Before and After: Brie

Before.

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After.

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Brie. The little mutt that makes my life so much brighter.

Brie came to me about two years ago. She’s about three years old now. She’d lived the first year or so of her life on the streets of Puerto Rico. When she was picked up, she had hookworm, mange, no fur, and, though fully grown, weighed eight pounds less than she currently does at her ideal weight. She was literally skin and bones; her ribs were clearly visible.

I think what saved Brie was that she is so friendly and sweet as molasses. A dog like that gets saved, no matter how ugly it is. Compared to the beautiful dog she is now, she was an ugly animal. Though, I’ll admit, she was still cute. She has a sweet face, and back then she had the saddest eyes.

I had been searching Petfinder for a few weeks, looking for an emotional support animal. I saw a dog called “Briana,” listed at sixteen pounds and short-haired. My mother’s requirements for a dog was that it not be a puppy, have short hair, be less than 30 pounds, and be female and fixed. “Briana” ticked all those boxes. The dog in the blurry picture was tall, almost gangly. But I asked my mother to email Lost Dog and Cat Foundation and request her presence at an adoption event at a Petsmart a mile from my house, just to meet her. It was her first, and, it turned out, only adoption event.

I got up early and we waited for the van to arrive. The volunteers opened the back doors of the van, and there she was, in a crate in the top right corner. I turned to my mother and said, “That’s my dog.” She was doubtful, to say the least. But she still ran inside and signed up for an interview.

Not too long after, we took Brie home. The consensus in the car before we’d arrived at Petsmart was that, should we adopt “Briana,” she would promptly be renamed “Brie.” “Briana” was too human a name for a small dog.

Brie gained weight, and I got her to be truly housetrained. To my mother’s dismay, she grew a long, beautiful, honey-colored coat. She became the most friendly, sweet, and affectionate dog in the world. That dog runs around with an actual smile on her face. She’s the sweetest and happiest thing. Sure, sometimes she’s a brat or annoying, but she’s truly a delight, and I love her more than I ever thought possible. She’s a fantastic emotional support animal; though untrained, she knows when someone is upset. She loves to be touched and talked to.

Thanks, Mom and Dad, for the best present I ever got.

 

Synesthesia

Synesthesia. A word a surprising amount of people have heard, but many do not understand.

According to the Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy, the word synesthesia comes from the Greek syn- and aesthesis, meaning “union” and “sensation,” respectively. Its figurative translation means “to perceive together.”

Synesthesia is, by definition, a sense impression made on one part of the body or on one sense that is produced by stimulus to a separate sense or body part. To simplify, synesthesia can be thought of as a “crossing over” of senses.

Synesthesia is not a disease, nor is it a hallucination. It is a genetic biological phenomenon, unlearned, more common in females than males. It is believed that one in every 2,000 people are synesthetes, the term used for those individuals with synesthesia. Famously, Vladimir Nabokov is reputed to have been a synesthete.

There is a widely-accepted theory that synesthesia is caused by a genetically driven overabundance of neurons in the brain. Synesthetes tend to be musical, artistic, and/or good at spelling and history. The musicianship and artistic abilities come from the lives of synesthetes being, for the most part, saturated with color. The enhanced spelling and history ability come from these colors, too. If the colors of the letters or numbers are amiss, the synesthete can more easily locate mistakes and fix them.

I myself have synesthesia. Mine manifests in the form of letters and numbers having colors, genders, and personalities, especially numbers under ten. I also “see” music. Music usually looks to me like colors, sometimes shapes, and occasionally scenes, like paintings.

The way synesthesia works for me is that I see that letters in a book are black. I know the ink is black; I see the ink is black. But in my mind’s eye, the place where one visualizes things, (for example, memories) the letters each have their own colors. This is one of the reasons I love reading so much, because the words become tiny paintings comprising a larger, more beautiful whole.

My favorite words because of my synesthesia and the colors of its provides are “beautiful,” “meadow,” “dinosaur,” and “bride.” My favorite pieces of music are Debussy’s “Clair de Lune,” which is deep blue and speckled with silver, with moments of the palest yellow. I also love “By a Sleepy Lagoon” by Eric Coates, which is peach and sky blue and green. The letter “A” is red, “I” is a pale ice blue with a tiny tint of lavender, and the letter “T” is forest green. They are that way because they’ve always been that way. I’ve never known a time when those letters didn’t have those colors.

Synesthesia varies from person to person. The colors of my alphabet, while they largely conform to those of most English-speaking synesthetes, vary slightly from that alphabet. My sister and my father have synesthesia as well, and their alphabets differ from mine, with some similarities. We get into joking fights about what color certain letters are.

I wouldn’t trade my synesthesia for anything. It literally makes my life more colorful. It makes music and reading more interesting and delightful. I’ve never lived without it, and I wouldn’t like to. If you’d like to know what color your name is, comment below, and I’ll let you know!

 

Works Cited:

Carpenter, Siri. (March 2001). Everyday fantasia: the world of synesthesia. American Psychological Association. Retrieved from: http://www.apa.org/monitor/mar01/synesthesia.aspx

Harrison, J.E., & Baron-Cohen, S. (Eds.) (1996). Synaesthesia: Classic and contemporary readings. Cambridge, MA: Blackwell.

 

General Update

*Slinks up to the microphone* Hello . . .

I have completed the first summer session of classes and am well into the second. I’ve been working as a nanny since April, as well. In between I’ve been reading, reading, reading.

I’ve been reading Delusions of Grandma by Carrie Fisher (I love you forever, Space Mom) and Ellen Herrick’s The Forbidden Garden. I’ve also been continuing with Stephen King’s On Writing, The Female Persuasion by Meg Wolitzer, and rereading Rilla of Ingleside – I’m always somewhere in the Anne series at any given moment.
I’m going to pick up The Sun Also Rises, as well. I bought myself a handsome copy of it at my favorite used bookstore, Ed McKay’s. I hated The Sun Also Rises in high school, because I had read The Old Man and the Sea too young (seventh grade) and hated it, so I decided to hate Hemingway on principle. Honestly, this view of mine didn’t change until I read A Moveable Feast for the first time. How can one, upon reading about Paris in the 1920s, not fall in love with anyone writing about it when they’ve lived it? And so, I fell in love with Hemingway.

It’s Been Awhile

Hello.

As I am currently in one in-person class and two online classes, I’ve been a little busy. Then again, everyone is busy. I’ll be doing the whole three-class thing again in the second summer session, so I won’t really have free time until mid/late July. Please bear with me!

The biggest benefit of my taking three classes in five weeks is that I’m reading. I’m reading a lot for classes, obviously, but more importantly, reading for these classes has brought me to a place where reading is all I want to do, and is what I spend most of my scant free time doing. It’s been fantastic; now I’ve been reading, reading, reading for weeks, all I want to do is write. I can feel the creative urge beginning to stir within my heart and mind. My to-be-read stack is ridiculously tall, but I’ll get to it. I’m steadily moving through books. I don’t devour them in a matter of hours anymore like I did my entire childhood, but I am consistent with how much and how often I read, and I still read in large chunks at a time.

I’m currently reading (for fun) You Are a Badass by Jen Sincero, and The Female Persuasion by Meg Wolitzer. My classes are Representing Women, which so far has largely been about female representation in and creation of art, Major American Authors Colonial-Romantic, and Contemporary Rhetoric, so you can see how I am doing a lot of reading. The class I enjoy the most so far is Major American Authors.

So, I’ll keep plugging away and working my butt off. I’ll try to update here.

 

Summer

I love summer. I really do. I always have. Even summer in the South, even summer in the reclaimed swampland where I spent the majority of my life: I love it.

I love the contrast in temperatures. The sun is scorching, but the water – whether pool, lake, river, or ocean – is cool. I love baking in the sun, cooling in the water, and repeating the process to keep myself comfortable. I love that water is something my whole person can enjoy once more, that it is something in which I can again submerge myself. I love being cold indoors and thawing outside, then boiling outside and freezing indoors.

I love getting tan. I’m blessed to have southern Italian heritage, so I don’t burn easily – I definitely can, but frequently I wake up the next day just tan when the day before I looked absolutely like a lobster. I love getting blonder. I’ve never dyed my hair or even gotten highlights, and the summer sun combined with chlorine from pools and juice squeezed from the lemons in my kitchen is the only way I lighten my hair.

I love the way ice water is the sweetest, cleanest, most satisfying ambrosia in the summer. I love all the fruits that are in season, and I used to love being able to pick produce from my father’s garden and eat it straight from the vine. I love the foods, lighter and colder and delicious, like caprese salad, that are seasonally appropriate. I love that those foods sit lightly in the stomach and make me feel like I can more easily do physical activity. I love flowers and the verdancy of summer. I love the warmth of summer rain, and the chill of the air conditioning drying the water from your skin and clothes.

I love that summer seems like the perfect time of the year for adventures. Want to jump off a cliff into the water below? Why not! Want to go on a road trip? Let’s do it! I love hearing the music of the ice cream truck in the distance. It almost sounds like a fairy’s music box.

My very favorite thing about summer is summer nights. I love that the sun doesn’t fully disappear until nine o’clock. I love the scents of rain from afternoon thunderstorms, heavenly honeysuckle, intoxicating lilac, heady magnolia. But the sweetest thing about summer nights is the humidity, believe it or not. It’s like being wrapped in a warm blanket, because the air is no longer hot. It’s comfortable and comforting.

Breaking the Fast

Good morning!

I am a creature of habit. I like some form of dairy for breakfast every day, whether it’s actual dairy, like cream cheese on a bagel, or fake dairy, like almond milk in cereal. I eat about three things for breakfast when I’m eating at home, with a slim margin of variety.

I made up this “recipe” when I was living at home, in between colleges. I got the idea from the breakfast I always had in the dining hall, when I got up for breakfast, at my first college. I would always eat scrambled eggs and fried potatoes. I noticed that I liked it best when I got a forkful of both.

One of the benefits of living in your parents’ house is that there’s a (sometimes, in my parents’ house) fully stocked kitchen. I decided to recreate the breakfast I liked from the dining hall. I fried up some potatoes – and then promptly forgot to remove them from the pan, and cracked an egg over them.

I wasn’t about to throw it away; I hate wasting food. So I shrugged and cracked the other egg over the potatoes. I had a slice of cheese on the counter for the eggs, and I shredded it by hand into the mixture. A dash of salt and pepper, and breakfast was ready!

Now it’s a staple for me. I usually dice a quarter of a potato, fry the small pieces, crack the egg(s) over the potato, and shred a slice of cheese into the whole thing. Personally I like my eggs wet, borderline Grace-is-going-to-get-salmonella, but you can cook them to your liking.

Have a good day!

 

 

Sunrise

A few weeks ago, I took a small road trip to the beach with two friends. We stayed in a cheap but incredibly nice Airbnb, where at night, because we are poor and college students, we stayed in and studied the one night we stayed.

It was a great trip. We listened to some excellent music on the way, and the drive itself was beautiful, as the day was gorgeous. We arrived on the beach in the early afternoon, and stayed on the sand almost till sunset. We took walks, dipped in the water, which was so cold it sent waves of aching up my legs from my submerged feet, napped (okay, mostly I napped), and passed a soccer ball around. The wind blew incessantly, getting sand everywhere whether or not it was welcome. The beach was mostly empty and the water, at forty-eight degrees, even more so.

The weather Sunday was supposed to be good, hence why we stayed the night instead of returning home once we were coated in sand. The three of us rose just before sunrise and trooped down to the shore. We stood in silence, watching the sky lighten, and then watching the sun rise.

We were silent and still. As young people, this does not often happen. But silent and still we were. It was lovely, and lovely to have only one thing to focus on. It was so quiet; it had been a new moon the night before, leaving the beach in a darkness so profound that I had never experienced such complete organic darkness before, and the tide was out.

Occasionally a smartphone appeared to snap a picture. Believe it or not, I’m happy the smartphone did occasionally make an appearance. It’s easy to unlock a phone and take a picture without taking one’s eyes from the actual event. I didn’t miss a moment of that sunrise, and I also have pictures to remember it from a slightly different vantage point.

If you’ve never experienced a sunrise, I would highly recommend it. This wasn’t my first sunrise, or my first beach sunrise. Sunrise is a wonderful time of day, especially if you get up for it specifically and know your warm, soft bed is waiting for a quick nap afterwards. It’s quiet – not silent, quiet. You can hear nature, mostly unadulterated by human noise, and there’s something ancient and enduring happening in front of or around you. It is an incredibly peace-bringing experience. It’s still cool or cold, but there’s a cleanliness to that, too. The quietude is what spoke to my soul. I live in an apartment with four total women including myself, three dogs, and a cat. It gets very, very loud, and having a few minutes of quiet was profound.

Find what your soul needs and enjoy it.

Weight and Self-Image

When I was growing up, I was always “the skinny one.” I had the supersonic metabolism that meant I could eat anything and stay thin.

I operated within this belief into and through puberty. I noticed weight gain as I my body became that of a woman’s. Since I’d always been told and seen myself as “skinny” in the way a child’s body is skinny, I saw my beautiful new curves as just fat. Fat fat fat fat fat. The self-loathing began.

I wasn’t fat, by the way, not at all. I was still thin, and curvy. Looking back now I see that. I see that my body was beautiful the entire time. Comparing it to the weight I am now, I could laugh until I cry that I thought I was fat, when I was gorgeous and perfect the way I was.

Gaining weight after finishing puberty was crushing. It started after I left my first college and retail job, and began my desk job. After awhile I decided to do something about the way I felt about myself. I began working out most days of the week and eating as well as I could.

Then I broke my foot, which has set me back immensely. I am now working out about three times a week, and eating better, and I’m noticing not only weight loss, but toning and muscle gain.

Maybe I don’t have to be “skinny.” Maybe I can just be healthy and curvy and happy. I’m going to keep working, and hopefully those size 8 pants will fit again soon. But if they don’t and I learn to love my new body on the way, that’s fine too.

 

Favorite TV Series

Parks and Recreation

This show is so genuinely funny it’s impossible not to love it. Though the first season was, admittedly, as my boyfriend says, a bad ripoff of The Office, it came into its own in the second season and kept the momentum going for seven seasons total. Amy Poehler’s character Leslie Knope is the feminist icon of the twenty-first century, and the plethora of strong female characters and the male characters that are accepting and supporting of them are excellent.

 

Friends

Though this show is admittedly somewhat problematic (see: lack of diversity, homophobia, etc.), it’s also the precursor to every following sitcom, and still makes me laugh aloud, even after seeing each episode a dozen times.

 

Brooklyn 99

Brooklyn 99 regularly and frequently has me in tears and stitches from laughter. It’s goofy, clever, and touching all at the same time. The cast is fantastic, and each character and cast member is as strong as the others.

 

Archer

I’ll admit, I hated this show at first. It was controversial and irreverent. It was its astonishing cleverness that won me over. The jokes are so, so, unbelievably witty that I’m caught off guard, which is some of the best laughter there is.

 

Westworld

Look, a non-comedy show! Westworld, though a remake, is a wonderful program. The effects are fantastic, and I love the fact that no expense is spared in the making of this show. It’s dark and the plot twists, and the suspense is delicious. This show is a little gory, but not overly so. It’s definitely cathartic.

Graduation Gift Guide

As summer approaches, so does graduation season. Whether graduating from college or graduate school, these are all great presents for the grad(s) in your life.

Gift cards

You can never go wrong with a gift card, and definitely not with cash. A lot of times college and master’s or doctorate graduates already have many of the things they need. Starbucks, grocery, movie, etc. gift cards are always helpful!

Combination churchkey/wine opener

You’d be surprised the length people go to open beers and wine bottles when they don’t have one of these. Make their lives easier, and just give them what they “need.”

You Are A Badass by Jen Sincero

This book is a great resource for anyone leaving what they’ve always known (i.e., school) and going into something entirely new. Why not set up your grad for success in their future endeavors?

Stationery

Stationery is definitely handy, especially for all the thank-you cards that will have to be written for gifts received. They’re handy for any occasion: birthdays, thank-yous, congratulations, anniversaries, etc.

Tool Kit

Again, you’d be surprised what people will turn to if they don’t have the proper tools. I myself have used scissors as a screwdriver and any number of things for a hammer. Getting real tools was a godsend. I’d especially recommend an electric multi-tool with various interchangeable heads.

Keurig

While it’s more than likely that your grad has one of these, if they don’t, it’s a handy machine to have. A Keurig will ultimately save your grad money on their Starbucks habit – especially if you didn’t get them that Starbucks gift card! Just remember to give some pods with the Keurig if this is the gift you choose. The Keurig is almost useless without them.

Phone Chargers

With the way phone chargers get lost, stolen, or damaged everyone could always use extra phone chargers. It’s an excellent, useful, and cost-effective gift you know your grad will appreciate.