepare for finals. Study the Bible. I wonder what kind of factory manufactures the pithy sayings riding the freeways of overcommitted communities. Was today really necessary? I wonder if there is a mad team of census takers that document each citizen’s favorite wisdom. Old age comes at a bad time. Or if vegetarian-only hipsters toss coffee-inspired epiphanies across a field of no more than 60 characters. Your lucky color has faded.

    Suffused with the fragrance of roasting peanuts, I breathe in the promise of Thursday-night peanut-butter-and-bread sandwiches served next to asparagus, Eat one more and you can have a banana. The evening settles in next to me.

    I believe in waiting at long traffic lights.

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