Things I Google When I Write

Over the last few weeks, as I’ve been finishing up the last few chapters of my novel draft, I’ve conducted a bit of an experiment. Years ago I noticed that I need to have wifi when I write because I need to have Google. I’m constantly fact-checking, looking up images to help me with descriptions, and using the internet as an all-purpose thesaurus. (Any word I type into the search bar now, Google immediately suggests I follow up with “synonym.” It’s done that for years. It knows me.)

So just for my own entertainment (and now yours!) I’ve been keeping a little log of every odd thing I find myself looking up just so I can finish the sentence at hand. This list below has absolutely been edited for brevity: it’s about half of its original length and the vast majority of what I cut was just me searching for synonyms of everyday adjectives like “angry” or “large.”

The point is, if you’ve ever wondered what it’s like to write a novel, here you go, enjoy. There’s a good chance it’s both weirder and duller than you ever imagined.

Week One

learned helplessness ᷸ tree nymph ᷸ I saw you lying in your own blood ᷸ Ezekiel 16 ᷸ Toyota Camry 2010 ᷸ ten reasons why ᷸ Netflix shows spring 2018 ᷸ Cookout milkshakes ᷸ pedestrian ᷸ hieratic ᷸ when do you need to start mowing your lawn each year ᷸ Jonah and the whale ᷸ Reilly ᷸ strikethrough on google docs ᷸ Hard Times ᷸ high school economics textbook pdf ᷸ NCDMV wildflowers ᷸ phoenix plural ᷸ semiannual ᷸ biannual ᷸ what’s the word for once every two years ᷸ performance venues in london

Week Two

Prace ᷸ April calendar 2018 ᷸ popular insults ᷸ Victoria and Albert tattoos ᷸ Victoria and Albert museum tattoos nearby ᷸ Albert Memorial to gold tattoos ᷸ Phil Robertson ᷸ Bill Robertson ᷸ ruefully ᷸ national youth choir ᷸ famous people with curly hair ᷸ most expensive dog ᷸ Madrigal ᷸ teenage girl bible study handouts ᷸ Hyde Park ᷸ map of where they say sneakers ᷸ 15 times 8 ᷸ 90/15 ᷸ Millie Bobby Brown

Week Three

TSA ᷸ soap bible study acronym ᷸ roll ᷸ benaline ᷸ kensington gardens london carriage ᷸ Museum of torture London ᷸ latte/espresso machine ᷸ does matte lipstick have a smell ᷸ Abide with Me ᷸ Psalm 49 ᷸ towels for babies ᷸ Optinos ᷸ dress circle ᷸ he never failed me yet history ᷸ Altoids ᷸ he never failed me yet lyrics ᷸ Borough market ᷸ Golden benchmark

Week Four

Consortium ᷸ Thank you for giving to the lord ᷸ Baby names 2009 ᷸ smelliest sandwich ᷸ Let us die to make men free ᷸ what does it take for a building to be condemned ᷸ what is larry ᷸ rain falls on the just and the unjust ᷸ Character awards ᷸ Home depot locations ᷸ end of year slideshow soundtrack ᷸ width of a gymnasium ᷸ Voyeur ᷸ forest fire before and after pictures

Distractions and Other Gifts

I’m two weeks into my new semester and, like I did in the Fall, I’ve already spent a lot of class-time in Regent’s chapel. Its entire right side is solidly made up of windows which look into the main atrium of the school and out through to the courtyard as well. It’s wall on wall of glass facing out into the slatey Pacific sky. There are blinds, but they’re never closed, and you can see anyone coming in or out of either of the building’s two north entrances while you sit in class.

I watch everyone who comes and goes. I can’t help it. It could be during the long lecture hours on Wednesday morning, or afternoon CTC, or Tuesday morning chapel service itself–everyone who’s ever taught me in that space probably thinks I’m incurably rude. And maybe I am. But watching a young mother with already-full hands and some hefty stroller struggle through the heavy door till someone runs to catch it for her and she mouths her thanks—this is eternally riveting to me. It’s a tiny, gentle drama that never gets old. Both parties go their opposite directions, and I’m left scribbling notes on Christianity and culture and thinking about small, habitual acts of generosity which make doorways sacred. My favorites, though, are the people who come through those doors alone, which are most of them. Sometimes I know their names, occasionally I even know where they’re coming from, but for a flash as they pass through those narrow doors I know them all, every soul. Witnessing those private moments of entrance and exit, ducking in and out of the rain, leaving work behind or heading towards it, concentration or distraction marked upon a forehead—I hear a heartbeat every time. Then, content, I shift my gaze back to a slide about Alexander the Great and the intertestamental period.

On top of all this people-watching I’ve been doing, I have a complaint I’ve been making. It’s the nicest complaint I’ve ever had. I’m in a class this term called Christian Imagination, about the arts, and everytime I try to do the reading for that class I get too excited and have to stop and write. In two weeks’ time I’ve produced three-and-a-quarter poems and four pages of a novel. And now this blog entry. It’s getting out of hand.

So, friends, to cope with these problems, this afternoon I dropped a class just to give myself more space. I’ll get those credits later. When there are people all around me how can I not watch them? And when there are poems all around me how can I not write them?

The Smallest Joys

This is going to be mundane. I’m excited.

First, you have to understand that I don’t spend much money. This is partly because I don’t have much and partly because I don’t need much, but also, and perhaps most importantly, because I have very, very good sales resistance. I usually walk into stores with a very definite list of what I need, and often I walk out with less than that. In fact just last week, I went to one specific store to buy one specific thing, looked at it for a while, decided that I didn’t want it after all, and went contently back home with nothing. I’ve never learned to be a good consumer.

So everytime I go to the Farmer’s Market out on I-40 I stare wistfully at the stalls of gorgeous bright flowers and tell whoever I’m with that really the only reason I want to get married one day is for an excuse to buy buckets and buckets of those things to fill a church with. Usually my companion tells me practically that since they’re only ten dollars, and typically my paycheck is more than that, I should go ahead and buy some now if I like them so much. I never listen.

But last weekend I threw a little bridal shower for a friend and, feeling a little giddy, I headed out to the Farmer’s Market with Karen, and walked away with a bunch of the much-desired flowers cradled in my arms like an infant. Since the bride was leaving town two days after the shower, I kept them and the most hardy of them are still sitting on my kitchen table, shining out the last vestiges of their glory.

Then on Tuesday I went to run an errand for a friend before I had a hair appointment and realized I had some extra time, so, perhaps feeling the afterglow of the marvelous floral purchase, I decided to wander around a little bit. I went to Barnes and Noble, where I bought myself a just-for-fun book, and then to Schiffman’s, where I had my ring cleaned, and then I took myself to lunch and read in the car. Granted, at both Barnes and Noble and Panera, I used gift cards, the book I bought was from the clearance table, and jewelry cleaning is an entirely complimentary service, so I didn’t technically spend a cent on myself all day (even, incidentally, at the hair appointment.) Yet as I stood there in Schiffman’s waiting for my ring, smiling into glowing glass cases at the silver and gold, and politely deflecting the saleslady’s attempts to get me to start a “wishlist” (ha!), I felt a warm, creeping joy, and decided that no matter how puny and silly it might seem to anyone else, I was having my own personal girl’s day out. I felt incredibly frivolous and also heavenly.

Most of the time, especially since fully entering the adult world two years ago, I try to go into every situation and do what should be done. I buy what I should buy, I go where I should go, I say what I should say. I live by the word “should.” Should is a very important word. Should makes the world go round.

But should is not the only word. Perhaps, at times, I need to keep an eye out for places and moments where should has nothing to do with it, where the only real operator on the scene is small, bright joy. And, if you’ll excuse me for applying theology to something as silly and ephemeral as consumerism, I think Jesus died so that “should” would no longer have to be my master. He died so that he, the Light of the world, the Lily of the Valley, could be my master instead.

I’ve worn my grandmother’s ring nearly every day since my senior year of high school, and in that time, I’ve only had it cleaned twice. Now when I look at it, it sparkles. And it makes me happier than I ever knew it could.

How to Have a Snow Day (Parts I, II, III, and, apparently, IV)

-Be teacher during midterm exam week.

-Receive expected text cancelling Friday while watching movie with roommate.




Part I: Friday

-Sleep in.

-Smile at snow outside of window.

-Consider actually enjoying snow for once.

-Begin to layer winter clothing.

-Discover heavy boots are MIA.

-Continue to layer winter clothing to make up for deficit of decent boots.

-Gather phone, keys, phone charger, glasses, and similarly layered roommate.

-Realize am probably wearing enough clothing and equipment to go into battle as snow warrior.

-Feel invincible.

-Venture into white, sleety world.

-Climb (small) snowy mountains.

-Arrive at parents’ house.

-Make too-salty cookies.

-Read Wall Street Journal weekend section.

-Revel in Wall Street Journal weekend section.

-Play seven games of Solitaire on floor by wood stove.

-Win only one (by dishonest means).

-Discover heavy boots in parents’ upstairs closet.

-Put on heavy boots and consider possibility of actually becoming snow warrior.

-Ask very nice father for ride home.

-Once home, tromp across street to neighbor-friends’.

-Eat curry.

-Discuss unfortunate bodily functions as well as city council.

-Watch X-Files on squished couch and cover eyes to protect self from aliens.

-Laugh with roommate at people who have cabin fever.

-Make more hot chocolate mix.


Part II: Saturday

-Take hot bath.

-Talk to sister on other side of ocean.

-Marvel at ability to speak to sister on other side of ocean.

-Marvel at possibility of sister’s holiday to Netherlands.

-Enjoy marvelling.

-Layer items of winter clothing.

-Put on heavy boots.

-Rejoice in new freedom endowed by heavy boots and also own potential as snow warrior.

-March out alone toward local grocery store to buy supplies for tomato soup and grilled cheese.

-Walk in middle of street because if not now when.

-Become very warm from snow-aerobics (i.e. walking).

-Desperately remove items of winter clothing.

-Wisely decide against removing boots.

-Encounter happy walking couples, happy playing children, happy bundled houses, and angry driver who reproachfully waves self out of road.

-Decide snow turns entire world into Mayberry.

-Become caught up in joy and self-revelation.

-Decide to write blog entry about new person snow has made self to be.

-Arrive home full of good will and with groceries.

-Do yoga to calm rapidity of beating heart from snow-related epiphanies.

-Make pasta (not tomato soup and grilled cheese).

-Listen to Hamilton at behest of sister.

-Stare glowy eyed at computer for hours reading lyrics.

-Imagine Lin-Manuel Miranda writing brilliant things.

-Imagine self writing brilliant things.

-Consider writing blog entry.

-Consider doing laundry.

-Instead, watch angsty indie love movie in dark room.

-Make not-as-salty cookies.

-Learn to play Dominion.



Part III: Sunday

-Take too-cold bath.

-Walk to parents’ house.

-Play Scrabble and beat parents (though not brother).

-Ignore fact that parents had Very Bad tiles.

-Eat blueberry coffee cake.

-Play Trivial Pursuit.


-Eat pasta.

-Discover afternoon church is cancelled.

-Read Bible and sing hymns with family instead.

-Consider possibility of Monday school cancellation.

-Dismiss possibility as heresy.

-Walk to local coffee shop to meet roommate.

-Carry on long conversation with roommate and brother mocking others’ inability to drive in snow.

-Play Dominion again.

-Lose again.

-Clean off car and successfully run short errand in it.

-Feel smug and also relieved about driving ability.

-Receive woeful text cancelling Monday.

-Imagine students at home stewing in pots of own exam stress.

-Imagine self, on distant-future-day-when-school-resumes, being doused with said exam stress.

-Stew in pot of future-stress-related stress.


-Decide no one in weather-weary world wants to read snow-related blog entry.

-Realize self does not want to write said blog entry because self never wants to write lately anyway.

-Answer emails like a grump.

-Eat dinner cooked by nice roommate who makes food pretty.

-Decide even weather-weary world should not miss out on extreme cleverness and wit.

-Begin to draft cleverness and wit.


Part IV: Monday

-Wake up to sound of roommate heading off to work.

-Feel wistful.

-Watch Downton.

-Make make ambitiously grocery list including four kinds of cheese.

-Put on clothes and also hat and snow warrior boots.


-Discover main roads are clearer than clear.

-Wish main roads were not clearer than clear so would have excuse to avoid big stores full of tired people and school-aged children.

-Spend slightly too much money on food, mostly unnecessary but delicious prosciutto.

-Arrive home in relief.

-Make self hot chocolate as reward for conquering real world as snow warrior.

-Consider the remote possibility of snow day Part V.

-Dismiss potential Part V as heresy.

-Receive email with school schedule for tomorrow.

-Realize snow day Part V actually is heretical and false and definitively not happening.

-Have mixed feelings.

-Smile at remaining snow outside of window.

-Consider becoming sentimental.

-Decide instead to go ahead and start dinner.

How to Write a Novel (Part I)

-Be frightened underclassman.

-Decide to write novel so that will be person worth speaking to at parties and also to change world and self.

-Excitedly produce short prologue out of thin air.

-Realize have, as usual, given main characters awful names.

-Keep names out of cussedness.

-Hope am good enough writer to become famous anyway.

-Settle in gleefully for months of planning.

-Begin with one outline-ish word document.

-Assign pretentious title from Hopkins.

-Spend summer filling awkward orange notebook with disconnected paragraphs, most written by Tolkien, not self.

-Use special pen.

-Never mention to anyone.

-Make lists of books for character (not self) to read.

-Allow word document to spawn eighteen runty chapter babies.

-Eat M&M’s.

-Eventually mention to one friend, then two, then three.

-Refer to as “my story.”

-Become overwhelmed when friends speak confidently of future B&N author cardboard cutouts.

-Feel weird.

-Search internet for pictures which look like characters.

-Discover no one looks like characters.

-Wonder if characters are too ugly or too pretty or just too fictional.

-Encouraged by crazies of NaNoWriMo, write twenty actual pages in one year.

-Hide away in princess lounge to do so, usually wearing pajama pants and fuzzy blanket as cape.

-Pretend am doing something respectable and normal like biology.

-Feel covert and important.

-Watch Mad Men to inspire self.

-Realize have given self five seventeen year old boys to write about.

-Question own decision making skills.

-Tell more people.

-Continue to shyly use word “story.”

-Have brilliant idea to do independent study!

-Realize will have to begin saying word “novel” for clarity.

-Use “novel” in conversation, usually whispering and doing awkward side-eye to gage reaction.

-Promise to put new friends in as characters “just crossing the street or something.”

-Regret decision.

-Write syllabus for following semester, brazenly assigning self one hundred whole pages.

-Become horrified by others’ unconditional confidence in abilities.

-Decide everyone is possibly mentally deficient (including self, for trying.)

-While home for summer, read Thomas Wolfe for inspiration.

-Hate Thomas Wolfe.

-Continue to read Thomas Wolfe.

-Write another actual chapter.

-Regret hundred-page decision.

-Consider sending pathetic email to independent study professor.

-Give chapters to mother.


-Re-read Mennyms books and weep.

-Receive chapters back from mother, covered in red and “don’t be discouraged.”

-Take twelve deep breaths.

-Revise some.

-In first independent study meeting, when professor cheerfully asks about current progress, begin crying.

-Realize am safe from professor ever asking same question again.

-Continue to be terrified.

-Discover deadlines excellent for forcing courage.

-Create whole bookmarks folder of encouragement websites for writing.

-Become surprised by usefulness of internet.

-Put one word after another.

-Become suspicious when professor unequivocally likes new chapters.

-Wonder nervously if professor actually knows about novels.

-Begin to adjust to own use of word “novel.”

-Struggle, however, to adjust to friends’ use of word “book.”

-Become surprised by continual question, “What’s it about, or can I know?”

-Wonder if world, including own English professor’s wife, believe am hording magical personal secrets.

-Become embarrassed by own inability to summarize plot.

-Wish plot was full of magical personal secrets.

-Tell sassy close friend entire plot in detail.

-Allow friend to give character fatal illness.

-Refuse to allow friend to change first name of main protagonist.

-Become less afraid.

-Turn in self-assigned pages approximately 30 hours late on regular basis.

-Decide sleep is good reward for writing.

-Discover if keep self up writing too long, head will refuse to stop writing, even in bed.

-Decide writing will have to be its own reward.

-Send uncomfortable chapter to friend to avoid asking questions of delightfully awkward professor.

-Become pleased with own cleverness.

-Begin writing acknowledgements page.

-Go, go, go.

-Insert unplanned chapter in act of great daring.

-Decide to use as senior honor’s project so will never have to let go of baby.

-Become sloppy.

-Consolidate chapters into document called “A Draft for Word Count and Ego.”

-Long for revision.

-Dream about revision.

-Wish could time travel to next semester when am revising.

-Become alarmed by professor’s comments about narrative point of view.

-Wonder if POV is even important.

-Wonder what POV even is.

-Become reckless.

-Send apologetic late night emails to professor for incoherence of narrative.

-Drink Earl Grey.

-Cry nonsensically loud tears of joy.

-Nearly finish draft before bed.

-Wake up in elation.

-Actually finish draft!

-Post well-planned facebook status.

-Perform deeply private happy dance.

-Raise ire of entire TLC by printing 144 pages immediately before classtime.

-Use massive stapler.

-Carry around printed draft like newborn child.

-Become terrified by others’ eagerness to hold it.

-Email draft to family. (Change “Ego” to “Encouragement.”)

-Sit in bath planning eradication and merging of certain minor characters.

-Refuse to type or write single word in interest of “letting story breathe.”

-Read portions of draft aloud to self while roommate is away.

-Stab maliciously at embarrassing portions with finger.

-Send impossibly patient independent study professor messy thank you note.

-Consider studying for finals.

-Consider beginning new project.

-Continue instead to mentally smother current project with affection and abuse.


How We Look

Just to quickly get you up to speed: my mother bought a ping pong table, I bought an ice tray that makes cubes shaped like lightning bolts, Kate Middleton had a baby who will be king and her hair still looks gorgeous, and at the moment I’m holed up in my Dad’s library study at UNCG, wearing the ancient sweater and corduroys he keeps in here over my own clothes, because this place is cold.

It’s with a few healthy tons of trepidation that I’m writing this entry today. It’s something I’ve wanted to write about for a long time. I’ve been afraid of saying the wrong thing, but at last I’ve decided to just go ahead and put this out there. Maybe I feel ready for this because I’ve finally achieved Gandalf-and-Solomon-level wisdom, or maybe I’ve just been reading enough C.S. Lewis that I think I have. I’m not sure.

What I have to say is about the way we look, specifically the way we women look, how others look at us, how we look at each other, and how we look at ourselves. There are two prevailing cultural attitudes, both strong, which tend to sit in our guts and battle it out all day long.

First, there is the all-powerful objective of female beauty that every man, woman, and child knows and accepts to some extent. I generally have pretty high self-esteem when it comes to my looks, sometimes too high, but I find that if I look at Vogue for more than fifteen minutes, though it was just to see the clothes and though I thoroughly understand the risks, afterwards my own reflection looks faded and plain in the face of such mighty photoshop. Features of which I was previously proud look second-rate and pitiful in comparison to the powerfully glowy women in glossy color.

In order to combat these images and the unhealthy habits which follow in their wake for some, we are told (mainly by the internet) that we are all gorgeous and bikini-ready, that the best thing is health and confidence, to love our scars and our flaws, and that what really matters is just to have beautiful insides. Well, it’s hard to adore acne scars, (they have not yet tried to force us to think acne itself beautiful, thank God,) and my actual heart is not a very attractive thing—to the best of my knowledge, though its ability to keep me alive is admirable, it’s slimy, filled with fast-moving blood, and is currently making sounds like a mudsucker.

So with all these quiet comparisons of one benighted attitude to another and the size of our own waists with that of the girl walking past us on the street, we come to the muddled conclusion that we are supposed to love ourselves and fix ourselves into a more lovable state, all while seeming to care a great deal about the female self-image in general, but not what we see in our own mirror. By no means should we think and talk about the way women look any less than ninety minutes a day, and with each analytical session, we should come to an increasingly complex understanding of our physical appearance, such that we must eventually write a book (or blog entry) to purge ourselves and begin anew. Essentially, we learn that secretly it is part of our duty as women to be slowly and subtly exhausted by the fact that we have bodies and they are visible to the naked eye.

Well, perhaps I am not Solomon or Gandalf or even C.S. Lewis, but I was raised by two fairly wise people and one of the most valuable things they’ve bestowed on me is a healthy sense of the ridiculous, which I’m just now clumsily learning how to use. By all means, take your God and your work and your play quite seriously, but upon most occasions it’s best to assume that you are a bit silly. As Liesel and I used to tell each other, “People are funny.” You are a funny, truculent child, who never quite understands what he is being taught, and who, when he does begin to grasp truth, immediately misunderstands it on purpose and endeavors to be offended.

But I’ll tell you, there is mystery all wrapped up in humor and incredulity—we laugh at things we don’t understand, at things which don’t make sense, which are beyond our comprehension. Our physicality is part of our humanity—we are physical beings as well as spiritual (see the incarnation)—but it’s obvious that our bodies are pretty ungainly and silly for sacred vessels. C.S. Lewis says that the fact that we have bodies at all is “the oldest joke there is” and Saint Francis regularly referred to his physical self as “Brother Ass.”

So as women who own mirrors and occasionally see other women, what does this mean? Well, I’m only just now trying to figure that out, but I’ve made a little progress. Remember your body is on loan, but that you’ll have it for a while, so treat it with affection. Look in the mirror and laugh, walk away and forget what you saw. Buy lovely clothes and sometimes wear them. Stand up straight. Accept compliments gracefully, but walk away and forget those too. Make friends with those you’re tempted to be jealous of or judge. Use nice-smelling conditioner. Think you’re beautiful or think that you’re not, but don’t think it very often, and remember that in either case that fact has no bearing on the incredible reality that Christ died for you.

For our bodies, all beautiful and silly and ugly like they are, are just a small, funnily-warped reflection of a glory ahead of us. But I don’t understand that yet, so, for now, I’ll just wait and look and laugh.


Summer is a convenient time for losing your mind just a little. Like just now, I decided to count all my t-shirts. I went by twos and covered my bedroom floor with little pairs of “t-shirt buddies!” (exclamation point necessary.) I felt they had to match each other, so that friendships could thrive. There were thirty-nine overall, which meant an odd man out, so I am wearing him to make him feel less lonely. (I think my brain is turning into tumblr, y’all. I can’t even.)

However, I have done some more constructive things today: I helped my little brother clean his room, got a pedicure, and finished applying for a job, but those are less fun to tell the internet about.

So, to return to fleeting eccentricities, the other day I wrote a fan letter of sorts. John Green (of Vlogbrothers fame) just had a daughter and named her Alice. To clear the air, I wrote her the following note. And sent it. With a stamp.

Dear little Alice,

Hello! You were born just the other day. I’ve written lots of letters before, but never to someone so small. I am a little more than twenty-one years older than you, and will probably never meet you. (We live hundreds of miles away.) However, we have something important in common. My name is Alice, too!

A few months ago, (this was before you) I watched a video, which I’m sure you’ve seen, of your parents having a chat with President Obama. You mom and dad asked the president if they should name you Eleanor or Alice. Eleanor was my Grammy’s name. She died about four years ago and I loved her very much. (Almost as much as she loved me.) Eleanor is also the middle name of my big sister, Mary, who is my best friend in the world. And Alice, of course is my name. I share it with a little girl in a blue dress with a big imagination.

Now I’ll tell you something that makes me a little ashamed. When I saw that video, I was very annoyed with your parents. I did not want to share either of those names with you, which was selfish of me. (Particularly because I know my Grammy would have been delighted to share her name with you.) I complained quite a lot.

But now you have been born and you are called Alice! So here I am, learning a valuable lesson about sharing, that I should have known since I was two. (Growing up doesn’t happen all at once—I’m beginning to suspect it takes all our lives. Probably till we’re eighty-five.)

Honey, regardless of how selfish and silly I am, I want you to be sure to wear our name well. It’s a lovely one and I know you can make it lovelier. I don’t usually like labels very much. In fact, though I like a lot of your dad and uncle’s videos, I’ve never even called myself a nerdfighter. I always figured my name, (our name,) was enough. It sounds pretty, it looks pretty, it’s easy to spell and say, and best of all, it means “noble.” So be noble, little Alice. Run with the young and walk slowly beside the old. Give as much as you can. Forgive fully and gracefully. When others talk, listen with your mouth shut. When you are angry, speak as slowly as you can. Don’t take yourself too seriously. Always say what you mean. Say ‘thank you’ when someone gives you a compliment (even if you don’t think it’s true.) Smile at strangers and say ‘hello.’ Also, remember that a handwritten poem is the best birthday present. (I’m sorry I fall short on that front this time.) Don’t forget. (I know you won’t.)

All my love,

another Alice

By the time I finished writing it, I was very much wishing I that it was addressed to little girl who did not already have half the internet fawning over her, in other words, a little girl who might actually read it someday. But then, patient advice like I tried to give above could still be good for another Alice I know—who apparently still has selfish little identity crises spurred by strangers’ unborn babies.

It’s funny really, that we wonder so much about who we are, that I feel the need to broadcast my giddy delight over forcing my clothing into intraspecies friendships, that I feel the need to tell myself to the world. Maybe I’m snobbily adverse to labels as a means of defining myself, but I still go in for stories, and clothes, and words, (and, um, a blog…)

My friend Hopkins wrote a poem called “As Kingfishers Catch Fire.” Here’s a bit:

“Each mortal thing does one thing and the same:

Deals out that being indoors each one dwells;

Selves – goes itself, myself it speaks and spells,

Crying What I do is me: for that I came.”

I love this poem, as I do most Hopkins, and yet these lines make me unsure. I am surrounded by young people like myself, who scrounge for whatever platform they can get hold up their me-ness where everyone else will see it. The internet is crammed with people nonchalantly begging for everyone else to affirm them. “Like it, will you? Like me, will you?”

Hopkins’ poem has a second stanza. (Good poets always do their best to answer the questions they pose, even when they pretend they have been open-ended.)

“I say more, the just man justices;

Keeps grace: that keeps all his goings graces;

Acts in God’s eye what in God’s eye he is –

Christ – for Christ plays in ten thousand places,

Lovely in limbs, and lovely in eyes not his

To the Father through the features of men’s faces.”

So here we all sit, playing in mud, knowing in our gut that the self is important and interesting.  We run around and shove ourselves in everyone else’s faces asking, “Oh, is this as good as yours? Or maybe (Oh, please!) even a little better?” As usual, we have got it all wrong. We think that the self is meant to be worshipped, when really it simply is meant to worship. (Dastardly passive voice, y’all…) God intended the self to shout, to jump, to cry Abba Father, to join with all the various and sundry brother and sister selves in singing “O Lord, open my lips and my mouth shall show forth your praise!” (That’s from Psalm fifty-one. I don’t really need Hopkins as much as I pretend.)

A Million Bucks

I don’t really have or need a million bucks. The title was just for show. However, I am quite interested in money.

Most summers I’ve had a hard time finding work, but this time around I’ve had a particularly high rejection rate from all sorts of places. So, besides going down to apply at the local temp agency, I thought I should go ahead and make the internet aware of my marketable qualities, in case anyone out there is in need of my particular skill set.

1. I give really good hugs. Unfortunately, all those people with the “Free Hugs” signs have somewhat ruined the business for the rest of us. Maybe I could classify mine as Deluxe and charge 20 cents each.

2. I have a whole system for washing windows. Both my grandma and Janice Brown are in awe of my skills. I make them shine.

3. I have a good sense of direction. When we went on long car trips as a child, I always used to ask for the atlas so many times that my dad always just gave up and told me to keep it in the backseat. So if you’re in need of a passenger seat (or even backseat) navigator for a cross-country trip, I’m plenty available.

6. I can make handmade ravioli. (That’s a thing I learned in college.)

4. I’m quite good at reading aloud. In fact, if you’d like, I can even come over every night and put your kids to bed, complete with a chapter of classic children’s lit, while you go watch Doctor Who or drink margaritas or whatever it is you like to do without small people underfoot.

5. I adore ironing. Apparently everyone else hates doing this, and I don’t understand why. It’s so warm and soft and satisfying. In fact, if I wasn’t poor, I’d do it for free.

7. I can find books in the library really, really fast. (Especially if it’s the Library of Congress system and what you’re looking for is British literature.)

8. I’m a pro at crying in public. So if you have a father-in-law whom you want to make uncomfortable and guilty enough to fork over the down payment for a house or something, just bring me along and I’m totally on that, so long as I get a cut.

9. I love heights, for whatever that’s worth. (Is that worth anything? Man, I hope so. Maybe I could be a chimney sweep. I’m real little…)

10. I put the belt back on a lawn mower once. By myself… (I’ll stop now.)

If any of the abilities above are of interest, then please be in touch. I’m sitting at home with my phone in my lap.

As I Write This

I can hear a group of freshman boys serenading their sister hall down in the courtyard with “We Are Young.” I wonder what they expect to come of it…

I am waiting for an email from a professor giving me permission to take a quiz early on Wednesday, so that I can catch a ride home to North Carolina for the long weekend.

I am wearing my mother’s flowered dress, which has pockets.

I am wishing that today’s weather would hang around forever, so I could walk in it forever. This afternoon, Amy and I met a woman walking her goats on Pinchalong.

Our room is cluttered, but the carpet is vacuumed.

I am thinking about how I like pumpkin mini-muffins and friends and my church and poetry.

I am planning for tomorrow–I’m going to bake bread at Emily’s.

I should clean off my desk. It has notebooks and spoons and a mug and pencils and a calculator and a sweater and a hairbrush and post-its and needle and thread from a button I had to sew back on and an empty envelope that says “$Cash$” and a stuffed giraffe named Butterscotch and a letter I need to answer. And other things.

I have my knees curled up to my chin.

I’m remembering that I should go to bed early because I have Bible study at seven-thirty tomorrow morning at Beans on Broad.

The boys in the courtyard did two encores.


It’s raining while I’m writing. And I’m thinking about things. Things I’m packing, things that are following me to Pennsylvania on Friday. Jewelry and clothes and books and paper clips and notes from friends and shampoo and paper and too many shoe boxes and bobby pins and boots and notebooks and two teddy bears of varying sizes and a couple very tiny ceramic pigs.

I’m working on a story right now, and the other day I had the distinct pleasure of listing the contents of a character’s room. The list was longer and less sensible than the one above. I really like it. I like imagining all those things piled together with no seeming order.

Though I don’t know many people rich (or silly) enough to have one, I have never liked the idea of a room that looks like this.


It looks like the place Darth Vader would go to relax. Even the plants are dead. Give my little Victorian heart clutter any day.


Beautiful, beautiful unmatching clutter.


Touchable, holdable, lovable things.  Things that sit on your desk and wall, and say, “Remember?”(which leads to another “Remember?”…and another and another.)

Remember intercampus mail?

Remember the time Reb made you stop dressing your boy bear in girl clothes?

Remember when you wrapped food up in a napkin to look like a purse and sneak it out of the gala, but then you had to stop in the photo booth first?

Remember when Karen first fell in love with giraffes?

Remember that second day of seventh grade when you were so scared to go back that you threw up, but then you found a brand-new, sunshine yellow beanie baby in your backpack?

Remember your cousins when they were little and grinny?

Remember when George used to sign all correspondence “From a loving brother”?

Remember kindergarten when you were all set to marry Spencer Hill and be a rescue nurse in forsaken places like Nevada?

Remember when you got to fill a new (to you) room and year with these things, and smile at them? Oh, wait. No you don’t. That happens on Saturday. Excellent.