In pursuit

As you may or may not have noticed, there hasn’t been a new post on this blog in over four months. I am kind of the queen of unplanned hiatuses, that has been evident here from the beginning, but four months? Unprecedented. My mom is mad about it, told me my “time off is over.” This was yesterday. So I figure it’s time to address the matter, time to give a straightforward answer to the question I’ve been asked by more people than I ever would have expected: when am I coming back?

Here is my straightforward answer: I’m not.

This may seem a callous response to people showing support of my writing, but I’m not done yet –

I’m not coming back here. This will be my last post at this url. I do plan to come back to the blog world at some point, although probably not until June, when I have the time to lay things out. Originally, I wanted to wait until then to be like “hey! I’m done here, and I moved somewhere else!” But June is pretty far off, isn’t it? My readers have been so loyal and kind and patient since day one, and I don’t want to take that for granted.

So why would I want to start a new blog rather than continue here? This is something I’ve been thinking about since last June, and there are so many reasons that have come to mind in the months since. Since we all know I love lists…

  1. In my own Hierarchy of Life Priorities, blogging has obviously tumbled through the ranks since the start of my last year of college. I’ve budgeted literally zero time for it. My life has managed to fill itself with other things. And I don’t want to leave this corner of the internet deserted for nearly a year, only to come back an older and much different person with new ideas as to what I want to achieve here – it would be a little jarring. So, to me, it makes sense to start again in an entirely new corner of the internet.
  2. I don’t want the majority of my site traffic to be a result of people googling young actors’ facial injuries, damn it. Chace Crawford, I am leaving you and your perpetual fat lip behind.
  3. I started this blog when I was 18; the world felt like a different thing to me then. I did have objectives for my writing at that age, but they’ve changed. A lot. Like to the point that I’m still figuring out what they’ve changed into. I know I don’t want my blog to be exclusively about me. My thoughts, my experiences, things that irritate me, songs that I can’t stop listening to. There will always be an element of those things – who can truly separate herself from them? – but I’d like my lens to be a little bigger. As I said, still figuring out what that means and how to make it happen. That’s why I need a few more months, and probably more hours in the day.
  4. On a purely aesthetic level, yes, I just want an excuse to design a new site.
  5. I think it’s safe to assume all of you have picked up on the fact that I want to be a writer. And with that as a life, if not career, goal, I want to start holding myself to a higher standard. That’s not to say I want to suck all the fun out of it, rather the opposite – I want to put more thought into the creativity of the endeavor, the craft of it, the planning, the gathering of information. All of that. If that doesn’t sound fun to you, my hope is that it will at least be fun to read. We’ll see what happens.

For the record, I do like the things I’ve written on this site. I’m proud of quite a few of them. And for that reason and others, I’m not going to delete any of it – it’ll still be here if you ever want to read my thoughts about the series finale of Gossip Girl or the rude people in Florida. I’m not leaving Mishaps & Musings in any bitterness (although I’ve grown to hate alliteration in the past few years). I am leaving in pursuit.

So when that day comes – when I’ve created something new and I think it’s worth sharing – I will update this post with my new url, and you can follow me there if you so choose. In the meantime, I’ll be drinking lots of coffee, reading lots of books, and wishing I could be almost-22 forever and ever and ever.

Thank you for reading, today and every other time. I am so, so appreciative.

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Pre-coffee: I am easily endeared

I’ve recently come to terms with my impossible-to-kick propensity for projecting onto strangers. It’s just a thing I do. And I do it with a confidence that is pretty unreasonable, by any standards. Is it fair to the people I observe? Often, no. My perception is dependent on countless variables, very few of them being controllable by either myself or the person in question. Chance! It is what life is all about. But many times, the portraits I blindly paint of strangers end up sympathetic and even affectionate. My last blog post, admittedly, was not a great example of this – it was a prime example of my ability to project, but she was unlucky enough to land on the negative end of my Spectrum of Bus Strangers. Today, we will explore the other end. Is your heart ready to be warmed this crisp September afternoon? Because I’m not into guarantees.

Over the course of the summer, I grew very fond of a mother-son pair across the aisle from me. She had an accent – something Eastern European – and cropped brown hair, a kind face. More often than not, she was wearing a cardigan. I never saw her without a crossword puzzle in her lap, which I liked. Her young son, probably ten years old, usually elected to sit in the seat behind her with his clunky, slate gray laptop. He held it like he’d never owned anything more precious. The reflections of light in his wire-frame glasses sometimes obscured his eyes, but never his quiet excitement. One morning, I overheard a conversation between the mother and our bus driver (this was an exceptionally personable bus driver, and he reminded me of a train conductor from the fifties) – she explained that her son was attending computer camp at my university. As if a kid at computer camp isn’t sweet enough, I immediately thought of the woman’s love for her boy. She took the bus into the city with him every weekday for at least a month, presumably dropped him off at his class and waited for him to be done, and then accompanied him on the peak-traffic bus ride home. This gave me a lot of feelings. Her supportiveness. Her sacrifice of summer days. Her dedication to making sure her kid got to do something he loved. Oh, my heart. Seldom does a pair of strangers strike me with such poignancy. Devoted parents everywhere: I admire and appreciate you on the highest possible level.

There was also the Animated Phone Conversation Lady. On any other day, I would have been irritated out of my mind with this woman. Her voice was loud and gruff in a chainsmoker kind of way, and she made clear her impatience with the person on the other end of the line. But for reasons I do not remember, I was in a very good mood that day. I paused my music just in time to hear her snap “she!!! is going!!! to lunch!!! with PATRICK!!! at noon!!!” Her anger was somehow good-humored, which sounds impossible but I can assure you it is not. I loved having no context for this conversation. Earlier, she had identified Lunch Date Patrick as “that freaky fucker” and I was automatically endeared to her. One communication disaster blurred into another as she left her daughter a voicemail, calling the girl’s father by the wrong name and correcting herself a second later. “Hah, oh my god, I promise I know who your dad is.” By the end of that call I think she’d noticed my attentiveness and laughed as she explained her state of mind as “pre-coffee.” I stifled an “I love you, who are you” and simply told her I was familiar with that feeling. I hope she got her coffee. And I hope Patrick lives up to that nickname, even though I’m not sure what that would entail.

Honorable mentions include the edgy guy self-diagnosing on WebMD; the scraggly, white-haired old man with a cane, his dog, and the fresh-faced girl the dog nuzzled into with a sweetness and familiarity only achievable by mangy dogs; the frazzled new bus driver with dark eyes, cracking jokes about how he preferred driving semis cross-country over this shit; the toddler who defiantly held a Starburst over a crack between seats as her mom warned “don’t you do that! ohhhh, don’t you do that!” – and then she dropped it; the man with the freckles and a baseball cap who described the Seattle summers of ’59 and ’71 as “sunny, but not this kind of heat”; and finally, the driver who tossed his trash into the little bucket at the front of the bus with such accuracy that I knew he must have done it a billion times before.

I love people. I really do.

A Bus Buddy

I am back, I am caffeinated, and the blog posts will be flying off the keys with increasing frequency and an uncharacteristic amount of zeal. This, at least, is the idea.

Early on in the summer, my laptop decided it’d had enough of me (or maybe enough of the voltage in Italian outlets – your guess is as good as mine) and refused to hold any charge for even a second. Consequently, it was annexed to the family room ottoman for two months, perpetually reliant on a power cord accessorized with a “DO NOT UNPLUG ME!!!” post-it note. A lazy excuse to not write, but sufficient for a person such as myself. I also developed the internal monologue of “I’m just taking the time to collect material, it’s fine, it’s fine, it’s fine” – which was true. I penned many a note, illustrated many a character. It’s fine. It’s fine. And with that and a new laptop (!!!), dear readers, I present to you a study in the joys and sorrows of public transportation: the Bus Chronicles.


I’m sure most people would agree that 7am is a great time to be alone. Personal space is kind of a 24/7 preference for me, but it is doubly so at dawn, triply so at dawn on a bus. It’s not necessarily because I am cranky – I like to think I’m pretty chipper, actually – but because the viewing of a PNW sunrise should be a very personal affair, something free of interruptions, i.e. the coughs/elbows of strangers. Being trapped in the window seat by a sleeper when I arrive at my stop has always been an additional concern. Let’s not even discuss someone actually falling asleep on me. For these reasons and several unnamed, when came a morning of especial introversion, I assumed the role of that asshole who, in the most passive-aggressive preventative measure known to man, puts her bag in the seat next to her. As we coasted into the next transit center, I pretended to be asleep so no one could ask me to move it. It seemed like a foolproof plan. I had seen other people pull the exact same moves.

But, knowing precisely where to find me, Guilt paid a visit. It was a Thursday, and for some reason that day of the week tends to draw a particularly high volume of commuters, at least from my own observation; a shortage of seats was a possibility. So with a sigh of resignation, I grabbed my backpack and opened my eyes. There stood a woman, short in stature but inordinately large in visible bitterness toward me, looking down at the spot to my right in an expectant sort of stare. A modest line, but a line nonetheless, had formed behind her. Confused, I glanced behind me – there were a few seats open. Alright then. As I pulled my bag onto my lap, she gracefully plunked herself down and looked ahead. I scowled.

Despite an obvious and acute awareness of how my sleep had inconvenienced her, she conked out within the first three minutes of sitting next to me. This woman is the director of my nightmares. She proceeded to lean, excruciatingly slow. 90 degrees, 87 degrees, 83 degrees, one centimeter from my unwelcoming shoulder. At the last possible moment, she startled herself awake. This became a cycle, countless repetitions of eyes closed, shoulders slumped, leftward tilt, groggy awakening. A dance so slow it is nearly imperceptible to humans. As is only natural, she was in the throes of sleepytime as we neared my stop. I hesitantly placed my hand upon her small shoulder and looked earnestly into the place her eyes would be when she opened them. Rather than an expression of anger or annoyance, her now-conscious face was covered in what looked like deep disappointment in my character or something, as if she’d expected more of me. “Excuse me, sorry, this is going to be my stop.” She collected her lunchbox and purse and released me into the aisle. The end.

Except it wasn’t the end. She sat next to me again. And again. This woman, who was clearly no fan of mine, took the seat next to me no less than four times – if nothing else, at least the world maintains a sense of mystery. She continued to fall asleep, getting closer and closer each time until finally my shoulder became her own bony and angular pillow. How comfy. One morning, she sat down and promptly extracted a blank sheet of paper from her bag, folded it and held it over the parts of her face which breathe in air. To clarify, the same air I breathe. It immediately took me back to the day in English class when a guy purposely sat next to me, only to throw me sideways glances of abhorrence when my SEASONAL ALLERGIES made me sniffly. He also buried his face in his sleeve for the entire hour. What is up, guys. What is up. In the moment, I always chalk this up to pro-league hypochondria and I just want to tell the person to take their damn vitamins and chill out for a second. But, even though it offends me to be skirted around like the mad dog in To Kill a Mockingbird, I do realize there could be legitimate reasons to protect your health in such a vigilant manner. Here I go again: rationalizing my way out of anger. I should run workshops on this.

To conclude this many-chaptered story, I have a few theories as to why this mysterious woman kept taking that seat to my right. First, perhaps she shares my preference for the second row of front-facing seats on the left side of the bus. After all, that specific section does have the best and most expansive window view, which is why I sit there. But she spent ample time with her eyes closed on these trips, not looking out the window at all. My second theory is that, again, like me, she has a strange affection for petty annoyance. Sometimes I am grateful when a person irritates me, because it gives me reason to be irritated, which I kind of enjoy on occasion. The fact that this woman didn’t like me was clear as crystal, especially in the inevitable, tension-filled “excuse me, sorry, this is going to be my stop” interactions. Lastly, maybe my shoulder is more comfortable than I give it credit for. But that is highly unlikely.

No matter her reason for doing so, I don’t believe my bus buddy will be sitting next to me again anytime soon. Thankfully, I am done commuting. But I do have more stories – stay tuned.

Let’s talk about specs

Clearly, I’ve not felt a strong obligation to this blog since touching back down in the States. Why? There are no acceptable mosaics here. My well of inspiration is dry as a bone.

Just kidding. I haven’t been writing as often as usual because I am in the throes of the busiest summer of my life – working, coffeehouse-hopping, reading, sunbathing (and lying to my doctor about it), sleeping, not sleeping, busing, catching up with friends, wearing baseball caps, honing my skills as a cocktail artiste. I’ve checked out a lot of short story and essay collections from the library. I’ve consumed a near-unbelievable number of iced lattes. Life has been excellent. But I did not come here to write an extensive life update. No, today I am going to talk about glasses.

I was eleven when my poor mother dragged me, an obstinate, fuming moper of a punk, to the eye doctor. We’d recently been to the opera, where I had been unable to read the English subtitles above the stage, and suddenly I was sitting in an uncomfortable chair at Walmart and they were shooting air into my eye. That day, to literally no one’s surprise, it was decided: I needed glasses. I picked a pair of small, chestnut brown frames, and then my mom bought me the new DisneyMania CD because I was upset and she’s always been too nice to me. That Disney optimism, though, did not chase away the fear that I would be labeled as a “nerd.”

That first pair of glasses brought a lot of new things into my life. First, the outlines of leaves, which had previously been indistinguishable clumps of green adorning the trees in my yard. Second, a new facial expression which involved squinching up my nose because my frames would slide down it and I was too lazy to lift a finger. Third, the beginning of an era in which my eyes are almost-closed in every picture because, as I said, my glasses often slid down my nose. As a result, subsequent pairs were very poorly documented: I effectively erased about six years of being visually impaired from the history books (my history books) by refusing to wear glasses in pictures. They would hang there, dangling from my hand, at my side. Nearly every group picture from the time I was twelve to the time I was seventeen was like this. Even in class, I would occasionally take them off if I didn’t really need to see the board. They helped me see – like, a lot – but I was embarrassed to wear them.

There was a brief period where I considered getting contacts (I was probably fourteen) – I went in to the eye doctor and they held up a giant, plastic model of a lens and placed a normal-sized tester on the tip of my finger, but I never actually put it in my eye because I was afraid I wouldn’t be able to get it out again. Irrational fear: I’m good at that. So contact lenses were, unequivocally, a “no.”

I went through three pairs of very unexciting black frames before I finally landed on the 2011 “nerd” standard – thick, black, square, with little silver things on the corners. This was when I started liking myself as a glasses-wearer. I wore them all the time, even in pictures, even to school dances, and I owned it. I don’t know why it took so long to happen, but my glasses became a part of who I was. As I would later claim (and still do claim), they became a part of my face, an extra feature. Fast-forward four years and two pairs of frames, and I don’t like taking my glasses off. I also get really offended when people think they’re fake… but that’s another story for another day.

In February, I branched out from my usual type (read: square black acetate) and ordered some chunky tortoiseshells from Warby Parker. I’ve never loved an accessory – or a necessity, for that matter – more than I love my Kimballs.

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And now I’m looking at getting a second pair from my beloved WP. Even though I am not one of the fortunate few who looks good in any and all frames thrown on my face, ordering the home trial boxes is slightly addictive – usually 3/5 are losers, but that leaves two winners. What is more fun than trying on glasses? I guess Disneyland is. Beside the point. Back to corrective eyewear.

In my most recent 5-day home trial, I’ve narrowed it down to two pairs: the Haskell and the Fillmore. I am strongly leaning toward one of them, I won’t say which, but feel free to cast your vote. Just for fun. I say that because I probably won’t listen to any of you because I am an incredibly stubborn young woman. Sorry.

The (Eddie) Haskell (from Leave it to Beaver, I'm sorry okay)

The (Eddie) Haskell (from Leave it to Beaver, I’m sorry okay)

The Fillmore, ft. annoying glare

The Fillmore, ft. annoying glare

In short, I am really, really happy I need glasses. They’re a pain in the ass when it rains, and they steam up when I open the dishwasher, and sunglasses are an expensive challenge. But I love the way they look, and I love that they let me see how I look – pretty useful. As an 11-year-old, I was worried my glasses would make people judge me. Now, if they warrant any label, I’d like to think that label is “bold.” Also, let me just say I completely misconstrued the concept of “nerd” as a child, and would not feel any shame whatsoever to hold that label as well – it’s just that my nerdiness and my glasses have nothing to do with one another.

And that is my corrective lens coming-of-age story. EMBRACE YOUR FLAWS!

Inheritable traits & metaphors

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My sister and I, although adequately graceful in most areas of our lives, had the great misfortune of inheriting a particular trait from our father: our nose-blowing, individually but especially collectively, is a high decibel experience. On any given morning in our household, one can hear the demonstration of nasal power. And oh is it powerful. We always likened the noise to that of an elephant (whereas some people sneeze like mice – I do not trust these people). That is, until we were presented with an incredibly apt metaphor, much more accurate than our own:

“Cierra, you know what you sound like when you blow your nose? Like when you drag your suitcase across those metal things at the beginning and the end of escalators.”

Do you guys know what my 11-year-old cousin is talking about? Because she hit the nail right on the head. And instead of mourn my apparent lack of ladylikeness, I thought wow, METAPHORS! LANGUAGE! THIS STUFF IS AMAZING! An elementary schooler just brilliantly described a previously indescribable sound my nose has been making for my entire life.

And it’s just like that, whether it’s funny or gorgeous or melancholy as hell, words can not only envelop but become a feeling (or a noise, for that matter). I’ve found innumerable instances of this just in the past few days, in my second and much more successful attempt to read Everything Is Illuminated by Jonathan Safran Foer, with whom I proudly share a birthday. I started reading this book in high school and I was wildly unprepared, low in energy and consequently low in the amount of effort I put forth – I didn’t understand a thing and I was disappointed. Four years later, I’m underlining something on every page because these words give me feelings. “He would fall asleep with his heart at the foot of his bed, like some domesticated animal that was no part of him at all.” Excuse me, Jonathan, that is my heart you are breaking.

Not that I’m required to have one, but what is my point? Surprise, there are three.

  1. I think words are really cool and you should think so too.
  2. People say “the right person at the wrong time is the wrong person,” and I think I believe that. But the same cannot be said for books. I’m willing to lump music in there too. The right book or song at the wrong time could still be the right book or song at the right time. And, in all likelihood, the right time will come. Books have chapters and so does life.
  3. I’m not embarrassed about the way I blow my nose. I’m not embarrassed about the way I blow my nose. I’m not embarrassed about the way I blow my nose.

Also, I got blood drawn today and it took my perfectly competent nurse three painful tries to lure anything out of my itty-bitty, impossible-to-find veins. Even my bloodways are stubborn and somewhat elusive. Cheers to perfect consistency.