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.

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.

Story, Goal, Song: part I

Here begins a series of posts I can really only describe as cliche (a label I am consistently trying not to care about). I know I’m not the only victim of the tidal wave of sentimentality that accompanies the last month of the year, so I’m deeming it okay to kind of give into the appeal of both reflecting and resolving – so that is what I shall do. I am going to tell a memorable story from 2014 (with a grainy iPhone photo, naturally), explain one of my goals for the coming year (unrelated to the story, because who has time for that kind of thinking?), and since it brings me great joy to incessantly barf music recommendations on everyone, I will include a song that has come to embody my year. Let’s go!


A story: In February, I took a little weekend trip to Oregon with my family. My little sister’s volleyball team was playing in a tournament at UO, aka the worst place in the world:

My father and I wondering what we are doing in the land of the Ducks.

My father and I wondering what we are doing in the land of the Ducks.

It was incredibly cold, so much so that inhaling felt like unwillingly swallowing a 10-gallon bucket of ice water (no exaggerations to be found here). Pretty much everyone was sick, the girls were losing their games, and the coaches were visibly grumpy. Also, as I said, we were in Eugene. Enough said? Enough said.

But despite all of this, I count that weekend among my favorites of this year. Everyone else was quite clearly miserable, but I was having a delightful time – I got to spend three straight days with my parents, eat nachos and experience a Seahawks victory in a local pub, watch episodes of Lost as I went to sleep at night… and to top it all off, my parents and I were the first to stay in a newly remodeled room at our hotel, meaning I was the first ever person to sleep on this pull-out bed mattress:

Am I weird for being excited about things like this?

Am I weird for being excited about things like this?

So, yes. Against my better judgment (being a natural-born rival), I made some fond memories at the University of Oregon. And on the drive home, we happened upon a Noodles & Co, which we had only ever seen in Denver – dreams do come true.

A goal: Apparently 2014-15 is the year of mass scattering for my close friend group – one of my best friends is on a multi-month whirlwind tour of Europe, another has been in Norway since August, and yet another will be in Scotland for the remainder of the academic year, while many others are in different corners of the state. Come April, I will actually be putting pen to paper in the sun-soaked streets of Rome, so I suppose I have jumped on the bandwagon as well. But as exciting as all of this is, it has been and probably will be problematic for me – I am not phenomenal at keeping in touch.

Although I’ve been lucky to have a lot of close friends who are persistent enough for the both of us, I’d really like to step up my game in the coming year and combat the whole “out of sight, out of mind” state of thinking (a state which is involuntary in my case, I assure you). It’s really a matter of re-prioritizing and being intentional, which, unsurprisingly, is an idea at the heart of most of my resolutions. To put it concisely: I want to get better at showing the people who are important to me that, even though I am far away, I still consider our friendship very valuable and something that is worth maintaining. (and I refuse to apologize for how cheesy this is)

A song: With a whopping 1,700+ tracks saved to my many spotify playlists this past year, picking out just four or five to include in this series of posts is SO HARD. So, to make things easier for myself, I am making the first one a very recent favorite (recent, like I discovered this song a week ago). It’s called “Even the Darkness Has Arms” by the Barr Brothers.

One of the many songs with lyrics I wish I had written, and one of the many songs that makes me really, really want to pick up a guitar and learn how to play it. I am seriously excited about the music this band is making, and I encourage you to listen to their newest album, Sleeping Operator – you can stream it on spotify, or just buy it (probably the better of the two options).


And with that, I will say “till next time.” I hope your day is lovely!

Find your fleece lining

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I am welcoming the month of December in high style, and by that I mean I am wearing fleece-lined leggings under my jeans.

I’ve never really been much of a fleece person – by way of blankets, I generally prefer a down comforter or microplush Spider-Man throw – but I have recently come around. I got fleece-lined mittens a couple weeks ago ($3, I love H&M) and around that same time my mom sent me these leggings, which have actually changed my life. Winter is full of crisp, chilly mornings, especially when you refuse to turn your heater on, and these angel pants (did I just coin a new term of endearment?) are the perfect solution to the “freezing bare legs for five seconds while changing from pajamas to real person clothes” problem: wear them under your pajama pants, keep wearing them under your actual pants. And, of course, throw them in the wash every once in awhile. We are adults here.

Perhaps every cloud has a silver lining (I never remember to check), but not every pair of leggings has a fleece lining – find yours.

Other things I’ve been enjoying lately: sleep, the song “On Ice” by Chris Thile, family time, burning candles even though I’m not supposed to, Sufjan Stevens’ rendition of “Come Thou Fount of Every Blessing,” and, as usual, Zayn Malik’s face.

Happy last month of 2014!

Feelin’ optimistic

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s/o to my mom for helping this vision come to life

s/o to my mom for helping me bring my vision to life

It’s the end of September, if you haven’t noticed, which means a lot of things:

  1. School is now a thing again.
  2. Going to bed at 1AM is no longer an acceptable habit.
  3. I need to re-learn the whole “feeding myself” thing.
  4. Time to establish a study/hangout spot at a local coffee shop.
  5. The temperature is dropping, meaning iced tea is becoming less and less practical.
  6. Lots of readjusting and settling in.
  7. I get to spend beautiful moments with the beautiful people in my life.

I feel very ready for this season and this school year. Good times are ahead.

Excuse me while I listen to Volcano Choir 24/7: