To Wear A Hat.

I believe in the power of hats.

‘Tis very unfortunate that my head shape is not conducive to effortless hat-wearing, as so many people look lovely today wandering campus with hats perched atop nicely shaped heads. They are fickle things, hats, much like men. Supposedly, a perfect one exists, yet the act of finding it takes more patience than even kindergarten teachers have. Unlike my perfect man, I believe my perfect hat is red, i.e. Claire’s in Elizabethtown, and feels worn and comfortably loved, like those jersey t-shirt sheets. Perhaps it’s knitted. I’m still in the process of finding it. While it is undoubtedly not the Boston Red Sox hat I wore yesterday in an attempt to hide greased hair, I do believe in giving other hats their chance at being my One.

People Who Look Good in Hats:

1. Frank Sinatra

2. My Dad

3. Indiana Jones

4. Frosty the Snowman

5. People with nicely shaped heads.

It’s natural to make the assumption that a Hat Wearer is hiding something, be it a bad haircut, a lack of shower, etc. However, I feel as though The Act of Wearing a Hat requires more thought than that. For example, one must know that on the day chosen to sport a hat, it is likely that hair will refuse to look good once removed. Therefore, one must wear a hat only when they can continue to wear it the majority of the day. Unless, of course, they are blessed with beautiful, voluminous hair, in which case I hate them, kind of.

At the same time, the Hat Wearer must ask: Will I be, at any point, in a church? Will I be subjected to heavy winds that will blow said hat off, revealing matted hair? Will the hat emphasize my big forehead, or mask it? Will this hat make me look masculine, if female, or feminine, if male? Does this hat match my outfit? Does this hat need to match my outfit? If this hat is a fedora, am I aware that I’m potentially channeling Justin Timberlake/Hilary Duff/other pop culture icons? Am I okay with that? If this hat is a top hat, am I aware that I’m channeling A. Lincoln? Am I similarly okay with that? If this hat is a baseball cap, is it supporting a team that I truly support? Does that really matter?

What’s silly is that I seriously consider all these things before wearing a hat. What does this say about me as a person? Don’t answer that.

A last look at hats with our beloved Ingrid, “I knitted you a hat all blue and gold/To keep your ears warm from the Binghamton cold/It was my first one and it was too small/It didn’t fit you at all, but you wore it just the same.”

 

Senior (Citizen).

We’re back, blog-o-sphere.

As a member of the 2012 Fall Cohort, I’m just a few short semesters away from the end of an era here in Ann Arbor. And fittingly so, I plan to use every moment of the next year eating as much delicious food and collecting as many favorite establishment t-shirts as humanly possible: Angelo’s, Zingerman’s, Fleetwood Diner, Washtenaw Dairy, Madras Masala, and the list goes on and on.

In the meantime, I sit and drink lots of Pizza Bob’s shakes on my front porch, contemplating the deepest thoughts of life. Today, September 11, brings me to this, the story of the Red Bandana. It’s a story of a mother finding her son, a stranger saved by the honor of another. If we live our lives — as seniors at the University of Michigan or seniors in a tower in Manhattan — without pausing, without feeling the impact of our actions, of the actions of others, we are missing the opportunity to truly be alive.

“What would you do in the last hour of your life? Where would you be? Who would remember it? What would it look like? Maybe it would look like this:” Man in the Red Bandana

Live this September. For Wells.

Banners in the Basement.

What happened was not good, and I don’t think they’ll ever go back up. I don’t. Some day, I won’t be president anymore, and maybe someone else will have a different view. But I think you have to reflect on the larger meaning and that we want to hold ourselves to a higher standard. […] We’re the University of Michigan — that shouldn’t happen.

                     University of Michigan President Mary Sue Coleman, on raising the Fab Five banners

It is a team that only needs three words to capture its aura, its significance to the arena that is men’s college basketball: the Fab Five. It is a team that contested preconceptions and competed for two colors: maize and blue. It is a team that started a cultural revolution with one clothing choice: black socks. It is a team that changed the game forever. Touted as one of the most heralded recruiting classes in intercollegiate history, the 1991 Michigan class included Chicago native Juwan Howard, state of Texas stars Ray Jackson and Jimmy King, and local Detroit boys Jalen Rose and Chris Webber. The fresh faces found success immediately in their freshman year at the University of Michigan, proving to head coach John Fisher that they were the best players to wear the Block M in the early 1990s.

Yet, with success also comes scrutiny. Howard, Jackson, King, Rose, and Webber were elevated to celebrity status, social icons on top of their student-athlete statuses on campus in Ann Arbor, Michigan. This platform was equipped with a magnifying glass, focused on the actions of teenagers representing a Big Ten university in front of a national audience.

Scandal. NCAA sanctions. University shame. A domino flurry of investigation surrounding Michigan’s Fab Five began with an automobile accident in 1996, years after the players shook the scene of college basketball with their elite trash-talking and chip-on-the-shoulder demeanor. A longstanding relationship between the Wolverine program and basketball booster Ed Martin was uncovered, prompting inquiry by the NCAA, Big Ten Conference, Federal Bureau of Investigation, Internal Revenue Service, and the United States Department of Justice. It is often thought of as the largest incidence of illegal payment of student-athletes in American intercollegiate athletics. A question remains: what will be the legacy of the Fab Five? But maybe a simple answer is enough: that they were bigger than the score of the game.

Happy Final Four Weekend. #GoBlue #CoachBeileinForever

#SB2013.

Hellllllllo. I’m coming to you live from Spring Break 2013 here in the wintry wonderland that is Ann Arbor. Haven’t you heard…it’s lovely this time of year.

Today, I’m not dipping my feet in the ocean blue. I’m not sipping on something fruity with a pretty umbrella. I’m not letting the sun’s rays warm my skin. I’m not flipping through a novel poolside. (Boooooooo.)

Sometimes I wonder if what I’m doing will be worthwhile when I leave this town. Am I wasting my four years on this?

I’m taking a gender and sport class this semester – talking about the objectification of the female body, earning 0.75 cents to the male dollar, wondering if things someday will change. Every Monday and Wednesday morning, I walk out of the class feeling totally defeated (excuse the sport pun). I feel beat down and offended by exaggerated generalizations about women in sports.

Yet here I am, defending myself on a daily basis in a male-dominated sphere, giving all I am to this cause, incredibly tired and worn.  

This afternoon, a person that I am supposed to respect said one of the most demeaning things to me, the only girl in the building. What hurt the most was that this person found nothing wrong with this comment – he was just an alpha male saying what alpha males say. And there I was again, on the floor feeling defeated.

Why do we fight so hard when just a few, ignorantly chosen words can push us back in our place? While I realize that I blog a similar sentiment often, it’s never seemed so true: words are powerful. And sometimes, words really hurt.

What do you do after a day like today? Personally, I endorse a spring break trip to the U.S. of A. commercialism utopia, Target. Purchase a minmum of three new colors of nail polish, Haagen-Dazs coffee ice cream, a pair of hot pink earrings, and a new calculator watch to make your heart happy again.

Oregon Trail.

On Monday, I was in the scenic state of Oregon. The bus departed from Ann Arbor  at 5 am on Saturday morning in order to catch our flight out of the Detroit airport. I am back home in Ann Arbor, finishing an extended weekend of travel (across the country) full of wrestling workouts, family pride, excessive amounts of caffeine, and little food, as well as a week packed of what I like to call “Mack truck midterms.” Yet again, here I am, thinking about how blessed I am to be surrounded with people that truly look out for me.

Too often our values – the ultimate morals of the stories we tell – become tainted by ill feeling, stress, insecurity, and even failure. We think that this grind we are subject to isn’t fair, that our lives are constantly being interrupted by bothersome details and bureaucratic hurdles. There are people across the world taking in part of something bigger than themselves. They aren’t shying away from a global challenge. They are working as change agents in a country and for a cause that faces an enormous hurdle ahead. The fight to keep the sport of wrestling in the Olympic Games for the 2020 Summer Games has just begun in Tehran, Iran, at the 2012 wrestling World Cup.

You see, we are who we surround ourselves with, who we align with, who we wish to identify with. However, whether we feel it or not, we are who we move. We move those around us by our passion, our ideas (literary or otherwise) and our personal brand. At this moment in my life, I’m blessed to call Ann Arbor my home. But no matter where our homes are, we’ll always be fighting for something and need someone there beside us along the way, just like the Oregon Trail.

Carry On.

And, we’re back. It’s been far too long Minor in Writing blog, far too long. I know you’ve missed my words.

As a member of the Fall 2012 cohort, I’m already missing my MiW gateway course – sitting around the table with my classmates twice a week and exchanging thoughts on life, Michigan, literary shortcomings, and momentary insecurities. I miss our refreshing conversation and constant support of one another. Wishing you all the best of days this semester. (You too, Shelley!)

In other news, I’m completely worn, in every interpretation and definition of the word. Sometimes there is language that captures emotion, experience, and expectation in a few syllables. Worn is just that word. Worn can be your favorite pair of tennis shoes, the knees of the jeans that walked you through the treacherous halls of high school, or the hands of a diligent employee. Worn tells a story of passion and relentlessness. Worn tears the edges of our will.

I’m worn, but somehow, some way, I don’t feel quite as spent at one specific moment: during conversation over waffles in the morning. There is something about that soul-fulfilling food and uplifting dialogue that tells me I am of value, that I am a “once in a career” person for my coaching staff.

Wherever you are, whatever you’re doing, stop and remember: It’s everyone’s duty to give the world a reason to dance. So get to it.

Whew.

As the Alaskans say, “Ukudigada.”

As the Australians say, “Hooroo.”

As the Danish say, “Farvel, Hej.”

As the Germans say, “Auf Wiedersehen.”

As the Italians say, “Arrivederci.”

As the Hawaiians say, “Aloha.” (It’s hello and goodbye, remember?)

In any case, I’ve truly loved this gateway semester in the Minor with all of you. I know our Tuesdays and Thursdays won’t be the same – we won’t hear Shelley tell us our drafts are due in class on Monday when we don’t have class on Monday, we won’t be able to compete so fiercely for quickfire points, and we won’t see each other’s exhausted faces to reassure ourselves that we’re not the only one struggling through the week.

Above all else, cheers to Shelley for picking us up week after week. And I’ll just say I’ll see you soon, all.

Oh, and those things we are calling ePortfolios…cheers to those too.

 

 

For the Love of Frindle.

Writing takes time. It takes clarity of thought and room for creative bursts of inspiration. It takes a willingness to dive into something often undefined, raw and revealing. It takes heart.

For the past three weeks or so, between team travel (SO overrated) and life itself, I’ve just been completely burnt out. It’s incredibly hard to write something you are proud of when you feel this way. As we near the end of the semester, I’m trying to remember why I write in the first place (yes, feel everything come full circle beginning with our semester kick-off Why I Write).

Why do I value expression through argument? As a kid, why did I beg my mom to read me to sleep? Why did I love listening to stories, no matter who was willing to tell them? What pushed me to love words? Who told me or showed me the power of writing and its potential influence on those around me?

But we all write, don’t we? We all have words and meaning to conduct. Why are my words important? Why is my writing unique?

Once again, I have no answers (seems to be a common theme in my blog reflecting life). All I know is that little Emily fell in love with one word and never looked back. It’s simultaneously beautiful and edgy. It’s bold and its conception was courageous.

The word is frindle.

In Andrew Clement’s 1996 novel Frindle, he tells the story of Nicholas Allen and a dictionary-worshipping teacher named Mrs. Granger. Allen creates a new word for the object most call a pen. Although it wasn’t in Mrs. Granger’s oversized dictionary, frindle was born.

I want to write like character Nick Allen – with ingenuity, creativity and a sprinkle of courage on top. I want to write with heart and believe in the work I create.

I want to finish my first semester as an official Writing Minor remembering why I became a Writing Minor: because I love frindles.

Yes, Virginia.

Snowwwww.

Like every Christmas story, this one is of new life in the dead of winter. Every year, there’s a church choir, a nativity scene, flour-covered hands making holiday delicacies, laughter straight from the belly, and too many Hallmark movies for one’s own good. My family makes fun of me, year after year, for the number of Christmas movies that I own and watch repeatedly once Thanksgiving has soaked up its fair share of holiday attention. It’s a mere two days after Turkey Day glory and I’ve already hit up the classics: White ChristmasMiracle on 34th StreetHow the Grinch Stole Christmas, etc. Cue the Bing Crosby soundtrack… I’ll take a bow later.

What is it about Christmas and the twinkling lights that set the scene for narratives defining some of life’s most revealing moments? What is it about the holidays that inspire individuals to see the best in their neighbors? To understand the importance of adversity we face each day? To put forth the finest their hearts have to offer? To be the decent human beings that they are? It’s always the detail – right down to the smell of pine trees and fresh-fallen snow – that tells the story of the holidays.

My favorite words during the Christmas season are the words of little Virginia and the New York Sun’s infamous editorial response:

Dear Editor,

I am 8 years old. Some of my little friends say there is no Santa Claus. Papa says “If you see it in The Sun it’s so.” Please tell me the truth, is there a Santa Claus?

Virginia O’Hanlon,

115 West 95th Street,

New York City

VIRGINIA, your little friends are wrong. They have been affected by the skepticism of a skeptical age. They do not believe except they see. They think that nothing can be which is not comprehensible by their little minds. All minds, Virginia, whether they be men’s or children’s are little. In this great universe of ours man is a mere insect, an ant, in his intellect, as compared with the boundless world about him, as measured by the intelligence capable of grasping the whole of truth and knowledge.

Yes, Virginia, there is a Santa Claus. He exists as certainly as love, and generosity and devotion exist, and you know that they abound and give to your life its highest beauty and joy. Alas! how dreary would be the world if there were no Santa Claus! It would be as dreary as if there were no Virginias’. There would be no childlike faith, then, no poetry, no romance to make tolerable this existence. We should have no enjoyment, except in sense and sight. The eternal light with which childhood fill the world would be extinguished.

Not believe in Santa Claus! You might as well not believe in fairies! You might get your papa to hire men to watch in all the chimneys on Christmas Eve to catch Santa Claus, but even if they did not see Santa Claus coming down what would that prove? Nobody sees Santa Claus, but that is no sign that there is no Santa Claus. The most real things in the world are those that neither children nor men can see. Did you ever see fairies dancing on the lawn? Of course not, but that’s no proof that they are not there. Nobody can conceive or imagine all the wonders there are unseen and unseeable in the world.

You tear apart the baby’s rattle and see what makes the noise inside, but there is a veil covering the unseen world which not the strongest man, not even the united strength of all the strongest men that ever lived, cold tear apart. Only faith, fancy, poetry, love, romance, can push aside that curtain and view – and picture the supernatural beauty and glory beyond. Is it all real? Ah, Virginia, in all this world there is nothing else real and abiding.

No Santa Claus! Thank God he lives, and he lives forever. A thousand years from now, Virginia, nay, ten times ten thousand years from now he will continue to make glad the heart of childhood.

Editorial Page, New York Sun, 1897

How I Write: “It’s the details that draw in the reader.”

The second “How I Write” event of the semester (Monday, November 19) was equally intriguing, although I didn’t walk into the event with the same enthusiasm as the first speaker back in October. It’s that time of year – my body hurts, my head is toasted, and my job is asking me to travel across the country. In all honestly, I struggled to get to the Kalamazoo Room of the Michigan League to hear author Thomas Hager speak about writing compelling nonfiction. I thought to myself, “How could anything but sleep be compelling at this moment in my life?” Boy, was I mistaken.

Hager spoke about his most recent published book, The Alchemy of Air: A Jewish Genius, a Doomed Tycoon, and the Scientific Discovery that Fed the World but Fueled the Rise of Hitler. I’m not much of a hard data girl, but his methods and rationale for writing were things I needed to hear. The speaker emphasized that he wasn’t writing for exploration or expression, but that he was writing for readers to read. He went so far to detail his research process using note cards to document each piece of information that could possibly be useful in writing. How smart is that?

The one takeaway that really grabbed me was when Hager was talking through some of his beliefs in any sort of writing, saying, “It’s the details that draw in the reader.” We relate to human flaws, connect through common failures, and are captivated by the vivid language painting the scene of our lives.

From author Yann Martel in Life of Pi:

“I must say a word about fear. It is life’s only true opponent. Only fear can defeat life. It is a clever, treacherous adversary, how well I know. It has no decency, respects no law or convention, shows no mercy. It goes for your weakest spot, which it finds with unnerving ease. It begins in your mind, always … so you must fight hard to express it. You must fight hard to shine the light of words upon it. Because if you don’t, if your fear becomes a wordless darkness that you avoid, perhaps even manage to forget, you open yourself to further attacks of fear because you never truly fought the opponent who defeated you.” 

If you don’t allow the details to draw you in, you would miss the great influence writing has, and that’d be quite the shame.