Monday, July 1, 2013

God Made Dirt, So Dirt Don't Hurt

During my first year of life, my dad worked for Mobil Gas. He was part of an exploratory team looking for possible new drilling sites around the world. I think I was about six months old when he made a trip to Nigeria.

Since I was a curious youngin’ I licked the bottom of his shoes as soon as I could get my little hands on them. My parents were both horrified; I don’t know who had the worse case of fear:  my mom, being the overprotective and cautious parent of her first-born, or my dad who knew where those soles had been. My mom called Poison Control who simply instructed to wait it out.

Fast-forward to the Fall of 2009. A pretty serious outbreak of Swine Flu affected the nation. My sister was diagnosed with the virus. I waited anxiously for symptoms of my own to surface since we were very close and spent a lot of time together. Weeks passed and it seemed as though the virus had passed through. To this day, I am convinced that by licking my father’s shoes after their trip to Nigeria, I was able to build up immunities to all kinds of ‘interesting’ diseases, including Swine Flu.

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

How To: Get Me to Do Just About Anything

It was my junior year of high school, and the Regional Solo and Ensemble competition was approaching. My private lesson teacher selected a Saint-Saëns solo for me to follow the previous year’s performance of “Le Cygne,” which granted me the opportunity to go to the state competition.

This piece, Allegro Appassionato, however, was far more challenging and complex than “The Swan.” In my mind, I had mastered the new piece. Though, there was a section about two-thirds through the piece which gave me some difficulty. It required playing two notes at once, on two different strings while shifting positions. I practiced enough that the muscles in my fingers, hand, and wrist knew where to be and when.

I played through Allegro Appassionato for my teacher and felt pretty secure with the performance. My teacher assured me that I had mastered the notes and bowings, but it was missing a key element: emotion. The majority of the piece was playful, a fairly easy emotion to portray, but that tricky section with the double stops hid an under-lying emotion I was not comfortable with: anger.

My teacher looked at me and said, “Erin, I’m sorry, but I don’t think you can do it.” If you know me well, you know that if I am really angry, my first physical reaction is to cry. Tears began to blur my vision. I began to play a few measures before the dreaded section and let my emotions grow and release, matching the notes, rhythms, and dynamics on the page. I finished with three resounding chords. I looked over to my teacher. She smiled, and said, “there you go.”

Saturday, April 27, 2013

You Can’t Plan Happiness

During the summer of 2008, I attended a summer program at Brown University. It took me a few days to adjust to the atmosphere, make friends, and embrace all the freedom I was given. Once everything fell into place, I grew to absolutely love the campus and the city of Providence, Rhode Island.
When I came home, I decided that Brown would be my first choice for my undergraduate education. The application involved approximately three essays. The first essay was rather short, around 250 words, and asked the applicant why Brown was the right choice for him/her. In my opinion, I wrote one of the best pieces I have ever written. I impressed myself by including metaphors and analogies that not only displayed my desire to attend Brown but also were somewhat amusing, which I thought would be a nice relief to the reader after going through thousands of similar essays.
One of the other essays I included was more of a standard essay that I used for multiple college applications. A few days before the deadline, I submitted my application online.
In accordance with my pessimistic quality, I poured over my submitted application only to realize that I submitted an incomplete/unrevised version of the standard essay. I quickly picked up the phone and called the Admissions Office; while holding back tears, I explained my predicament. The staff member told me I could mail a hard copy of the correct version of my essay but he/she could not guarantee that it would be matched up to my application and replace the unfinished version.
Much to my dismay, I learned a few months later that I was not accepted to Brown University. I did not know what to do. My plan had been to attend Brown – I even told an alumnus interviewer for another, rather prestigious, school that I would choose Brown over her alma mater, which I am sure resulted in the placing of my name on that school’s wait-list.
Long story short, a few days before May 1st (the deadline to accept a college’s admission offer) I fell in love with Berkeley and felt confident in my decision to attend its Molecular and Cell Biology program.
In September of my freshman year, I attended a seminar relating to the College of Letters and Sciences’ On the Same Page Program, which was about gene sequencing and the statistics related to certain genes.
During the presentation, I learned about Dr. Urnov, a Berkeley faculty member, who was involved in gene therapy experimentation. I sat up straighter and said to my friend, “I need to meet him.” It took me about a month to muster up the courage to send Dr. Urnov an email, and I was ecstatic that not only did he reply to my email but that he also wanted to meet me.
I met with Dr. Urnov in his office at Sangamo Biosciences (which just so happens to be the original office for Pixar – AWESOME!) and handed him a copy of my resume as well as a copy of the evaluation my teacher at Brown wrote.
He poured over the evaluation and saw the instructor’s signature at the bottom. “You know Donna?” he asked. It took me a minute to realize he was referring to my teacher at Brown who I knew better as Dr. Lizotte and replied, “yes.” He smiled and said they attended graduate school together at Brown. I was in shock.
Dr. Urnov graciously offered to drive me back to the Berkeley campus after our meeting. During the car ride we spoke about Brown and Providence. He mentioned that although he received an excellent education at Brown, he felt that the relatively small town of Providence did not provide an accurate worldview. Then, he looked me in the eye and said, “You made the right choice to attend Cal over Brown.” I smiled. I did not feel it was necessary to share the struggle I experienced in my rejection from Brown. All that mattered was that I had found my place.

Sunday, March 31, 2013

Why I Consider Myself an Honorary Aggie

My grandfather is a class of 1943 Aggie. Yes…WHOOP! I attended my first football game when I was in Kindergarten, and since I diagnosed myself with ‘sensitive ears,’ I sobbed every time the cannon was fired. A&M slaughtered whoever their opponent was.

Fast forward a couple of months and it was Christmas season. I was hoping with my whole being that Santa Claus would bring me a goldfish. I was so happy to wake up Christmas morning to find that my wish had been granted. Goldie floated in a classic round bowl on the coffee table in the living room as my parents carefully guarded him/her? from our Golden Retriever, Belle, who seemed to think this gift was actually for her.

Fast forward a few months more to the summer. My sister had a friend over at the house. Of course Goldie was one of the attractions that had to be shown off. I made sure to supervise this interaction. In case you didn’t know I was INCREDIBLY shy when I was little….like it was debilitating. Anyways, Megan’s guest took great interest in Goldie. She asked if she could feed it, and I granted her permission. The young girl began to dump teaspoon-sized portions of fish food into the bowl to my utter horror. I didn’t know how to stop this madness. Then, to my great shock, she picked Goldie up! I don’t remember exactly what I did. I’m pretty sure I just ran to my mom in tears. About eight hours later Goldie was upside-down at the surface of the water. His/her? stomach was bulging from the excess food.

That night I was supposed to spend the night at my grandparents’s house. When dusk began to fall, and the sorrow of my great loss began to manifest itself within my soul, I began crying and sought solace in my grandfather. He hoisted me up onto his lap and began to tell me a story. It was the story of the first Reveille. I learned that she was just a mutt, but that the young men of A&M adopted her and loved her dearly. I learned what great joy this dog brought to these Aggies. My grandfather then began to tear up as he recounted the end of Reveille’s life and how sad all of his classmates were to lose her. He made a point of telling me that just because she was physically gone, she had made an impression on him, and he was sure this was true of every single other Aggie, and that was what truly mattered. 

Friday, March 15, 2013

On Religion

Wrote this awhile ago - felt like it was appropriate to post with all the stir about a new Pope.

It is difficult for me to maintain and continue to practice the religion in which I was brought up in as a Conservative Reformed Episcopalian because I think if I was born to a different family or grew up in a different area or region of the world, there is a good chance I would be brought up with a different religion; maybe even a religion that contradicts the religion I have grown up with.

I am disgusted by how little people, including me, know about religion in general and specifically the one they practice.

I was confirmed when I was in the third grade. Yes, this was an unusually young age for Confirmation but there were extenuating circumstances. A girl a year older than me asked what church I went to when she learned I was to be confirmed. Then she asked what type of church it was, as in what denomination. Here I was about to be confirmed and I didn't even know what denomination my church belonged to. Yes, I could recite the 10 Commandments and the Nicene Creed, but I was completely unaware of the difference between Catholicism and Protestantism and the many different faiths that fell under the Protestantism category. To continue with this idea of lack of knowledge regarding religion:  During the summer of 2006 I participated in a trip to Spain, France, and Italy as a part of the People to People Student Ambassadors Program, founded by Eisenhower. My delegation was composed of 3 smaller groups:  mine from the DFW area, 1 from Midland, TX, and 1 from either North or South Carolina. Yes, I should learn what discriminates the one state from the other. Anyways, each time we switched hotels, we got a new roomate. My first roomate was from N/S Carolina. We began asking each other questions to get to know one another. She quickly volunteered the information that she was a Baptist. By this time I had come to be a more learned individual since my confirmation, so I was able to confidently tell her that I was a Reformed Episcopalian. My roomate gave me a quizzical look and asked "Is that like being Jewish?" I sighed and began relating the information I knew about Christianity and its denominations. I truly began to question my roomate's intelligence when I made the connection that I had been wearing the sterling silver cross necklace I had bought for myself earlier that year.

Enough about the disappointments I have in society's lack of knowledge. A recent event caused me to come to the conclusion that God has either forgotten or mistaken my name - sort of like when Harry tells Charlotte in Sex and the City that God must have forgotten their address because they were having difficulty adopting a child. The church I have attended since I was born has a group of ladies who knit together prayer shawls for those going through a difficult time and/or illness. Word finally made its way to the head of this organization that I have been dealing with a serious illness for nearly two years. Out of kindness, this elderly woman put together a package for me including a beautiful, blue, hand-made prayer shawl. I smiled when I received the package at home from my mother. Later that night I began to feel sad and lonely so I went to get the prayer shawl, thinking it would comfort me. I lifted the shawl and found a card at the bottom of the bag. It was a standard card with a message stating the shawl's hopeful purpose. At the top of the card, there was a blank space - it was filled in with "Erin Dione." Suddenly my sorrow became anger :  "How could God screw up my name?! Again!" I wasn't calmed down until I woke up my mother and told her the situation. The other time God messed up my name was incidentally when I was confirmed. My priest whispered my name into the Bishop's ear and instead of "Erin Lynn" the Bishop simply heard and repeated "Carolyn." Thus, Carolyn was confirmed as a Conservative Episcopalian. Months later, I shared with my mother the distraught I felt in being confirmed with the wrong name. By this time, the priest I had grown up with in the church had retired, and our church had the privilege of acquiring a Bishop. My mom had become pretty familiar with this new man and brought my trouble to him. He didn't quite know what to do, so he consulted his Archbishop. This resulted in a private Re-Confirmation ceremony of Erin Lynn.

I guess I will simply wait and see what happens next.

Sunday, February 24, 2013

A Magical Moment

            You know those moments when something you have dreamed of manifests itself in front of your eyes? The moment I desired was neither clear nor specific, but I had worked all my life to get to it. For as long as I could remember, I wanted to excel academically and be in the presence of the great scholars who I admired.
            It happened during my short-lived Spring Semester at Berkeley. I was taking a European History class, which delightfully surprised me in how much I enjoyed it.
            One of my most beloved spots on campus is the North Reading Room inside Doe Library. It is everything a students needs to be inspired:  Ornate decorations, gilded crown molding, and abundant natural light. Another feature of this great space is the list of names of significant authors throughout history that borders the walls.
            I had some spare time between classes, so I decided to tackle some assigned reading from The Prince. I looked up from where I was sitting to get a brief break and my eyes caught Machiavelli’s name.
            I smiled. Time seemed to stop. My surroundings became a bit blurry. I got a warm feeling inside. THIS is what I had worked so hard for. THIS moment to immerse myself in great knowledge and meet one of the great scholars of our time.

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

No Valentine For This Ginger

Twenty years now and no real valentine. I’m not complaining. My dad is and always has been my valentine, with the exception of the year I was in Berkeley:  Not going to lie that was kind of disappointing. Anyways, I have always been satisfied with the card and candy or stuffed animal that my dad left for me at the kitchen table.

My Junior year of high school I was working on a charity event after school and my crush of multiple years just so happened to ask me who my valentine was. I kind of sheepishly answered, “my dad.” He burst into chuckles and started telling a buddy of his how funny it was that this girl had her dad as a valentine.

So guys, if you aren’t going to go out of your way to make tomorrow special for a girl, at the very least don’t do something to make this celebration of love any worse for her.

Monday, February 4, 2013

Title Explanation

There have been many questions and controversy surrounding the title I chose for my blog:  “I Lost My Boots In Berkeley.” I first stated that the title is true both literally and figuratively. I quickly learned that this led to many mis-interpretations. So, now that this blog is nearly a month old with almost 300 pageviews (THANK YOU!), I am going to attempt to steer all my readers/followers in the correct direction for interpretation and understanding. Obviously, the literal meaning is that my precious pair of cowboy boots was lost in shipping during the move from Berkeley to back home, in Carrollton. They were special to me because a dear family friend had given them to me after she was no longer able to use them. They were worn in just the right amount:  Not too much, not too little, and they fit pretty well. Plus, they had a history, a story, to accompany them. I was absolutely devastated when I learned that one of the three large boxes my mom and I shipped did not make it to its destination. I felt I had lost who I was mentally, personally, and emotionally, and now that a significant portion of my physical belongings were lost, I didn’t even have material things to use as a crutch. Even more unfortunate was that this box also contained all of my schoolwork and Cal gear, making it almost as if I never completed a semester at Berkeley (relatively successfully) let alone attempted a second semester. In my very confused and distraught mind, my college experience seemed simply like a whispy image, a memory that I couldn’t bring any real manifestation to.

Now to tackle the confusing and controversial figurative meaning of the title. I meant it to come off as losing my mind, my personality, my being, what I had thought made me, me. No, it has nothing to do with the phrase “knocking boots;” and no, I have no intentions of trying to be the next Carrie Bradshaw.

I chose not to listen to those who suggested to change the title because I fell in love with it, and if you know me, you know that if I have my mind, or even more dangerous, heart, set on something, I will do everything in my power to make it happen.

Originally, I wanted to have a title based off of Robert Frost’s poem, “The Road Not Taken” because it was introduced to me by a teacher who had a great significance on my education and who I admire as a person to this day. Well, it turns out that I was far from the first person to want to use Frost’s title for inspiration. Basically every domain related to roads not taken, ironically, had been taken. Then, one day while I wasn’t directly thinking about blog titles, the idea of “I Lost My Boots In Berkeley” came to me, and I was head over heels! (Punny, I know.)

I would like to thank Tess, Keith, Carolyn, and Jean for supporting and sometimes pushing me to start this blog.

I realize it probably would have been more appropriate to share this piece as my first post, but in case you haven’t noticed I am no longer devoted to “doing things the way they are supposed to be done.”

Unnecessary Complexity

I was going through some of the work I did in high school and came across this poem I wrote about poetry for my Sophomore English class. It made me smile, and I hope it brings you a similar reaction.

What makes a poem great?
It has to be confusing and commence debate
Heaven forbid it makes sense
It's entertaining to the author,
At the reader's expense
Who are these authors?
The great ones are on some kind of drug
They don't have any real job; they're nothing but a big lug
A poem does not convey any real thought
Try searching for one and you will end up distraught
If you think about it, poets are conceited
They write about themselves, leaving everyone else cheated
The only benefit I can see
Would be if you want to leave this world for awhile, and just flee

Sunday, January 27, 2013

If I Were Ever to Get a Tattoo…

…It would be a strand of DNA going down my crooked spine. I highly doubt this will ever come into fruition, but you have to admit it is a pretty cool concept. It would be super detailed including proteins and enzymes and all that good stuff. Below is an old image of my spine. It has gotten worse since the time this x-ray was taken, but I gave that newer image to my chiropractor. Feel free to comment if you think it is a crazy good idea or just crazy.

Sunday, January 20, 2013

Maybe Not So Miserable After All...


I saw the movie Les Miserables for the second time today with family. This time I wasn’t so in shock and awe of the fantastic singing, music, costumes, set, etc. This time I really took in the message. There are some people in the world who are suffering so greatly, yet are responsible for so much (a family) that they don’t have the time to even contemplate committing suicide let alone wonder about their philosophical purpose. I am very lucky to have been able to stop working/learning and spend a great deal of time trying to treat and understand my depression. There are too many in the world that bear great sickness yet are not as lucky as me. There are too many people who suffer from diseases that we, in the first world, easily treat and/or prevent. It is not fair for me to dream of a genetically perfect world if it will not be possible for each and every individual. I am extremely grateful to my parents who made it possible for me to study at Berkeley for a semester and a half-ish, but would it really have been fair to spend any more time there, paying out of state tuition when there are so many who do not have access to a basic education let alone able to afford the cost of college. I am grateful for meeting Dr. Urnov and all that he has done and continues to do for me – I would not have met him if I never attended Berkeley.

For years I have dreamed of becoming filthy rich so that I could give the vast majority of my wealth to those in need. There are a couple of splurges I wanted to make for myself with the money (see, not my money):  an ornate library in my house and a flashy sports car for my dad. I know both are ridiculous and unnecessary, but that is how I want to be greedy. From this day on I want to devote my life to those who suffer and have far less hope and support than me.

Saturday, January 19, 2013

A Love Story

I have been in a serious relationship for nearly a decade. My significant other and I were first introduced by a mutual friend. Of course, during the “honey moon” period things were great. Everything was new and exciting. We were learning about each other; we were learning how we interacted best. We fell in love.
After awhile, I realized the relationship was going to take work. I wasn’t sure if I was ready for such a significant commitment. I began to let other people get in the way. They didn’t understand the deep connection we had. It wasn’t relatable – it was special.
After a few years, the relationship became the last on my priority list. Maybe now was the time for something magical to happen.
A friend recommended we take time to sit and work out our problems. Before, we had relied on our natural attraction to each other to get us by. We were told that if we really wanted to make it, we had to have an even stronger bond. One that we chose to forge; one that made us want to be together every second of every day.
As we began working together, I became overwhelmed with emotion and the outside stresses that had created a strain on our relationship. Finally, tears escaped from my eyes.
I wanted to run away and hide. Somehow, the bond between us didn’t let me. Instead we continued to interact. He stood by me as I let loose. It was so relieving because I was able to free myself emotionally and physically.
I stopped paying attention to my surroundings and focused on us. What we had become and what we could be in the future. When I felt there was no more that could be communicated, I gently loosened my bow and lowered the endpin. I delicately placed my cello back into its case.
My cello had become a part of my life. We would be together forever.

Sunday, January 13, 2013

Like Crazy...Good

     Like Crazy is an Indie film made in 2011. No all-star cast, at least no one I recognized (I wrote this before Jennifer Lawrence appeared), not like I’m trying to pretend to be a film critic or anything – I leave that to Hannah M. Anyways, it’s a beautiful love story. What makes it beautiful? you ask. Well, it’s REAL. Nice-looking but not god-like actors, average settings, nothing opulent. It’s like watching a recording of the tale of a friend’s, a peer’s, love story. There are real-life issues:  a long distance relationship, questions of the status of the relationship, should they see other people when they aren’t together? and the time-old question of are we forcing the relationship to work? How much effort are we really supposed to put into the relationship? If it’s meant to be, it will happen, right?

            Then there are the beautiful examples of perfect, meaningful gifts. I include this because people seem to find the whole gift giving process rather difficult. The boy, a furniture designer, gives the girl the first piece of his craftsmanship. It is a beautiful chair on which she sits to do her writing. From the girl to the boy – a beautiful, handmade book documenting their relationship and accompanied by souvenirs/momentos.

            According to Netflix, we (the users of the account who wield a vast spectrum of taste in entertainment) would give it a 3.3 star rating. I, ironically, am giving it a 5 star rating. Take or leave my recommendation, after all I’m just crazy.

Friday, January 11, 2013

Revelations from Family Therapy

Me:  "You know how people are always talking about the endorphins they feel after working out and how they always feel better after exercising?"
My Sister: "Yeah..."
Me:  "I've never felt that."
My Sister:  "Wow your brain is f*ed up."

Me:  "So I was thinking about it and I don't think a human really has a purpose until she has a kid."
My Sister: "So do we need to adopt a 10 year old or something?"

Sunday, January 6, 2013

Lost in Translation

We identify ourselves by where we come from, but when hardly anyone knows where that is, it can be difficult to establish your own identity. In the US, kids are always asked “what are you?” For whites, the expected response is some well-known European country. It is expected that their ancestors, countless generations ago, came from their home country to America to make a better life for their family. It is expected that everyone knows and accepts this response even if they don’t truly appreciate what it means:   the hardship the people experienced, the actual culture, the real lives behind the story.
            The children depicted in the photograph are first generation American-born citizens. They are white. They are from a European country. Yet, it is the late 1960s. This is not an expected response. The family is of Frisian decent. Frisian means from the country of Föhr. The country of Föhr (pronounced “fur”) is a very, very, very small island north of Germany. The children’s parents left Föhr just before World War II to escape the Nazi regime, which was taking root in Germany. They took up residence in New York – swept into the cultural melting pot of America. When you come from a country only 83 km2 in size (to give some perspective:  Rhode Island is over 4,000 km2), you begin to feel like a grain of salt in the vast pot. The parents of the children made a life for themselves along with other families who also came from Föhr and formed their own little community in the Brooklyn area. They knew little to no English but they made a life for themselves.
            After some time all four children were born. Barbara, the only girl was the princess. She was able to get away with a lot and knew it. Norman, the third oldest, was a bit of a troublemaker and liked to have fun. Mark was the baby, what more is there to say? And Eric was the big brother. He took care of everything and everyone. Since his parents were not always familiar with American customs and protocol he was in charge of ensuring that nothing went horribly wrong because of this lack of understanding.
            Eric forged a path for himself to create the life he wanted. He found a way to go to Florida State University to study geochemistry, a strong interest of his, and later went to Yale to complete his Ph.D. in the subject. Many years later he began a family of his own with two daughters. I am lucky enough to be one of those daughters.
            Although I am white (and even have red hair) and my parents have served as a model for my success, I do not come from what is expected. I have grown up not with a grandfather and grandmother but an Opa and Oma (which for a while was Elmo). I eat special gingerbread cookies at Christmas time. I was told to “essen!” at the dinner table. I ate sauerkraut as a child on my own accord. In elementary school I was asked, “where are you from?” I said, “Föhr.”  I got weird looks. I was asked to describe my heritage and other people would determine for me that I was German. It has taken me a great deal of time to realize that it’s not about forcing the entire world to realize that there is a country out there called Föhr but about me realizing that I share a common background with my family, and we have a strong connection that can never be broken. Only my family understands about crazy old Tante Bertha. And that’s the way it’s supposed to be. Identity does not come from looking out but from looking within.