Friday, December 25, 2009

it's the season of grace

The other day I was chatting with a friend, and he asked me how I go about setting priorities. I thought out loud about it (and by "out loud" I mean "into the chat box") and was generally unhelpful for a while as I thought about what priorities I have and why they are that way.

Then I came across my one piece of good advice, that I have continued to think about the past couple days.

I set my priorities depending on who will be disappointed if I don't complete x. I work hard as a secretary because disappointing Brother G is one of the worst things I could do. I worked hard as a student so I didn't disappoint myself with poor grades. I work hard at doing ... fun things so I don't disappoint ... my natural man. I clean my room every few weeks because it disappoints my parents when I don't.

When I was doing physical therapy last November, I had the absolute hardest time doing my exercises regularly. I didn't know the therapist, and didn't really care if they all got mad at me for not doing them (come to think of it, I still have a problem with this...) but when I told my friend that I wasn't doing my exercises, he would remind me almost every day. I cared what he thought of me and my diligence, so I did my exercises. Sometimes.

Church things ... I struggle with sometimes. I was wondering why when I realized: Too often I think of God as someone more abstract than, say, my friends. I think less about disappointing Him because he's not right there to look disappointed at me. This is a problem, obviously, and since I realized it I've been trying to remedy it.

Brother G, besides being my boss, is YM President in our ward and a family friend. Last Sunday he gave a talk with a nice little insight I would like to share, since it kind of ties in to what I was saying. It was the Christmas program, of course, and he mentioned how there was no room at the inn for the Savior so they put him off to the side in the stable.

Then he said something like, "I think we also tend to put the Savior off to the side in a stable in our hearts instead of his rightful place on the throne."

We hear things like that every year, but I still like this one. It's helped me a lot this week.

"The Atheist Christmas Carol" ~ Vienna Teng

[slightly ironic, yes?]

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

photographs framed in reeds

So, my sisters and my mom are going through our photo albums for pictures to scan onto the computer. My second scrapbook (the one they handed to me) is very short; come high school I had very few photos taken.

I did, however, have quite a few pictures of me and our fake sister the day after Homecoming, when our hair was still done and in our lovely dresses. I love that dress; it's the only formal I've ever owned and I got it for less than $40[1]. After staring at the photos of us for a while, I went downstairs and decided to try it on once more.

(It still fits.)

As I stared at myself in the mirror, I felt very wistful. I thought about the times I've worn that dress (one high school Homecoming, one college Homecoming), the time I planned to wear it and ended up in the hospital all weekend instead, and the times I could hope to wear it. I don't know if I'll ever have the chance to wear it again, which makes me sad and reveals my lack of faith in dating.

But then I started really looking, and my thoughts changed direction. In all those pictures my hair was wonderfully coiffed -- curled or straight, it was long and gorgeous. Today, it's short and spiky (I woke up with incredible bedhead and never bothered to fix it because I stay at home all day anyway) and while it's soft it's not ... pretty. It'll be years before I can count my hair one of my beauties again. So it doesn't matter if I don't get to wear my beloved dress for years and years, because I won't look right. It's the kind of dress a princess wears, not a punk.

Oh well. At least I'm alive and healthy, right?

"Pontchartrain" ~ Vienna Teng

[1]Let me tell you, after going wedding dress shopping with my sister, where the cheapest dress is just under $500, I feel even luckier to have made that purchase.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

strange how you fit into me

I should be working on devotionals right now, but I just hit a dead end -- a talk that is referenced in the Teaching Resources Manual for the scripture block is actually a video on my list ... but there's an apostrophe in the title that means the file is lost (don't ask me why, but this isn't the first time it's happened). I am saddened by this -- it's not often I have a perfect fit for the block, and now I can't even use it -- so I will drown my sorrows in a blog post.

I've been editing my previous post with new languages Moodle keeps telling me my page is in. So, er, check that out.

Sunday afternoon, when I was in Provo, I was so tired and my friend let me sleep in her bed. I had a nice nap (I don't even take naps but I succeeded, which gives you a measure of my exhaustion), and I think it was a bit because of her Cuddle-Monkey. She has a nice little stuffed monkey on her bed that her missionary gave her, and I ended up using it and slept so well.

So, last night I was thinking about it and saw, in my closet, a little white dog. She* was in a big canvas bag full of all the goodies I got from the hospital my first month. Scrapbooking materials, another blanket ... they treat you well at Primary Children's if you're there for Bingo day. I also found the socks my home teachers got me for my birthday that I couldn't find for the life of me.

Anyway, so I got the little Goggy out and cuddled with her. She was nice and soft but I fondly (if vaguely -- chemo does that) remembered a lovely stuffed bear that I got as a prize for one of the Bingo days. I slept with it constantly the whole time I was there ... then left it in the hospital. Very sad.

I still slept pretty well last night. Slept right through scriptures (again). But I've been thinking about this.

So, my friend got her Cuddle-Monkey from her missionary. I have decided that it would be nice for my fiance to get me a soft cuddly thing for an engagement present or wedding gift, if he doesn't want to make me a clock. And if I don't just fall in love with Goggy and spurn all other stuffed animals. Wouldn't it be sweet, though?

Yep. I'll file that away in "things-about-me-that-may-come-in-useful-later-if-I-don't-change-my-mind."

*Knowing my luck, it's probably a boy dog. But I named it a girl name first thing (though I've decided against the name since and now call it Goggy) so ... it's a girl now.

"Eric's Song" ~ Vienna Teng**

**By the way...went to her concert on Saturday. It was amazing! I'm so glad I went. Had a great time with Nathaniel (and Kyra and Kevin too)! Hurrah.

Friday, December 11, 2009

and the words, they're everything and nothing

I recently added Google Toolbar. As I tootle along in our online classroom Moodle, Google Translate sometimes says the weirdest things:

This page is in Polish. Would you like to translate?
This page is in Hungarian. Would you like to translate?
This page is in Bokmal. Would you like to translate?
This page is in Swedish. Would you like to translate?
This page is in Slovak. Would you like to translate?
This page is in Czech. Would you like to translate?
This page is in Lithuanian. Would you like to translate?
This page is in Danish. Would you like to translate?
This page is in Simplified Chinese. Would you like to translate?

Never Romanian, though. Even though we have a Romanian class. Or Portuguese, despite our Brasilian class.

About 1/8 of the time (if that) I do actually want to translate from one of the above languages, but even then I'm finding Google Toolbar a bit ... tiresome, because then I have to translate back. Google and its plenitude of free products unsettles me in general.

Oh well.

"Recessional" ~ Vienna Teng

Sunday, December 6, 2009

it's the season of possible miracle cures, where hope is currency

I tend to make long, laundry-list posts when I have a lot to say. Here is one of them (perhaps the first for this blog). Enjoy!


I. Last Friday evening, perhaps even last-last Friday evening, we were going down to Utah Valley for my grandparents' 50th anniversary celebration, and, since it was the day after Thanksgiving, we were listening to Christmas music. My mother said suddenly, "Ooh, I just had a Christmas frisson!"

A discussion about what "frisson" meant followed. My siblings were enlightened.

I got the CD from my friend Marie for Christmas three years ago, and as I listened to it I found that I wasn't feeling any delicious frissons in anticipation of Christmas. This time of year, with that music playing, makes me wistful and nostalgic, for no particular reason (besides that I'm crazy). Perhaps the echoes of lost love, since that sounds nice and poetic.

I guess I am excited for Christmas. Not much to look forward to -- I don't have finals, I'm already spending time with my family, I don't think I'll be getting any presents -- but a tiny bit of the spirit of the season is within me still.

Mostly, though, I feel the cold reflected in that small place in my heart reserved for the unrequited love of my youth. Or something.

II. Three months of not having to go to the hospital has really made me resent the trips we have to take now. Which reminds me...six months since my surgery, and I still have a hole in my leg. Not that it matters anymore! Bah.

III. Friday (as in, three days ago this time) I went down to BYU with my colleagues/supervisors for one of them to make a presentation to the religion faculty. I learned a lot about teaching, and a bit about myself as well (they're all about improving each other through frank discussion of faults). It was nice. My favorite Creamery flavor, German Chocolate Crunch, is back. I almost cried with happiness.

The main problem with the trip was this: we were scheduled to be done at 1:30. In fact, we were done. But then they started chatting and then went and visited someone else, and chatted for like another hour. I'd told a friend that I'd call him to say hi while I was in town, but then told him that I couldn't because we were leaving. If I'd known we were going to be there another hour and a half, we could've totally done a crossword puzzle. Sorry, Tobias. We also had to reschedule Bro G's musical number rehearsal with my Dad. So sad. And so ... predictable.

IV. Pretty much as soon as I got home, we raced off to the high school/Logan Institute choir concert. It was good. One of the songs was too long, but other than that they all did a great job.

Now, I'm Miss Human Faucet sometimes. This night was not one of them, but there is one time where I came the closest to crying. Not during any of the sweet songs, or the touching Nativity scene, nope.

During the ballroom dance number.

(You may disagree, but in my book, for me, I call that Pathetic.)

V. No rest for me on Saturday, though. I spent half the day at the Logan Tabernacle for the dress rehearsal of Cache Children's Concert and Cantate Choirs. I'm pretty awesome, but I still needed page-turners. Oh, the shame.

The concert that evening went mostly well. I totally slaughtered "Silent Night" (but I do think the director took it faster than I was used to) and my back hurt from sitting on the bench so long, but overall a success. No dropped music.

My favorite part? Sitting on the padded bench next to the Concert Choir while the Candlelight Carolers sang. My quintessential 17-year-old crush was there, and oh man, was he cute. My dad couldn't resist teasing me, even though I pointedly did not mention anything about him. *sigh* He seems so nice and he sings so well. If I could find a man my own age with similar characteristics I might not have to look to my littler sister's age group, you know.


Maybe next time I'll make different posts for each subject. Not my style, but it's probably more professional. I'm all about being professional. It makes it hard to find a subject line, too...

"The Atheist Christmas Carol" ~ Vienna Teng

Sunday, November 29, 2009

if I were that kind of grateful [fourth edition]

Two extra days today, since I'm not sure I'll feel like posting tomorrow.

22: I am grateful for kind ladies.
23: I am grateful for contemplating.
24: I am grateful for being cool enough to talk in code.
25: I am grateful for the magically unburned pies (on my watch).
26: I am grateful for nice relatives.
27: I am grateful for my ability to enjoy games that I never win.
28: I am grateful for being packed in next to cousins on a cold day.
29: I am grateful for musical talent.
30: I am grateful for medical technology.*

*I almost said that I was grateful for still being cancer-free, but there's a chance that I won't be, but at any rate I'm grateful for the technology that can determine whether or not I am still in remission, and that cured me before. Going down to Primary Children's tomorrow.

My life overflows with blessings.

"The Last Snowfall" ~ Vienna Teng

Saturday, November 28, 2009

I map the words out, maybe you will say them

Three weeks ago I had a couple dates, with different guys. Prior to the date(s), I found myself imagining that he would bring me flower(s) at the start of the date, so I started thinking about how I would react to that.

Now, the chances of either of these young men giving me a flower on a date (they were both probably technically first dates) were very, very slim, but that didn't stop me from playing it out in my mind.

After the dates were over, my imagination was even worse. Over and over I thought about what I should've done differently: shoulda made that joke, shoulda gone for the handshake, shoulda said that compliment, why didn't I think of any of this at the time?

And this is so very typical of me. I'll spend weeks reconstructing social scenes in my head.

One thing I've learned, though, is that whenever I imagine ('daydream' is another acceptable word, I suppose, but it makes me sound so girlish) then that thing will not occur. I knew the moment I thought, "Oh, maybe he'll bring me flowers" that no way would he/they bring me flowers (which, might I add, was totally okay). Every scenario I imagined for one of my missionaries' homecomings turned out totally different from what actually happened. Without fail, that's what happens.

I just found this in my LJ, from last fall when I was vacillating in my affections for someone (clearly, this was one of the higher times). One of my imaginings that, surprise of surprises, didn't happen. Never even came close. Except for the weather really making me think dangerous thoughts like that (it was halfway through November and people were wearing shorts).

"This weather," she said, "makes me think dangerous thoughts."

"Dangerous thoughts?" he repeated, his eyebrows going up. "Like what?"

"Dangerous thoughts about doing dangerous things," she clarified, smirking up at him. They stood where they always did, postponing their inevitable journeys in separate directions. Students scurried around them unheeding.

"Your powers of description never cease to amaze me," he said, grinning, but a little blinded by the morning sun to look at her full on. "Care to expound a little more?"

"Things that I would never do, but that this weather makes me want to do."

"Like ...?" He gestured her on.

She kept silent, looking down and blushing a little. She wasn't going to say the sort of things her mind came up with while walking down the sunny path between classes.

"Oh, come on. It can't be anything too bad."

"No, it's really not," she admitted. "Okay. Why don't I show you? See if this weather can actually make me do something."

She took off her backpack and left it beside him, then ventured out a little bit into the crowd of students. He could see her brow furrowed as she scanned those that passed, but whatever it was she wanted to do wasn't clear to him. Finally, she ran back to him.

"Chickened out?" he started to say, but didn't quite make it. Her lips had covered his, firmly but briefly. She pulled away, blushing brightly and giggling nervously. Too quickly for him to recover, she grabbed her backpack and ran away.

Oh, so cute. Picture this on the sidewalk that runs past the SWKT and the Clark building, where it branches off toward the MARB, and you'll have it just the way it occurred in my head. Multiple times. Like the way I've practiced offering my hand to shake, oh, probably 10 times in the last few weeks.

Someday I'll learn that perfecting a scene after the fact doesn't improve the way it really happened, and that daydreaming is not worthwhile, and, if I'm really lucky, that real life is better than I could imagine anyway.

"Momentum" ~ Vienna Teng
[This is one of my favorite lyrics, and I was so pleased when I realized I had a post to go with it.]

Saturday, November 21, 2009

if I were that kind of grateful [third edition]

Here we go! Another good week.

15: I am grateful for a surprisingly comfortable hard seat.
16: I am grateful for the love that spurred me to make the most epic missionary letter I've ever crafted.*
17: I am grateful for being trusted to keep a secret that I couldn't keep for more than a couple hours.
18: I am grateful for a new job, if only because anyone else would be grateful for one.
19: I am grateful for finally looking like a missionary, in hopes it will improve my behavior.
20: I am grateful for a testimony of temple marriage.
21: I am grateful for the best wedding breakfast I've ever been to in my life. Maybe the first. Still the best.

"The Last Snowfall" ~ Vienna Teng

*In the spirit of keeping these to one sentence (mostly), but still proud of my accomplishments in this arena, I would like to make a footnote describing what this letter entailed. It was 5 pages long, and around the edges of each page I created a different style of stationery. The first page was in amino acid code in apt fall colors, and the other pages had one word in amino acid code describing the stationery I drew and colored. (As in, "circle" for the circles I drew -- that page took the longest by far.) I also included a bonus page for a Christmas present (as the years have gone on I've gotten progressively lazier in my packages for missionaries). I printed off pictures of my siblings (with the appropriate significant others) and also drew a couple other pictures because photos of my escapades are often nonexistent. I didn't draw Brother W at all fat enough, but my art skills are ... less than great. And I even colored the pictures this time! It was an upgrade.

It took me all week, but I'm pleased with it. I just feel bad that she won't have time to spend forever perusing it -- missionaries are busy.

Friday, November 20, 2009

what a fool you have made me

Wednesday night my family went to the high school's production of "Bye Bye Birdie." They did the same musical my junior year, but I can understand why they did it again: it just fit with the leads they had in mind.

Kim MacAfee and Albert Peterson happen to be siblings in our ward, friends of the family. They both did amazing jobs. Albert (his real name is Cole) sounded remarkably like Jimmy Stewart, which certainly isn't a bad thing.

The bad thing, however, is the crush I now have on him.

Hopefully it'll pass. I only seem to get crushes on 17-year-olds these days and they've all passed fairly rapidly. It's just another hallmark of my sad, pathetic life.

(Oh, phew. The attraction [if I wanted to call it such] has passed. Hopefully I don't go to another night of the musical...)

Well, that was fun. I don't know why I don't get crushes on boys my age. My family might stop making fun of me. (Actually, yesterday, with the memory of their teasing about Albert fresh in my mind, I made eye contact with a young man at Institute that might have been worth talking to if only because he looked like a mix between Yellow and CPM, but I was on my way to work and he was on his way out of class and my missionary tag wasn't visible and he was probably married anyway.)

That's all I wanted to say. I just needed to air my laundry. Good thing it's mostly clean, huh? I'm only at risk for being ridiculed for the rest of my life for liking boys four years younger than me.

I do have another post I've been sitting on for two weeks now, but I'm limiting myself to two posts a week while it's November so I don't end on an unfortunate number (read: odd) for a week. So look for it in another 6 days or so. Or I may decide to do it sooner. The problem is I'm coming up on 47, which ... I didn't watch enough Alias to start liking the number, so I want it as shortly as possible. Ooh. Rambling. Bye!

"Stray Italian Greyhound" ~ Vienna Teng

Sunday, November 15, 2009

if I were that kind of grateful [second edition]

Here we are at the end of the second week of November! Hurrah! Here are the things I was grateful for this week.

8: I'm grateful for being a backup singer on the stand.
9: I'm grateful for honey roasted peanuts and cranapple juice.
10: I'm grateful for meeting someone I email all the time. On accident. (Met him on accident, I don't email him on accident.)
11: I'm grateful for an awesome WWII memorial.
12: I'm grateful for dinner at an old favorite restaurant.
13: I'm grateful for high school choir.
14: I'm grateful for getting some things accomplished.

I was grateful for more things (in general, it was a pretty good week) but like last week, I'm picking and choosing my "faves" for this.

"The Last Snowfall" ~ Vienna Teng

Saturday, November 14, 2009

flat on the table like Kansas

I spent most of this week visiting my grandma in Kansas. This promises to be the easiest subject line ever found.

It was a nice visit, though I was lazy because I have to be told to do things otherwise I lie on the couch and think about ... whatever it is I spend most of my time thinking about. Played a lot of Bejeweled on the nice fast new computer, but got some work done too. Not enough, considering the mess I came back to yesterday.

I went to FHE with my aunt Janae, which was fun. I don't spend enough time around young (probably loosely used, though I wasn't the youngest by any means) single adults anymore, and we had a great time thinking of Gospel Principles to be found within the movie Pinocchio.[1]

We also went to half an hour of Institute, which was interesting because it was taught by Brother M, CES Coordinator for the area. (More on that in my grateful post tomorrow.) Also, we went to the Lawrence High School Winter Gala, where they did excerpts from The Messiah, an orchestra piece complete with glowsticks tied to the bows, and a marching band routine. I'm a sucker for marching band, and the drum major was good.[2] The dance team, though, didn't do anything that I couldn't do (well, with two fully functional legs) so I wasn't impressed by them.

Wednesday was my aunt Janae's birthday, so we had a little party. I learned some Russian words that I can't remember from Andrey, their Kazakhstani friend (he was an exchange student when I was younger, and now goes to KU) and played with the cousins that also live at the house. All boys, so we don't have an awful lot in common. Oh well. Mom and I also had a tour of the campanile, which was a-maz-ing. I totally should've taken the carillon class at BYU.

On our way to the airport on Thursday we stopped by the Liberty Missouri Temple site. They're clearing the ground in preparation for the groundbreaking. How exciting!

That's kind of what we did. Not the most super exciting trip, but still fun.

Then Thursday night I had to rush off to the Imogen Heap concert, which was a personal tragedy (we left when she was less than halfway through, but I was tired of standing and breathing the cigarette smoke). I just hate fun, I guess.

Yesterday was good, though! For a Friday the 13th. (Luckier than some, at least.) No major problems with the concert for which I had a good amount of responsibility (accompanists are so self-centered!) and it was okay all in all. So glad to be home!

(I try not to make boring travelogue posts, but sometimes it can't be helped. Like when I can't resist the temptation to talk about Kansas so I can use one of my favorite songs as a subject line.)

"Kansas" ~ Vienna Teng[3]

[1] Obviously the entire story is pretty much allegorical, so that wasn't any fun. If the movie itself states the conscience is a "still, small voice" it doesn't leave much to the imagination. We thought of things more like, "Flirt to convert." "Sometimes when you change for the better, people want to you to stay the same you were and don't believe that you've changed." "Polygamy always has strings attached." "Puppets can't drown." "Satan will tempt you away then leave you alone to be locked in a cage with no hope for escape." That sort of thing.

[2] If I were a high schooler, I might have a crush on him. Something about arrogance and power is so attractive. Not to mention the way he says "dot dot dot dot." Oh, baby.

[3] Actually, eastern Kansas isn't very flat, and the weather was amazing. So my use of that line for the subject is just artistic license. I enjoyed all the hills and not being lost to the winter. Lovely!

Sunday, November 8, 2009

if I were that kind of grateful [first edition]

Last Sunday, the bishop stood up and bore his testimony about how November is the month when the country officially recognizes that gratitude is a good idea.

My friend, Joyws, always recognizes the importance of gratitude. When we lived in the same apartment complex, her living room wall was covered with pictures of things she was grateful for. Now that she lives in Kansas where none of us can appreciate her artwork, every Facebook status is something she's grateful for.

I thought that, since it's officially Be Grateful month, and in recognition of how just even awesome Joyws is, I would find something to be grateful for every day and post it once a week. Here's what I'm grateful for this week:

1: I'm grateful for being an accompanist.
2: I'm grateful for infrared light.
3: I'm grateful for a friend who validates my behavior.
4: I'm grateful for an unclaimed ticket.
5: I'm grateful for 85 mph.
6: I'm grateful for exceptional CD mixes.
7: I'm grateful for only ruining the car a little.

"The Last Snowfall" ~ Vienna Teng

Thursday, November 5, 2009

we feel it like the shiver of a passing train

Well, here it is, November 5th. It's been five months since my surgery, and I still have a hole in my leg.

(It feels like something else is today too. Is it Guy Fawkes Day?[1] Maybe?)

Anyway, I'm celebrating whatever milestone it is by driving down to BYU for the day. Hooray!

"In Another Life" ~ Vienna Teng

[1] BOOM! And with that, just one stripe from the rainbow was blown free, and that's our world. Poor Guy Fawkes, failed in every universe.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

a flower trying to bloom in snow

I use exclusively my cell phone to take pictures, so they're not the best quality, but I think my general sentiments are captured.

"The Tower" ~ Vienna Teng

Monday, October 26, 2009

still trying to sing your songs

BYU got me into the habit of singing the hymns loudly. Not that I didn't sing out before -- in fact, our family and the one that sat behind us were kind of bastions of songs of praise -- but confidence is higher when the entire room is singing their hearts out. My wards at BYU were invariably like this. It was amazing.

Then I go to Stake Conference and we sing songs people don't know and I am the only one I can hear in the entire gym. Yeah, that was fun.

That was an exception, of course. There's not more than 4 stake conferences this year, and most of the time I do what everyone else does and sit with my family in the ward. Then I only have to worry about my 13-year-old sister's glares when I sing too exuberantly, and especially when I sing the tenor line. She doesn't care that I've moved between all the parts since she was born (give or take a year or two), it bugs her now.

There are other ways BYU has spoiled me, but one in particular I noticed this Sunday was in the choir. As I mentioned we had Conference -- it was Regional, which meant all the stakes in Cache Valley were in attendance and there was an enormous choir composed of USU students: 876 singers.[1] The cameras were on them as they sang, but it seemed weird. Maybe it was the fact that camerapeople are different here than at my alma mater, but I didn't enjoy watching them much at all. I didn't see anyone I knew[2] and all the boys were ugly.

That was my opinion for the first song, then I realized that it simply couldn't be true, so I paid better attention during the second song. There were a few attractive young men, and many of them I would have found pleasing to the eye were they sporting blue-and-gold-striped ties and blazers[3], but I was still overall unimpressed.

Why is BYU different? I'm not sure; last I heard the ecclesiastical endorsement doesn't involve a tap with a magic wand to become more appealing. It was quite strange. However, I am now resigned to the fact that the faces I saw on Sunday are my dating pool now (only 400 men boohoo ... plus the thousands that didn't make it to choir) and I'm sure I'll get over my feelings of being an underage freshman as I walk through the Institute building where I work. I'm older than some RMs now, after all.

Anyway, those were my thoughts this weekend. Regional Conference was very good. I'd been moody for a few days and starting to clash with my siblings (they're the only people I see! And they're young and annoying! And I'm bossy!) and the talks Saturday night really told me off about that. And since Sunday morning was all General Authorities (Elder Rasband, Sister Lant, Elder Ballard, President Eyring) it was of course uplifting and inspiring. I'm going to take the shrink-wrap off my brand-new mission journal and jot down my thoughts.

"Grandmother Song" ~ Vienna Teng

[1] I had planned initially to be one of these singers, but the one rehearsal I went to reminded me why choir is so frustrating, especially sitting by diva altos. And also it was too difficult to sit on a hard chair for two hours (on the "padded" bench in the stake center I almost died). So I was merely a spectator.
[2] apart from the [stereotypes abound] short fat balding guy that was the only person to introduce himself to me at the rehearsal -- he was on the front row directly behind the podium
[3] I'll spell it out if I must: Men's Chorus.

Friday, October 23, 2009

to come out from under the covers

Please select one of the following options concerning a new blog post so soon after my last one:

a) I am still bitten by the blogging bug.
b) I had 37 posts, and that is one of the worst possible numbers -- prime, two odd numbers, and ending in 7. So I need a new one quick.
c) I have something important to say.
d) Two of the above.
e) All of the above.

So, it's going to snow this weekend. That is not something I was planning to say, but I looked outside (it doesn't look anything besides slightly dreary) and that's what came to mind.

The fall colors have been really pretty this year. They always are. But I was so blessed to be able to drive through Sardine Canyon in the morning twice! Nothing quite like the early sunshine on the leaves.

As it has gotten a little chilly of late, I've started using the electric blanket I got this spring. (On a side note, I have received so many blankets it's ridiculous. There's probably one for every room in the house.) It's nice when I'm first settling into my cold bed in my cold room, but usually before I fall asleep I have to either unplug it or take it off, because apparently hot flashes are just a part of life now. I have been slightly nervous about electric blankets ever since reading that Andrew Clements book about a kid who used one and woke up invisible the next morning. So far that hasn't happened.

Here is where I was going to put the other thing I wanted to blog about, but I can't remember what it was. I got distracted thinking of one of my November blogs last night and it slipped out of my memory. If I remember it, I'll come back and put it in.

"Daughter" ~ Vienna Teng

Thursday, October 22, 2009

hair falling forward, mouth all askew

I got bit by the blogging bug on Monday, but didn't post anything (obviously), nor did I put it in my stupidbrilliantthoughts document, so I'm not sure all the stuff I wanted to blog about was any good or not.

How about a random update?

It's the time of year to break out the sweaters and long-sleeved shirts. Also, since I spent the summer exclusively in t-shirts and shorts, I'm now wearing some of my fancier warm-weather tops again as well. (I can do that because I'm not walking to school every day.) It's weird because all my sweaters -- especially the one I loved so wore all the way through April -- have hair all over them. The ones I didn't love so much have super long hair, but that red sweater I loved is just COVERED in haircut-era hair. Because the day my hair started to fall out in earnest I got a haircut. So most of the hair that fell out was short. Anyway. I know that's fascinating.

I'm going to keep talking about my hair. The expressions of interest after my last statement were just too overwhelming.

I love how soft my hair is. It's getting longer, too (shocker) but at the RS retreat on Saturday, after I took off my hat (I was too lazy for the wig, and also it looks a lot stranger for a girl to take off her hair than it is for her to take off a hat) I felt self-conscious again. I was proud of how it's coming in, but it's still shorter than it's safe to show in public. Unless I'm Mia Michaels. (Pretend there's a picture here of Ms. Michaels from So You Think You Can Dance, which I turned on last night for a minute and noted our similar hairstyles, but all the sites that might have a picture are suspicious for this Church computer, so never mind.)

Also, I am grateful for eyebrows and eyelashes. They make having too-short hair bearable.

Now if only my mouth would stop hurting. I have a pretty good tolerance for pain, I've found (case in point: not sure I'm supposed to have been walking without assistance for the last month but it doesn't bug me), but not mouth pain. It completely distracts me from my work.

What kind of girl have I turned into? Belaboring my aches and pains? Yeesh, I remember when I used to be interesting.

In one final attempt to be interesting, and also just in case you missed my Facebook status, here's the latest disappointment of the day (grah, I sound so pessimistic): I saw the UPS truck come up our street, so I went to the front to pick up the package, but there was no one there. I saw it come up further the street then back down, so I went out front to pick up the package (again), and I was so excited! I have been waiting for these books to arrive for months! I didn't have time to open the package (I was in a meeting) so I just left it by the front door. My mom came home and looked at the package...and it was flax.

Flax from Oh, the cruelty of fate.

somewhat less interesting than rambly, but I say we take what we can get because I'm braindead. Happens.

"Recessional" ~ Vienna Teng

Monday, October 19, 2009

love is a word so small

Well, it's official. I'm a missionary now.

I didn't like telling people about my service mission because I hadn't been called or set apart yet, and I've kind of learned not to count on anything I plan because the Lord can have different ideas. But I guess He's as pleased with my decision to be here and do this as I am. So, I'm a missionary.

It's pretty great. I'm decorating my office today (again, didn't want to do anything I might have to reverse if my mission didn't work out) and probably calling the people who will get me my tag.

(I wouldn't say it's an ulterior motive of serving a mission [um, pretty sure I'm doing that for the right reason], but I hope that the mantle that is now upon me is as attractive as everyone says it is. What's better than a missionary that you can date? I would think that everyone would be so on top of that opportunity. We shall see.)

(I hope I don't get in trouble for that last paragraph. It's maybe half a step further than my dad [and even my supervisors] have been going.)

It's a good feeling. :)

Edit: Word from the Stake President is I can even go to the temple! I'm grateful for the opportunity to make this more like a regular mission and to make these covenants. And, despite what my Dad said to make the Bishop hesitant about letting me, being able to go to my sister's sealing in the spring is just a bonus.

"Now Three" ~ Vienna Teng

Saturday, October 17, 2009

while you retreat to your comforts

I have this self-worth issue. It's something I've done for years but only just realized. It's easily fixed, too, but I will have to work.

Here it is: I can't go over to someone's place without a gift of some sort. Usually food, or returning an item.

Most recently, I went to visit my buddy DZ[1] at his apartment. It was totally just to say hi and maybe chat for a while, but I didn't feel comfortable showing up at his door without an offering. So I gathered up some peaches and apples to give him. Then I felt like it was "worth it" to come over.

Another notable instance happened nearly 3 years ago. I wanted to talk to my friend Robert, but I not only couldn't drop in (I had to make an appointment) I had to make a batch of cookies to take over as well.[2]

Pretty much, I don't think my mere presence is sufficient for a social visit.

See? Easily fixed, but a clear self-worth issue and something that I will need to work on. If ever I have a social life again. :/

[1] He's really my friend dzhonatan, but at my house we call him DZ and that name just screams for a buddy rather than a friend, hence my buddy DZ. Who probably didn't know his exalted nickname.
[2] I don't know WHAT he thought of that -- though I have some ideas: bribe (failure, he didn't tell me what I wanted to know); flirting (awkward, as he's now married and, well, I wasn't flirting); trying to get rid of food (I hope so, even though the cookies were fresh-baked).

"Watershed" ~ Vienna Teng

Saturday, October 10, 2009

just stopped believing in happy endings

In this post, there be spoilers. But chances are, they're for books you're not familiar with, so fear not.

I, like many other girls, like to fantasize about meeting my own personal Dawsey Adams. What, you've never heard of him? How about Casey Acosta? Hmm. Very well; Gilbert Blythe.

(Or, you know, Fitzwilliam Darcy, since he has an undue hold on the hearts of women and girls.)


I would like to meet him. But I worry that I won't be his Juliet, or Sammy, or Anne. What then? What do you do when you meet someone that personifies your favorite fictional crush, and you aren't the right character for them?

Pretty much these are the things I wonder about.

(No, really. Should I pick my all-time favorite fictional character and start emulating the characteristics of his soulmate? Would that make things work out for me? But what if I try to emulate Sammy for my possible Casey and a Dawsey walks into my life? What if I never meet anyone who meets fictional standards at all?)

"Stray Italian Greyhound" ~ Vienna Teng

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

in the fall, we circle through the leaves

There’s such a lot of different Annes in me. I sometimes think that is why I’m such a troublesome person. If I was just the one Anne it would be ever so much more comfortable, but then it wouldn’t be half so interesting.

--Anne of Green Gables

I was thinking just that same thing -- how talking to different people I create different personas. I'm pretty sure that most of them are at least aspects of the real me, but I guess sometimes I wonder who the realest me is.

In the meantime, I will enjoy being twice as interesting as I would be if I were only one person.

And in other news, I have greatly enjoyed the fall colors. I don't like reusing blog titles so my quintessential autumn song can remain in last year. But it sure was nice, until it got so cold...but I hope that it will be at least a little warm at least a bit longer. Otherwise I will be saddened by the October we have.

"Antebellum" ~ Vienna Teng

Monday, September 21, 2009

dark curtains drawn by the passage of time

Happy Birthday to this blog! I can't believe it's been a whole year since I started. All those creative thoughts rattling around my head (thanks, Engl 218R) and I never gave voice to most of them. Maybe someday they'll reappear. Maybe someday I'll have more creative thoughts.

It's interesting that this is the anniversary because today marks the start of my new life as a cancer-free online seminary secretary/coordinator. Phew, it's a big job! But very exciting and I'm happy.

The year saw lots of changes (most of them not documented, of course). I wonder what the next year will bring?

"Recessional" ~ Vienna Teng

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

this moment now. and this moment, now.

Some reflections on my recent road trip:

If I ever have an epiphany, I think it'll be more like a ton of feathers than anything. Because, believe it or not, a ton of feathers will probably hit you with about the same force as a ton of bricks. Maybe a ton of books? I need to ponder this so I can use the appropriate expression -- if I ever have an epiphany.

I can count all my friends on one hand -- in binary! (Except, I can't count at all in binary, so I just told a lie.)

I love proving that you can have guy friends. Like, just plain friends that are guys. I have two or three, so I'm super lucky.

It's different, watching devotional in a classroom rather than watching it in my living room.

Despite the quietness of some of the people I visited yesterday, my listening to talking ratio was still like 3:1. I win at making other people talk.

I try to make eavesdroppers' lives more meaningful. Best way so far: the removal of the hairpiece. Talking to my accessories is up there, too.

And, finally, I love to drive, but David Archuleta gives me a headache (especially a David Archuleta/Taylor Swift mix; urgh).

"Recessional" ~ Vienna Teng

Friday, September 11, 2009

marveling at the bounty our days contain

I love being in a family ward this week. Mum and I went to Enrichment last night; it was based off Oprah and the theme was Simplify.

You know, that doctrine that is so deep, and so true.

This is why Seriously, So Blessed is funny.

(Would've been funnier if the font on our magnets had been Papyrus, but I appreciated the Arial because it seemed to at least make an effort toward being simple.)

"In Another Life" ~ Vienna Teng

Thursday, September 10, 2009

fingers kissed the keys

I have one point of great pride.

118 words

Typing Test

And that is it.

"Decade and One" ~ Vienna Teng
[I'm gonna have to find something else if I ever make a piano post, but this one fits so well!]

Thursday, September 3, 2009

a fierce embrace, a word of thanks

Someday, I want to be talking to a friend that needs some help. I won't know what to say, but I'll do my best. And then they'll say, "You just said exactly what I needed to hear."

Then I will feel like my life has been worth living.

A similar desire: to be talking to a friend when I need some help, and they say exactly what I need to hear, so I can tell them that. Because a friend like that is always nice to have around.

On a related note, does anyone actually say exactly what people need to hear? I mean, there's never any way to know beforehand, and doing something like that by accident seems too unlikely for it to happen as often as it appears to.

But that's just my thought.

"Say Uncle" ~ Vienna Teng

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

to be blind, only my hands to guide me

Last night I was trying to get to sleep (verdict on new mattress: really not a fan) and remembered that when I was a kid (sleeping in perhaps that same bed), I would try and bury my face in my pillow at night. Why? Because one day at the library my teacher and another grownup were talking about how if there was a nuclear bomb, the light would be so bright it would blind us in our sleep. So I would hide my eyes to try and prevent that from occurring.

Even now, I would much rather be vaporized instantly than have to live blind. My sight is precious to me, maybe because it is the physical feature that is most in jeopardy.

On Friday Mom and I went to the LASIK doctor. We watched a movie about the procedure and had a bunch of tests that were very hard for me because I had to keep my eyes open. I blink a lot, especially while wearing glasses, which I had to wear all week in preparation for this appointment. We also did the letter-reading, with dilation and without. I am a much less than ideal ophthalmology patient, because not only do I blink a lot (turns out I have dry eyes), I am photophobic and I hate eyedrops.

I'm also a much less than ideal candidate for LASIK. My eyesight is so very bad, my eye so very long, my cornea so very thin, that it just wouldn't work. In fact, I have ... well, there's a word the doctor used to describe it that I can't remember (it had 'high' in it somewhere), and he also said, "We don't like to call it this, but it's also known as pathological myopia." So I have pathological myopia. And they refuse to do LASIK for me.

Since, you know, I needed another reason to avoid contact sports, they also told me that my eyes are in danger of retinal detachment (which is pretty much exactly what it sounds like). This pleases me, for I have never really liked contact sports (this is like lacrosse, right? And soccer and football and a really aggressive game of ultimate frisbee?) and it turns out that my dislike is founded in a subconscious knowledge that it would be really dangerous for me. Who wants to go blind from a tackle?

I'm still reconciling myself to the fact that my eyesight will just continue to get worse as I get older, but I think it will be okay. I love being able to see what I can (and since it's morning and I haven't put my contacts in yet, it's somewhat less than usual) and I hope everyone appreciates their ability to view the world around them.

"Now Three" ~ Vienna Teng

Saturday, August 22, 2009

her hair falling around me

In my dreams, I almost always have long hair. Even when I'm awake I think I have long hair, and often have to stop myself from asking my sisters if they'll straighten it, braid it, and curl it. I fantasize about brushing it.

Even more than I want my long hair, though, I want my eyelashes! And not just for cosmetic reasons (though everyone knows I look better with them). I've had just about enough of my eyelids getting stuck together.

Okay, I admit that a big part is wanting to look better. I'm starting to really get desperate about my social life, but I just can't get too excited when I don't have eyelashes. For some reason, I have this idea that once I have the necessary facial hair again (we can't forget eyebrows) I'll suddenly remember how to act in social situations. Not looking as funny will give me that magical ability to carry on conversations. We can only hope.

On a related note, I've noticed that my personality tends to mirror the Victorian lady, e.g. Jane Eyre. When someone says something I don't know how to respond to, I just look away. Awkward, huh? But in the movies that's what they all did! Instead of calling it rude, let's call it demure.

Those are most of my thoughts this week. I'm glad to be done going to the hospital, and to be wearing contacts again.

"Homecoming (Walter's Song)" ~ Vienna Teng

Thursday, August 20, 2009

do everything you should, you know the facts

This morning I was lying in bed after family scripture reading, and there was a particular scent in the air. It was the smell of the First Day of School.

'Twasn't my first day, of course (even BYU doesn't start for another week or so) but three of my siblings started in new schools and I could taste the shiver in the atmosphere that meant the typical apprehension and excitement that the first day of school brings.

I always forget how cool it is. Then every year I smell it, taste it, and the wonders of education return to me. Will I make friends in my classes? Will my teachers be good? How fun will this year be?

The first day of school never answers any questions satisfactorily, but it sets the stage.

Good luck to all that have a first day of school this year! (Ooh, even typing that gives me shivers! What an exciting time!)

"White Light" ~ Vienna Teng

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

and she breathed in freedom before daylight tread

Number aversion: hating to have things that end in 3, 7, or 9. Since there are currently 23 posts on my blog, I have to post again to make it a nice round 24 (that's one of my favorite numbers, anyway). I currently have 228 Facebook friends. If I add another friend, I'd better add another one so I'm not stuck at an ugly 229.

So that's the reason for this post. I don't really have anything to say.

I was in a really good mood all last week, but now that it's this week I'm starting to feel a bit apprehensive. If the scans they're having me do next week don't look good, does that mean I have to go back to chemo? I don't want to! I hope that they're just routine. I hope that they find that my heart is still good, my lungs are clear, and I don't have any undue sugar-stealing entities.

Pretty sure I'll be fine.

This weekend I went to three receptions in three days. (Sorry for anyone that's heard that already.) It has put me in kind of a wedding-minded mode. I've never really thought much about my wedding before, having decided a few years ago that a big fuss is silly. My cousin's reception, about which a big fuss was made, was amazing. But it's not ever something I'd want to do. But I'm not sure I'd want a traditional one either -- cultural hall, refreshments by the Relief Society, receiving line under the basketball hoop.

So it's been interesting for me to start thinking about my wedding, since it is sometime in the future. I've thought about colors, decorations, time of year, location, all that jazz. I feel weird.

I suppose it hasn't helped that, since I'm all done with chemo forever, I can stop being an invalid -- and I haven't yet. I'm all crazy-like.

And another bird just hit our window. That's the second one today. Said Spencer: "They die just like people. They hit their head and ... and ... then ... then blood comes out their mouth."

Well, I think I have a life to start living! See ya on the flipside!

"St Stephen's Cross" ~ Vienna Teng

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

dreams of ice and wings. so delicate, these things.

Thursday evening, I was in the family room hanging out or something, and Kiana came in crying. Since this is in no way an unusual occurrence, it was much more interesting what she said: "Dad's gonna kill a bird."

Since this isn't a usual occurrence, we were all a little nonplussed. Turns out a little bird hit the living room window where Kiana was reading, and was on the ground all skewampus. Mom and Dad were worried it'd broken its back, or its neck, and of course the kindest thing to do would be to put it out of its misery.

Mom brought it in for us to look at. Its wings were fluttering in panic as she held it gently in her cupped hands. We all looked at it. It was crooked. But as we watched, it did better and better until it looked like a normal little bird. So instead of taking it to the executioner, Mom put it outside. Where it sat. And flew around to the patio.

The bird was still there when it got dark, and to save it from any hungry cats that might be around, we put together a little shoebox for it, with water and bread, next to the open window.

It was still there in the morning, but looked all right. It liked to fly down to the carpet and hang out there, and Friday morning while we were supposed to be getting ready to go to the Rytting Family Reunion, we all gathered around and watched it. Copious pictures were taken. The little bird was stroked, picked up, and fussed over. Kiana even picked two raspberries for it, after looking it up (an orange-crest warbler) and seeing that it only ate bugs and berries.

Then we had to go. We left it on the carpet (spreading a dishtowel first) with water and the berries. Occasionally while hanging out with cousins and the like, we would wonder if it was okay.

But we all knew what we'd find when we got home.

It had folded its wings neatly, closed its eyes, and gone to sleep. When its deep muscles stopped working to keep it upright, it had tipped slightly forward onto the carpet. Dad, Mom, and I were the only ones to look. I didn't think it was sad -- its leg was broken, and I think that would be enough pain to put any small creature out before too long. It looked peaceful, and it had drunk some water and nibbled at some berry, so I might go so far as to say it had been well cared for.

I think Kiana still cried.

"Now Three" ~ Vienna Teng

(You may or may not have noticed that I have used this title before. I thought it fit this one better than the other, so I have adjusted that one's title.)

Monday, July 27, 2009

such a wide, wide chasm of faith to leap

I remember back in February, this blog was slated to become my cancer update blog. I was having all these medical experiences I'd never had before (really: who's had a PET scan?) and wanted to talk about it. But then I was too lazy, so it got wiped off that slate.

And really, I don't talk about it that often. Sometimes it's nice to pretend that it's not the only cool thing about me. (I was going to say "Requisite sneaky complaint: check." But then I remembered what this post's probably going to be about. So there's more where that came from.) However, the sad truth is, it's pretty much my entire life right now. And that's what we do in blogs. The boring ones, at least. Talk about our lives.

So, here ya go. A bunch of random stuff about my life now, as it pertains to my treatment.

~I'd spent my entire life thinking I was A+ blood type. Come time for my first transfusion (I've had 7 now -- donate blood!!) we found out I'm actually O+. Who knew?

~I am a master of finding my drinking glass at night. We recently bought these silly clear cups, so that makes them pretty much invisible in the dark. To me, at least, since I've never met anyone with worse eyesight. (Still one of my points of pride!) But somehow, I've never spilled. My hand just magically knows where to go. I'm going to jinx it, huh.

~Every conceivable part of me has lost weight. I finally dropped below 100 lbs, and I practically had a tantrum there on the scale. I'm talking my ears have probably lost weight and everything.

~My hair's coming out again. When I was at the hospital over the weekend, I kept getting eyelashes and eyebrows all over my glasses. And I have bald patches on my head, but that's mainly because I keep pulling it...this is hard to explain to people. Some few of my acquaintance had the opportunity to pull it out when it was longer than 1/3 inch, and they'd understand. It's addicting. And I'm okay with my hair being different lengths of that much.

~I got a lot of weird side-effects from chemo that nobody at the hospital had ever heard of. I got these peculiar brown stripes on my stomach, and a similarly styled image of a bandaid on my arm, and my elbows are really dark. Plus sometimes my feet burn off. No one ever told us about that. Even the side effects that I'm supposed to get, like mouth sores, come in weird. My jaw swells up. They all look at me like I'm an alien. My body's amazing!

~No, really, my body's amazing. You take things for granted, like an awesome heart and lungs -- which I hope to still have when this is over. And the way my surgery site healed up so awesome (except for that one little part -- c'mon bug, I wanna be able to submerge my leg). All these things I can't take credit for.

~I hate talking about my hospital experiences, because it makes me nauseous. Usually right before and right after, but why risk it?

~I think the ice cream truck just drove by. We didn't have one of those when I was a kid. Did it seriously come up our street? It must be lost. Um...there's a kid sitting in the back. Should I be concerned?

~Okay, so, my siblings? They think my walking assistance devices are so fun. Whenever I'm lounging about (which, let's face it, happens a lot more often than anything else) they'll pick them up and play with them. And ... sometimes leave them far away. Not on purpose, I believe.

~By the way...anonymous gifts/letters are really annoying. I wish I hadn't been so busy in March, or I would've done some serious handwriting analysis.

~Can't remember if I've said much about my tattoos. Well, there's not much to tell, besides the pain worse than a bee sting to get them. And that I have 'em.

~Guys, once my radiation burn healed up, it's been so fun! It's like a constantly peeling sunburn, without hurting. I wonder if it would look so very tan if I weren't so "constantly inside" complexioned right now.

~Right below my left collarbone is my port. It is the cyborg machinery they inserted inside me in order to pump me full of poison. And blood, when the need arises. It is a little metal disk just under the skin. Back when it was cold, and I would shiver, my port would totally shiver too, and spasm, and feel like it was trying to jump back out. Slightly creepy? Luckily I think it's grown to my ... whatever innards are right there and I only have to worry when I get hugged really tightly and it pops out of alignment. Which doesn't do anything, except for a while I have a crooked metal disk sticking up instead of a flat one. If they needed to poke me (you access it with a needle, of course) they could do it just fine.

~Oh yeah, I'm glad I was never afraid of needles. Do I love getting shots and blood draws twice a week? No, but I don't freak out. Especially not now. My arm veins are a little bit hashed, but I don't have to do it much longer!

~Everyone keeps accusing me of getting my nails done. Never! I just happened to get a really opaque white stripe one round and it's finally grown up to the top. And I don't think I would be pleased if I did get my nails done and they looked like that. Pretty sure they can make them look better than that...

~Sometimes I act really pathetic. But I feel like there's really just one thing that I'm consistently pathetic about, and it's something that was going on way before I was diagnosed. And, er, I'm too embarrassed about it to admit what it is. *wince*

On that note, which wandered off the Wonders of Cancer Treatment and onto paths that will remain untrodden on this blog, let's end. This is more than enough, though I'm sure if I left it for another day I'd come up with some more.

Have a great day, everyone!

"Soon Love Soon" ~ Vienna Teng

[P.S.: I had a typically hard time finding a good subject line for this post. My first choice has already been used! But luckily before I found that out I'd already found a bunch of possibilities. Here are the runners-up, since I'm unlikely to use them for any other post.

blind, only my hands to guide me ~ now three
i'll tap into your strength and drain it dry - my medea

And now you see why!]

Thursday, July 9, 2009

we dance through the colors both followed and led

Last night my beautiful Silvey returned to me, in marvelous condition. My pop's technician not only fixed the snapped-off screen, but cleaned off the keyboard/fan/screen/everything I'd been too lazy to take care of, AND gave me some more memory. So I'm one blissfully happy camper, and I don't know if I want to get a new computer at the end of the summer yet.

That's not terribly relevant, but I am pleased.

Today, I think I want to talk about ... dancing.

Dancing? Really? Okay, random topic generator inside my brain, if you say so.

Sometimes, I get told something and, no matter what I was told before or told after, I do that for the rest of my life. For example, in 9th grade my Advanced Chorus teacher Mr. Elpus told us that the proper singing posture was to sit with one leg tucked underneath you and the other flat on the floor. Since then, when sitting up straight in preparation to sing, I have always put my leg that way, even if the accepted posture in that choir class was different.

Similarly, when I finally learned in my Social Dance class that my hand goes on the fella's upper arm instead of on his shoulder, that was the end of stake-dance-accepted dancing for life. I dance, I put my hand on his upper arm. You know, at that one muscle. At least, that's what I think my natural inclination is. I just realized, I haven't danced with anyone for two years.

Are. You. Serious.

Two years?? Well. Uh.

That's embarrassing.

Unfortunately, I'm not likely to be dancing with anyone anytime soon, either. (Yes! A very subtle and sneaky complaint about my singleness!) That's not a subtle (or even sneaky) complaint about my singleness (whatever the parentheses say) -- though it could be construed as a complaint about not being able to walk or dance at all...

But hey. I guess that's something to look forward to in future, though, right? I mean, if nothing else I'll conform to local tradition and have a nice little dance with my husband at our reception. Then I can test out my hypothesis that I don't put my hand on people's shoulders.

Which is weird. Does anyone know why we're supposed to put our hand on that one muscle rather than their shoulder?

Anyway, still can't get over the fact that I haven't been cool enough to get asked to dance for so long. Ah, March 20, I might've enjoyed you.

I love dancing. :) I'm so excited to bust a move (with or without a partner[1]) when I'm no longer in danger of busting a leg.

That may be it for me tonight! Have a great day.

"Eric's Song" ~ Vienna Teng

[1] Okay, I realize that it is the opinion of some few that the group dancing phenomenon is another example of society's depravity (Kyra, that word was for you) and should be discouraged at all occasions of class (I'm paraphrasing and extrapolating here, but I'm not too worried about ramifications); however, I am still classless enough to really enjoy it, if the music is acceptable.

Friday, July 3, 2009

gotta leave gotta bleed, you've gotta stop lying still 'cause this is no kind of life

There are so many amazing -- hold on, it's impossible to blog with one hand...there we go -- Vienna Teng lyrics in the world (especially with a new album, whose lyrics I have yet to plumb much). But I have had such a hard time thinking of apt ones for my posts. So sad.

I'll work on that.

Thursday was a bad day. What with waking up as the "grumpy chipmunk girl," Lupron shot (2-inch needle, not even joking), blood draw, being in such a hurry to grab the basin and toss my cookies that I knocked over my hot chocolate all over the carpet, having another blood draw, and not having any immune system at all (and most of this happened before noon), I was really unfortunate.

But there were some notable good things about this day! So I'm going to talk about those.

(Oh, but first, I also had physical therapy Thursday morning. And to think I used to love Thursdays!)

My mother decided she'd put the video entitled "Leslie Toddling" on DVD, and I was in charge of the chapter breaks. So I got to vaguely pay attention to myself as an especially cute baby (complete with blond curls) for a few hours.

I was talking to my friend Jonathan and found out something pretty cool. Um, about an anagram that really will interest no one else besides me, but I reacted very much resembling "That's clever. I wish my family was that clever." The end. Well, I counted it as a good thing that happened, in that morning of really unfortunate occurrences.

And my friend Kristie came to visit! She listened patiently to all my medical stories (it is unfortunate, but I really don't have a whole lot else to talk about). And she gave me a book. I did miss Fetch because of it, but that's okay.

...That's about all I can remember. Besides the obvious I continued breathing, my legs and arms didn't fall off, etc.

Yesterday was better because I got a transfusion. And also my mouth swelling went down and I could actually eat food besides pudding. (it was worse because the shot in my leg has caused me such exquisite pain that I ... can't move my leg. You don't realize how often you use your quads until one of them is bruised right next to the bone. Look how good a complainer I am! I could be a professional whiner!)

So that's been my life the last couple of days. I've been thinking about being patriotic, but I'm pretty patriotic year-round (relatively). Last night at Logan fireworks I opted not to walk across the street to watch them. I went to bed. I could hear the booms nicely, but I was on the wrong side of the room to see anything. And my glasses were off. And my family just got back from the parade, and I also decided not to go to that either. I am wearing my bright-red KU 2008 NCAA Champions shirt (woohoo). But I guess that's the extent of it this year.

Mainly I'm panicking about the way Silvey's screen has half snapped off. Can I make this computer last two more months until I buy a new one? It looks iffier and iffier. Sad, because it was really in almost okay condition (meaning, I thought I'd really make it the rest of the summer) until I pulled the screen back too far...and then Spencer moved my computer to plug it in. (I can blame him because he put it upside-down, and if he'll do that he'll utilize all sorts of less-than-gentle handling, right?)

Well, this is a bright and cheerful blog post. I'm doing well -- standing up causes fewer throes of agony, and I can open my mouth, and Annalisse and Terik just came and entertained me for like two hours -- I just like to complain. I'm like the anti of those cheerful cancer patients you see that nobody ever hears say a negative word. But I pretty much just have a goal to not be as bad as that old lady I saw in radiation one day. I'm succeeding at that. :)

Now, for a "thought." Patriotically, and because two of my sisters marched in the band today, here is my little tidbit of wisdom. Well, hardly wisdom. It is simply a tidbit of stuff. And here goes: Four years at BYU, and I don't know the fight song at all. I, um, never even went to an athletic performance (you know, a game). What kind of student was I? I mean, really. However, I am proud to state that I still know the Mountain Crest fight song in its entirety. I will sing it for you now. (To hear an audio version of the lyrics, contact me.)

We sing all hail to you from Mountain Crest, the school that's rising to the top. We are the Mustangs and we're rising high, for we know we can't be stopped. We've got the teams, we've got the spirit, the students and the faculty, and we are pressing on together toward our goal of victory. We're number one! We are the best! So everybody step aside for Mountain Crest! Rah-rah! We're on our way to fame and glory so let our colors proudly fly. Let's all unite to tell our story, all you who hail from Mountain Crest High! Go!

Yep. Still inordinately proud of that. But it's an awesome fight song! And we were an awesome school! (Second place is really not all that bad.) The end.

"Hope On Fire" ~ Vienna Teng

Saturday, June 20, 2009

nature is so: the same rain that draws you near me falls on rivers and land

So, how about this weather, huh? It's raining, and it has been for like two weeks. Funny, I thought Utah was a desert. But you can be sure I'm not complaining! I'm very delicately attuned to temperature, and I hate it when it's too hot. I love watching it rain, and smelling it through the open window, and never having to turn on the sprinklers. Awesome.

I'm sad. Practically my own personal rainstorm that I like to call the Amazing Human Faucet.

And i just wrote a whole post complaining about it, but I don't feel like it's very uplifting, so it is now gone into the abyss. Mwahaha.

In other news, I don't really have a lot to say besides the topic that I've already decided is too grumpy to post about in a blog that used to be soooooo intellectual. I mean, I did have my tumor removed. Along with it went the muscle group known as the adductors. My surgeon says that's about the biggest muscle group you can lose without losing major function. So, yay me?

I will just say one thing regarding my previous grumpiness: I miss interacting with people my own age.

That's all.

"Lullaby for a Stormy Night" ~ Vienna Teng

Thursday, June 4, 2009

shine with all the untold

Not a night has gone by that I haven't cried a little bit, all because I'm overwhelmed at the kindness of friends.[1] Usually it's one or two that play a pretty big part in my life right now, but sometimes I think back to before. There are some very nice people, and I've shed tears over many of them.

(Ex.: She let me stay with her...He said goodbye to me before I left...She gave me a book...a birthday card...delicious dinners...He still talks to me, despite all. I don't deserve all this...etc.)

I wish that I were better at redistributing the good deeds. I guess I've got the rest of my life to be kind to people, but it'd be nice to get in the habit now. It's going to be hard to break my life-long tendency to be the served one. So, if I can do something for anyone, let me know and I'll do my best. As long as it doesn't involve moving around.

Also, this post is a shout-out to my awesome family, especially Jennie, who wins the helpful award.[2] (Spencer wins the sulker award, followed closely by Kiana, then me. This award is not so well acclaimed.) Have a great summer, kids!

I wonder what comes next.

"Shine" ~ Vienna Teng

[1] Except for two nights ago, when I cried because I'm frightened of not being in my right mind when I come out of anaesthesia tomorrow night.
[2] Also the instrument-learning award.

Saturday, May 30, 2009

on the edge of the summer

I think I'm finally getting used to my new haircut. I've had a hard time with it lately because it just looked so weird when I looked in the mirror. I still think that being bald makes me look more vulnerable, which is just what I need. But it doesn't throw me off as much when I catch a glimpse.

Still not totally down with the idea of leaving my head bare in public, though. I just ... don't like people looking at me. And everyone looks at you at least once to make sure they're actually seeing what they think they're seeing. So I'm leaving it to my siblings' friends and random people that come by before I have a chance to put something on. I'm working on it, though.

Even so, it's hot. I spend a lot of time here in our family room with windows on 3 sides and no curtains or blinds, and ... it's warm. I wish more of my friends would come visit my house. But I can understand that a 2+-hr drive is more than people are willing to do, even though Providence is a very nice place. Oh well.

It's my brother's birthday party right now. They just went mini-golfing and now they're playing Hole in the Bucket. Which is where they sing "There's a hole in ma bucket, Dear Liza" over and over. (No, that's not true. They have to use holey buckets to transfer water from one container to another. They're having fun.)

And now, for a thought.

I was sitting here on the couch a week or so ago, just looking outside at the leaves on the trees and thinking about my stories. In all the stories I write, something happens to the characters, or they do something. I could write about the leaves, but it would not sound very good. I'm just not a good enough writer. And I've had plenty of time since then to be reconciled to that (mainly, I just forgot about it until I was sitting here looking at the leaves on the tree), but I still think there are improvements I can make. This doesn't have a lot to do with any of you unless you were waiting for my writing to become excellent so you could be my agent. Then you can know that if you're looking for thoughtful reflections, you'll never find 'em here.

Now they're waterboarding. What a fun birthday party!

(Okay, they're not waterboarding. But there are children lying down with pop bottles on their stomachs that their team members are trying to fill. Screaming ensues.)

"Daughter" ~ Vienna Teng

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

the driver doesn't know way down how deep these bright-eyed feelings run

Whoo, do I ever need a break from studying. I am pleased to announce that I think I'm understanding the information better than last time I tried to study it (about two weeks ago ... my studying habits tend to have large breaks in between). With luck, I can be prepared for my exam by the end of the week. I'll go down to Provo (or Salt Lake, but ... I'm hoping for Provo) and display my lackluster knowledge on the test, then hang out with people outside my family for a day or two! I'm excited.

So, Monday night I caught what I might refer to as a "blogging bug." I had all these brilliant thoughts that I needed to write down or they'd be lost forever. In order to preserve the world from having to deal with my spamminess, I opened a WordPerfect[1] document and titled it, "Write down your stupid brilliant thoughts down here first." So I did. I started immediately. One of them actually turned into part of a blog post on its own, and with editing it will appear below shortly.

Unfortunately, the blogging bug didn't stop when I tried to sleep, and lots more "brilliant" thoughts forced their way through my brain. Since I slept so poorly, on Tuesday I only remembered one "brilliant" plan I might execute when I'm down visiting Provo. Or not, since it's pretty ridiculous. But anyway, I also stayed outside for an hour or so and that combined with poor sleeping meant that I was too sick to do anything the rest of the day yesterday, so I couldn't post. (I figure, every other day is a good enough break from me, if I really want to be prolific -- which I did!)

So, here's an edited version of what I started writing Monday night. I hope you don't take much of what I say seriously, as it's clear that this blog, if it continues, will no longer contain my attempts at high-falutin literature, as such, but will be full of rambles like this, and I love saying things I don't really mean.

I have this habit of stalking blogs of people I know. Or that I don’t know, but I think I know well enough to read their blog. I’ve tried reading the blog of someone I don’t know at all, and it feels like a privacy invasion. But these other people? I figure that since I know their name, basic appearance, and some life information, they're fair game. I don’t want to become a “Follower” because that’s just stalking. That’s letting people know that I read their blogs.[2] So I just every once in a while remember, “Hey, I really like this person’s blog. I’m going to read up on what’s been going on in her[3] life since last I read.” Sometimes I’m obsessive enough to check multiple times between updates, but I think I should try to curb that habit. Obsessiveness = not attractive. And I’m a cancer girl; I’m already about as unattractive as you can get!

Though I forget that a lot of the time. I was thinking about ... oh, probably my response to a Board question. I’m obsessed (see) with the Board. And I was thinking about describing myself as “pretty, but it’s hard for me to judge from photos, because, well, I’m me. Some photos I think display me well, some don’t.” Then I remembered what a shock I got walking into the bathroom this morning. Pale face, glasses, less hair than ... most people.[4] It was not a pretty sight, and luckily it’s still not my perception of myself. Someday I’ll go back to being pretty (and some days I sure can fake it with a little application of what we’ll call “the wig”) so I’m not too worried about being death-warmed-over ugly right now.

(Today, Wednesday, I'm getting a haircut to make me look more bald. And I also got presents of false eyelashes and an eyebrow pencil. These will also help me "fake it.")

One such blog I stalked on Monday sparked another brilliant thought, that is absolutely true and has been for years: I would love to be part of an impromptu musical number in some public place. You know what I'm talking about. Think: synchronized shopping carts.[5] At least, some synchronized dance moves with a catchy song. But ... I think that'd be fun. If anyone ever tries anything like that and I'm there, I'll probably try to join in even if I'm not part of the group. I guess if I never see/participate in one personally, I know I would like to see more of them in the world. So that was something I wrote down to potentially let people know.

Well, that's probably enough from me today. If I have more brilliant thoughts, I'll write them down in my Stupid Brilliant Thoughts document and let them sit for a day before letting you all view them.

"Unwritten Letter #1" ~ Vienna Teng

[1] Yes, I still preferentially use WordPerfect. I am not alone in this; my Creative Writing professor also confessed to this.
[2] But the people I actually know, I don't really care about following their blogs. I like to check up on them, too, but to be honest the whole "following" thing is kind of overrated.
[3] usually I end up stalking girls – guy stalking interests me less, but not if it’s Nathaniel because I stalk him mercilessly.
[4] A lot less hair than most people. But I’m not bald, which really throws people off. Like, nurses who have to see me without my hat because ... let’s face it, I go hatless whenever I’m home (my family’s used to my hag hairstyle) and it’s way more comfortable when I’m semi-conscious to not have a hat on. And when I’m unconscious. Which is how most of my hospital visits are, one of the two.
[5] Don't also think in conjunction: huge disaster. Because that would not make for a very good performance.

Sunday, May 17, 2009

Everyone agrees it came too soon

Uh, well, hello. *dusts off old blog* I am happy to say that I am alive, despite evidence to the contrary (as in, months of absolute inactivity). I'm not quite sure what this post should be about, though, as I'm not very creative anymore.

You see, much like my woeful predictions about two or three posts ago (weird, that, since it's practically been a lifetime since then), I have come down with cancer. Nobody that is already following this blog is surprised by that (yes, all two of you -- I really need to be more exciting). Since I've kind of had this diagnosis since, oh, February. That's one of the reasons I haven't posted lately.

I could always just post a bunch of random facts about myself. That could make a good blog post. (I'm really bad at these. Did you know?)

I'm now pretty good at opening pill bottles. I used to not be able to do it. But I've figured out the trick, and how to do it without injuring my wrists too much, so I'm pretty cool.

Still can't brush my teeth neatly, though. I always make a mess. You'd think an adult would be able to ... well, I can't.


Apparently, there are only two random facts about me that I feel inclined to tell. I mean, I do have the 25 Randoms posted over on Facebook. But I was trying to think of new things. New and exciting things that would make this blog worthwhile again.

Because if I'm not careful, this could be the very last post ever, and so far I'd call it less than stellar. In fact, that is what I call it. I'm lookin' at it and thinkin', you are so less than stellar. Too bad your author is so not smart or creative anymore. Then you could really shine or something.

One thing that I have noticed is that I'm a bit more random. First round of chemo when I was at about this point (recovery, but still kinda too sick to move) I messaged a girl named Celeste that I'd never talked to before in my life and pretty much spilled my entire guts on her. I mean, not exactly. I just really needed her help and preferred to talk to her, who I've at least seen in my life, than, hmm, other people I could think of that could assist me, but who would probably me more alarmed since I pretty much ... don't know them. And I wanted to remain on good terms with the girl I pestered... Back in the day when I still cared about the impression I was making on people.

Where was I? Nowhere good. Oh dear. This is just what I did not hope to see in my resurrection blog post. I think I'm going to edit a couple sentences in that last paragraph, maybe nix a name or two...

How would you like to see some writing of mine? Back from 2006, from my Bible fanfiction class. I mean, my Bible as Literature class that I just happened to create an assignment to write fanfiction for. Did that sentence make sense? I can't tell. So I wrote like 5 stories, and I would like to share with you a shortish one. Just to give this post some substance other than cancerous ramblings. Chemotherapical ramblings. Whatever.

I would remind you that I wrote this back in 2006 (and if you think this is bad, you should see my attempt at humor).

This story is entitled "A Mother's Smile" and takes place in the years before the story of Jael in Judges 4-5.

A Mother’s Smile

Sisera was very small when he found that he was in love with his mother’s smile.

It was a smile that she reserved just for him when, that first morning, he brought her a pretty stone.

“Oh, my son!” she exclaimed, and Sisera was amazed at how her face lit up. “What a pretty thing you have brought me! I shall wear it.”

He watched her face as she placed the green stone against her robe. The light in her eyes entranced him. He was devastated when she stopped smiling. Sisera wanted, somehow, more than anything, to bring that smile back.

Other stones and desert blooms soon found their way into his mother’s lap, and Sisera was rewarded in just the way he preferred, but as time went on his desire for that smile grew into an obsession; he wanted it there all the time.

One day young Sisera saw the most beautiful fragment of cloth wrapped round the head of one of those Israelite girls. He knew his mother would love it.

“Hey,” he said. “I want your headscarf.”

The girl just looked back at him with wide, firghtened eyes, backing away. Sisera wondered if she’d heard he was a favorite for the military. His mother liked to tell everyone how she dreamed he’d grow up to be commander of the king’s army. But that was beside the point. If she was scared of him, it was all the more reason to give him that green fabric.

“Give it to me!” Sisera said angrily, reaching out for the girl.

“No, it’s mine!” the girl cried, clearly terrified. She turned to run away, but Sisera tripped her and put his foot on her back so she couldn’t move.

He reached down and whipped off her headscarf, causing her long braid to flail limply. The vulnerability of the black rope strangely excited the boy. He pulled out his knife and roughly hacked off the end of the girl’s braid.

“Let that teach you to disobey me,” he said viciously, moving away so the girl could get up. “Be glad I didn’t chop off all your hair – or a finger!” he called as the girl stumbled away, sobbing.

Satisfied, Sisera pocketed the bit of hair and ran to show his mother his new present for her. She went into such ecstasies it was amazing and very pleasing to her son. Even when she tucked him in and got him some milk, the light in her eyes was still there.

“You have made me proud, my son,” she said, stroking his forehead. “What a man you’ll be.”


Years passed, and Sisera fulfilled his mother’s dream and became commander of King Jabin’s army. His lack of respect for Israelites – and his tendency to claim trophies from his victories – did not make him popular with them, and there had recently come word of a rebellion led by Barak and assisted by their “judge” Deborah.

“I’ll be back soon,” Sisera assured his mother, kissing her farewell. “It’s time to break these Israelites once and for all.”

“Well, make me proud, son,” his mother replied.

“You can count on it.”

...Yep. I was proud of that. I also did such a good job on my Alternate Universe story (what if meshach, shadrach, and abednego had bowed down to worship the gold statue? Or, you know, one of them) that my mom used it in a talk. But it's kinda long, and I'm not a huge fan of the writing style. It's the concept, I think.

I think that's enough from me for today. Happy Spring!

"Say Uncle" ~ Vienna Teng

Monday, January 26, 2009

it's the season of eyes meeting over the noise

My biochem problem set is boring me greatly, and nothing's going on at work except for running into an old Calculus buddy, so I'm going to discuss something that's been on my mind lately. Actually, an alternate title for this post is "Slippery Thoughts."

Sometime in the last month I was making my cautious way along the south 700 North sidewalk. It was snowy and the sun was shining, making it really quite treacherous. On my way I espied a young man who was also making his cautious way along the sidewalk. When we passed, we met each other's eyes for a brief second, and I knew: He was as determined not to fall and make a fool of himself as I was. We both knew that we would be the height of kindness (perhaps only laughing a little) if one of us fell, but why not save ourselves the humiliation and stay upright?

We both managed it. I did spend a moment pondering what a good "meet-cute" that would be, especially if we both fell. But I was more amused by our shared determination not to fall at all.

That first day it was warming up was dreadful for walking. Other days have been dreadful for walking as well (today may just be one of them), but it was of such a degree that I announced as I blew into my apartment in a rush, "The parking lot is ice-skatable today!" How fun. I had to go around the front so I could get to the places I needed to be on time without having to slide my feet carefully along the terrible sidewalk.

I kind of wish I'd had time to take advantage of it. I am rather poor at ice-skating.

My roommate Allison always falls instead of me. It's kind of nice for me, but kind of awful for her. Last week there was this huge puddle where we usually walk through. Not only that, but the ice surrounding the puddle was abnormally icy. It would have been terrible to fall into the 2-ft deep puddle (I exaggerate not). I know this because Allison did fall in it, and it was awful.

Basically I just wish that it wasn't ever slippery. Or that we had puddles that make it hard for those that don't wear high heels (luckily yesterday I was) to traverse. Ice and snow are okay, though. Moderately.

"Atheist Christmas Carol" ~ Vienna Teng

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

I can see what I've begun

Hello. I am cultivating a grey hair. Over Christmas break it was almost bang-length, and I took great pleasure in teasing it out to hang conspicuously over my hair to make my family comment, but they never said anything, so I forgot about it.

Until a couple weeks ago, when I found that it was very short. It must have broken, brittle as it is. So I'm trying to grow it out again.


Why, you may ask, do I not just pull it out and preserve the illusion of youth?

Because I like being old. I feel my years, and my grey hair proves it! Hahahah!

"My Medea" ~ Vienna Teng
[that was tricky. i wonder if there's a better song for this.]

Sunday, January 4, 2009

one by one the neighbors' lights come on

How would you like to see my essay? Very little of the content is really "news" to anyone that's read any other entries in this blog, but it is something I wrote. Some of it is actually okay. It is entitled "Details."

The stars were bright as I walked to school one Wednesday morning in fall, but I barely glanced up long enough to find Orion, one of two constellations I can identify. I’d done plenty of stargazing the past few days: my new habit was coming to school at six in the morning.

Most people are smart enough, when they’re taking sixteen credits that mostly contain advanced biology courses (with a smattering of Creative Writing on the side), to carefully arrange their work schedules to give them as much free time as possible to do my homework, or social things. Clearly I no longer belong in this category. It showed some remarkable lack of foresight to dismiss my schoolwork with a wave of the hand, scoffing, “Oh, pshaw. Who needs school, anyway?” With this idea in mind, I blissfully signed up for about thirty hours of work a week. Not on purpose, really. But the advanced ballet classes needed a talented, experienced pianist with good knowledge of the combinations; the voice teacher needed an accompanist who could sight read the pieces her students sang; and the Ecology teacher needed someone to take a load of grading off her single-mother shoulders and conduct review sessions about climate patterns. Who was I to deny them the assistance that I could best provide?

Then I started attending my classes. Knowing that I had a full work schedule, I went from class to class with an increasingly desperate expression on my face. Did they all think it was the only class I was enrolled in? That I had nothing better to do with my life than work on their class? My academic inclination, buried all summer, came roaring back to life and threw my glib dismissal of homework into shambles. I needed, according to my calculations, thirty-hour days, some of those hours for extra sleep. As far as I know that hasn’t been accomplished by any time-twisting feat to date, so I wondered if I needed to begin making arrangements for my funeral.

By far the most time-consuming class that semester–beating out even Plant Cell Biology and Plant Breeding & Biotechnology—was Mentored Lab Techniques. The premise appears fairly simple: complete lab protocols before a certain due date. This provides students an introduction to the way things work at the Genetics Laboratory and gives them an additional appreciation for being a lab slave: They will, by the end of the semester, have successfully completed a real-life experiment comparing the genomes of Arabidopsis (the genetics model plant) and aspen.

It’s not that simple.

At the end of the first week, I had unwittingly completely destroyed my experiment twice and made an enemy of my handsome Nepalese TA, Prabin. All of my classmates had completed their assignment, and I was left alone in the lab (except for the graduate students, who are actually supposed to be there) to glare balefully at the pipettes I was supposed to be using for my PCR reaction.

PCR (polymerase chain reaction) is supposed to be an easy reaction to accomplish. It’s a method of amplifying DNA so that there’s enough to work with in subsequent experiments, and all you need to do is take some reagents, pipet them into a microcentrifuge tube, and mix it all up. Then you pop it into a thermal cycler and it magically multiplies. You wouldn’t think that could be messed up. Believe me, it can.

I did have other classes, not to mention a bit of employment, and I soon struggled finding time to spend an hour or two in the lab every day trying to get my gel to run. Thus the brilliant 6 a.m. idea was born. What could be smarter than coming in before any other living soul (besides the Army on their morning run and the custodians) and trying to find the E. coli in the vast array of fridges and freezers in the laboratory? I thought I was ingenious; my roommates thought I was crazy.

That particular Wednesday morning was chilly. More than that, it was downright frosty. The stars glittered coldly above as I took my scarf and wrapped it around my head like a babushka’s headscarf. I was grateful that there was no one else around, because I was fairly sure I looked like an idiot. Or a Russian Jewish girl straight out of Fiddler on the Roof.

“Matchmaker, matchmaker, make me a match,” I caroled. I was alone in the lab, and if I sang it helped soften the harsh truth that was coming clear to me as I stared numbly at the newest failed gel image: I simply could not pay attention to the details. Little things like wearing latex gloves, getting ice for my reagents, and mixing my reaction carefully were rationalized away in my subconscious before I even noticed that I had neglected something that could prove to be important later. And I wondered why I was failing the class?

The irony was not lost on me. I’d always gotten good grades, and past experience has shown that I can succeed at anything with a bit of work. But succeeding at lab work continued to elude me—and lab work is the only job I’ll be fit for after I graduate. Some foresight would’ve been wise, because I knew from the start that a lab technician wasn’t my dream job (is it anyone’s?) but still I neglected to major in anything that lead to a dream job—possibly because I haven’t figured out just what a “dream job” would be. Definitely not anything to do with PCR.

When I went to ballet that day, I was reminded again of how much detail orientation is required for just about everything in this life: ballerinas must be completely in tune with their bodies at all times, keep good posture while executing difficult moves, and even remember to point their toes and keep their fingers straight. It’s probably not something I’d excel at. It’s a pity, because ballet is pretty (and who doesn’t want to be pretty?). Instead I make my paltry contribution by trying to choose the best music to enhance their dancing experience.

By the time I made it to Voiceworks Studio that afternoon, I was feeling my extended run of early mornings, but I was alert enough to plunk the ivory. In the months I’ve worked there I’ve discovered that I’m practically getting free voice lessons as I listen in, waiting for my chance to play. But the details combine to defeat whatever singing aspirations I might have (which certainly don’t extend far past the empty genetics laboratory): there are so many essential habits that must all be employed at once. Debra (the voice teacher) must give the same speech about posture and breathing about fifty times a day, not to mention resonance and belting. I’m content enough to play louder when they’re supposed to sing louder.

The stars were shining brightly and the moon was rising by the time I got out of voice lessons. I gave them a cursory salute, not even looking up to find the constellations. As I got into my car I tried my hand at belting the song I’d played for most recently; nope, no good. What could I do that didn’t require details? I could drive. Pretty well, actually, except when sunsets or moonrises distracted me from the road. There was some multitasking there, but after playing piano for years it was hardly a struggle for me.

Then the lightbulb came on (or was that my headlights?). There are lots of nitpicky details in learning to play the piano, and I’d learned them. Sure, I may not be able to improvise terribly well, and finer points of theory continue to escape me, but I can play—with curved fingers, no less. Life wasn’t hopeless after all! If I wanted to learn to sing and dance, I could. It would just take some work. Of course, learning to sing and dance couldn’t be top of my list that fall: lab work was. I almost smiled (it’d been a long day) and hummed as I set my alarm, new eagerness for my 6 a.m. appointment with pipettes blossoming within me.

I wish (I really wish) I could say that at this point lab work came easily to me, and I passed the class with flying colors. Instead, I learned that details aren’t all that goes into a successful experiment (everything that goes into a successful experiment still elude me, to my distress). But details are an important part of so many aspects of life, and learning to pay attention to them is a skill that can be applied to other places—like the sound of sentences I write. It’s just a matter of choosing to see, feel, and hear.
"Antebellum" ~ Vienna Teng