Sunday, May 27, 2012 | By: Brianna

Things I Learned in Paris

From May 18th until yesterday, I was in Paris, France with my mother and my grandmother.  It was a kind of graduation gift from Grandma, and let me tell you right now that it was a dream come true.  Ever since I started taking French classes in 7th grade, I've wanted to visit Paris.  It's one of those things you have to do if you're learning French.  And even now, I haven't stopped learning.

  1. Taking luggage on the Metro or RER is one of the worst decisions you can make if only because there will be complain-y people.  Haha, sure you're speaking French, but I can still understand you...
  2. Ask the server for wine suggestions.
  3. Tip is always included.
  4. More people than you might think know and are willing to speak English, but they'll apologize for it.  I'm sorry my French isn't better, your English is infinitely better than my French and I'm in your country!

    La Tour Eiffel!

  5. The Eiffel Tower is brown.
  6. Never ever wear your un-broken-in character shoes on the first day of a walking-heavy vacation.
  7. Band-Aids are pretty much the best things ever.  :^)
  8. Croque-Madame and quiche Lorraine.  Yes please!
  9. Steak burgers are infinitely better than regular burgers.
  10. Timhotel is lackluster.

  11. Chocolate croissants.  Miam, miam, miam...
  12. L'Arc de Triomphe is in the center of a star of streets and yet un-findable when tired.
  13. The only public toilets are the shifty ones on the street.
  14. When you really need to go to the bathroom and think, "Hey!  I'll just use this free museum pass to use a museum bathroom," none of the six nearby museums will be on the list of museums it can be used for.
  15. At some intersections you have to take your life into your own hands because there are no "walk" signals.

    I'm going to miss these little walky guys...

  16. "Don't walk" signals don't have feet.
  17. Shakespeare and Co. is beautiful.
  18. Gelato is absolutely delicious and eaten with little bitty plastic shovels.
  19. Orangina, chocolat chaud, and wine.
  20. Oh, it seems you bought your wares on Oriental Trading..."May I have 1000 chintzy plastic Eiffel Towers for $0.05?  Thanks!"

    Why thank you sir, I definitely wanted you and your elbow in my picture...

  21. The Venus de Milo initially looks like a hologram.
  22. The Mona Lisa is bigger than I originally thought it would be.
  23. Sometimes the view from Sacre-Coeur or the Musee d'Orsay can suffice.
  24. Little old ladies enjoy standing outside famous Gothic cathedrals and gesturing at the facade.

    "You see there's a tall bit, a not-so-tall bit, and another tall bit..."

  25. There's a tall bit, then a not-so-tall bit, and another tall bit on Notre Dame.
  26. Hausmann regulated building in Paris: carve the front out of stone, each apartment must have a balcony, the top floor needs to have one balcony all the way around, and windows in the roof.
  27. Everyone in Louis XVI's family was vaccinated.
  28. Never ever, ever take something being handed to you (paper silhouettes or clay pottery especially).

    Source: via Lexi on Pinterest
  29. Scarves.  Leather jackets.  Big glasses.  Boots.  Lacey dresses.  Shorts and tights.  Converse.
  30. 23 times.
  31. Wild poodles only come out at night, and your mother will continuously insist that it wasn't real.
  32. "First thing...and another thing..."
  33. The line's not as long as it seems, especially when you have a pass that lets you skip it.
  34. You need stamps to send postcards.  Wait, really?

    Ca c'est jolie!!!  C'est une maison a Montmartre!

  35. Montmartre's a beautiful climb.
  36. Not all Indiana Cafes are created equal.
  37. "We're just going to give you drinks and we're going to ask you to pay first.  No, you may not have menus, because we refuse to feed you." (Bad day.)
  38. Sleeping on a pallet at my mother's feet isn't that bad.
  39. I am Marilyn Monroe in Paris.
  40. Confirmed: my pajama pants and blanket make a laser light show in the dark.
  41. Tour buses are imaginary.  Unless you don't have a reservation.  In other words...your tour?  It doesn't exist.

    The view from the cafe Le Dome.

  42. Sitting at a cafe in the rain = :^D
  43. French keyboards are insanely difficult to type on.
  44. AltGr for @
  45. Jury duty?
  46. Walking crepes are delicious, and it's fascinating to watch them made.
  47. Craft fairs may be deceiving...
  48. You may be exhausted, but your RER train will stop the stop before your's and not move, forcing you to take a Metro back into the city to get to where you need to go outside of the center.
  49. Daytime television is vastly more interesting than evening news programs.

    Source: via Bonnie on Pinterest
  50. "We'll always have Paris."

    "If you are lucky enough to have lived in Paris as a young man, then wherever you go for the rest of your life it stays with you, for Paris is a moveable feast."
    - Ernest Hemingway
Monday, May 14, 2012 | By: Brianna

P is for Physically Fit

Q:  What's up with the "P is for"?  I thought it was just "C is for Cookie..."

A:  Well, C is for cookie.

Q:  That's good enough for me.  No, but really.

A:  In high school, we had this thing called the "Grad at Grad."  It was a list of goals essentially that my high school wanted us to have achieved by the time we were a graduate at Graduation.  No big deal, right?  Goals are good.

They introduced the Grad at Grad our freshman year with an acronym:  RIPLOC.

Intellectually Competent
Physically Fit
Open to Growth
Committed to Doing Justice

I'm still amazed that I haven't forgotten it yet.  That's the power of a good acronym, I guess.  Anyway, sophomore year we had to meet with a member of the faculty or administration and talk about our progress.  How were we doing with getting to the Grad at Grad.  Somehow I got paired with the Dean of Students.  The big important dean who got to call snow days or force us to come to school in a blizzard.  I'm pretty sure I bluffed my way through most of that interview, but I was honest about "physically fit."  I said something along the lines of "Well, I used to walk to the bus stop, but then it started getting cold...and I walk to all my classes..."  And left it at that.  I never took a gym class in high school because I took fine arts all four years.  I'm not 100% certain why those are equivalent, but I'm totally okay with that because I really never wanted to take a gym class.  So the dean said I should probably work on physically fit but  it seemed like I was doing well with all the others.

Did I work on it?  Not at all.  Unless you count singing and dancing at the same time in theatrical performances, which I wouldn't really count, no.

In college I had to take P.E.  Because we're a liberal arts school and they like making weird things required for graduation.  So I plotted to take the easiest P.E. classes ever.  Which I did: Fencing, Badminton, Fitness Walking, and Cycling.  Although to be fair, cycling was the most difficult and most rewarding one that I took.  I liked it a lot.  In the end, I never really ended up "physically fit."

Then last semester, my friend and I went to the gym to lift and do things in the weight room, but that petered off because I'm a wimp.  Although we did really well for a couple weeks, I have to say.  I was impressed with us.

So I'm still working on it.
Yesterday I stole my brother's bike and took a ride on the bike trail near my house to the library.  It was pretty awesome.  Once I got home I was hot, sweaty, and gross, but I felt fantastic.  Probably because I went into it with some measure of excitement and came home confident.  Or the music on the radio was just really good that hour.  Regardless, I'm doing it again today.

I'm really excited about my new-found activity because it's going to give me something to do.  If I'm perfectly honest, I've been a bum for these first two weeks of being a college graduate, and that just makes me feel like a piece of fungus hanging out on a slice of bread.  And that's not only gross, but can't be healthy.  So...resolving to actually get outside and do something?  Yes I am.  Is it optimistic that I'll stick with it?  Absolutely.  But hopefully I can.

"It takes four weeks for you to see your body changing, it takes eight weeks for friends and family, and it takes twelve weeks for the rest of the world.  Keep Going."
Tuesday, May 8, 2012 | By: Brianna

A Reflection (from HS Senior Brianna)

Guess what, I'm still cleaning my room.  It's becoming increasingly clearer that it's going to be a summer project that's going to take approximately forever.  Well, hopefully just the summer, but forever is an option, I suppose.

Senior year of high school, I took a class called Justice Seminar.  It was one of the choices for a religion class senior year, and it was the only time we got to choose something different in the religion department.  It was either Justice Seminar or Theology Quest (in which everyone was placed by default if they didn't "get into" Justice).  Though Theology Quest sounds like it would be a really cool video game that has you searching for Jesus and gaining lives by collecting the host or Catholic artifacts...I thought that Justice would be more fun.  It was really heavy on reflection and discussion, and there was also a service aspect.  Today I found my "reader" with all the articles we read, and I'm finally coming to grips with the fact that I should probably recycle it because all it's doing is gathering dust.  Inside this reader I discovered that I had bookmarked my reflections on some of the articles.  So I'm going to share one of those here.

This is a reflection based on a chapter from Henri Nouwen's Out of Solitude called "Care" and also Henri Nouwen's "Report on the Possibility and Desirability of Love."

As Mr. Nouwen said, it seems as if our expression of indifference has been the only time we use the word "care," and even then, we are using it incorrectly.  A person who cares is a person who "instead of giving much advice, solutions, or cures have chosen rather to share our pain and touch our wounds with a gentle and tender hand."  Maybe it's arrogant to say that this statement along with the remainder of the paragraph convinced me that I am a caring person, but it did.  Either that, or extremely inarticulate.  Whenever my closest friends are having trouble, or just having a really bad day, I'm the friend that they go to who will listen to them, and just be there.  Maybe it's because I can never think of what to say at those moments, but sitting there feeling helpless along with the best of my friends is one of the main ways that I can express my love for them, and how much I care.  By offering to split an entire container of ice cream between the two or three of us, I feel like I'm doing something, even if I'm not offering the sage advice that I sometimes get.  It's the friends who are willing to just sit on the phone and listen to me rant that I really appreciate because I can tell they care about me, even if they don't know what to tell me to "make me feel better."  It's not really something I can explain, because I have a feeling if I did, it wouldn't have nearly the same impact upon me as it does right now.  A friend allows you to be yourself.

The quote, "...that it was better to suffer than to lose self-respect by accepting a gift out of a non-caring hand," confuses me.  It sounds a heck of a lot like charity, but I'm not completely certain.  It sounds like the explanation of the poor refusing help because they're "too proud," and I never really understood that.  Seems I still don't.

I agree that our society is preoccupied with "taking" and "power," because we are afraid of each other.  We're nervous about someone stabbing us in the back because if they figure out our deep dark secret, they'll use it against us.  And that makes sense.  Every man for himself, right?  But it isolates us.  It distances us from each other.  We have to constantly look over our shoulder to make sure that we're not being followed, and we never feel safe.

"When a man cries, when the walls of his self composure break down and he is able to express his deepest despair, weakness, hate and jealousy, his meanness and inner division, he somewhere believes that we will not take and destroy him as if a voice told him, 'Don't be afraid to tell.'"
This quote really stuck out to me because it's kind of like revealing your complete self and just announcing, "Here I am, take me or leave me."  Nouwen seems to be saying that we have to let ourselves be vulnerable before we can love and be loved.  I mean, the most repeated advice you get before, after, and during Kairos is "don't be afraid to open up."  And I wrote a reflection about the importance of opening up before.  Really, opening yourself up to feeling other people's hurt, and allowing for the possibility of yourself getting hurt, that's what love is.  We have to open up that oyster shell of our's, as Nouwen puts it, and let our loved ones see the pearl within.  But we are afraid of what others will say about our pearl.  We are afraid that we'll intimidate people by our willingness to share, or the gleam of our pearl in comparison to someone else's.  But just as Marianne Williamson said:
"Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us.' We ask ourselves, Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous? Actually, who are you not to be? You are a child of God. Your playing small does not serve the world. There's nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won't feel insecure around you. We are all meant to shine, as children do. We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us. It's not just in some of us; it's in everyone. And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we're liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others."
We really have to learn to love ourselves, and open up in order to allow the people around us to do the same.  If one person turns on their light, then the others can't help but follow, because how can you be afraid of the dark if all the lights are on?  If one person opens up, and loves, then the people around them will learn to love by example.  Maybe that's idealistic, or completely off the point, but it would be such a valuable change from taking love to giving love or sharing love.

So it seems that senior year of high school Brianna was pretty profound.  Interesting.

"Somehow we know that strength is often hidden in weakness and it is exactly there, where love becomes visible."
- Henri Nouwen, "Report on the Possibility and Desirability of Love"

Advice from Authors

When I was younger, I used to write letters to authors of the books that I read, asking for advice for beginning writers.  Sometimes I got responses back.  These are some of the responses I got:

Jane Yolen (author of Sword of the Rightful King) says, "I have three pieces of advice for young writers.  One: read, read, read!  You must read every day, and try to read a wide range of books.  Two: write, write, write!  Keep a journal, write letters, anything to keep the "writing muscles" in shape.  Three: don't let anyone stop you from writing.  Be persistent no matter what "naysayers" or critical editors have to say about your writing."

Dyan Sheldon (author of Planet Janet) says, "Okay, I've got two pieces of advice for a writer just starting out: 1. Read everything you can; 2. Write.  Even if all you write is fragments (I used to write stories that were about a paragraph long--certainly no more than a page.  I did that for years, until they started getting longer and longer.  Finally they got so long that I thought I might try writing a novel), it doesn't matter.  I've known lots of people who said they wanted to write, but never wrote anything."

Ann Brashares (author of The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants) says, "As far as your writing, take your time.  When you feel ready you can try and fit some of those story fragments together to make a whole story.  Have someone, like a trusted teacher, take a look at it and help you with the editing.  Then if you feel like it, you can submit it for publication in a magazine or journal.  You'll probably find many resources at your library about places to submit the type of story that you have written."

Kirsten Miller (author of Kiki Strike: Inside the Shadow City) says, "Well the best piece of advice I can offer is...rely on your butt power.  Don't laugh!  The secret is sitting still long enough to have great thoughts--and get them down on paper."

Lynne Rae Perkins (author of Criss Cross) says, "I think story fragments are a really good place to start.  I think it takes a long time for stories to gestate--at least it does for me.  Just keep coming back to them.  Set them aside, then come back and look at them with fresh eyes.  Over and over.  Also, have fun with them, and don't forget to live your (real) life."

Garth Nix (author of Mister Monday) says, "My only real writing advice is to just keep going and force yourself to finish."

Michael Hoeye (author of Time Stops for No Mouse) says, "As for advice about your writing, the best counsel I can offer is patience.  Most stories are very elusive creatures.  They don't like to make themselves known right away.  So enjoy exploring your story fragments.  At some point one of those stories will demand more of your attention.  And when it does, then my advice is to pay very, very close attention indeed.  Follow it where it leads and don't let go.  In the meantime you might try to keep this in mind: to write well one must be able to work and to play at the same time.  That is no mean trick.  So while you're pursuing the work of learning the craft of writing, don't forget to play.  That includes all sorts of time-wasting activities like reading, daydreaming, and just plain old wasting time."

Michael O. Tunnell (author of Wishing Moon) says, "Sometimes a story isn't ready to be finished, as you say, until you've been through several drafts.  It's easy to be impatient with the process of writing, but one has to realize that first drafts are usually weak for most authors.  Everything improves as your rework the story over and over again.  This is the price you pay for something good eventually surfacing."

Holly Black (author of Valiant and Tithe) says, "The best advice I can give to a fellow writer is to make sure to write down all of your ideas as soon as they come to you--there's nothing worse than remembering that you had an idea but not being able to remember the idea itself."

L.A. Meyer (author of Bloody Jack) says, "All I can say is listen to your teachers--I was a high school teacher for seven years and sent two sons through public schools and never once met up with a bad English teacher--and write about what you know.  Keep a journal and put down the boring, everyday stuff as well as the exciting.  When you're reading a book you like, try to notice how the author gets from scene to scene, how he or she handles the dialogue, the descriptions, the speed and pace of the thing.  Above all, keep at it, but take it easy--you have a world of time before you...give yourself that time."

Cornelia Funke (author of The Thief Lord and Inkheart) says, "Read--and be curious.  And if somebody says to you "Things are this way.  You can't change it."--don't believe a word."

Eva Ibbotson (author of Island of the Aunts) says, "Just keep doing it--it's all about practice, getting better and sometimes even getting it right.  How you do it is individual to every writer in the world, but I wish you lots of luck."

Diana Wynne Jones (author of The Dark Lord of Derkholm) says, "Endings--yes, I know the feeling.  I always have trouble with endings too.  (But it is very important to know that you can finish a book you're writing.)  What our ending has to do is to collect everyone important together and explain exactly why the things in the rest of the book happened.  It helps if this is done in an exciting way, but it doesn't have to be wild.  And there are all sorts of ways to do this, from somebody getting there and explaining, the baddie threatening to plunge the main character in boiling oil--and telling him/her why he/she is doing this as our hero is lowered in (you need a rescue at this point of course)."

Gary Blackwood (author of Shakespeare Stealer) says, "I guess the best advice I can give you as a novice writer is spend lots of time planning your stories before you start writing.  Keep a notebook handy and jot down all your thoughts about the characters and what the story's about and where it's going and when you can't possibly bear to put it off any longer, then start writing.  I think you'll find that the story will go more smoothly and won't fizzle out somewhere in the middle.  Hope that helps."

It's really neat to look at the collection of letters that I've got because some of them are even handwritten notes on little cards.  I really appreciate the effort that these authors went to in writing back to me because I know how busy writers can be with their writing and re-writing and researching and the like.  Knowing that these authors made time to write back to me makes me want to do the same if I ever get letters or e-mails from people who admire my work.
Monday, May 7, 2012 | By: Brianna


I'm still cleaning my room, but I found some things that I thought might be fun to share.

Once upon a time, freshman year of high school, our teacher had us pick monsters or lovers from Greek mythology.  If you picked lovers, you had to write (go ahead, guess) love letters between the two.  Whereas if you got a monster you had to write a parody of a song and perform it during class.  So I chose monster, of course.  And then I picked "satyrs" out of the hat.  This is the script from my performance:

Hello.  My name is ______________.  I am a historian researching the curious activities of the satyrs of Greek Mythology.  I used this time machine that I build in my closet to go back into the time when Greek Mythology was actually happening.  I have never been in ancient Greece before, so I wore a toga of some sort so I would blend in.  Since my time machine had left me in a forest, I began looking for the intriguing goat-men known as satyrs.  Needless to say, I got rather turned around in the forest and it wasn't until nightfall that I heard voices.  I peered out from behind a large tree and saw the god Dionysus and none other than his satyr attendants drinking, laughing, singing and dancing around a bonfire.  I heard the satyrs singing a song that goes a little like this (reads off her paper):  The best thing about being a satyr, is the prerogative to have a little fun.

Well, maybe you'd understand what I'm talking about better if I sang it.  (spontaneously breaks into song)

The best thing about being a satyr
is the prerogative to have a little fun and...
oh, oh, oh, go totally crazy--just drink and be lazy
half man, half goat,
oh, oh, oh, really go wild--Dionysus style!
Oh, oh, oh, get in the action, feel the attraction,
nymphs on the run, just havin' fun,
oh, oh, oh, I wanna be free--yeah to feel the way I feel...
Man!  I feel like a satyr!

The guys/goats are thinkin', singin', dancin', drinkin',
and never let our spirits down.
We don't need romance--we only wanna dance,
chasing all the nymphs around...

[repeat chorus]

(straighten tie, etc.)  Ahem.  Yes.  I found myself drugged and in my laboratory the next morning.  I cannot recall anything else from the previous night.  I wonder, what ever happened to plain ole ordinary, normal, peaceful, sober goats?!
Thursday, May 3, 2012 | By: Brianna


In cleaning my room, I found a couple Post-Its stuck to my desk.  They had writing prompts on them.  So I'm posting them here.

From "A Brief Lecture on Door Closers" by Clemens Starck
1.  "How does it work?"
2.  Write about a process or a history.
3.  Acknowledge a metaphor.  As a metaphor.
4.  How do people interact with mechanisms?

From "Why I Take Good Care of My Macintosh" by Gary Snyder
1.  Write the answers to a "why" question.  Multiple answers.
2.  Use repetition and the line variation that Snyder uses in his poem.

From "What's in My Journal" by William Stafford
1.  What's in your journal?
2.  How do these line breaks work?  See what you can do to replicate them.
3.  What's the pacing of the list?  Is it good or not?
4.  Mix in concrete imagery with the abstract.

Feeling Bookish?

Today I compiled a list of all the books in the house that are begging to be given away.  When I say they're "begging," I mean that they're piled up in separate little mounds of literature, attracting dust like magnets attract metal filings.  There are at least tree piles in the house.  There's the one in my room of all the books that I either forgot to sell back to school or had the mistaken impression that I would read them again when I wasn't being forced to.  There's the one in the front room of the family books, so that's a mix of books from my parents and a couple from my brother.  Finally, there's the tiny pile in the office which I had no idea about until about half an hour ago.

So I wrote up this list, organized it all pretty in alphabetical order (by author's last name), and posted the list on Facebook.

I have a point to this, I promise.

Giving away books to my friends who have been "dibs"-ing them got me to thinking about how I wanted to put together that cafe/book shop.  Honestly, that's why I took those business classes, because it would be good to have some basis for setting up a business.

I'm thinking that if I end up working in a book shop or running one, I'm going to put bookmarks in the books.  Just little things that I make.  I have a bunch of bookmarks that I made when I had extra paint-splattered-ness from my door decs last year, so I could use those.  Of course, there would be a method to the madness.  I would always put the bookmark on page 42.  Because of The Hitchhiker's Guide.  And because I like the number 42.  It might also be fun to put sheets of stickers or temporary tattoos between the pages.  I know when I get books from the library I always think it's neat if I can find things from people who had taken out the book before me.  So wouldn't it be fun if it could be something that sparked inspiration or made someone smile?  That's why I'm thinking tattoos or stickers.  Because it's a little silliness that would prompt a smile.

In my book shop, I would also cover a wall in Post-Its.  Maybe I could have book titles and reading recommendations on the Post-Its, and when a guest comes in, they have to take a Post-It off the wall.  They wouldn't necessarily have to go looking for the book, but if it ended up giving them a place to start, that would be really cool.

I would also have reviews for books or recommendations on the shelves.  Maybe I could even rig a treasure hunt of sorts to send guests on.  I'm not sure how that would work, but maybe it would send them from book to book, either based on title or knowledge of the book or location.  I would want to create some way for the guests to get involved with the books on the shelves, make them come alive somehow, even before you open their pages.

"The person, be it gentleman or lady, who has not pleasure in a good novel, must be intolerably stupid."
- Jane Austen
Tuesday, May 1, 2012 | By: Brianna

Make a Mess and Clean It Up

So begins my first week as a college graduate.  I have designated this summer as the summer of cleaning up my room and actually tossing some of the stuff I've been holding onto for no particular reason other than the fact that I can.  I'm going through my desk drawers right now and reading old letters, recycling the ones that I don't think are worth keeping.  I'm sad about how many there are, but I'll be thanking myself later when I have an empty couple drawers for real things.

So I found this in my drawer and thought I should share it before I recycle the paper it's on:

She definitely looked interested.
Look up
look down
lips together.
Look up
under lashes
look down.
in eyes so tired.
her own sandals
and tile floor.
A kind smile
a nod
a word of encouragement.
From those eyes,
blue like sky,
today overcast.
What clouded
those eyes?
to be breeze
whispering clouds
guessing refusal.

That would be from that one time when I told a complete stranger to ask out the coffee boy...

She saw him every day at the coffee shop, and every day she did the same thing.  Look up, look down.  Eye contact, look down.  She told herself she was too shy.  He would reject her and then where would she get her mochas?  Because she would be too mortified to go back.
So she looked.  And she dreamed.  And she played out their first date in her head.  He paid.


UPDATE: We (that being the royal "we") have recently discovered that we already posted that weird poemy thingy earlier in this blog.  A little less than a year ago.  So...if you feel like rummaging through past posts, feel free to see if you can find it.  It's tagged under "nerd" if that helps.