Sitting by a Blood Essay Writer

My husband has heard a lot about blood essays. I read him the one I wrote last winter, and we discussed the purpose and benefits. We discussed how hard it is to write something so real, and how hard it is to find the real purpose in your subject. We discussed how it makes you go places you'd rather not, but how it's very healing, and helps you understand yourself better.

Last night he decided to write one. It was something he'd mentioned before, but had never actually started. He took the topic for this semester, and wrote about a "tense relationship." He wrote about two sides of himself.

I was sitting next to him doing homework. He'd been working for about ten minutes, and finally turned to me, frustrated.
"How do you start? I've tried about eight different openings now, but don't like any of them."
This led to a discussion on how you just WRITE first, and format later, after you've discovered what you're actually writing about (this happens to be something I struggle with, but am working on). Redirected, he began to quickly spill his thoughts onto the page. When he first pulled his head up to read me part of what he had written, I was amazed. One of the hardest things for me with a blood essay is that I'm afraid of the topic, and afraid of digging around in my guts like that. My first draft generally beats around the bush quite a bit, and I have to go back in afterwards and explore what is really happening. But Ryan? He just went for it, headfirst, no holding back. And within an hour, he had written a lot of very difficult things. So then he turned to me again.
"Now what?"
I told him that according to Sis. Morgan, it's not "Now what?" it's "So what?" I asked him if anything he'd written had surprised him. He looked at it for a moment, and was able to pick out two sections, one that he had known but had been very difficult to write, and one that was something he just plain hadn't realized. But in looking at them, we could both feel that they weren't the core of the issue; they were results and evidences of something deeper. Then came the Spirit, talking to my mind in the voice of Sis. Morgan.
"Ryan, you mention this experience up here, but you skim past it. You can't do that. You don't tell us anything about how it made you feel, or how it changed you. It really has little relation to the rest right now."

The look on his face morphed quickly from panic, to realization, to resignation. This was it, and he knew it. That was why he had avoided it in the first place. I felt a little better, knowing that I'm not the only one who beats around the real issue. But again, he set an incredible example for me. He pushed right in, and it was only five minutes before he looked up with tears in his eyes, and said, "There. I found it." And when he read it to me, I knew he was right. Everything he'd been fighting and struggling with came from an experience he had when he was nine years old, and once he realized that, he named it without hesitation. He went and changed some of the emotions he'd expressed in other sections to reflect what he'd discovered to be the true motivator. And then, instead of being satisfied with just discovering the truth in it, he told me he wanted to bring it in to the Writing Center, and turn it into a good essay. He didn't have Sis. Morgan giving him deadlines; he didn't have the hesitation that it was too personal to have someone else help him with. He wanted it to be the best he had to offer, not to be published, but just for himself.

As we sat there looking at that piece of himself he'd discovered, I asked him how he felt.
"Good, it's a Blood essay; it's supposed to be written in your own blood. But does it feel any better?"
"It feels like I've pulled a two-foot spike out of a bottom corner of my heart, and now I'm squeezing all the blood and infected pus out of it. It feels a lot cleaner, and it feels like I can finally deal with it, because I know where it comes from."
I nodded, and we sat in silence for a minute. Then I spoke. "Well, I'm really impressed that you dove in headfirst like that."
"Yeah, but I didn't have any idea the water would be so cold!"
How true that is.

Last night I sat by the writer of a Blood essay, and learned almost as much as if I had written one.


Laughing at my own joke

Hey guys (which includes girls too, naturally)!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

I saw something today and wanted to let you in on it!!! I thought it was incredibly applicable considering what Sister Morgan always tells us!! Here it is!!

"Cut out all the exclamation points. An exclamation point is like laughing at your own joke." --F. Scott Fitzgerald

Okay, sorry for my lame joke. That's what happens when you spend a day with a bunch of teenagers. I must say, though, it's kind of fun to look at them moan in anguish at an assignment I give them. Today I mimicked one kid and said, "Oh, it's horrible, isn't it? Learning at school. Go figure." I may get fired before I'm even hired.

To the rest of you student teachers and teacher-teachers (EMPO, OUR BRIGHT SHINING STAR OF HOPE), I'm glad to not be alone in this :) Any suggestions? I'm teaching Macbeth and Les Miserables and Grammar and a Shakespeare course.

Oh yeah, Sister Morgan, now would be a wonderful time to have my jump drive with all of your brilliant Writing Center powerpoints and writing prompts on it. But don't worry about it. Seriously. Even though it's my birthday this week and I'm a million miles away from you. It's no problem. :) Sorry--just a little more teenage sarcasm for you.

Miss you all.

Chinese New Years

One of my favorite memories with my mother is the Chinese New Years we skipped out on church to go to Chinatown for the festivities. My dad wasn't too happy about it, he didn't want either of us missing church, but he recognized that I needed to get a taste of my own culture and so he let us go.

It was a gray morning, the streets were wet from the mist of rain that was the Pacific Northwest. We rode the 210 bus that dropped us off in front of the police building on the outskirts of Chinatown. Hobos and hookers everywhere. They always stayed on the outskirts though, they never went into Chinatown, even though the neighborhood attracted the poor. As a child I always wondered why they never went in. I learned later that it was the Triad influence, the Chinese gangs that kept them out. During the day we never saw them, but we saw their traces. BMW's and Mercedes Benz's parked conspicuously and untended. No one would dare touch them.

Chinatown itself was crowded, people were everywhere. By this point it had stopped raining, but the air was pleasantly damp, cold enough to see my own breath. Firecrackers could be heard going off in the distance as merchants welcomed in the new year and tried to scare off the evil spirits. We worked our way through the streets, my mother leading the eight year old me through the crowd to watch some of the more enterprising shopkeepers who got together and invited a couple of lion dance dancers perform in front of the store for good luck in business and to bring good harmony and fortune. My mom pushed me to the front of the crowd so that I stood a few feet away from the middle of the street and the four dancers dancing to the crash of cymbals.

I watched them as they moved with the precision of martial arts experts, first the front dancer jumping over the firecrackers, then the rear dancer jumping over as well. My mom pointed out one of the shopkeepers holding up a stick with a head of lettuce on a string attached to it. He held it high above the two lions and dangled it in front of them. Suddenly the front of one of the lions jumped high and landed on the shoulders of the rear dancer. The crowd applauded as I watched dumbfounded.

After the performance, my mom lead me to the Sun-Yat-Sen botanical gardens where other cultural activities were going on. She patiently explained Why Chinese people did this, or why they did that. By the time we left I was tired, but grateful for the time my mom spent to show me my own culture.

It's been a few years since then, I'm in Idaho where the concept of Chinatown is about as foreign as cowboys to the FOB's in Vancouver's Chinatown. Chinese new year is tomorrow and I'm away from my family again for this holiday. Things have changed, even my mom. In a lot of ways shes not even the same woman that brought me to Chinatown that day yet every Chinese new year I think of how excited I was to skip church with my mom and wander the streets of Chinatown learning about my own culture.

(the following link is the lion dance for those who haven't seen it)



I’m sitting in my favorite spot in the writing center—in the green chair on the left side, across from the blue one. No one else is here. My backpack is sitting on the floor where I dropped it, filled with textbooks, pencils and paper. I should be doing my homework, but it’s so quiet, and my mind pops and fizzles with everything that’s going on in my life.

I have no motivation to start my homework, and I can’t settle my mind, so I decide to straighten the chairs. One hand on the wooden backs, I push them forward until they knock against the tables. All obsessive-compulsively pushed in, I realize I need to write it all out. The following is a rough draft of what my mind spilled out that night, channeled through the keyboard and plastered on this screen.
I figured out tonight that one of my hardest challenges I have (and will have) is choosing between the temporal things that don’t really matter but demand so much of my time, and the things that really do matter—that would have an eternal consequence, but seem harder to take time out for. Or, rather, effectively prioritizing.

The things that matter—that REALLY matter—in this life I tend to pass by because I ‘don’t have time’ for them. Why? School…and something more. I don’t know exactly. But it’s hard. Little aunt Kathy’s on bed-rest with her seventh child—shouldn’t I forget my homework and go help her? Grandma’s recovering from eye surgery—shouldn’t I visit with her, instead of study at the library? Mom forgot she was filling the bucket with water to feed the dogs and flooded the kitchen—shouldn’t I stop fretting about my grades and just drive down to help her? Mari says she’s lonely—how about putting my Spanish dictionary away and, instead of text-telling her everything will be okay, doing something with her? Yes, I should; but I don’t. I know the ‘right’ answers. I don’t know if I want those. I’ve had them; my priorities remain the same.

School consumes me and therefore my time. (What is time to tell me I have or don’t have it to accomplish all that needs to be done?) I enjoy learning, but am frustrated with the system. What trivial things grades are, and yet they’re powerful. Powerful enough to capture and confine my focus to its exhausting purpose. I put school first. What is the iron-invisible hold school work/grading has on me? I don’t have an answer this time. Yes, this may seem trivial, but it is real.
Am I alone in this one?


Nostalgia or just a good laugh?

BYU is different: nobody talks in the library, the book shelves move, and people always fall asleep. I finished a paper an hour before class and laid it down next to my computer, which I shut so I could take a quick nap. I put my forehead on my arm, and my hand reached out with my finger pads softly on the corners of both the computer and the paper.
I didn’t want anyone to still them. No sooner after lying my head down, however, did I start dreaming. I dreamed that Chandler, Dan, and Ivor quietly approached my table. Ivor stood back smiling while Chandler lifted my computer up with two hands, and Dan pinched the corner of my paper trying so hard to be sneaky. They walked off without me skipping a beat of soft sighs that come with a mid-day nap.
As students always do when they wake up in the library, I had a red forehead. I couldn’t see it, but I could feel the texture of my sleeve tattooed on my forehead. After I few seconds of descending from my nirvana nap, I realized my laptop and paper were gone. I looked to my right and then to my left. I looked in my computer bag and then in my book bag—nothing. Each second that went by got worse. My face, I’m sure, started to match the mark on my forehead with the consequences of loosing my paper and, worse, my computer. Finally, I stood up looking under my chair and desk as if they accidently rolled off the table like my pen lid does sometimes; yeah, at this point I was pretty much desperate.
Meanwhile, at 12:00 (the direction), Chandler, Dan, and Ivor hid behind a pillar laughing. It cut through the quit library. Dan borrowed one end of Ivor’s scarf to cover his notorious deep laugh while Ivor used the other end to cover his own laugh. Chandler used both ends of his scarf because apparently it was extra funny to him. If I had any sense of resoluteness in me, I would have noticed it. But I was focused on one thing—finding what I lost.
Right then I woke up, but I didn’t lift my head up. I pressed my finger pads down to see if my computer was still there along with the paper. Just a dream, I thought, smirking to myself about my Rexburgian writers.
Do you see what kind of impact all you had on me? I think about all of you daily.
Oh yeah, I’m engaged. Yes, I’m excited, but I can’t put an exclamation point because Sister Morgan will probably see this.


Art. And Americanism.

I try not to be an art snob, but really, I am one. Tonight, while watching white Missourians perform a traditional Japanese dance they made up, I thought, "I'm such a snob." "But then," I replied to myself, "You recognize art and have good taste, so you deserve to be." "Good point," I thought.

Still, a little goes a long way. The first real story the Bungraku puppeteers told--the one about a princess whose Samurai lover must kill himself for honor because of his master's failure--seemed to transcend their showyness and Americanism to become art. The puppeteers, dressed in black robes with black hoods hiding their faces, seemed to disappear; only the beautifully adorned princess puppet existed on stage. Flakes of confetti snow fell and princess' worry and fear and hope and quest became real. The Japanese opera seemed to use its music to connect me with the stage. For a moment, only a small moment, that feeling of humans reaching each other's souls through an art existed. That was enough.

I came home (though still laughing at the shameless capitalism of the troupe's leader,) with a piece of that feeling. I can't put it into words yet, but I don't think I need to. I'm learning that the best communication, real human understanding, doesn't need to be verbalized.


Attention! Important Annoucement.

Hem hem... (coughs into hand) Everyone. I have a wonderful announcement to make. Ready?
Eric is engaged.
Yep. That old trickster. He and his new fiance named "Sarah" (of course) will be married in the summer and have plans to return to BYU-I next fall to join us again. (What will Eric be like married?) She looks lovely and, of course, he doesn't deserve her; he is a blessed man. Instead of a ring, he's taking her to Italy and France for the Honeymoon. Ha. What a romantic. I mean, what's a dumb ring compared to wandering hand in hand through Europe.
OK, that's one out of four from magic, full-of-memories-apartment. The race is on. Who will be next?
OK, now all together we can say CONGRATULATIONS ERIC!


Facebook Doesn't Lie

I thought that most of you would know before you found out on facebook. Sister Morgan was ecstatic to announce it at seminar today, it must of slipped her mind. But that's OK! After all, it is the gospel of repentance and forgiveness. It's true though, I am engaged, hooray!

Her name is Sarah (she's 21 next month, she is a beautician graduate girl, and extremely cute), and we met at institute. Sunday I asked her to marry me; however, due to my lack of wealth, she has no ring. And because she has no ring, we have no cool proposal story. That will happen once I get some income again. We are planning on getting hitched in the late fall at the Logan Temple, a mutual place for both families. Then we'll move back to Rexburg so I can finish school while she works full-time.

We are both pretty excited, and surprised, that it happened. When we started dating, neither of us wanted anything serious. She had a missionary with ten months left, and I was coming back to Idaho. With no pressure for anything to happen, we ended up engaged. Odd how that works eh? Last night we wrote off her missionary, and her sisters said that our engagement “is like a member of the family dying.” They really like him, but they don’t know me. I told Sarah to tell her sisters that I am like a member of the family that has died and is now resurrected, that much better. I am optimistic that they will love me as most people do.

I must say, God is pretty dang good at making awesome things happen with the unexpected detours of life.

PS - It is not freezing or snowy here in Maryland, just cold wetness.


Ahhhh Matt from S. Morgan

This is what I did New Year's Eve instead of going out.

I think it was worth it. It started off kind of serious.

I did not go to a New Year’s party tonight. (Quick question: New Year’s Eve—capitalized or not?) I stayed home and made a little movie, laboriously drawing the frames for a music video timed to Elvis Presley’s “In the Ghetto.” Though I received a few invitations to New Year’s celebrations, the fog in Los Angeles is thick tonight and I’m driving all day Saturday anyway. Parties aren’t really my thing, anyway.

The last party I attended was the joint birthday party held mostly for my cousin and partly for me in the middle of October. I drove four hours down to Provo to make my appearance on a weekend I should have spent studying for a test. After arriving, I hot-glued my mask (it was a masquerade party, after all, and the hostess was kind enough to provide maroon sequins and gold pipe cleaners to glue onto my black, plastic, half-face mask,) and mingled around. For most of the night, though, the mask sat on top of my head instead of covering my eyes—I thought it made my nose look big. I looked sharp in my new pinstripe suit and blue shirt that brought out my eyes. I think I even wore a tie.

Throughout the night I tried to start a few conversations. My cousin’s roommate’s friend, a slightly less-than-average height brunette with a cute smile, and I tried to flirt a few times. As I stood by the wall in the entryway, eyeing a lounge chair in the living room that a couple was currently salsa-dancing a little too close to for my comfort, she spoke to me: “You look like you’re having fun.”

“Yeah, this is fantastic. I’m actually waiting for that chair, but their kicks and dancing are a little dangerous to take it right now,” I replied.

“Oh, you don’t want to sit down! Don’t you want to dance?” she asked.

Heck no, I thought. Instead of that, I said, “I’m not really the dancing type. What’s your name, though?” She said her name was Kellen or something like that and she was from mid-southern California. I told her I was from LA and asked her how she liked going to school in Provo. Before answering, a Miley Cyrus song came on and most of the girls in the room ran to the dance floor to show us their choreography they’d made for that number. I laughed. “Wow, they’ve practiced,” I remarked.

“Yeah, it looks like it.” We smiled and watched for a minute, not really saying anything. "So what are you studying?” I finally asked. Another few chit-chatty comments bounced back and forth, and I went to get a drink.

Later in the night I finally took the lounge chair I wanted. I sat for no more than 20 seconds when Kellen came to me and pulled me up to dance.

“I’m not really a dancer,” I protested.

“It’ll be fun,” she promised.

I tried to wiggle back and forth and dance but didn’t feel like taking my hands out of my suit coat pockets and so I didn’t really do much but sway kind-of to the beat. “Oh, come on!” Kellen said as she took my hands from behind and started waving them in the air for me.

She did not just do that, I thought. But she did. I took it for about fifteen seconds, thinking about how my cat feels when we make him stand upright and dance, and then gently turned around and tried to start another conversation. “So are you a big dancer like a dance major, or…?”

“No, I’m studying (I forgot what she’s studying. We’ll say history.) What are you going in to?”

“I’m an English major, so I want to teach high school or be unemployed.” She laughed at that. Then she tried to start dancing again. The music blared through my head. The snacks had run out. And I was in the middle of the dance floor. I wish I could get her out of this party and have a real conversation, I thought.

That never happened. I ended up going for another drink and then snuck out under the pretense of an urgent phone call or laundry or something. I did say goodbye to her before I left, though.

The point is, I don’t like parties where you can’t get to know someone. Why, when I’m driven by intimacy and real human interaction in my relationships, would I herd myself into an over-populated room where real conversation is impossible?