Sunday, April 30, 2017

Woodland Wasteland

This morning a young man caught in reverie
kicked my brittle and broken bark
and picked my leaves frantically
to attempt to find that heart-shaped

Sparks fly presently at noon
when a young girl receives a heart-shaped
leaf that makes her swoon
and she glances from a young man to me
where she tests my strength
and kisses with a lean against my length

Aches at two when I've lost more bark
and the couple has joined me with another
by a hammock rope and a meditation in the park
where I grow deeply smothered

By the ceaseless days and times
and I grow taller and wider with the
experiences of songs and rhymes
that repeat in thin rings of regret

Fullness is what I lack when I reminisce
and recognize that this story about the young man
and the young girl has been told before

When I was a skinny sapling of a stock
and the same boy stole my scrawny branch
to chase a young girl who read above my roots
stories of fantasy and wedlock

To make life better the girl sought the young man
but from what my rings taught me of time old
a lonely human girl can stand
to wait for a worthy stronghold
that looks more like woodland and less like

Wasteland is what I see at midnight
when time and time again
the chips from my bark fall
and the rings are riddled with human sin
and a bright pocked pall
marks the scabs that never scar
from the many mistakes
of young men and girls in my sight.


Image result for tree wisdom

Thursday, April 13, 2017

Coconut Oil Everything

Today I have the itching inclination to write a post, yet I don't have any pressing issues or creative content on my mind to share. That's why as I began my morning I came upon the idea that I should post about my health/beauty routine, so that future me may likely have the pleasure of laughing at it. (Readers with very oily skin may benefit as well from beauty products listed).

The following is my daily health/beauty routine in the form of arbitrary steps:

Morning:

1) Drink down at least one full glass of water.
2) Rinse face with very hot water.
3) Apply a seaweed mask to the face. Rinse after at least 15 minutes.
4) Apply conservative amount of tea tree oil to T-zone and neck.
5) Spray face with vitamin C spray.
6) Apply liberal amount of vitamin C lotion.
7) Apply foundation primer to whole face for barrier between pores and make-up foundation.
8) Brush in light circular motions an organic matte mineral foundation.
9) Take 1 tablespoon of apple cider vinegar (worst part of my day).
10) Cook all fried breakfast foods in coconut oil.
11) Brush teeth with fine activated charcoal whitening powder before using toothpaste.


Evening:

1) Remove make-up with textured make-up remover pads.
2) Apply liberal amount of coconut oil to face and neck area.
3) Rake excess coconut oil through roots of hair and damaged areas.
4) Do at least 100 crunches while oil sits (100 Days of 100 Crunches challenge).
5) Shower, rinsing out coconut oil and using shampoo and conditioner normally.
6) Apply tea tree oil facial cleanser with dissolving beads in the shower. Scrub roughly into the T-zone area.
7) Pat face dry after shower and apply tea tree oil to T-zone.
8) Apply liberal amount of facial lotion like Cetaphil or vitamin C lotion to neck and face.
9) Apply liberal amount of lotion to legs if it was a shaving day.


As I read over my usual routine, obviously I am surprised at how lengthy it looks. When you're used to these steps, it really doesn't take as long to do as you would imagine. Also, I don't find it laborious or tedious at all; growing up with and still having extremely oily skin and acne at the ripe old age of 23 has me doing whatever it takes to diminish the blemishing and feel fresh. As you may have noticed, all the products I use are natural. I feel better using these types of products knowing they're good for myself as well as the environment. If you are a reader who experiences similar skin issues, or if you just feel you've experienced irritation from using synthetic products, hopefully this post helped you!


Charcoal powder whitener $10:

Bare Minerals organic mineral foundation $28.50:

Tea Tree Oil $10:

Vitamin C spray $20:


*Note: Most other products come from The Body Shop.

Wednesday, March 1, 2017

What is Normal Versus What is Right

I am a direct descendant of the Confederate Civil War general Robert E. Lee.
Lee's blood runs in my veins.
My great-great-great-great-great grandfather taught me this:

Never was I more aware of my notable ancestry than when I read Sterling Brown's poem "He Was a Man" (1932).
The poem ends every stanza with a variation of the sentence, "He was a man, and they laid him down." By the end of the poem, the sentence becomes, "He was a man, an' we laid him down."
"They" becomes "we" in the poem, because while the narrator watches from afar the unethical public lynching of a black man who shot a white man in self-defense, he realizes that it is he who is responsible for the treatment of the black man. It is his fault, just as well as it is the fault of every spectator in the crowd who makes no move to stop the scene from occurring. For the era, the scene is commonplace. In fact, Brown describes the burning of the man's body as a barbecue, and "people come from miles around/ To enjoy a holiday there..."

When people treat injustice and racism as commonplace, the norm shifts. When what is normal shifts, what is right and what is wrong do not necessarily follow the trend. Veritably, minimal knowledge about American history tells us this.

So while I sit here with the knowledge that Robert E. Lee's blood runs in my veins, I realize that like the narrator of that poem, Lee was a spectator in an encompassing slave-holding American South. He agreed with the crowd's point of view, because it was his norm, too. If slavery continued to be the norm after the War, perhaps in respect to civil rights we would have different views today about right and wrong.

What my bloodline teaches me is that it takes people like Ulysses S. Grant and Martin Luther King Jr. to condemn the norm. Those few people who are willing to stop the lynching in a world full of lynchers change the course of history, because they are the ones who distinguish for the crowd what is normal versus what is right.

*     *      *

I find this epiphany significant for me today. Right now, Americans make history for a future that will condemn the fault of people who remained silent during a Donald Trump presidency riddled with hate, discrimination, and corruption. Surrounded in a Missouri city that supports his rhetoric, I experience alienation in the face of this norm. I can differentiate that what is right is being kind to immigrants, caring about the environment, and being open to what others have to say, no matter their beliefs. He is not my president, and his norm is not right.

Image result for standing out from the crowd

Tuesday, January 3, 2017

Representing America During a Trump Presidency

I'm not going to deny that this past year hasn't been difficult; it's still unnerving to think about the impending future of the United States government once Donald Trump is sworn into office, this month, in seventeen days. I'm reminded now of November 9th, the morning after finding out that the politically inevitable had happened. I dreamed that Election night before of high hopes, with the fleeting imaginings of a first female president who would carry on the progress and legacy of President Barack Obama. When I still lay there in bed, about ready to change for my Nature and Assessment/Intervention in Communication Disorders university course, I summoned the courage to tap the side button on my cell phone, and noticed the multiple Facebook Messenger notifications on my homescreen. The messages were from one cousin in Nova Scotia, and another in Newfoundland. Clearly they had kept up with the election results until late the night before - much later than I could stomach. After I had noticed the unexpected swing states turning red, from Ohio to Pennsylvania, I clicked off the television, moved back the bunny ears, turned off my phone, and took an early night shower.

Hillary Rodham Clinton's determination throughout her campaign rang clear through my mind, and I used the essence of that strong will to force myself into believing that all would work out by the time I again checked the election news tomorrow. There was no way someone with that kind of experience and expertise could not have at least an edge against a terrible man like Donald Trump. There was no way that someone who had more respect could lose against a man like him. No way that someone with more decency, more humanity, could lose against him. That was why I was able to drag myself away from the televised results, and not check on them again 'til morning.

Alas, skip forward to my numb drive to university the next morning, where the dim, foggy November morning seemed to mimic the fresh mood cast over my otherwise happy life.

I felt the weight of nearly 62 million other shocked and disappointed Americans, many of whom were also scared of the election's turn out. While I spent the following days in shock, concerned more about myself and the resultant worsening symptoms of my ADD during school season, I didn't share with many others the raw feelings of sorrow and fright for their life and the lives of their family members. I couldn't share this reaction with them because I'm white, because I have a documented American citizenship, because I already have access to birth control, because I'm not Muslim, because I can afford a good education, and because I don't have children who will be exposed to his hateful words and rhetoric for the next four years.

The weight of these feelings remains on my shoulders two months later. It remains pressing down on me as I type on this keyboard. Given the exemptions I listed above, why would I be still personally bothered by Donald Trump's win?

No matter your religious background, you probably believe that we humans are all connected in some way. Muslim faith itself believes that Allah "created man from a clot of blood." Also to the tune of evolution, the science allows that humanity evolved equally - with each human developed to maintain the same range of intelligence, emotions, creativity, etc. The resounding opinion is that we are all from one entity. No matter Donald Trump's own religion, he is of an anomalous opinion that, for instance, women should not have the same rights that men do. He would defund a nation-wide program that allows women the ability to have bodily autonomy - a basic human right. He would punish the woman - not the man who impregnated her - for their abortion. I am still personally bothered his win, because no matter your religious background, there is nothing ethical about a Trump presidency.

For so long I put off digging into the emotions that spill out when I force myself to grasp what Trump's win meant for the opinions of Americans from my friends and family who live abroad. I worried that now my family in Canada and the friends I met during my study abroad would think less of me. I worried about my future travels and how I might by viewed by others I met around the world when I told them I was American.

I want those people to know that Donald Trump does not represent me. And he does not represent the majority of Americans.


I addressed this concern of mine previously on social media, on the morning of November 9th, to be exact, as the initial pained reaction of the news hit, and before the numbness set in. This reaction rings true today, as I recall a moment with a resident at my workplace one month ago.

One month ago at my job in an apartment complex, a distraught resident sat down in front of my desk in the leasing office, and laid down a very emotional speech. After providing me with his rent check, he gave me insight into the life of a Muslim Indian immigrant, living in the American Bible Belt, in the wake of a Trump presidency.

After asking this man, Ali, whether or not he intended to renew his lease with us at the large complex, he told myself and the leasing agent sitting next to me that he could not. He had just had an interview the day prior with the university (where I also attended), where he had hoped to maintain his position as a calculus professor, which would provide him the ability to extend his work visa in the United States. Ali said he went into the interview in very high hopes, with an impressive resume highlighting his doctorate credentials, his experience at the same university, and his friendship and business relationship with the person interviewing him. While he sat in the interview, however, the Muslim man said he spotted the resume for the white man who had interviewed moments before him, along with the few lines detailing the man's experience, and the location of his doctorate program. His resume didn't compare to his, Ali said. Regardless, later that night, the interviewer called Ali to tell him that unfortunately he did not get the job.

Ali told us that this form of discrimination was not new for his time in the southern Illinois and southeastern Missouri area. He said that he had spent his entire university career in the United States and taught there for multiple years, yet now he felt more unwelcome in the country than ever. Ali put in his notice to vacate that day, and he will be returning to India one month after Inauguration Day.

Ali's experience is one of a man who is a legal immigrant, and who has a higher education and teaching degree. He has more privileges than the average Muslim immigrant in America, yet he is not impenetrable to the kind of country Donald Trump wants to see as president.

This is why I finally found the courage to write this post. Ali was a friend of mine, and by my own religion and opinion, he lives as a brother to me, unencumbered by the color of his skin, or the religion he practices. The reality of his experience broke my heart as he sat in front of me to tell me his tale.

I wanted so badly to represent his view of America, but I alone could not.


It takes every citizen collectively in a country to set the example to outsiders that our country is great. Our country is united. Our country is made up of immigrants who welcome to it other immigrants, brothers, and sisters. For those of us who would feel the pain of Ali's and other's discriminatory experiences in this country, I want our spirits to drown out any hate that supporters of this new presidency may bring, so that we together represent the United States of America, as our founding immigrant fathers envisioned.

Friday, March 25, 2016

Introspection and Perspective in Hamlet

During my Shakespeare class today, I thought about what Hamlet assumes he knows at the age of 30, referencing his revelations in the famous "To be or not to be" soliloquy. He lists what death can be boiled down to, while in a state of utter melancholy. I think in similar states of mind, we try to make come up with the same answers to life, and arrive at he same end. Which is sad; we're truly more often introspective when life is throwing us shit. I felt similarly the first time I read Hamlet my senior year of high school. Now that I'm reading it in college, as a much happier person, I noticed within this new perspective and state of mind reading it a juxtaposition that makes me realize the importance of perspective and emotion when approaching such philosophy. Thinking about death, and the course of one's life before death, can give fruit to different interpretations based on ANYTHING the person in question is dealing with in their life at the time. Reading Hamlet, and understanding where the character Hamlet is coming from in his revelation during the soliloquy is important. If the reader is skilled in reading a novel from the perspective of the protagonist, feeling the obstacles with him as he goes through them in the rising action, such a pivotal point would be read in the same state of mind the protagonist is in, and the reader would be less likely to project his own state of mind on the character's introspection. Which may be how fiction is meant to be read. It makes the character that much more dynamic, and is probably how most scholars (and, I'm sure, my professor) are able to read the text. However, I read literature with a much more holistic mind set, and I tend to project my own feelings on the situation. I look at the plot and characters too much as an omniscient viewer, by my own fault. For this reason, I read Hamlet's soliloquy with my own state of mind in class today - which made for a very unique interpretation of the text.

What I projected on the interpretation of the "To be or not to be" excerpt was my realization of Hamlet's age, as well as his state of mind, and I thought of my own ever-changing consciousness and moods, as well as my own naive age. Often I feel I've been through so many obstacles and lows in my life that I know everything I need to know about the necessity of them. But I'm not currently thinking about my life as a person on a low. Unlike Hamlet (who's just found out about his father's death, his mother's hasty remarraige to his uncle, and his uncle's murder of his father).

It's just the same as when a person who is for the first time in their life dealt a shitty hand reflects on all the bad times in his or her life, and stews on that idea until their inner reflections are as deep as Hamlet's own existential crisis.

This downward spiral of thoughts in such a fragile state of mind is the kind of thing that carries people into depression, or even suicide (Hamlet obviously exhibits clinical signs of the former). This is why it's so important for people to notice others who  degrade themselves - or speak only of the negative things to occur to them in their life - and comment instead to them on the positive things that have occurred to them. If nothing but to distract them for a bit from this negative spiral of ideas, at least for a moment they would question how bad they truly have it. And this might just save their life.

I write this post not just as a reminder to those reading of their friends and family who suffer depression, but also a wake up call for the importance as to perspective and state of mind when reflecting on characters' or one's own circumstances.

Think about your feelings right now and take them into account - Not everything is as bad as it seems.

Sunday, January 31, 2016

The List of "Little Things"

Inspired by a recent video by the vlogbrothers, I decided to write my own list of little things that make me happy every day. I've noticed that these things are what really make me feel satisfied on a daily basis. They are mostly events, not things, which speaks volumes about what I value overall. I spent a few hours making this list. I had to return to it every so often, because I wanted to think about what each "little thing" said about me.

I noticed how much the word "finishing" appeared in my list. I never before realized how much it meant to me to finish things. As someone who suffers from ADD and medicates for it, this made perfect sense. I often get distracted from finishing creative projects, and this is often more detrimental than neglecting to begin a project in the first place. I'll chide myself afterward for having not finished said project. It's entirely counter-productive, but clearly explains why finishing is a "little thing" that means a lot to me.

I encourage anyone who reads this to create your own list of "little things" that mean a lot to you every day. Include as many as you like (I only stopped at 22 because I felt it was a solid list at that point. Plus that's my age and I like to be ironic). Post it on your own blog, or just type it up, print it out and hang it in your office - it could be a great way to remind yourself to enjoy the little things (whatever that means to you) whenever you're stressed or feeling down.

1) Breaking good news to people.
2) Finishing a good book and replacing it back on my bookshelf.
3) Getting so caught up in finishing a project that I lose track of time.
4) Deep conversations with people who share my values and outlook on life.
5) Finishing my coffee in the morning with plenty of time to get ready.
6) Watching my dog play.
7) Playing cards or board games with friends.
8) Long, unexpected phone calls.
9) Finding and correcting grammatical errors in books and textbooks.
10) Smelling a new book.
11) Looking at all the novelty things at Hastings or Barnes & Noble.
12) Watching documentaries.
13) Singing obnoxiously to music in the car with friends.
14) Beginning singing the same lyric simultaneously with a friend, unprompted.
15) Finishing an essay that seemingly ties all ideas together.
16) Finishing a class.
17) Bonfires in the fall.
18) Putting on freshly-cleaned socks.
19) Collapsing on my bed after a long day at work.
20) Showering in winter.
21) Excitement before and during a concert performed by my favorite bands.
22) Finishing an art project.

Monday, August 3, 2015

Lines of Familiarity

The other day taught me to understand my place.
As I walked down Michigan Avenue on a cool summer afternoon,
right of the Lake in Chicago,
I began seeing lines radiating from each passersby.
Some lines intersected,
and continually lines connected.
Above those lines that interwove - obstructing my view of the sparkling lake water -
it was noted the relationships one person had with the next.

Spiralling masses encircled my perimeter at the great Cloud Gate,
yet I'd often find myself entangled in my own twining figure.
I saw myself among so many others in that mirror,
the lines shining in blunt green hues:
luminescent emerald where my fourth cousin stood somewhere under shade
at the Lurie Garden,
and weak pine, branching in cardinal directions across the Promenade,
where stood relatives multiple times removed.

For that day I floated along on my own familiarity with the world.
I did not soon forget the faces of those I passed when I next awoke,
and found that I could no longer see the familial web,
for instead I cherished each person at their core.

In my quiet knowledge I knew my place among everyone
without color,
and for that I loved them all the more.