Devised Theater: A Venn Diagram

Devised Theater: A Venn Diagram
This diagram was created by the co-producing artistic directors of Rude Mechs to depict the complexity of creating and crediting collaboratively devised work for theatrical performance.

Sunday, January 31, 2016

This I Believe essay #3

Same as last week, please post your essay here before class on Tuesday. Please also remember to bring a printed copy of your essay to class and be prepared to read it aloud.


  1. “I feel small but also not alone and I like that.”

    Last year I wrote a This I Believe about the New York art trip, and how I decided I really didn’t like the city. That night when I went to meet up with Maura, who took a bus from Philly to see me for an evening, I was 40 minutes late because I took a train going in the wrong direction and I was too afraid to step off and check a map. My phone was dying. Maura told me she would sporadically get the messages I was desperately trying to send her. But they would all come at once, and they wouldn’t be in order, so she had no idea which message she should reply to, which one was indicative of my current state.

    “I just wanted to let you know I hadn’t forgotten about you.”

    It was especially stressful because she changed the meeting location midtransit. She had to though because I was taking so long and she had brought a friend with her and they were hungry. Luckily the station I decided to get off at, after changing trains, was the right one and I only had to cross a couple streets to get to the restaurant. They were seated on the patio so I could see Maura as I walked up. Her friend was in the bathroom and that was a good thing because as soon as I sat down I started crying. Maura told me I had been brave and she was very proud of me. Her friend came back and we talked about The Babadook and tacos. We walked to a bookstore so I could charge my phone, but they didn’t have an outlet. I bought a notebook that I now keep recipes and dreams I need to write down in. We ended up in a bakery that was tiny and I ate a palm-sized apple pie.

    “I used to only want to say things if I could say them right, but that didn’t last very long.”

    The next day with my class we ended back up at the same bakery. It took me a while to realize it was the same. It looked so different under the security of being with a group who would tell me when to go somewhere and how to get there. You notice different things when you’re not in charge of your transportation or location.

    “It’s just so funny how some moments everything seems so ridiculously clear and simple and others you can just tear yourself apart trying to understand things you were certain of moments before.”

    In high school Maura and I didn’t drink. Not necessarily because we didn’t like it, but because we never had before, and there wasn’t a time where we wanted that change. After graduation, when she got drunk without me, I confronted her. I asked her why she wouldn’t wait for me. She told me she hadn’t thought of it as something I would have wanted her to wait for me for. It was hurtful but only because it forced me to come to terms with the fact that we would be experiencing things separate from one another from there on out. I was staying in Lexington. She was moving to Philadelphia. I couldn’t expect her to wait for me to try new things with; it just wasn’t realistic. I wanted to go with her. But even more than that I wanted her to stay.

    1. “We were so brave and funny and vulnerable, how we would exchange letters, even though we saw each other every day. I spent so much time convincing myself I wouldn’t change too much, but the more time I spend away from home the more I realize how sort of difficult it is to belong to a person from so far away.”

      Maura recently did a project where she took bits from our letters to each other and rearranged them. This required me to go through everything she had given me, from high school to now, and pick out pieces I thought could work. It was one of the most painful things I’ve had to do. Rereading those intimate snippets of our lives, realizing just how much I had forgotten we had gone through. Everything had seemed so large back then, so unbeatable. It also reaffirmed how absolutely lucky I am to have a friend with such a talent for words. Every moment is more beautiful than the next. I wish I knew which parts she picked out from my letters to include. It all feels so clumsy in my head. I haven’t seen the project yet, and I won’t until she gets it back, though I’m not sure when that’s going to be.

      “I guess my original point was that I will always give you pieces of myself. Sometimes I say ‘you’ in my poems and I’m not sure who that ‘you’ is, but I think it’s usually you.”
      I believe I could write every single essay about Maura if I felt it wouldn’t get redundant. What a feeling it is to love a friend so fully, so completely. I picked a fight the last time we saw each other. We fight a lot, so it wasn’t surprising. I cried in Starbucks as we went back and forth. I had my back to most of the shop, and the people I could see didn’t seem phased, but apparently people were laughing. But I am a huge supporter of public displays of emotion. We tried to take a polaroid together in the parking lot, but my camera was out of batteries.

      “Your letter was really nice. It was so hopeful and happy and I hope your life is both of those right now.”

      Last time I was in Philly I got a tattoo. It is a tiny bug on my upper thigh. Maura’s roommate, Connie, did it with a sewing needle on Maura’s bedroom floor. Maura drew the design. I screamed with each stick and squeezed Maura’s hand. I yelled at Connie but I made sure she knew I didn’t blame her. Maura wouldn’t let me hold her hand when she was getting hers, a tiny Ice King crown. Together we poked “IT’S ME” onto Connie’s back. Mine has already started to fade. If it gets any lighter I’ll probably go get it redone at a shop.

      “I just need you to take care of yourself, you know?”

    2. I really like how this is written! I've read it three times (oops)

    3. What a beautiful reflection, Katie. It is clear that you could write and write and write about your relationship with Maura. (And how odd and fun that I met her--for a few minutes--3 years ago.) I hope you will give her a copy of this reflection...

  2. I believe in the past. I believe that the events in life are equivalent to hands with clay. I believe that memories keep the heart beating. I believe in mistakes leading to success. I believe in me.
    The mistakes of the past are often seen as something that should be repressed and remain where it happened. However, I think that mistakes are what make a person who they are, how strong they are, and what they can do. While mistakes are non-gratifying, they create lessons learned, which are even more helpful in paving a path towards a successful future. This shows in every aspect of life.
    For example, heartache is not only emotionally painful, but also physically from the neurotransmitters corresponding to such feelings. The memories and reminders of what was and what could have been may linger on with pain, but eventually serves as nothing more than a lesson to prevent the same heartache in the future. I have added this to my repertoire of wisdom. Regardless of the lies, the cheating, mistreatment, etc., in the end, I am better off than I was, and I will never be in the same position again. I am now more successful than I was -- more whole, more sagacious, more…me. I am different, yet the same. I was weakened, but the weakness made me strong. I am now more independent, outspoken, and mindful of my surroundings.
    Another example would be dealing with school. Simply, taking a “night off” or procrastination of some sort is considered a mistake in the past. It puts more un-needed stress in my life, yet I still look at it with a menacing grin. It is more of a love-hate relationship. While I don’t always want to do things now, I try to motivate myself more and more to do so in order to not fall into the same pit that I have once before. Again, wisdom comes from mistakes, and success follows from lessons learned.
    As a result of all my past and mistakes, I have become a better version of myself—stronger, wiser, and, all in all, happier. Rather than sulking in the past, I have used the past to form my future into something with high aspirations and more sensible decisions. I believe that the past is indeed the past, but the past provides memories and lessons that are carried through for the remainder of life and even beyond in some cases as they are passed down. I believe in my past and mistakes creating a successful future, and I believe that future entails believing and supporting myself first and foremost.

    1. I really like your metaphor of the past being clay in someone's hands. I think that that's a beautiful way of looking at the past and not letting it define one's future.

  3. I believe that being human is the most fascinating concept I have encountered in my life. I believe that the idea of humanity is beautiful; all the good sides and the bad sides. There is beauty in having a complicated language system that not only consists of the vibration of our vocal chords to emit sounds that we will then shape with our lips, but also our bodies are involved in every single way. There is a fine line between telling the truth and pretending to tell the truth, and that line is only visible with body language. A sudden eye movement or the flaring of your nostrils or a smirk conveys so many inaudible messages. But communicating is not the only thing that grabs my attention—to be human also means that we are aware of ourselves (to an extent), we are conscious, and we are able to empathize with others and feel and want and love. To be human is to be all of these good things, but a complete human is also manipulative, treacherous, and bad. This is the definition of the beautiful disaster that is us.
    Have you ever stopped and thought about your own existence? That is what I did this morning at 5 am while watching Ex Machina, eating greasy, leftover chicken from the Raf and Reese’s cups. I questioned: what defines me as a human being? And by the end of the movie it hit me—an AI will always remain an AI unless it has the power to desire something so much that it develops the ability to trick and manipulate people. To be honest, that is quite true; human beings are no more than sacks of flesh and bones who feel the necessity to put on a persona and act a certain way for the rest of their life; our purpose is make others believe. We are pretty much the only species that wants rather than needs; this leads us to acting, pretending, and believing we are. To truly be human, this AI has to make me want to lie to it and fall in love with it. Those are the key words—want, feel, believe. I pondered on this great concept of being a person and have reached the conclusion that, just like the rest of you, I am only human. To truly exist as a human being is to believe that you are someone, therefore you must act as whoever you may be—and I am Annelisa, the human.

  4. Even when I lived in a room with my sister we spent much of our time alone, acres and acres to spread out, places we knew no one else went. But here, even when I was “alone” I wasn’t alone. People could see me even in the study rooms of the library and hear me in the shower and even on the walks I started taking alone strangers would drive by and interrupt my solitude.

    In September I told Jacob that balancing my life here and back home with him was just too much, even though I knew I knew I wasn’t done loving him. I came back to a game night in a friend’s dorm, and climbed my top bunk late. I told my roommate about it the next morning. I don’t remember crying at all. I didn’t want to be left alone.

    So, for weeks and then months I spent my time always with others, quickly filling my time with a boy I didn’t really like the way he liked me but I didn’t push him away. My life was fast-paced and exciting and other people were interesting—why would I want to be alone? Even when I was “alone” I knew I wasn’t really. Maybe that was comforting.

    I came home in December and watched a play, watched Jacob kiss someone else, took it in stride and talked to everyone exuberantly. I walked out alone to my car, rolled onto the highway; I realized I was completely alone. I realized for the first time in months, no one could hear me; they could hardly see me. I drove past the first Lexington exit, then the next, the next. I came back knowing the extent to which I was hurt, but strong, myself. I needed that. I believe in being alone.

    1. I do as well. What a poignant and beautiful essay you've written, Hannah.

  5. I believe in therapy animals. I suffer from anxiety but one of the things that make me anxious is medication. I am allergic to a whole slew of pharmaceuticals and therefore did not want to try antis. I discussed treatment options with my doctor and she recommended I get an emotional support animal. When I went to the animal shelter to pick out a cat, I had no idea how to choose. Picking an animal that is going to live with you for the rest of its life, for whom you will be responsible, and with whom you will be close companions is an intimidating task. Questions and doubts began to run through my head. What if I pick one that’s sick and will soon die? What if I pick one that ends up hating me? What if I pick one that turns out to have behavioral problems? All that went out the window when I was standing in front of them cages, petting a large yellow tabby and I felt a tap on my leg. I looked down to see a paw extending out of a cage on the bottom row, holding on to my calf. It was as if she was saying “Hey, I’m down here, pick me!” so I squatted in front of her cage and came eye to eye with a sick little kitten with matted fur and glassy eyes. Despite her condition she was adorable and I immediately felt a pull toward her so I opened her cage and picked her up. She nestled into my arms and started purring and my mind was made up. She has since grown into a healthy, albeit fat, adult cat and all her health problems were related to being in the shelter. She makes me feel safe, wanted, peaceful. I believe in therapy animals.

  6. I believe in a place. A place that sits on a mountain top with a highway labeled 1746 running through. Highway 1746 is not your typical Highway. Many people actually do not use this highway to get from one place to another. People mainly use this highway to enter one of the best places I know. This place happens to be a summer camp which I was lucky enough to attend for one week every summer from first grade until my senior year of high school. From late May until early August this place is populated by a number of children and adults coming together for weeks at a time to escape reality and completely be themselves. With countless games of four square being played, friends being made, songs being sung, prayers being prayed, and even a few tears being shed, this place gives anyone that attends comfort, hope, and a second home. Without this place I would not be the person who I am today and would also be without some of the best friends I could ever ask for.
    Although I have not physically been on Highway 1746 for the last few years, this place carries such a special place in my heart that I will always feel connected to no matter where I may be in the world. Not only have I made lifelong friends at this place I have also made lifelong memories that I will never forget. This I believe in a place, a place up on a mountain, surrounding a highway, this place is called The Cathedral Domain.

  7. Josie Willis
    On an unusually bright day, we will walk out into the the windy Louisiana day, wearing purple in your honor. Black, purple and gray worn interchangeably by cousins, our eyes barely dry but we are here. Feeling like their freshly ironed shirts and filled with expired applesauce that our grandmother claimed was ‘still good’, your brothers handle the pain in the normal convoluted way of dysfunctional family life. Instead of crying together, holding one another, we must all retire to separate rooms and bawl without the thought of comfort. No one wants to be pitied; there is so much pride in this family.
    Your closest brother, Jeff, will take care of your children; I am positive of that. Jeff had a bond with you. You weren’t just his flesh and blood, you were his friend. He is in charge of the assets and money you left behind. I can’t help wondering what happened to the gun. Is it hidden in a back room at the local police department or is it going to be inherited by your daughters?
    My dad needed your sarcasm to feel a part of the family that he probably tried to leave behind. My cousins and I hop in the car and in an effort to distract everyone, I suggest listening to the radio. But all songs are sad on days like this. An Oldies station seems to do you justice like a soundtrack to your life. Janis Joplin half-sings about breaking another little piece of her heart and I know she understands your pain. Creedence Clearwater Revival is the only one missing. But the Doobie Brothers’ song, ‘Blackwater’ is the song that hits me the most. It’s a simple song about life in the South and obviously, loving a woman.
    “Old black water, keep on rollin’
    Mississippi moon, won’t you keep on shinin’ on me
    Shinin’ on me.”
    In the car ahead of us, Jeff drives with the floral arrangement in the back seat. I watch the swamps and the tall, naked trees that pass us by on the interstate while my cousin, Braeden tries to keep track of his father’s car in front of us. It feels like a funeral procession for your brothers.
    We pull up to the church, which is pronounced [co-meet] but spelled Comite. Apparently, this is the same church that you and your brothers grew up in. The mourners see my ex-uncle or whatever he is at this point, holding the darling little redheaded girls in matching dresses and big bows in their hair. You were probably the best woman in his life but somehow he may have a new girlfriend. According to my grandmother, he knew you were going through a ‘rough patch’ and harbors bitterness towards him for not letting her know. Yet, she still cooperates with him because of your children. It is hurting your mother but the cousins and I haven’t processed it.
    The ceremony doesn't do you justice. When your former students come up and talk, I wish I had been in one of your speech classes. I wish I could recall the exact last time I saw you. The pastor angers me as he seems to be recruiting people for his church more than he is honoring your memory. He speaks about the love of God and how you can only be saved and go to heaven in one way. The words are contradictory because you were so low that you decided it was time to leave—I don’t blame you in the slightest but I hate how he acts as though God is the only thing in life, as though mental illness does not exist. It was, afterall, mental illness that threw you under the bus. God can love you unconditionally but that doesn’t mean everything will be fine.


  8. I can almost imagine you (even though it’s been years since I’ve seen you) sitting next to me and wondering why everyone is so sad, possibly even rolling your eyes at this self-righteousness clergy man. At the funeral, you sit next to me when my eyes are closed, I feel the cool skin of your arms, weathered with freckles and a permanent tan from living in the South your entire life. It is weird the things I remember about you: your wit, how I always looked up to as the ‘cool’ aunt who smoked cigarettes against her mother’s will and used to sneak out at night. Your rebelliousness taught me that you have to live your life to the fullest and to your own standards. So when I go up to him after the ceremony and criticize his way of preaching, I know that you aren’t mad at me even if he was the pastor at your church. One day, we will sit together in oblivion and laugh at the ego of that man over coffee and a blunt. Your daughters will run into your arms again in a place where you are truly free.
    I believe that the dead allow you to grieve in ways that the living cannot understand.

    1. So sad and beautiful and poignant and celebratory of your aunt's life, Josie. Hold on to this writing. It might give you solace in the days and years to come.

  9. There are not many smells that I like more than Gain laundry detergent. There’s something about that green liquid that draws me to it. Have you ever walked down that one aisle at Walmart or Kroger that is overpowering with all of the air fresheners, laundry detergents, and cleaning supplies? I sure have...I go out of my way to walk down that aisle. I don’t know what it is about that clean, fresh scent that makes me want to smell it but I know that I’m not alone in this. Gain’s website is called “” for goodness sake! There are raving reviews about how much people love this detergent and I’m one of the masses.
    Growing up, my mom never never bought scented laundry detergent so I didn’t know what I was missing until I stayed at my aunt’s house for a week and she washed a load of my clothes...with Gain. The chemicals used in Gain to make it smell so good are probably not good for your nose or for your skin--which is probably why my mom wouldn’t buy it--but as soon as I was of driving age I started buying Gain. I could have saved a lot of money if I had just used my mom’s boring, unscented detergent but it made laundry day something to look forward to instead of something to dread. Even now, I don’t mind doing laundry because I know that as soon as I take the clothes out of the dryer I will get a huge wiff of warm, fresh Gain.
    My love for Gain is, quite possibly, out of control. Did you know they make Gain candles? I’ve got one. But it doesn’t stop there...I also have Gain dish detergent. Oh and I can’t forget the Gain dryer sheets! You can even find Gain scented Swiffer refills. And it is because of this wonderful scent and plethora of supplies that I believe Gain is the best laundry detergent.

    1. I love this topic, because I 100% agree!

    2. Would you say you are addicted to Gain?!

      Hilarious--love this, even though I've no idea what Gain smells like.

  10. October, 2015:

    After the $205,000 KickStarter campaign to pluck it from its location at 1438 NW 46th Street, load it onto a barge, and deliver it to an Orcas Island family in need failed,

    after Reach Returns—the company that purchased the house—lost it to foreclosure before realizing their vision of raising it three stories into the air over a park-like space with Windmill Palms and water features.

    after Barry Martin—a construction worker who came to own the house through the will of a woman who was no kin of his but whom he had taken to have her hair curled more times than he could remember—sold it for $310,000 and used the money to cover the costs for both his children to go to college,

    after Edith Macefield—who laid down to die on the burnt orange couch in the living room—turned down an offer of one-million dollars for the home in which she wrote short stories that earned $75 each when published in forgotten journals,

    after Edith’s mother, too, died there,

    after the true moments of her past faded like islands lost in a mist she thickened with stories in her self-published 1,138-page novel (stories of serving as an undercover agent in World War II, stories of being captured and escaping with 13 Jewish children, stories of raising 27 children while living in England for just 30 years),

    after Edith lost her only child to meningitis 13 years after giving birth,

    after learning French, German, Polish, and Russian as a child herself and being shipped to England to join the military and then taken out of service for not yet being 18 and choosing to stay in England to care for war orphans before moving back to Seattle to care for her mother,

    after purchasing the house in 1952 for $3,750 and paying it off completely in two years with the money she earned as store manager at Spic ‘N Span Cleaners,

    Edith Macefield lost her house but I still believe in her. I believe in holding—steadfast—onto things that matter.

  11. I struggle with borderline personality disorder. At least, right now I do. I thought it was anxiety because some days I have a stone on my chest that keeps me from moving any closer to who I may really be. I thought it was depression because sometimes I can’t leave bed when I suddenly remember I’ve never really did or meant much of anything. I thought it was just weird mood swings or Bipolar Disorder because I do both of these and make impulsive decisions until I feel like I’m right on the edge of finding out who I really am for real this time; an hour after “I Want To Fade Away From Existence,” Shelby I’m “Really Okay Guys, I Promise!” Better Yet, “I Really Know Who I Am Now. I Had A Moment Of Clarification” Shelby.
    Today I have bpd, but tomorrow if I read this out loud I may really be somebody else, or even myself but real this time. I have no idea. All I know is my sense of self is pretty confused. My goals, plans, and perceptions change all the time. Sometimes it's “My Superpower Must Be My Ability To Change” Shelby, and sometimes it's “How Do I Not Know A Quality That I Have Often Enough To Name Even A Generic Super Power What The Heck” Shelby.
    I do know my Am-Nevers, for the most part. I Am-Never Angry Shelby. I Am-Never Wants To Hurt People Shelby. I Am-Never Out Of Control Shelby. I also know that I Am-Never a whole new persona with a double life or anything like that. This is a pretty small foundation, admittedly, but they are stable enough to transcend beyond Monday Night Deep Thinking Shelby, so they’re helpful.
    I realized that nearly all labels don’t fit me, not because I don’t want to be labeled or because (like all people) I am a lot of things at once, or because I am Hipster Trash Shelby. Instead, it’s like I know I am a certain person so I concentrate my energy on just how much I really am that person. Then suddenly I am not that person an hour later.
    It makes it difficult to be really close to me because I’m always a variation of Shelby. Same person, different expression of me all the time. However, I do get experience emotions often and intensely. (This would be a lot cooler if I could write or paint out my feelings but, alas, it is with a heavy heart that I say I Am-Never Good At Art Shelby.) It also has given me a variety in experiences and friends as I switch from City Girl Who Uses All Her Spare Time To Read Shelby to Excited Activist Who Volunteers For Anything She Can Shelby and everything in between. I believe that even if I don’t figure out what The Real Shelby looks like, I’m going to be just fine.

    1. I really loved your voice in this. Your language!!

    2. Same here! The uppercase letters are great. I have a book I made Hannah read over break that's written a lot like this!

    3. What a fun reflection! Tell Shelby Who Is Feeling Confused to talk with me whenever it seems to her like that might be useful :)

  12. I believe television is important. I am not one of those people who is going to say that television rots your brain or encourages idle behavior- in fact, I believe it has the capacity to inspire and encourage creativity. As a child, I was completely enamored with television. I did not understand how it worked- how information was captured on camera and broadcasted all over the world via satellites and waves into the homes of kids all over the world- and to be honest I still don’t really get it, but I know that television was significant to my development as a human being. For one, it introduced me to artistic expression. Watching Nickelodeon and Cartoon Network, I was completely blown away by the immersive worlds that other people were able to create using pens and ink. I thought they must have been super geniuses, with creative talent and work-ethic beyond my comprehension, and they inspired me- regardless of the fact that I never once saw their real faces. I would get notebooks and pens and pencils and try to copy these characters- Spongebob, and Courage and Arnold and the Powerpuff Girls- and this was how I learned to draw. Eventually I would try to draw my own characters, but I was never satisfied by their style- they never seemed to measure up to the icons I held dear. However, that did not keep me from continuing to draw and write stories. In the 4th grade I wrote a series of comic books entitled “Cow-Man”, and I still have them at home. They were dumb and crudely illustrated, but they were entirely mine and they made me so proud of myself. The other kids at school thought they were awesome- so I got my Mom to make copies and I distributed them around the school. I was officially a published artist, and I felt like a hot-shot. I had achieved a goal I thought was impossible- even though my stuff wasn’t fancy or tv-worthy. I no longer write comics or stories, as I have found that my true passion is visual art that stands alone without a specific narrative, but interwoven throughout my work is the spirit of the cartoons I used to love. I am still completely enamored with television, and I’m always looking for a new show to enjoy. I owe a lot to tv, and I think it has made me a more productive human being. So when you see a kid sitting cross-legged in front of a tv, with their face damn-near pressed up against the brightly colored glass- completely absorbed by the imaginative world of the latest cartoon-don’t tell them that tv rots your brain, because you just might be wrong.

  13. I believe in good music. Not music that just makes you happy but music that makes you think and feel and breathe a little bit differently for a long time after you first listen. I listen to different kinds of music, hip hop, country, dub step, raps and music in Chinese too. Music can always bring me different emotions.
    I like to play music in my car when I am driving. When I get stressed, I always play music really loud and make the beats bump in my car. Music can make me feel relax and excited. I enjoy every minute when I am driving.
    I like to put on my headphone when I am studying. Music will help me to focus sometimes. I feel peaceful when I am writing my paper and doing Chemistry questions.
    I like to put on my earphone when I go to sleep. Music can help go to bed easier. After listening to music for ten minutes, I will always fall asleep.
    I learn different things from music as well. I learn different cultures and different from listening to music. Some lyrics of the songs are really interesting. Some are about the author’s experiences, some area about stories and people’s thoughts. I like to read the lyrics when I am listening to the songs.
    I believe in music, I believe good music brings huge influences to people’s life.

  14. As a little kid, your birthday was always the best day of the year. I was lucky enough to have a family who made that the case. Waking up to hugs and a donut, knowing I had still had to go to school always put a damper on the day. But Mr.Jim made it better. I could always look forward to him singling out all the birthday kids for the week during lunch and taking us to the serving line, where we’d get to pick ANY kind of popsicle or ice cream flavor we could imagine. I remember looking into the giant freezer and thinking, “I will never see something this awesome ever again.” As a kid, the excitement of getting to run back to my table, bragging about my fudgesicle seemed more important than saying thank you to Mr.Jim. So I am writing this to say thank you now. Mr.Jim, the Pleasantdale Middle School janitor, had more of an impact on my development into the person I am today than many of the teachers I got stuck with did. He knew when you were having a bad day, and would make an attempt to make it better. Without fail, he’d be at all your basketball games. He’d stop by the art room and talk to you about the art you made. More importantly, he’d talk to you like you mattered. He recognized that even if you were in fifth grade starting to get pimples and throwing tantrums when someone stole your pencil case, you deserved to be treated like a person. He knew that everyone would like to get some ice cream on their birthday, and everyone needed a little extra support and consideration, even if they didn’t act like it. I didn’t realize it as a kid, but Mr.Jim was the first person outside of my family I saw show people their lives were important. He made little gestures count. I believe in Mr. Jim, and now that he is retiring I hope that he is able to relax and remember how positively impactful his life was.

    1. There is something about elementary school janitors that makes them saints in disguise.

    2. Love this. I hope you'll send it or give it to Mr. Jim (love his name, too--even though he isn't responsible for it :))

  15. I believe that telling the truth is an act of love—especially when it’s the hardest thing to do. As a child, whenever I thought of integrity I would think of a box that a person had to step in, and everything that they ever were and were going to be had to fit inside of that box. They couldn’t ever step out of their box because that meant that they were deviating from their version of integrity. Of course, I decided early on that that was incredibly boring. I want to only step outside of my box whenever I needed to, I want to create a whole world out there. I wanted to reach the stars, and explore oceans—in other words I wanted to lie and have fun when I wanted to.
    So I went forth exploring life being as mischievous as I wanted to be. I was pretty inconsistent with who I was, but I thought I made up for that by having a strong sense of who I wanted to be. Life went on and I found myself often talking the talk, but hardly ever walking the walk. Soon after I came to recognize that it wasn’t what someone believed or said that mattered, but rather what their actions conveyed. And after a moment of clarity I came to the realization that the true meaning of integrity was not just limiting yourself to something you thought you had to be, but rather, practicing what you believed. I believe that pristine honesty is one of the most difficult and beautiful things that exist in this world, and that the reason someone practices it is out of love of others, and for what they believe.

  16. I believe in the sun. I know for a fact my emotions are tied to the weather. Last week I remember there were a couple of days that were dreary, and I hated it. Everything seems so dull, I feel dull. All I wanted to do is crawl into bed and watch Netflix. When the sun came out last Thursday I felt alive and colorful. I had energy that came out of nowhere. I went all day without thinking about taking a nap or being in my dark room. The sun continued to shine, and all I wanted to do was be outside- soaking up the rays. I went on a run with my nephew on Saturday. Everyone was out at the park. People were playing soccer, running, walking their dogs, and chatting with one another. Every tennis court was full and people were waiting for the next one to open up. There were even a group of elderly folks that were holding large walking sticks, so I assumed they had just gotten back from a hike. Everyone seemed happy to be where they were. The sun gave us that motivation we all needed to get out, be active, and be with friends and family. We drove back to my sister’s house with the windows down, and music turned up. The sunbeams were hitting us perfectly to keep us warm from the air rushing through the open windows. As I drove home, I saw people run down the street. I saw mother’s walking while pushing their child in a stroller. I saw families’ bike. I saw couples sit on a bench. There is nothing quite like warm weather during the winter months, it is such a tease for my favorite season, spring. As long as the sun is out, I’ll be out too. I’m thankful for more sunny days, according to mister groundhog.

  17. Last summer, my kids and I endured a lice attack.

    I say endured because the lice waged a lengthy assault. For months, I groomed myself and my children with a tight comb after administering multi-step treatments.

    Because we discovered the lice in Bulgaria, I purchased our first remedy in my homeland. Called “lice killing shampoo,” the murderous potion was likely stronger than anything legally obtainable in America. I rubbed the chemicals into our hair roots and hoped all the lice would be killed by the time we left for America.

    The Bulgarian lice followed us to London, Philadelphia, Ocean City, and then Lexington.

    By the time we reached New Jersey, our Bulgarian chemicals had run out. We consulted the Rite-Aid pharmacist in our family-friendly resort town and switched to “Fairy Tales Rosemary Lice and Insect Repel Shampoo.” Maybe because of the shampoo’s fairy tale nature, the lice did not go away. I wanted to believe that in America things work better.

    A month after we returned home to Lexington, I worried.

    I worried our kids didn’t know that lice were embarrassing, that having lice is connected to poverty, dirt, and ignorance. Our kids boasted about their Bulgarian lice. I hastened to add we had left the lice in Bulgaria.

    I worried that the school year was imminent, that our kids might be sent home, that I might become home-bound with them and the lice. I began to be afraid of the lice.

    It was the kids’ pediatrician who saved us. She prescribed medicine so strong, it was never to touch skin or eyes. Without insurance, the medicine cost $900: proof that lice were indeed a poor folk’s malady.

    After the lice left our hair, they entered my dreams. I dream about them frequently. In my dreams, I am combing my daughter’s hair when I spot them: tiny white insects I will never be rid of. I don’t tell anyone about my dreams.

    I believe lice are a measure of our tolerance for stereotypes, especially those about poverty, lack of cleanliness, ignorance. I am afraid of lice.

    1. I used to get lice when I was in school. My mom would coat my short hair with mayonnaise and put a shower cap over it...apparently it worked every time. But perhaps Bulgarian lice are much stronger than the mere American variety.

      I definitely understand the powerful fear of that stigma, although I lived in a community where most kids got lice.

  18. I believe in talking to people about what I like. Many people don’t want to hear about Arsenal (an English football club), or another person blabber on about music or film, especially not someone they’ve just met. But I think we should all try to recognize that when someone is telling you what they like it’s a way for them to feel comfortable with you, they want you to get invested in them and hopefully barring how good they are at talking will want to hear what you like as well. I’m sorry if you think soccer is lame, or if I tell you about what I learned today about an anthropologist from 1960 who’s relevance is completely unknown to you and probably not important for much else other than trying to explain societies through a cultural relative manner through discussions with individuals you may think are different than you, but really have many commonalities to your contemporary world. But I’m invested in this, here I am telling you about myself, I’m sorry if these seems like a lecture to you. In a way it is a lecture on who I am and what I want you to know, maybe this will sprout out a friendship, or is the seeds whishing in the wind traveling to its resting place onto our consciousness’s where you will learn about me and I will learn about you. I’m not good at talking to you but I’m good at talking about myself without an immense amount of pressure. I believe in talking about what I like.

    1. I love how you say that talking about what you enjoy is the grounds for a new friendship

  19. It isn’t common in modern times to head into a restaurant and be greeted with the smell of cigarettes and grits but the Bacon Creek Cafe in my hometown is an exception. Although the buildings and people in Bonnieville are old and decrepit, it feels like the times haven’t changed down home. Well, on the counterpoint, we did get a Dollar General® which has probably been the biggest economic boom since the Edward’s thrift shop, the #1 supplier of $1 work shirts,opened up. Going back to the Cafe though, I moseyed on there with my mother this weekend just to have our weekend breakfast whenever I am around town.
    Now, I alluded it in my first sentence but the Bacon Creek Cafe isn’t any Panera Bread or Doodles. The coffee is Folgers, the only thing city is one variation of the ham, and there is a wall full of graduation photos, receipts, and an autograph from a band that not even hipsters have heard of. My mother got the usual of two eggs over easy with toast and I decided to go for a veggie omelette (I used to get two eggs over easy+bacon but my recent dietary choices have called for a change of pace). Around me, like Bonnieville royalty, sit the Priddy’s and the good ole’ boys reminiscing of their younger years while cigarette ashes fall to the floor. In my town, people might not know first names, but everyone knows each other's’ last names (the old folks anyway do)
    I can understand that to outsiders the Cafe might feel like a hickhole and I sometimes feel like an outsider in my own town (I can’t stand when people from home say that I sound ‘too smart’ to be born in Hart Co.) but it feels like home to me. Maybe this is why I have a slight chip on my shoulder every time I go to Cracker Barrel; the place is too much like a ‘clean-cut’ version of Bacon Creek (the dumplings are still fire though). I personally like the homey, the unrefined yet civilized nature in the restaurant walls down home. Even though the Rowe lineage might end after my mother moves up to Louisville, I still believe in the Bacon Creek Cafe

    1. Devin, you totally made me want to go to Bacon Creek Cafe--even though I don't like bad coffee and never order ham (I am so citified :))

  20. I believe that art can be the ordinary, the everyday, the gross, the simple, the seemingly worthless but often beautiful actions or events in our lives...not just the physical object “sitting on its ass in the museum.”

    It's difficult sometimes to break my mind away from that tendency to consider art as an object, the traditional sense of the word, even though I have a lot of disdain towards the prominence of Objects in museums. It's not that I hate material creations, because I do feel and appreciate that kind of spiritual connection through the art-making process...but I do struggle with being okay with creating art that is useful mostly for me (and my self-expression).

    I've always been annoyed at “deep” art in which the meaning is so hidden that the majority of people who see it aren't moved or changed in any way because they can't figure anything out about it. I know a lot of people would argue that that feeling is an experience in itself, or that the artist just didn’t care as much about an external audience. And I appreciate those things on a more spiritual level. I think it's cool that we as humans can “feel” those less obvious things in some other plane of existence, as in our pure emotional responses to color field paintings or the like. But...are those artworks really helping anyone? Are they really changing or being used to change anything for the better? Are they naming explicit things and calling attention to particular problems...?

    It's not the universal belief that art has to help anyone, or advocate for something in such a direct way, and I understand that. So I'm not saying these things aren't “art.” But for me...I'm not sure if I can be okay with not at least trying to use my own art-making in that way. I appreciate the “art” in our journey of living, the artful actions and images we see around us, the artful things that happen. I appreciate the beautiful sculptures and ceramics and paintings and drawings and quilts and other various craftwork humans have been able to develop and I think all of those things are good and great ways to do art. ...but my own personal creation of art is a lot more constricted.

    I'm already not helping enough as it is, so wasting even more of my free time doing whatever art I want is just way over the line. That's how I feel. It's difficult to overcome this, and I'm not even sure it's something I need to overcome. I feel more and more that it's better to transition into art-as-community-building or as social statement, but at the same time I'm terrible at community building and being involved with others.

    I feel very roadblocked.

  21. I love your art-as-object, Kristen. And you are not terrible at community building. One doesn't have to be in extrovert to build community...