Wednesday, July 27, 2011

To Whom It May Concern:

Dear Sister,

I am excited to contact you regarding the program assistant position-- oh. Wait. What's that you say? This isn't a cover letter? I'm sorry, I think I may have forgotten how to write anything else since it is all I've done for the past four months. Seriously, you should see the "Resumes and Cover Letter" folder on my desk top. I'm surprised it hasn't overflowed (overflown?) yet.

Sadly, I don't have much to report. The job is not going partcularly well, as you can tell by the eight thousand cover letters I've written. Actually, the hunt is going fine, its the actual getting a job that's not going so well. Or at all, really. And everyone seems to have jumped shipped and headed to the beach for the summer, so the job I do have is also not going so fantastically. It's pretty hard to make money waitressing when no one is in the city. Or when it's too hot too leave your AC even for ten minutes to walk to a restaurant.

In case you were wondering, though, so far summer in Boston does beat NYC. Sure, I got an AC earlier this year which could affect my preference, but I don't actually get to spend all that much time in my room. It just seems like Boston doesn't absorb the heat quite the way NYC does, so it actually cools off at night. The T doesn't get as sauna-like as the subway, there is a breeze that doesn't get blocked by the buildings, there are sprinklers in the parks for little kids (and maybe, possibly, me too) and the beach isn't nearly as far away. Although, to be honest, I've barely been this year. (Just more proof that being a grown up is over rated. So over rated.)

And last but not least...I can actually run outside. Most of the time. As long as its not a heat wave.

Which reminds me, that is why I got up early in the first place. (Early being 8am, which I think counts when you work until midnight or 1am on a regular basis.) Let's be clear, though. I got up early to run because I have to go baby sit the coolest two year old in town (I'd post pictures if that wasn't a violation of his privacy so you'll have to take my word for it) and then go straight to work.

Thank you for your time and atten- oh, right. NOT a cover letter.


Your in-cover-writing-hell-please-get-me-out! sister

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

open letter to adulthood

Dear sister,

As you know, these past few weeks have been pretty hard. The odd thing is that the pain and drama of my own day-to-day is now largely in the immediate past (thank goodness). What has hit me so hard this month is the pain of some of my closest friends who themselves are fine, but worry and grieve for their own loved ones. In the concentric circle diagram of my life, the central dot (me) is (finally) doing well, but the next few layers pulse with the pain of lived, and living, life.

On the phone with L the other day, we were thinking aloud about we feel a longing for childhood. Was the pain of the world less real to us then? Was it farther away? Or was it simply that, knowing less people, we therefore knew a relatively smaller amount of pain? As the circle of my world grows, the concentric layers of my relationships grow thicker. In times like these past few weeks have brought, it is hard to remember that adulthood promises to bring increased joy along with the increase of pain.

Dear adulthood,

I'm not so sure about you, these past few weeks. The father of a close friend beats cancer and then, three weeks later, dies of lung failure. Another close friend finishes grad school and moves across the country to be with her boyfriend and, one week later, he is hospitalized and fighting for his life. Another friend's elderly mother is dying. Someone else is in the hospital for surgery. And on. And on.

I know there are silver linings in all that has happened. That the father could have died last fall but lived to put his affairs in order, see his children come home, and arrange his goodbyes. That the diagnosis could have come while she was still living on the East Coast, unable to be at his side. That illness comes in the summer, when teachers are on vacation. That we have each other to lean on. That we still have laughter, light, and love to keep us going. That we know that this, too, shall pass.

But underneath all this turmoil I still have to deal with the mundane necessities of adulthood - finding an apartment, completing health insurance paperwork, worrying about rent and utilities and year-long leases with no job security, watching my parents grow old and even older, watching my friends get married and start families while I remain alone. I can handle all this, I know, for the joys of adulthood far outweigh the pains. After all, I willingly gave up the security of my parent's roof over my head and their food on the table, the relative ease of the daily high school routine, the freedom of the summer months and the luxury of regular week-long vacations.

It's just that I thought - nay, was promised - that the skin breakouts would go away as well.

It really seems like I shouldn't have to deal with that anymore.


I'm relying on routine and work to get me through the day, and the beauty of life and the love of friendship to get me through the week. Some days I look for creative things, to put something together in the face of all that has fallen apart. Decorations for Rolo's wedding. Cookies to send in care packages. Fresh bread. And some days I aim for the destructive, to feel some sense of order and control in all the unstable insecurity of the real world. Weeding becomes cathartic. Kneading becomes a release. Cleaning offers healing.

And when I am too tired to keep my eyes open anymore, I am finally able to get some sleep.

Much love,
your sister

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

open letter to the people who ride horses down Emery Lane

Dear sister,

I've been thinking about you all day, because it's been 95 degrees up here - in the shade - and when it's hot enough up here that the brothers call off work for the day, well ... it must be bloody unbearable in the city. I hope you haven't melted away on me. Even with the sun down it's still too hot to do much else but sit in front of a fan and read, so I'll make this one quick:

Dear Horse-Riders,

I understand that Emery Lane is picturesque, quiet, and well-shaded. And that it links up to Maudsley State Park, so we're bound to get some foot (and hoof) traffic from those paths. And that it is, technically, a town road, even though the monastery is the only thing on it. So all that put together, I do admit that you have every right to take your horses out for a nice trot at the end of the day.

You know, it's actually even sort of picturesque for us, to be sitting at supper and hear the clomp-clomp of horse hoofs. It adds to the slow-life mentality and the late 1800s countryside idyll of this place. (Though when we look out and see you on your cell phone as you ride by, that does kind of kill the illusion just a tad.)

You're not alone, anyway. Plenty of people go by during the day - cyclists and runners, dog-walkers and tourists taking photos, and once those adorable pre-teens who were trying to out-dare each other by taking their skateboards down our (admittedly not very steep) hill.

The thing is, and I'm not saying anything, but all I'm saying is, none of those sets of people leave enormous piles of horse dung in the middle of our otherwise calm and peaceful lane.


So yeah. I'm going to bed now. I hope you are too.

your sister

Friday, July 8, 2011

open letter to the gender police

Dear sister,

Part of my daily chores - a part I quite like, I must confess - is helping Br James to care for the chickens. We have 13 "layers" -- I put that in quotation marks because, though they are all purported to be laying hens, we are finding a suspiciously small enough number of eggs per day to make one believe that not all of the hens are pulling their own weight in the coop, so to speak. (Or that they are laying eggs where we cannot find them, but given the hens' proclivity to eating all the grass in their pen faster than we can move said pen around the field, this does seem unlikely.)

To replace our insufficient layers, we have 30 new hens, almost fully grown now, and separated from the adult hens for their own safety and our own ease in caring for them. Did I say 30 hens? I'm sorry. I meant 29 hens, and one emerging rooster.

Earlier in the month we began noticing strange, not-quite-clucking noises coming from the pen of new hens, but it took a few weeks - and a few increasingly confident, courageous attempts at crowing - for Br James to sigh, shake his head, and admit that one of our 30 to-be-laying hens was not, well, going to be doing any laying in terms of producing eggs. (Get the double entendre there?)

Actually, this was good news. Roosters will not only keep the hens from pecking at each other (a probable reason behind our current slim laying production) but also help protect their flock from intruders and invaders. In fact, that's how last year's rooster was killed - defending the flock against an incoming hawk. (The hawk didn't take any hens, but the rooster didn't live through his wounds. He ended up as soup.)

The problem has been determining which of our thirty new additions is the rooster. We hear him all the time now - at 5am as the sun rises, after breakfast when the dog makes his first rounds in the fields, whenever anything that smells un-chicken-like gets too close or sounds too noisy because really, this rooster seems to so enjoy his developing voice that he'll crow at anything, at any time -- except when we're watching.

We've tried various tricks, usually involving either me or Br James standing by the coop making all manner of animal noises, crows and clucks and cackles and even howls and barks. To no avail. We've mentally tagged the one we suspect - the largest one, with the most pronounced tail feathers - and have been waiting for any display of aggressive behavior, or hormonal attraction to his fellow coopmates. Nothing. Until today, that is, when Br James happened to wander close enough, and quietly enough, to catch him in the act. And that is what leads me to today's open letter, an apology which will, as I've gone on long enough up here, be as short as I can make it.

Dear Gender Police,

On the slim chance that you are as concerned with the gender politics of barnyard fowl as you are of the humans who care for them, please accept my apologies for the extreme and austere gender normative assumptions that we made in attempting to identify our rogue rooster. We were wrong to use overall size, development of tail feathers, and coloring of neck and gobble to divide between the sexes. That chicken appears to be, in fact, a hen.


The question remains, of course, which of the three look-a-like red chickens is the rooster. Br James saw one of them crowing, but which was it?

("Saw" is a relative term, of course. It's not like they have lips or anything. You just have to wait for one to open its beak slightly more than the others, and then you can isolate the noise-maker from the crowd. Which is why it took us so long to finally figure out.)

your chicken-feeding, rooster-watching, grain-dispensing sister

Thursday, July 7, 2011

open letter to the sun

Dear sister,

You know, I'm a careful person. I pay my bills on time each month. I always wear my seat belt when I'm in a car. I don't sleep with my hand touching the wall so that a spider can't be crawling up the wall and accidentally use my arm as a bridge to my face. Normal stuff like that.

And I wear sunscreen. SPF-55, in fact, which is about SPF-30 of an overkill for people with our skin type. Mom bought it "by accident" (not sure what she meant by that - it fell into her cart and she didn't realize until she got it home, maybe) and so I've been using it. Very carefully. Every day when I'm in the gardens between the hours of 12pm and 5pm. I even wear a hat to protect my face and give a little extra shading to my shoulders.

You know what happened today? Here, I'll tell you.

Dear Sun,

That. Was. Not. Very. Nice. I'm only human, after all. I've been so appreciative of your presence, loving the warmth you provide, never once complaining about the sweat you cause me to produce nor the hour I spend each morning watering the garden because your persistent appearance quickly dries out the morning's dew. I am not one of the ones who hides inside the kitchen with its dark, cool floor and air conditioner and endless glasses of ice water. No, no. I'm out there every day in you, weeding and mowing and sweating and sweating and sweating and every so often, pausing to enjoy your summery, sunny presence.

So it was NOT very nice to go and give me a bright, painful sunburn on the one place I forgot to put sunscreen. That tiny two inch sliver of my back that peeks out between where my skirt ends and my shirt begins? The one that only shows up when I bend over to weed the garden? The one I sleep on, hit against the back of the chair when I sit down, and can't avoid putting directly under the stream of the shower's water pressure? Seriously. You could have left it alone.

But thanks for making the flowers grow so nicely, I guess.


So, yeah. I think we should add "remembers to put sunscreen on our back" to the list of qualities our future boyfriends need to possess.

your slightly-pained, definitely-red-but-only-in-one-awkward-stripe-oh-well-no-one-will-see-it-at-least sister

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

open letter to the earwig in my bed

Dear sister,

I like to dry my laundry on the line. It's not because I actually believe that the energy savings could somehow make a difference on the overall global effect (but sh, don't tell Grandma about that). I just like it. It makes me feel crisp and clean. And I like the way it looks when I have several pairs of bloomers hanging in a row. (Hehe.)

The one thing I don't like is when I accidentally bring bugs in with my laundry, and then they are in my clothes. Or worse - my bed. Now, the truth is, I spend a good enough portion of my day out in the fields so, in all reality, most of the bugs (and spiders) (and beetles) (and everything else) in my cabin are coming in on my clothing. (I shower a lot these days.) So it's much more likely that any bug in my bed got there via me, and not because I hung my sheets on the line several days ago.

It's not enough to make me stop hanging my laundry out to dry, but it is enough to make me consider writing a strongly worded letter. And so, another open letter is born.

Dear the earwig,

I know it looks spacious, but this bed is just not big enough for the two of us. I'm sorry. It's not you, it's just ... no, yeah, it's you.

the giant fleshy creature who selfishly wants the bed (and its clean sheets) all to herself

As a side note, in case you were wondering, though I'm sure you weren't, I dry my towels and my underwear in the dryer. The former because I like fluffy towels and the latter because, well, I live at a monastery.

your sister

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

open letters

Dear sister,

There was a vlogbrothers video, a while ago, in which one of the brothers read aloud a series of open letters he had written to various people, and things, in his life. It made me laugh.

Lately I've been thinking of the open letters that I would like to write. Today, while weeding, I wrote a few in my head, and then I laughed at them, and then I thought ... hey, Ella would probably laugh at these too. So, here you go.

Open letter to the 12 million and ten (approx) alfalfa plants I pulled out of the strawberry patch today:

Dear Alfalfa plants,

It's not that I don't like the way you grow up so straight and tall, or the way you roll in gentle waves as the wind passes over you. I don't even mind the seed pods you've grown ever so carefully, and abundantly, and which you so freely share with the world whenever anything wanders, or blows, your way. And I'm sure that I would greatly appreciate the satisfying crunch of your grains in my mouth, if I were a horse.

But the thing is, I'm not. We don't actually have one, either, and, try as I might, the dog is not interested in eating your seeds. (He prefers dandylions.) And the other thing is, you're growing in the strawberry patch. And you're scattering your seeds all over the place. So, it's nothing personal, but you had to go.

I bet you're sorry about this, but trust me - not as sorry as I am.

Best wishes,

Open letter to my back:

Dear my back,

I'm so sorry about today. Let's get a good night's sleep and talk about this again in the morning. Ok?


I've got some more coming, but don't hold your breath too eagerly, because, well, my back hurts and I'm going to lie down.

your I-weed-like-it's-my-job-oh-wait-it-is-right-now sister