Author Archives: bonniegail

About bonniegail

Red hair and sarcasm are my main weapons.
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The sheath that held her soul had assumed significance – that was all.

F. Scott Fitzgerald penned these words to describe the stealthy transition of Anthony Patch’s feelings for the beautiful Gloria in his book The Beautiful and Damned. I was flipping through the book–one of my favorites, as is anything by Fitzgerald–looking for some turn of phrase to use as a blog title. Fitzgerald stands as a testament to elegant turns of phrase and I knew I could rely on him for inspiration.

I have, however, taken the phrase out of context and impressed upon it my own understanding. When I titled this blog “Assuming Significance” I wanted it to mean something other than two people falling in love. No, my immediate attraction to the phrase is due more to my own projections onto it than anything else.

My generation seems to be suffering from something I’ve heard referred to as “Special Snowflake Syndrome.” So many of us have been told our whole lives that we have these gifts, that we are unique and special, and so many of us grow up believing that–or at least holding on to an inkling that we are in some way remarkable, if only the rest of the world could see it. Comforted by this thought, this shred of optimism we can cling to, we quite serenely relax into a world of social media and television, secure in our ability to do and excel at almost anything, if only we really wanted to. 

We all believe ourselves to be significant.

What I have struggled with is submitting to this placidity. Surely, we are all capable of significance. And surely, we are all made up of a unique set of thoughts, abilities, and experiences that make us different from all other people. But what good is that, any of it, if we do nothing with it? 

We are not all significant. We are all, however, potentially significant. There is a void in the world that exists, waiting for you to fill it if only you would. 

We are not born significant–but we can assume this significance.

To become significant, we must take steps toward making ourselves a resource to others whether in our communities or in the world at large. One cannot be significant standing alone, out of context. A person can only be significant in relation to other people. Significance is measured by our impact upon others.

Cooking a meal for myself is not significant. 

Cooking a meal and sharing it with friends, strangers, or given to someone else is significant.

This is a record of my attempt to reach out to others, to make a difference in anyone else’s lives. The reasoning may seem selfish, but to me it is a motivator–any gifts I may posses, any creativity I may have, any kind thoughts that run across my mind can’t do anyone any good if I’m sitting on the couch keeping it all to myself.

Significance is about more than being special snowflakes; it’s about embracing what makes you special and sharing it with the world to make it better and to be a part of something bigger than yourself. 

Here I go.

The sheath that…

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Train Music – (Just Like) Starting Over

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The B-side for this was Yoko's "Kiss Kiss Kiss"

I really enjoy taking the train to school every day. Not being a fan of driving, it provides a way to get to class that also serves as about twenty minutes of downtime each way between the rush to get ready and the chaos of class. It also gives me a chance to listen to enough music to set my mood the right way.

One of the things I found most interesting about going to undergrad for music was that I actually stopped listening to music on my own. I stopped searching out new artists, and if I did click on my iTunes, it was only because I needed the comforting sounds of my few favorites. The only way to get me to learn anything new, really, was to leave it in the CD player in my car–I never changed them, just listened on repeat until I got a wild notion or someone rode in my car often enough to get sick of it and tried to strangle me. As it is, I’m slowly getting into the habit again, now that it can be my hobby and not my task (obvious proof that music wasn’t meant to be my profession.)

I’m usually leaving the house by 8am, and I am not a morning person. I hate any TV and conversation while I’m getting ready; I’d much rather just go through my routine uninterrupted. As such, when I listen to music in the morning, it needs to be of a specific kind. Nothing heavy, nothing remixed, no rap, no yelling, and so on. I’m like a block of clay in the morning–I need the music to be warm and soft, persuading my sleepy brain into the pliability I need to get through the rest of the day.

These requirements are not so hard to meet, but as the creature of habit I am in the early hours, I tend to find a song or an album that fits the bill and listen to it repeatedly. That is pretty much what happened with this song.

The opening bells, the gentle first lines that roll right into an upbeat (but not too upbeat) verse? This song is perfect for getting going in the morning. It doesn’t hurt that the lyrics are maybe some of the most optimistic that John Lennon had ever written. “(Just Like) Starting Over” appears on Double Fantasy, which was released in 1980, just weeks before John’s murder.  He hadn’t released a single since his cover of “Stand by Me” in 1975, choosing instead to stay home and be a househusband and stay-at-home dad to his new baby boy (who also gets a song on the album, “Beautiful Boy.”)

The poignancy of this song perhaps lies in its bittersweet beauty. It is upbeat and hopeful, and remains so, even though it became the #1 single after his death. It’s a love letter to Yoko, an invitation to start their lives anew.

I could write a psychoanalysis on John Lennon, but I’ll spare you. I’ll just say that while John wrote prolifically about love, he tended toward the “world love”, the “brotherly love.” It wasn’t until later in his career that John wrote about romantic love without being tongue-in-cheek. Whatever your opinions on Yoko, it’s hard to hate a woman who inspires a song like this.

And it makes me want to dance on the train.

First Day of School

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Now I ride a train to school.

I started law school, officially, this week.  We had some highly structured orientation for two days last week, but Monday was my first day of real classes.  With real people.  Who were all strangers.

Needless to say, I had the first day of school jitters.  I couldn’t sleep the night before, I couldn’t decide what to wear, I had visions of Reese Witherspoon in glasses and a robe (why, oh why the shiny robe?) looking in the mirror and declaring herself “a serious law student!”  I read about Jackie Kennedy, hoping to glean even an ounce of her grace and poise.  I rolled over a threw a silent and minor temper tantrum that I couldn’t fall asleep, and then I mentally checked off all the items I needed to make sure made it into my giant, bulging, impossibly heavy school bag.  I reminisced about first-days-of-school past.

I can’t remember much about getting ready for my first day of kindergarten.  I do remember walking into the classroom.  Many of the other students were already there, seated in groups around low tables with tiny, primary-colored plastic chairs.  I think I was wearing a dress–in kindergarten, I would only wear dresses (this was during my short-lived and unfortunately-timed hyper-girly phase, which happened to coincide with my mom redecorating my room–I chose pink walls and carpet) and the only dress I can remember had a white top and a red skirt, so we’ll pretend that’s what I was wearing.  I put my bag in the cubby hole with my name on it, and went to pick a chair.

Isn’t that always the most nervewracking part of entering a roomful of strangers?  Choosing a seat makes my heartbeat speed up and my lips purse.  I’m sure my eyes get wide and twitchy, like that stupid Felix the Cat clock, ticking back and forth, desperately searching for a seat that’s close to the front, but not too close, and seated far enough in that people won’t have to climb over me, but not far enough in that I have to climb over a ton of people to get to it.  An empty seat that isn’t next to the girl who looks super chatty or the guy who looks like he hasn’t showered this week.

That’s pretty much a play-by-play of my inner monologue.

As a five-year-old, my most pressing instinct was to look for a kind face.  I was surprised and elated to see a familiar one–my friend Annie from the babysitter’s, sitting at a table with an empty chair.  Relieved, I slid into the seat and greeted her, only to be met with the worst phrase a paranoid-seat-picker could hear.

“Somebody’s already sitting there.”

My face fell.  Apparently so-and-so had gotten up to go to the bathroom.  “Fine, so-and-so,” I thought, “take your seat next to my friend.  I’ll find another!”  I brushed it off like it didn’t matter and stood up with as much dignity as I could muster, turning to face the rest of the room.  20 or so other children stared back at me.  My heart raced and blood rushed through my ears as I considered having to ask for another chair, when suddenly I heard magic.

“Over here!”

Nicole, my friend from Sunday School, was sitting at a nearby table!  And the table had an empty chair!  I practically skipped to the table and sat down across from her, smiling with relief.

While I didn’t happen to run into any surprise familiar faces on my first day of of law school, there were some similarities.  I chose a seat in my first class and, being several minutes early, dropped my bag and hurried to the restroom.  When I got back, my professor had arrived, and watched me walk to my deposited things.

“Could you move to the front?  This is a small class.”

I nodded quickly and gathered my stuff, moving as quietly and unobtrusively as possible toward the front.  When I sat down next to a tall girl with dark curly hair who had my same nervous look about her, I had a sense of deja vu.  Much like it must have been on that first day of kindergarten, I smiled with relief.  I smiled at her, and stuck out my hand.

“Hi, I’m Bonnie.”

NSFBD = Not safe for before dinner

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This post contains graphic descriptions of raw meat.  Just sayin’.

My mom always told me that she was sure I would become a vegetarian when I moved out on my own.  Not because my parents force-fed me animals against my will or anything, but because any time I was asked to help with dinner, I would actually, physically wretch if I had to touch meat.  Chicken, with its weird veins and floppy skin, was awful, but hamburger was the worst.  Processed hamburger looks like skinny little worms oozing blood.  (Sorry for that, but it’s true.)  When I was told to put my hands in the hamburger, I thought that was going to be it for me.  I’m squeamish at the best of times, but with the blood of another creature on my hands?  Forget it.  Did I love eating the final product?  Of course.  Cheeseburgers, tacos, meat sauce?  Fantastic.  But I could not force myself to keep my hands in that bowl of hamburger.

I’m maybe going to gag just thinking about it.

When I was little, I was crazy about animals.  Anything fluffy, scaly, or hoofed was on my favorites list.  Disney princesses weren’t even on my radar; all I cared about were The Aristocats, The Lion King, and Raja from Aladdin.  The first chapter book I read was Charlotte’s Web.  At some point my parents let us have a cat, who promptly had kittens, and my life was set.  I had a theme, I guess is what I’m getting at.  Dolls were okay (even though I went into detail about my love affair with one particular doll earlier, dolls were not my thing until my later years), but stuffed animals were the be-all, end-all of Bonnie, ages 0-8.

At some point–I’m assuming when we took the kittens to be fixed–I learned about the existence of veterinarians, and being one became my life goal.  I found out that sometimes vets had to put animals down, and I quickly jumped ship to being a future zoologist.  One who studies animals–that had to be good, right?  I was pro-animal all the way.

Somewhere in this time frame I figured out the truth about the dinner I ate each night.  What?  Beef came from cows?  Pork came from pigs?  Chicken came from…oh.  (Trust me, it would be totally typical of my childhood self to know what a zoologist was before I caught on that meat came from animals.)  Needless to say, this was devastating.

Also possibly picking a wedgie.

Me as a cat, before realizing I was Jonathan Swifting my fellow animals.

I came to terms with eating meat for a little while, but then another tragedy of realization struck: my dad took my brother and I fishing.  Now, my grandparents lived on a farm, so we had done plenty of fishing.  I was just blissfully ignorant of the reality that went into making those yummy fried catfish nuggets that magically appeared after we had spent the afternoon catching catfish–but not for long.  My dad had decided we were old enough to help he and my granddad clean the fish.

“Clean the fish.”  It’s a relatively innocuous little phrase, but oh, the horror hidden behind it.  I still remember watching them cut the head off the fishies (all of which I had probably named), the awful smell of raw fish in the air, and the cats circling menacingly.  Seeing the insides was even worse–all those little bones, how could you make sure they were all gone?  What if one was in the fish I ate?  What if I swallowed one by accident and it stabbed my throat AND THEN I CHOKED UNTIL I DIED?

It would be a tragic death, and the cats, smelling my last meal, would again circle menacingly.

The next time we went fishing, I put my foot down.  I told them that I would only fish if I got to throw my fish back, and I would not eat the fish they caught.  I wasn’t eating meat anymore, no sir, no way.

My granddad, the cattle farmer, sat me on his knee and told me very kindly but very firmly that he would not be having my shenanigans.  “If you catch the fish and throw them back, they’ll already be hurt from the hook.  They’ll die in the water or get eaten by another fish, and then we won’t have any dinner.”  He told me that animals were put on the earth for people to eat, and as long as we treated them well while they were alive, then it was okay.

Being the pushover I am, I nodded and returned to my carnivorous ways.  Still, it was only recently that I’ve really been able to bring myself to eat fish again.

I’m still not sure exactly where I stand on eating animals.  I do believe that, in the long run, a vegetarian diet is probably healthier, and that taking meat out of a diet makes it easier to shed pounds and keep energy up.  I watched the documentary Food, Inc. pretty recently and that has made me think hard about the morality of how we get most of our food, and how we treat our animals in order to make them our food (because I am totally that person who would alter their lives based on a documentary, let’s just face it.)  I can’t even really think about the live-animal-to-food process without holding in a wince.

But I made beef tacos for dinner, so I guess you can tell where I stand for now.

A quick shout-out!

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I’m currently working on a new blog post, but I just wanted to take a moment to thank the lovely ladies at HelloGiggles for featuring my very first post from this blog on their website!

As an avid reader of their site (which I talked about here), I’m honored to have my writing posted up next to the writings of some seriously talented, incredibly hilarious ladies.  You can check out my post here, and feel free to, you know, send your friends the link if you like it (shameless, shameless self-promotion.)

Seriously, if you read this, thank you so much.  It means a lot that people would read the words I write, and even more that some actually like them and find them entertaining.  It’s a weird blend of humbling and incredibly ego-propelling at the same time.  Mostly, it’s just happiness-inducing.  Thank you.

866 words on Ikea and American Girl dolls

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Last night I sat in the floor of our new big-kid apartment in the city, half a country away from my friends and family, without furniture or cooking utensils, and I did what a thousand city newcomers and empty apartment dwellers have done: I scoured the Ikea catalog.

I’ve heard about Ikea forever but, being from a small town, I had never had the opportunity to actually visit one.  As I sat with the 400-some-page mini-book of wonder, I turned from wall to wall, trying desperately to imagine what that bookshelf would look like over there, or how I could maximize my closet storage.  Each page contained items that would set my imagination running anew: look how sleek that unpronounceably-named chair is, or how bold would we be with a red couch? How many shades of grey can I put in a room before it becomes monotonous? (Answer: about three.)

Ikea is the compulsive organizer’s crack.  Fight Club makes so much more sense to me now.

It had been a very, very long time since I had leafed through a physical, paper catalog.  Something about turning the pages, about being able to stand with it and run from room to room (literally room to room—we only have two) matching colors, rather than clicking from thumbnails, made the whole experience more exciting.  There was just something about saying “Oh, look at this!” and sliding the book across the bare floor that doesn’t always exist with, “Here!  Can you see this?  Let me enlarge the photo.  Hold on, it’s taking forever to load.  Oh $%*#, my computer froze.”

The whole thing reminded me of when I was a kid and obsessed with the American Girl series.  I read every book with the original group of girls, and when Josefina’s series came out, I gobbled that up too.  I checked books out of the library like mad, and when I could wheedle it out of my mom, I bought them too.  When my parents started talking about moving from our middle-sized city to a small, rural city, I imagined running through fields like colonial Felicity, complete with bonnet and boots.  More than once, I tried to fix my hair in Kirsten’s thick, Princess Leia-like braids.

But Molly, oh, Molly was my girl.

I loved everything about Molly: her glasses (like mine), her hair (not like mine), her not-quite-girly-girl attitude (also like mine.)  I became obsessed with her World War II era, and began imagining what I would do during threats of air raids and foreign bombings.  (This became less like fun and more like dread post-9/11.  Molly always had hot chocolate and stuff, and she wasn’t super concerned with nuclear radiation.)  I wanted to be just like her.  And then, at some point, my mom signed me up to receive the American Girl catalog.  I found out that, while I couldn’t be just like Molly, I could, in fact, own her.

Like a boss.

CHECK the jaunty beret!

The begging began immediately.  I wanted an American Girl doll, and I wanted her badly.  I could flip through the catalog and immediately begin dreaming of how I would dress her up, the furniture I would buy for her, and how much fun we would have.  Oh look, I could get her a dog!  It’s on page 24!  And my heart would melt.  In fact, we could have matching outfits.  I was caught up in the love that only a girl and her hypothetical doll could share (or not share, as it were.)  When my parents made me be—horror of horrors—patient, and didn’t buy me the doll straight away, I sighed wistfully and decided to delve into my quickest means of getting exactly what I wanted: my imagination.

I would like to preface this by saying that I had an incredibly vivid and consuming imagination to an inappropriately advanced age (by that, I mean to this day.)  Always an easily self-occupied kid, I could spend hours playing with my imaginary doll.  I would talk to her and we would have adventures, and at night before bed I would still flip through that catalog, dreaming of the day she would be mine.

Finally, after what I’m sure was a couple of months but felt like eons, my parents got me my very own Molly doll for my birthday.  I don’t know if I’ve ever been happier to get exactly what I wanted for a gift.  I would brush her hair and dress her up, and I would make her furniture out of shoeboxes (because some of that stuff in the catalog was stupid expensive), and we would have many adventures.  I still have her—I opened her box the other day and looked at her stylish outfits, some gifts from my grandparents who are now gone—and she holds that same magic in a nostalgic way.

I’m writing this from the hardwood floor of my new apartment, trapped inside because it’s raining and I’m waiting for the Ikea delivery truck to arrive.  As torturous and pathetic as it was as a kid to play with an imaginary doll, let me tell you what—it’s a lot less fun than that to sit on an imaginary couch.