Archive | March 2012

Song in C Minor (no chorus)



Evening fades from burnt orange to purple-blue.

Cup of fragrant tea cooling on the ledge.

Porch swing sway and your feet pressed flat into new,

weather-treated wood. Neighborhood houses sigh,

breathing secrets into the coming darkness.


Spurred by twilight, across and up from you,

a girl, her nightshirt pressed pristine and laced, stealthily

parts upstairs curtains, peers out at a nighttime

world she envies, cannot fully understand, yet craves.

It covers her face. You sigh a knowing sigh,


give a crooked smile. He often waited, hidden

in bushes across the street, heart pounding

with anticipation for you to wave from your attic

room. The taste of your kisses still swelling his lips.

You touch yours now.



He sleeps. His sky unchanged after decades. Still winter blue, littered with clouds, stringing themselves westward, following the day. Fleeing the oncoming moon that rises unchecked and unafraid over mountains, launching higher, rejecting, reflecting light. His dreams left unrestrained uncoil and dance themselves sick across white walls, unframed paintings. They are screams. They are tattered fingers. They are memory.



In the corner are the presents. Years of dust collected

on wrapping paper. Birthdays, Christmas, all the just

because moments. She never opens them, just stacks

one on top of the other. Brightly colored, pretty

piles. “That might be the most condescending thing

you have ever said to me,” Which it isn’t.


Words pour into her throat like rain pours

into shoes. “You do not even know yourself,”

She says to an empty room. “All this self deception,

it becomes you, dictates and limits,” while she sees

the evidence reflected in everything, in everyone.



I am not bored with you.



You have spoken to the shadows.

Felt their tendrils climb up and over

your legs, past the spot where his beard

rubbed against your inner thigh, (the weight

of him) soothing and comforting the rawness,

they cleanse you. Still, you cannot trust

when they speak for they must deceive.

It is their nature as shadows.

They can only allude.


The pillow is so cool beneath your freshly

shaved skin. You lay back, eyes to the

ceilings intricate pattern that you have

memorized. Hour after hour here

in this four poster bed, sharp metal edges

and a sheer canopy to hide you from

the devils you invent, all green and red

with callous yellow eyes.


All our monsters taste the same when we

rip them with our teeth.


But you are loved and most of the time

that is enough to let you let go.

Though there are moments when in spite

of yourself, you wish you could just say no


and mean it.

Top Stuff-5

I am obviously failing at making a top stuff list every week.  I can look at this two ways (well many more ways than two, but I am choosing to pick two. Perhaps it is a natural urge to place everything into some sort of dichotomy, a remnant from my public schooling, but regardless, I am picking two)-  first, I am a wealth of ideas and do not need to fall back on my fail safe top something list. Second, I can’t even think of a top five things list to make and therefore am forced to come up with some other, barely interesting, idea to write about.

I am leaning more towards number 2, but am hopeful it is number 1.

Anywho…I am changing the title a bit and removing the reference to the week. Not very clever, but it makes more sense than calling it Top Stuff-Week 5 when it is obviously at least week 8.

After that long winded and really pointless ramble, I present without further delay (I promise), this fabulous and clever list of top stuff. I am calling it-Top Songs I Like from Bands I Usually Don’t.

(Is that contraction ok?)

1. Moby-Southside Ft the lovely Gwen Stefani I tried really hard to like Moby. I checked out several records from the library and listened with every intent of liking them. I don’t like them and I can’t understand why. He seems clever, talented and on the cutting edge of things, but his music fails to reach me. In fact, I don’t even like the original version of this song. Its the addition of Gwen that makes it a song I really like a great deal. Best lyric- Here we are now going to the south side. I pick up my friends and we hope we won’t die…

2.Seven Mary Three-Cumbersome I really, really love this song. It is so heavy and dirty. When the drums drop in after the intro, I cant help but start shaking my head. The vocalist has a great, gravely voice. I sing this song all the time, post this same video link over and over. I also really think this band sucks. They must have sold their souls for this one track. Every once in a while, I put on the record this song is from, hoping I am finally ready for it and that I will like the rest of it as much as this one song. I don’t. Best lyric-To rich, too poor she’s wanting me less and I’m wanting her more…

3.Black Crows-Hard to Handle  While this is a cover of an Otis Redding song, it is a great version by the Crows. I have to also say that I also like She Talks to Angels, off the record “Shake Your Money Maker”,  just not as much as this cover.  That being said, this band is not very good (keeping in mind all musical taste  is very subjective).I think the songs feel lazy, like they were just tossed together over a night of Pabst and blunts. Best lyric-I’m advertising love for free, so you can place your ad with me…

4.Puscifer-Rev22:20 I am going to anger a lot of Tool fans by saying I don’t like Puscifer. Again, I really want to like them and I was so hopeful after this song (which was on the Underworld soundtrack) came out. Rev 22:20 sounds completely different than anything else Puscifer does. It has energy and life and grit (plus some really crafty lyrics that would easily offend, and I love songs that push buttons). Everything else they do feels like a cash grab, nothing else.  Best lyric (that won’t be too offensive, giggle)-If I gotta sin to see her again, then I’m gonna lie and lie and lie…

5.XTC-Dear God I know, I know…tell me I just don’t get the brilliance of XTC. There are other songs I tolerate. King for A Day is good. Making Plans for Nigel is alright but the Primus version is better. The band is just quirky for the sake of being quirky and if I want that, Talking Heads are  more talented and interesting. That being said, This song is really good. I am even willing to argue the content as I feel this song is not just an accusation towards divinity, but humans who have created an image of a God that selects one group to aid or save, while allowing others to suffer and die. Best Lyric- And all the people that you made in your image, see them fighting in the streets, cause they cant make opinions meet about God…

6.Stone Temple Pilots-Plush Another band that I know I should like and just don’t. If not for RockBand, I would most likely not like any of their songs. This one is groovy. and I like the acoustic guitar that lingers in the background. Very cool track. Best lyric-And I see that these are the eyes of disarray…

7.Avenged Sevenfold-Unholy Confessions  This song is from Screamo version of this band (and they really can scream well). I like most of this record (Waking the Fallen) but on the whole, this band is a let down. They went from a half decent screamo band to flat out trash rock. They are not terrible, just cliche’. It has been done and been done a lot better. This song is full of cheesy whiny lyrics and I should really despise it for that. Instead I find myself turning it up very loud, singing and screaming along. Give it a try! Best Lyric-“I’ll try” she said as she walked away. “Try not to lose you…”

8.10,000 Maniacs-What’s the Matter Here My sister will be mad at me for this one. Am I the only person who finds this band crushingly dull? They have a few songs that are likable, but nothing they make demands that I listen. Then there is this song. It talks about abuse and the justifications or lack thereof for getting involved. I get chills whenever this song comes on. It is the least preachy song about neglect and abuse I can think of, and that is what makes it so damn brilliant . Best lyric-If you don’t sit in your chair straight, I’ll take this belt from around my waist and don’t you think that I won’t use it…

So there you have it. Songs I like from bands I often don’t. I would love to have someone talk me into liking one of these bands. Please, somebody try.

Something for My Fingers

I grew up on vinyl.  My first, second and third sound systems all had turntables. I loved the feel, smell and sound of a new vinyl record. I have learned to enjoy listening to digital music but I still have a soft spot in my heart for the entire vinyl experience .  One of my favorite things to do when getting a new record was lay on my bed, the crackle of the first cut coming up, holding the cover and inner sleeve in my hands and reading along with the lyrics. The paper had a particular smell. Even now, when I break out a record, I love the smell almost as much as the sound.

I also grew up in the age of 8 tracks and cassette tapes. I have a very distinct memory of my father sitting in my grandparents living room, recording over 8 track tapes. The record button was broken and he had to hold it down the entire time. The idea of music you could take with you, something besides the radio, was groundbreaking.  When I was a teenager, having a cassette player, a personal walkman was a huge deal. You could be anywhere and have your music with you. Hard to comprehend now how revolutionary that was. Of course you had to record it and cassettes were notorious for having a very limited shelf life. The sound was also suspect. Sometimes you would get a very clean, clear sound. That rarely lasted. The older the tape got, the more the sound deteriorated. My favorite thing was when the tape would get magnetically reversed and the songs on one side would end up backwards on the other side.  It was for this reason that I rarely bought cassettes. I would buy vinyl and then record them to blank cassettes.  I loved making mix tapes, giving them to friends, playing them in the car. I did purchase a few cassettes and hated how most of them came without lyrics, and those that did were printed so small they were near impossible to read. It was like losing part of the listening experience.

It was an easy transition for me from vinyl to CD. The lyric sheets were readable and I still had the tangible disc to move from the case to the player and back. Much better than a cassette on all levels I realized how important that little bit of tangibility was when music began to move to a purely digital format. I love my ipod and I love my entire collection being so mobile, but I still struggle when I purchase digital copies of things. Time and time again, I will buy or download a song and then buy the hard copy.  Rumor has it that CD’s are on their way out. This leaves me two choices. Go purely digital, or revert back to vinyl. I already know what I will do.

Books have also moved to digital formats. This is a harder change for me and until yesterday, I had not read a digital copy of any book. I decided to read the Hunger Games series. We own the first two books, but Sheryl bought the third in digital format for her Nook. She loves the Nook and reads most of her books on that, rather than buying hard copies that take up space.

I have the same relationship with the touch and smell of books as I do with music. Reading to me is about holding the book in my hands. feeling the paper, seeing the flaws in the ink or the pages, the scent of the ink and the glue. Still, I couldn’t find any good reason to buy a copy of something we already owned, even if it was a digital book. The screen of the Nook was easy to read. It was better than reading from a computer, better than this screen I am typing on now. The image was very much like reading a page out of an actual book, which was a good thing, but I found myself worrying that I was skipping pages. I kept looking down to see if I had scrolled past chapters or pages. While easy to read, I did not like the restrictive nature of the digital page. I could scroll ahead, jump from place to place, but it was not the same as thumbing the pages as I read. Also, if I came across something confusing, it was very hard to go back and read a paragraph or browse for a name. I am sure I was limited by my knowledge of the reader I was using, but it all seemed needlessly complicated.  The thing that bothered me the most was not being able to place a bookmark, to look and see how far I had read, how much was left.  How silly. How important to me.

The reading was easy, and the book was fantastic. Still, I realized how much I need the connection to something beyond a digital  image. Maybe I will change, I have before, though I don’t see it coming anytime soon. Give me the hardback. Give me a trade copy. Just give me an actual book.


My eyes are open and I am seeing you across the room through the light of a half opened bathroom door and the heavy vinyl curtains. We always did hotels right. Being here on the bottom floor, the smell of the river just before it dips under the unsuspecting city, I am consumed by a wish to hold you here, to relive some sordid fantasy, a dream I once had. But I am older and more pathetic, fitting in here among the desperately desolate. The man walking in the office and looking for work. Fifteen years of maintenance in Chicago doing him little good now as he pleads for the chance to prove he is a hard worker. Everyone is all smiles.

Metal stairs leading upwards towards cheap convenience story beer, beneath them, the remains of teenage weekend excursions, condom wrappers, pill boxes, glass bottles that once contained vodka or gin. Someone stumbles down.

I am distanced from my younger self. Unable to relate to the loudness of voices and the deliberate need for destruction. Still I could kiss your face for hours. If I am always about confessing my indiscretions, it is because they are less burdensome than the lies.

You are reaching for your clothes, silhouetted by cabinets and gray light. The fridge making that ticking sound over and over, waking us with wonder, annoyance and frustration. While we slept, the room around us dissolved, dissipated itself around us like a blanket, untrustworthy and cold.

I am always contradiction personified, not out to destroy everyone, just you.

You can always bring me back to sitting across from you eating garlic and drinking beer. It is your gift, your super power. Distracting memories that keep me occupied while you suck out whats left. Here you are, stealing a few moments of clarity, loving me in spite of my insistence. Again with this cleverness, repeating of words, lines and images and we end up sentenced to this over again. I can bring you t-shirts and swim wear. I can let you go away and burden someone else with your intent.

We can run the streets. We can choke on the colors.

Lesson 3-Perspectives

I took almost every English class the Community College offered. Two of them were composition courses while the majority were literature classes.

Anyone who has taken a literature course knows what the canon is. For those who don’t, the canon is the classics, the works that every aspiring literature studies student must read. The majority of these works are at least one hundred years old, mostly written by men, white men. During the early 90’s there was a great deal of backlash (at least in what I was reading and learning) against the canon. Several alternative anthologies and courses of study began to be popular. The most progressive and influential of these was an incorporation of cultural and women’s studies. Text from minority writers and women were making their way into mainstream college courses. Wanting more than anything to understand everything I could about writing and literature, I jumped at the opportunity to join in this revolution.

I wrote paper after paper on the subject of an exclusive and divisive canon of literature. I argued against the traditional western canon, not because the texts were in themselves not worth reading, but because I firmly (and still do) believed that they were not the only great western literature written. They told less than half of the story and the story they did tell was often from (at least in my mind) a distorted perspective.  How could I consider myself a student of literature if I only read texts from dead white men? Did that make any sense when the world was peopled (past and present) by so much more? Rather than reading Shakespeare, Dickens, Joyce or Spenser, I read Leslie Marmon Silko and Ralph Ellison. I read Loiuse Erdrich rather than Jane Austen. I devoured poetry by unheard of writers and completely ignored what used to make up a classical Literature education. I learned that some of what was being currently written, currently talked about was as valuable and often more so than what was written in the past.

Strangely enough, when I attended the University of Utah, the same type of forward thinking professors, the feminists and cultural studies specialists reverted to classic texts. They offered me a different perspective. I read Virginia Woolf and Thomas Moore and ate up their words as well. I discovered a wealth of rebellious, anti establishment rhetoric in texts that often were criticized for being  misogynistic or racist. These professors had me thinking I was getting the education I finally deserved. It was easy to believe I had been shortchanged by my Community College experience, that I should have been reading these canonized text from the beginning and my time had been wasted by reading writers that anyone who really studied and talked about literature completely ignored.  I started to believe I had not been properly prepared for what would be expected at the university level.

Then I started to write papers again and found that the arguments I had used against the traditional canon still made sense. I could use what I had learned at the community college to make quality assertions, ones I could easily support when being critical of a text. It was a fun time and one that got me equal praise and condemnation from professors and student graders. I loved getting a paper back with long notes in the margins, trying to debunk my points or adding to them. I think if I had not taken the courses, read the material counter to the canon, I would not have done as well at the University.

What I find most interesting is at the Community College, I was learning about these things. Finding them out as if for the first time. When I was at the University, I was expected to already know and understand them. Again it is an issue of perspectives-in one case, I am there to learn, to be instructed, to ask questions and to take risks. Where as in the other, I felt like I was there to show what I knew, to impress, to be heard and seen. It was not about what I had read or learned but who I had read and what I could regurgitate.

There were some instructors, usually visiting professors or graduate students, those without tenure, who fostered open discussion in classrooms, where being wrong was allowed, were not already knowing the entirety of the course was alright. I admire that kind of teaching. I feel it is where the best learning takes place.

I don’t want to imply that I learned very little of value at the University of Utah. While the Community College was the place I learned how to think, how to be critical and what to look for when I read, my university education is where I feel I became fully realized. I grew into my own skin there. I felt strong and confident in what I understood and how I expressed it.

I sometimes miss it, that feel, the college atmosphere. Whenever we go to campus, I find myself remembering individual moments, conversations, interactions. I sometimes miss having that kind of experience be the goal of my day, week and month. I don’t miss it enough to enroll again though…

A Funeral

When I left for my mission, I was convinced at least one my father’s parents would die before I returned. I have a few journal entries where I discuss how sad I would be, that I should write them more and how grateful I was for them. They both were there when I got home, both were at my wedding. My grandfather died in 2004. My grandmother is still alive and in decent health.

My mothers parents always seemed much younger than my fathers. The Cartys have looked pretty much the same since I have know them while I remember the Merediths with naturally dark hair and wrinkle free faces. Sadly, both of them are now dead. My grandfather died of cancer in 2010. My grandmothers funeral was this past weekend.

When my grandfather died, he had been ill for quite a while and there was a sense of relief along with a feeling of grief. His funeral was difficult as he was a difficult man to understand. Contrast that to the funeral this weekend where the atmosphere was almost joyful. My grandmother had deteriorated very rapidly. She suffered from dementia and many physical ailments but her passing was quiet, quick and merciful. I cant quite put my finger on why this funeral seemed so less sorrowful than that of my grandfather. To be clear, it wasn’t that people were happy my grandmother was dead. There were plenty of tears and heavy hearts. There was just more laughter, more happiness in the company of family and friends. People did not appear heavy with grief. I don’t mean this as an accusation. More an observation.

The first funeral I remember in detail was for my great uncle. It was 1987 and I had just turned 17. The death was unexpected, at least for me. He was young enough, just in his 60’s and I remember being quite shocked to hear of his passing. My family went to the funeral and i vividly remember my heavy heart and tears. We had not been particularly close but I always liked and admired him. I could not understand the extent of my sadness, though it passed soon after the funeral was over.

I realize how fortunate I had been to not have experienced the death of someone closer to me.  Some of my friends had lost parents or siblings. A few had lost close friends. I had only had this one death and I was near 20.

Of course the older I have become, the less fortunate I have been. I have still experienced much less death than some I know, but I have had my fair share. I have come to recognize that what I grieve for is usually lost possibility. I grieve for myself and what I will miss out on, the experiences I will not have.

When I was attending the University of Utah, a close friend of mine was murdered. It was a random act of violence committed by someone looking for money.  The unexpected and violent nature of her death affected me a great deal. I couldn’t sleep and found myself  obsessing about her-What had she experienced and did she know what was about to happen? It was hard to comprehend how any of this could have happened. I would imagine her sitting in her room, studying for the test she had the next day, then hearing the commotion out in the other room (It wasn’t until nearly a decade later that the 911 tapes were released and I heard her final words).  I  made myself sick with fear and anger. I fully expected to suffer the same fate and would be up nights, scared at ever sound. It was months before I felt safe again; years before I stopped missing her.

When someone we care for dies, grief can be overwhelming. We spend nearly every waking moment thinking of the person, remembering stories or events. Often it is just an image of the person that remains constant in our minds. Hearts feel almost too heavy and it is easy to wonder how we will ever get through it.

Then somehow we begin to think on them a little less. Soon days go by without a thought of them, then weeks-months-maybe a year.  Recovery is forgetting. Forgetting is relief.

Somehow after enough time passes, the thoughts bring less pain. Though sometimes, when memories sneak up on me, catch me unprepared, I feel guilty. In order to live my life, to move on, I have had to forget them, think of them less, which sometimes feels like a betrayal.

Well this has been a bit of a ramble, but conversations about death often are.


My Civic Duty

I attended a political rally yesterday.

HB 363 would force local public school to teach abstinence only sex education or teach nothing at all. Discussion of  contraception would be forbidden, as would any mention of homosexuality. As a parent who believes that abstinence is the best way to avoid STD’s and unwanted pregnancy, as well as emotional distress, I find this bill to be unnecessary. Current state law allows parents to opt out of an sex education. Parents can also limit what discussions their children can be involved in, including abstinence education. Currently, only 3% of parents opt out. This bill is needlessly restrictive. The Governor should veto this awful legislation.

More frustrating and frightening is the proponents of the bill attempting to marginalize those who oppose the legislation.They have questioned our residency, calling our petition “bogus’ and our numbers exaggerated.

Yesterday I saw people from many walks of life-business men and women, conservatives, liberals, independents, children, blue collar workers, stay at home parents, grandparents, great grandparents. A panorama of Utah was present. All of them wanting the same thing-the right to decide what children learn. I took photos as you can see…











This being my first political rally, I didn’t know what to expect.

I was surprised at the size of the crowd though it was only a few hundred), and surprised at the passion of everyone present. It felt good to participate.
























Next time, we should all go together.


Dark gray short sleeved shirt and off blue slacks, bright yellow tie loosened at my neck, I sit at a metal table. An uncomfortable silence weighted like a hammer overhead, a heavy swinging motion implied and you come out wearing a summer dress, loose against your exfoliated skin. Pedicure flip flops slap against your heels. Such effort for casualness, this Sunday afternoon that I have grown allergic to, a tired smile and falling into my arms, weary embraces carrying significance. It buries us in southern winds and pine needles. Soon our autumn amorous encounters must end, have to end, have ended. They are tangerine and textured, floating like dead skin in the air between us.

We have broken rules- Like when you would rest your head on my lap, my fingers through your hair, our silent moments where we pretend others aren’t watching, judging. And something is stolen through our carelessness. I can see it slipping away even if I cannot recognize it, name or grasp it. Never any innocence, or nights you did not find yourself woken by the pulsing inside your belly, yellow cotton panties beneath your nightgown and your fingers reaching, caressing and wandering in half sleep, feeling your heart flutter, your mind wandering, turning to mush.

We share half a bar of dark chocolate, rubbing each piece with softened fingers, snapped them between our teeth, sharing them like clandestine kisses, salty sweetness, a melting. It makes your eyes glow. It is this I will miss most. Watching the sun drop through half remembered clouds, misty and unremarkable, I can invent us out of this, back in the front seat of your car, a smell like whiskey (but sweeter) between your breasts, a glistening trail my lips follow. You taste of possibility. Sounds of the city at night outside the glass and steel, passers by we pretend are oblivious. You breathe heavy. I breathe you in.


Lesson 2-Calm Down-Slow Down

Most people spend more than two years at the Community College. I spent a great deal longer than that. I did take several semesters off and went to school part time during several others. I also went through several moments where I about bagged school completely.  One of those moments happened the year I turned 26.

Being 25 was hard for me. I felt very unaccomplished and quite the failure. I was years away from any sort of degree and that frustrated me. I fully expected to be done with the Community college and be well on my way to finishing my undergraduate work at the University. I had also been married for almost three years and while I was still in my mid 20’s that made me feel very old. I felt like everything was moving too quickly and I had no means to slow it down or get some sense of direction and focus. I had just started working at UPS and that job was seeming more and more like something I could do for the rest of my life. It was time I had a career. Time to make a decision.

I was sitting in the College Center, writing in a notebook about my frustrations, how much I hated my life and where it was going, which seemed like no where, when I had an idea. It was not the most clever of ideas, but the more I thought on it the more I liked how it made me feel. My birthday was coming up and I decided that though I was turning 26, I would tell everyone I was 27. While this would make me older than I actually was, I determined to be 27 the following year as well. In my head, this two year stretch would give me more time to finish some things, more time to make myself stable, figure out where I wanted to go and how to get there. It completely calmed me down and most of my anxiety slipped away.

This plan of mine accomplished exactly what I wanted. I was 27 for a very damn long time. I told myself the lie enough that I really did believe it. I was still a year away from starting at the University, but I the courses I took over those two years finally progressed me closer to completion. I also felt younger, though that wouldn’t last long.

Funny enough, I have not had another age crisis like that. The opposite has been the case. I embrace each new decade and half decade. I didn’t fear the end of my 20’s and while I loved being 30 something, I was ready to be 40.

Also during that same time, I had what some call a crisis of faith. I was in a developmental stage where I wanted answers to all sorts of questions and puzzles. Religion was just one of them, but the one that seemed to weigh on me most. A few years before, I had decided that my faith was based on fear. I was always afraid of being punished for my mistakes and for the most part, that kept me obedient and religious. When I was 24 and working for ZCMI (a now defunct company that sold clothes and household goods), I had several conversations in my head about religion and God. There was a great deal of alone time at this job and I had plenty of time to go over things. Education is often blamed when someone leaves their faith behind, and while my studies did play a part, my choice was more a result of growing up and no longer being afraid. In fact, for a decade my favorite thing to tell people was “when I was no longer afraid, I had no use for God.”

I still don’t know where this fear came from. My parents were never the type to hold God’s wrath over my head and I don’t recall any experience where an adult said something or I read something that made me so fearful. I do know that after I decided to not practice any religion any longer, I became very bitter. I blamed religious dogma for most of my troubles and the problems I saw in the world. I felt like I had been duped. The more I thought and the more I read, the less any spiritual thought made sense to me. Any spiritual experience I had in the past, I could explain away. I still struggle with spiritual things and I don’t consider myself a religious person, though I do see why it is important to many others.

My spiteful, hateful self was in full swing the spring of 1995. I was condemning anyone and anything that had to do with God. It all came to a head one warm day in March or April. I was sitting with some friends out on the quad near the fountain at the Community College. A few days before, a street preacher had come to campus and been escorted off because he didn’t have a permit. He was back now, permit in hand and ranting at the top of his lungs to whoever might be about. He had the usual signs about how God hated the sinner and what sins god really got uptight about. The list was so long, it had to be written in very small print. Intellectualism was on the list along with Rock and Roll and Romance fiction. At first I found him humorous, standing there with his hands spread out, shouting to the students, his face so red I joked that he would surely burst a vessel. The longer I sat there, the more I really listened to what he was saying. He talked about God hating all of us for our sins, condemning us to an eternity of fire and pain.

Even in my atheistic state, I found that kind of God particularly incomprehensible. My anger rose, and finally I found myself screaming at this guy, confronting him. It started innocently enough with a question. I asked if instead of hating me, God just hated my sin. Wasn’t his love enough to transcend my faults? He told me flat out, no. God hated ME for my sins. That was the only thing I needed. I berated this guy for a good ten minutes while he tried to talk over me. I can’t even remember most of what I said, but I am sure I was cruel and spiteful and full of indignation and vengeance. This guy was unfortunate enough to stand in as the physical whipping post for all my misguided hatred. And I whipped hard that day.

When I was finally done making a complete ass of myself, I was exhausted, physically and mentally drained. I said goodbye to my friends and went home. I remember being on the verge of tears and just falling asleep.

Over the next few weeks I couldn’t get this nagging feeling of guilt out of my head. I didn’t feel bad for yelling at the preacher and I still think he is completely wrong about the nature of God, if there is one. Instead I felt embarrassed for my own anger. It made less sense the more I thought about it. In time, I decided my atheism was no better than the dogma I was fighting against. I was no better than the Christians I condemned. In fact, I felt worse. My hatred was only hurting me and those around that cared about me. It was time to calm down and evaluate what kind of person I wanted to be.

I don’t claim to have any of it figured out and am no closer to any spiritual understanding. I do know that I think about it a great deal less that I did before. I guess it doesn’t matter as much to me anymore. Perhaps it should and I am always open to any conversation about god or religion. I still don’t believe in any of it, but I am more than willing to let people believe and live however they feel is correct. I only ask the same consideration.




Lesson 1-Learn!

I was not always a good student. Most of my high school career was spent figuring out how little work I could get away with. It did not take me long to catch on to the secret. If you get a C, they never call your parents. So that is what I aimed to do. My GPA only saw the number 3 once in four years. The only time I had to deal with my poor performances was the night of parent teacher conference. My parents would do the rounds, one teacher after another saying things like “Ryan is great! If he only applied himself he would be a great student” or, “if he would just turn in his work…”

I am not the smartest guy in the world, but I am no slouch either. If 70% will get you a C, doing 7 out of every ten assignments will get you that C. Of course you have to get 100% on those assignments, and hope that the teacher doesn’t make that 70% a C-, which many do. I was able to find ways to complete enough work well enough to remain off the radar of the administration and graduate without too much stress.

This also allowed me ample time to do the things that I wanted to do. I saw my friends, listened to music and read the books I wanted to read. I also spent many hours in the dark of my bedroom just thinking, planning out my life.

Of course the huge drawback to my plan was I severely limited my after high school options. I wanted to attend Arizona State University but would never be able to pay out of state tuition. Without a scholarship option and without even a B average, I was pretty much out of luck. It might be my one real regret, not doing better in school or understanding that the freedom I thought I was gaining was actually  restricting my options.

Another drawback-I never gained any good study habits. It was pretty simple in high school to anticipate the things that would be on a test and prepare for those things. I could spend an hour or so preparing and get a solid score on most tests. I never learned to sit and pour my entire head and heart into my task.

This lack of study skills was blatantly obvious when I started at the Community College. I would find any excuse to skip out on studying. I failed to complete papers and scored horribly on quizzes and tests during my first quarter. In the second quarter, I took a critical theory course that required me to read, a lot. I found it impossible to find any desire to do it. I ended up not even going to the class as I was unprepared and in a class of fifteen, you stand out if you don’t participate.

After my realization that my chosen field of study was not going to be a good option, my disaster of a spring quarter (two E’s and an unofficial withdrawal in four classes) and my determination to not end up stuck at Granite Furniture my whole life, I decided to take two night courses. Two seemed a doable number and I wanted very badly to succeed. I took a Psychology course and the aforementioned Literature course. Night school was three days a week for 1 hour and 50 minutes per class. For the first time I was able to sit in class, listen to the entire lecture, take notes and participate, even offering insightful comments.

I rekindled my love of literature and realized I wanted badly to still teach. While I had loved learning abut history, I never loved it the way I loved learning about literature. I loved reading and tearing apart texts, applying historical perspectives, social perspectives and especially feminist perspectives. Centuries of misogynistic writing has left a very deep well of texts for young students to practice on. I loved applying these ideas to popular media, dissecting the underlying messages, far beyond the typical objectification of women or the obsession with wealth and whatnot. It was bliss.

I learned I loved learning, loved reading, loved the challenge of bettering myself. There was so much I had never thought of, so many things I had taken for granted or taken as factual, just because it was easy or made “sense”.

In order to graduate from a University, a student usually needs a certain level of mathematics. At the U and at SLCC, it was the dreaded Math 105, which became 1050 when they switched to semesters (why, I don’t really know). Because of my poor high school math grades, and my inability to pass the placement test, I had to start with basic algebra concepts. Math 35 it was called and it didn’t even count towards any degree at all. math 35 and math 99 were throw away courses that did not even show up on your GPA.

I am very grateful for these classes, however. They let me start all over, learning the basics at a time when  was ready to learn them. I applied myself and found that while I was not brilliant at math, I did have the ability to learn it. I did quite well in my math courses, earning A’s (that didn’t count, bleh) in 35 and 99, an A- in Math 101 and a solid B+ in 105.

While it would be short selling myself to diminish my own determination in learning to learn, I have to give most of the credit to great professors, especially the two I had the first quarter I took night classes. These two inspired me with their love of teaching and love of the subjects they were sharing. I can’t remember the Psychology professors last name, but she was amazing. I took another course from her the following quarter. My English professor was Howard Shorthill and I took four other courses from him before he left SLCC for other things. He inspired me to challenge so many things I had always just agreed with, as well as any new ideas I thought were clever. He is the person I credit most with my academic career as it was his belief in my abilities that made me want to try harder, do better, grow up in many ways.  I learned to be wrong in his classes and that was a hard lesson to learn. Learning that I had so much to learn, cliche maybe, but true nonetheless.