Inheritable traits & metaphors


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.


Rome V: predictably, mosaics

How about dem mosaics

As my mother so gently pointed out the other day, it has been over a week since I last posted. My b, mom. Rome is a very distracting place to live. Distractions:

  1. Gelato
  2. Literally underground dance clubs that look like fancy caves, where drunk people try to steal your hat off your head and think it’s hilarious
  3. Mosaics
  4. Access to parks that are probably exact replicas of the fields in Heaven
  5. Street musicians playing “Hotel California” because that’s apparently the only song American tourists could ever want to hear

Needless to say, it has been a very good, very full third week of living in Rome (sidenote: how have I already been here for three weeks). I’ve had even more opportunity to sharpen my museum-going skills, thanks to the Museo Capitolini and Palazzo Massimo, and I must say I’m getting pretty good at standing and staring at objects. I’m a little over vases, but bring on the mosaics. All the mosaics. HOT DAMN MOSAICS. I walked into S. Maria di Trastevere the other day and I think I almost exploded:


Unf – wall-sprawling mosaic

My sandal tan is getting stronger every day, and my shoulders are beginning to collect freckles. I owe this to the ancient Roman Forum and Colosseum, which were immense, unbelievable, and forced me to be in the sun for an extended period of time. That was a good day.

Actually, every day here has been a good day. I’ve managed to meet some really kind, engaging, interesting people in the past few weeks, and we like wandering and eating food together. I think this is the magic recipe for happiness. I’m also feeling incredibly lucky to be studying something that constantly excites me: writing. Obviously I enjoyed writing before I came on this program, but I was, as many will remember, so uninspired it ached a little bit. Aside from some angst-driven poetic pursuits as a 19-year-old, I have been prose, prose, prose, all nonfiction as well, blogs and journal entries and essays. And having taken precisely zero creative writing classes and not putting in the effort on my own time, I was afraid to foray into the world of rhyme and broken lines. (also I thought it was pretentious). But now I’ve thrown myself into this head-first, no practice, just trying things out and seeing if I like them. I like them. Sometimes I stay up till 1am, meticulously stringing words together, because it is fun for me. And guys… this is my schoolwork. I am constantly reminding myself to savor this, because when will this ever happen again, being in the most beautiful city ever with writing as my sole responsibility? I generally like to be an optimist, but I think this is probably as good as it gets. Money well-spent, eh mom and dad?

Anyway, the love has not faded. And it is about to expand: tomorrow marks the beginning of a 5-day meandering through some north-of-Rome hilltowns, culminating in what I assume will be a wonderful Florentine weekend. I’ll leave you with some pictures and come back with some new stories –




PS: I haven’t made any music recommendations lately, so even if they merely echo through the void and no one ever takes my advice, I will make my current recommendations.




Oops, I took another hiatus

Just for the sake of cushioning my own ego, I am going to assume at least one or two people have taken note of my absence on here for the past month and a half. I have readers other than the “chace crawford fat lip season 5 gossip girl” googlers, right?

Well, my second hiatus of 2015 (and it’s only March) resulted not just from writer’s block, but a towering stone fortress built around any creative drive I may have possessed in recent times. How did it get there? I don’t know, I probably built it in my sleep. Regardless, this fortress is of very sound structure and has been pretty successful in executing its purpose. Proof:

  1. Every meal I cook for myself is basically the same.
  2. If it’s not an analytical essay, I can’t write it.
  4. I have a list of approximately five songs that I listen to over and over.
  5. Whenever I doodle in the margins of my notebooks, I just end up with a maze-like continuous line. Touché, mindless doodles.

And maybe I’ve been anxious and busy and distracted, but for the most part I take all of this as an indication that my soul is ready for a change of scenery. I’m restless and a little disengaged. Ennui? Not quite there yet, thankfully, but it’s always good to take preventative measures. So I’m going to hightail it out of the country and hope for the best – “the best” being massive heaps of gelato, and rainfall in the Pantheon. I think those two things should be sufficiently inspiring, and perhaps I will begin to function as a creative human being again. We shall see.

In the meantime, you can find me lying on my bedroom floor because that’s my favorite method of avoidance when it comes to packing. CIAO!

PS: I could not claim this post as my own if I didn’t include a sampling of the aforementioned “over and over again” songs. So here you are, unwilling listeners.

Story, Goal, Song: part V

We certainly assign a lot of significance to the New Year, don’t we? I try to pretend I’m not a part of that, but then I catch myself frozen at my keyboard, blank-minded but determined to pull something really meaningful out of thin air. It’s my last post of 2014, I kind of want it to be good. I’d like to go out on a high note, thank you. But then the rebel in me snidely points out the arbitrariness of a calendar year. “365 days” wasn’t a thing until someone decided it was, and then the cast of RENT sang about it. Part of me thinks, “hm, maybe I’ll make it a point to really think about this in the coming year,” while another (bigger) part recognizes how enormously ironic that would be. Isn’t it fun when I talk about nonsense? Let’s do that more.

But before everyone cracks open the champagne and Jenny McCarthy kisses an unsuspecting stranger, let’s wrap up this series of stories, goals, and songs.

A story: One of the things which makes very little sense to me is how late most parties start. If I eat at six, I can easily be ready by seven – but then I have to sit around waiting for like three hours till it “starts,” and then another hour till it’s socially acceptable to show up. Is anyone really doing anything important between 7-10pm? No. So let’s start at seven and just get it over with, and I can go to bed at eleven.

Back in March, my friend Sav and I were gearing up to attend one of these functions. We were in that awkward post-dinner, pre-party time of day, didn’t really know what to do with ourselves. But lucky for me, Sav is an idea machine and soon we were in throwback city, playing a game from our freshman year of high school… Hangover.

“Hangover” is a simple but competitive game invented by our freshman lunch table, in which the plastic ring is removed from the neck of a Gatorade bottle and flicked back and forth between two players. It’s basically poor man’s ice hockey, except instead of flicking it off the table, the aim is to get it hanging juuust over the edge – hence the name “hangover.” Fourteen years old, and already inventing games and mastering wordplay. Get on our level.

Well, Sav and I did this for approximately two hours. Eventually we had been playing so long we started forgetting our scores, so we started keeping tally with crayons:

My "score" at the end of the game - I won.

My “score” at the end of the game – I won.

The soundtrack of this intense athletic event was, appropriately, a bunch of 80s pop. Heart, the Cars, Madonna. A little Tears for Fears. God I love 80s music…

Anyway, this was a great little 2014 moment I thought I’d remember (ya know, publicly).

A goal: Every so often, I read through the journals I’ve kept so far in my life (unshockingly numerous). Usually I stick with my more competent writing (10th grade onward), which means I tend to forget there is any valuable sentiment in, say, my 11-year-old musings. This is a shame, because when I was eleven, I wrote about how badly I wanted to go down and help the victims of Hurricane Katrina, something I was unable to do at such a young age. I resolved to give my hands to whatever cause I was passionate about, as soon as I was old enough to do it on my own. Well, friends, I am now old enough to do it on my own – I have been for a number of years. But I’m not fulfilling those charitable aspirations I had in my heart as a kid, even though they’re still there.

I realized this the other night, and to be honest I was pretty disappointed in myself. Here I am, privileged, acutely aware of the injustice and hurt all around, with a strong desire to do something about it… and yet I don’t do anything about it. It is very important to me that I change this. If you have any thoughts or suggestions, hey, that’s what the comment section is for – I’m not lying to myself, I know this will be the most challenging goal I’ve made, so any comments are more than welcome.

A song: I am ending this year with my favorite retro find of 2014: “Next to You” by the Police. In all the other Police songs I’ve heard, they lean toward a slower tempo and reggae vibe. Ska? I think they’re missing the horns. I don’t know my music genres. But this song is incredibly high-energy, so much so that its repetitiveness doesn’t bother me in the slightest.


Happy New Year, readers far and near. May 2015 be filled with friendship, pizza, great antique finds, good hair days, and lots of songs that make you think. I appreciate all of you.

Story, Goal, Song: part IV


I made a mistake last week. I started watching Aerial America again. And now, while everyone else has come down with a cold, I have come down with yet another bout of wanderlust.

So today my mom and I hopped in the car and drove toward the mountains. She probably just did this to shut me up, because whenever I’d caught sight of them earlier in the day it was all I could do to not thrust my hands in the air and yell “HOLY SHIT” (not an unwarranted exclamation – they were seriously majestic). But anyway, we drove toward the mountains, and then we turned around and headed toward the water, practically chasing the sun at this point, and one of the pictures I took during this leg of our journey is up yonder. I don’t know why my natural response to a beautiful day is to shout swear words, but HOLY. SHIT. What a breathtaking day.

Just had to get that out. Moving on! (if you missed them, part I can be found here, part II here, and part III here)

A story: Spring break trips are sort of a rite of passage for college students, as I’m sure everyone knows. Most, understandably, migrate toward the equator for that week – my friends and I decided to go north, to Vancouver BC. Vancouver is a beautiful land where the drinking age is only 19 and every building looks like this:


The four of us arrived in this gorgeous city and settled in (shout-out to my dad for hooking it up with the Marriott points), soon venturing out again to find sandwiches and, more importantly, explore the Granville Island market. Many photos were taken – the background/wallpaper for this very blog is actually a picture I took of the water around Granville – and we discovered the soap shop of all soap shops. Feeling pretty grand about our touristing skills, we went back to the hotel to do some crucial pub/bar research; we are four young women who do not settle for mediocre cocktails. And we kind of wanted an Irish pub atmosphere. Priorities.

On a sidenote, the restaurant where we ate dinner had the coolest bathroom ever (so cool, in fact, L-dawg sent me on a secret mission to take a picture of the sink, which could be turned on by stepping on a pedal):

Canada, you really have it  all worked out.

Canada, you really have it all worked out.

By 7:30pm on that Monday evening, we were sitting at Doolin’s Irish Pub, not even getting carded for the drinks we ordered because those who “go out on the town” before 10 are probably harmless. Worked for us. There was live music. We had fries. We left by 9:30, grabbed some fancy dessert from a local cafe, and fell asleep watching the Food Network around midnight. This is good because, first of all, it’s kind of my ideal night, and secondly, we definitely needed our energy for the next day. I mean…

TOPSHOP is paradise, and it basically doesn't exist in the US (for those of you who don't know)

TOPSHOP is paradise, and it basically doesn’t exist in the US (for those of you who don’t know)

After taking advantage of the continental breakfast (since that is the point of staying in a hotel, after all), we went on a shopping spree and then a walking spree. Overestimating our speed/endurance/patience and underestimating the amount of rainfall that would occur that day, we attempted to walk all the way to Stanley Park. I cannot even give a rough estimate of how many blocks we traversed on our way to this so-called gem of Vancouver, but I can tell you that by the time we actually reached the park we had all silently agreed that a picture of a few ducks in the first pond we encountered would suffice, and we turned around. If there was ever a day, in the whole year of living together, when there was a nearly-palpable feeling of annoyance bouncing between the four of us, this was it. But a hot cup of tea with a towering tray of pastries can pretty much solve anything, and luckily that was next on our agenda.

This was my spring break, and these are my friends (all of whom I get to see on SUNDAY! *shrieks with happiness*). Such good memories – even walking in our rained-on misery.

A goal: Today’s goal, believe it or not, is actually related to both my intro and my story. When does that ever happen? Soak it up, guys.

Maybe you’ve already picked up on it, but I have this desire to see cities and mountains and canyons and grassy hillsides and practically everything. You know, the spirit of a traveler. Regrettably, though, I do not make enough time to really get out there and do stuff. I want to get out there and do stuff. I see these pictures of people I know road tripping and going on hikes and whatnot, and I always have that what-am-I-doing-with-my-life moment, when suddenly you can see very clearly your priorities have somehow been thrown askew. I’d like to get them back where they should be. And one of my top priorities is seeing and experiencing places. (I’ll start off strong by watching the Aerial America marathon all day on New Year’s, Smithsonian Channel if you’d like to participate from your own couch)

A song: Now we come to yet another song that has stayed with me through all the seasons: “I Can See Your Tracks” by Laura Veirs. In February, I sat on various benches and listened to it on repeat. It was on our spring break mix CD. I listened to it on the bus over the summer, and it is (predictably) stuck in my head now, at the very end of December.

It is so relaxed and sweet and makes me feel like I’m wandering around a prairie at sundown. If that doesn’t make you want to listen to it, I don’t know what will.

As always, thank you very very much for taking the time to read, and stay tuned for the final part of this series (and final post of 2014)!

Also, I would like to wish a very happy birthday to my dear Olivia Rose – can’t promise I won’t cry when I see you