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Posts Tagged ‘writing’

It’s been many months since I last wrote on Jewtah. I have a good excuse – my Mom died. And while you might now be readjusting your eyes to the subject line, give me this page to explain. I am writing a novel about my mom. She was funny. Then she died. So, now I cannot write a book about my dead mother that isn’t funny. I am in grad school for creative writing as most of you know. If you are just joining us – welcome! If you are a longtime listener, thanks for tuning in again and sorry to have been gone for so long. So to recap: mom funny, writing book about mom, mom dies, starting therapy, creating therapy for myself through the writing, being more honest than ever = death is laughable (at times). Most of us don’t think that death is something to joke about, but some of us (like me) don’t know what else to do. It’s easier to laugh than cry these days.

My graduate advisor just sent me a response to my latest creative work. He appears to be the kind of guy that wouldn’t know how to be compassionate with my feelings, but I’d say he’s the best guy to have in my corner. He adeptly moves between sympathizing with my loss while maintaining a critical eye on the work, giving me keen insight to become a better writer. I found one thing he said in particular to be spot on: “Can we get away with saying that writing about your recently deceased mother is…fun?”

Yes, yes we can. Which is weird, but true. It’s also heartbreaking. Because the person who would appreciate the poking-fun-at-death the most is, you guessed it, my mother. She could flippantly laugh at the worst of moments in her life, but the truth is, she was keenly aware of the pain behind the laughter. She was an empathizer to the max. If one of her children or friends or distant relatives or the person featured on the cover of People Magazine was having a hard time, she would feel their pain. But when it came to her own sorrow, she would laugh, laugh, laugh. Now that she is gone, I realize how much we are the same in that regard. It’s scary when we begin to know we are our parents, when for so long, we tried to separate ourselves, and yet, now knowing I am just-like-her and not being able to tell her we are so alike, is painful in itself.

So, here I am: I have lost my best friend in the whole wide world, laughing is easier than crying, therapy is good, sleeping is difficult and writing has become a magical connection to my inner thoughts. And writing about my dead mother is at times laughable and fun.

Thanks for listening today. Tune in next time when we explore the insane things people say to you while you are grieving (that’s a warning people, leave it be).

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One year ago today, Ben and I were exhausted. It was the day after our wedding and I remember waking up extremely hungover, and trudging my way to our farewell brunch. One year later, I look back on this to be the best year of my life. The Phillies won the World Series (an Altschuler favorite), Obama became our president, I lost my job, I was accepted into graduate school, I officially embarked on a career in writing, I traveled to five countries in Asia over the span of 10 weeks, and most importantly I married my favorite person in the world (click here to see us featured in Utah Bride and Groom magazine). This last year has included major blips in my master plan, but they have turned out to be the best surprises to happen to me yet.Claire in cyclo

I have slacked on my updates of Asia, but I should tell you about our final days in Vietnam. We met up with our Park City friends who have been living and working in Ho Chi Minh City for the past 15 months. They graciously toured us around the city,  showing us the life of an X-Pat, dining at the best restaurants, going for drinks at the chicest bars, shopping at the “real” boutiques and where to land the best bargain. The most exciting part of visiting HCMC (or Saigon as they call the city in ‘Nam) was the cyclo tour.

Make sure to agree upon a price and a few destinations before you head off on your chauffeured cyclo. If you have fears of traffic, this ride is not for you. But if you can brave it, your driver will take you to the grittiest, most interesting parts of Saigon, the real HCMC. We spent almost two hours weaving through the gridlock streets, narrowly escaping the sideswipe of a passing bus. And then it rained, poured, and they wrapped up the cart in rubber sheets, the only hole at eye level. I still managed to get drenched.

We left Vietnam (our favorite SE Asian country) for Siem Reap, Cambodia, a destination we almost skipped, but thankfully we were convinced otherwise by the Four Guys. When we arrived, our $16 a night hotel (Golden Temple Villas) offered a free pick up from the airport. Our Tuk Tuk driver was waiting for us and just when we left the airport, it started to rain, then harder, then the streets flooded and I could only imagine our little motorbike carriage tipping over into the pools of rain. Somehow that didn’t happen, which was a miracle for sure. I guess when everyone told us that it was the rainy season in Asia, they weren’t kidding!

On our first day to see Ankor Wat, a collection of 40 temples spread across 100 km of lush green planes, we hired a Tuk Tuk driver to navigate us to the furthest temple, about 35 km from town. It was nearly deserted and we felt like pioneers discovering ancient ruins for the first time. I have not acquired the vocabulary to describe the majestic quality of Ankor Wat, that is what graduate school will help me to accomplish. I can only tell you that I have seen the Coliseum in Rome and the Great Wall in China and this far surpassed my amazement in what can be accomplished without modern tools and forklifts and cranes. My favorite temple was featured in “Tomb Raider” with Angelina Jolie, and I know why they chose it for the movie setting. The temple was exquisite but the mountainous trees weaving through the stone like over-sized thread were the centerpiece of the dramatics. If you venture to Ankor Wat, I would also suggest renting bicycles, which we did the second day. We biked to the closer temples, which was a fun, easy ride, but the true excitement came from the children waving from nearby villages, and racing Cambodian teenagers on our bicycles and meeting monks and stopping to watch the wild monkeys jump from the trees into the stream below.Meeting monks

Next post (promise it will be sooner than later) is about Thailand. And more to come about teaching in China!

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Disappointment is a part of life. It makes you stronger. Blah, blah – we’ve all heard it before. Unfortunately, it’s true. I did not get into the only graduate program that I applied to, the one which caused me to spend the last few months laboring over writing samples and statements of purpose and studying for the GRE. Obviously, I am disappointed, but more than anything I learned something about myself. I’m not sure if I was always this way, if it’s increased as I grew older, or if it just showed up recently, but when I want something, I go for it 110 percent and I don’t give up. When I found out that I wasn’t accepted into the program that’s available in Utah, I at first felt doomed. What do I do now? I want to go back to school but I choose to live in a state with fewer universities than other areas. Moving isn’t an option.

So I did a little research and I can still work towards my MFA at an accredited university, but it’s accomplished almost entirely through the internet. It’s called a low-residency program and they are available through reputable, cool liberal arts schools. I can write from home and don’t have to move to the state where the university is located. Actually, it mimics the lifestyle of a writer more than traditional programs. I’ll meet twice a year for 10-day meetings and conferences with the professors and other students and then spend the six months in between working on my writing piece. Now the application process begins again!

Last week, when Obama celebrated his 100 days in office, I celebrated my 100 days out of office. Being laid off has truly changed my perspective. I am energized about life and what comes next. I am proud of my accomplishments, even when they have not worked out. I am excited about the adventure that begins in just three days. We will first head to Hong Kong, leaving at 1 pm on Thursday and arriving at 7 pm on Friday. We then fly to Laos, spending almost two weeks biking, hiking, hanging with elephants and tubing down a lazy river with our best friend. He’s the same guy who officiated our wedding. We may even be lucky enough to spend some of that time with a few close friends whose travel plans have overlapped too! After Laos, we’re onto Shanghai, the Paris of the east. My husband and I will be teaching tourism at the university for a month. Then on to Vietnam, Cambodia and Thailand.

Who’s life am I living? It is crazy how I have inadvertently created so many new adventures for myself and it was all because I took a chance and moved out west. I love that! Stay tuned in the next two and a half months for postings on all of our adventures. Thank you to my family and friends who are supporting my ambitions to obtain a graduate degree and write a book (or two or three).

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Too long, I know. I am sorry.

Where have I been? Reading, studying, writing, but mostly savoring this time of scholarly preparation. I have faced a few disappointments, and at the same time, some incredible opportunities have transpired. The GRE – blah! Why invent such a torture device? I took it twice, did okay, but previously had kicked the GRE’s ass on every practice test. So this was a disappointment. But you know what? At least I took it. Some people want to go back to school but fear of the GRE, or GMAT, or LSAT or whatever torture test they encounter makes them run in the other direction. I am not putting that behavior down, I am just saying that it does not hurt that badly to face disappointment, get up and try again. Well, at least I can say this weeks after taking that horrible test!

My faithful followers on http://www.Jewtah.com have been complaining due to the lack of writing. You see, I have been writing, just not sharing, here. I’ve been working on my creative writing sample, which has been thrilling and fun and renewed my passion for why I am subjecting myself to torture tests. I may not test well, but I unequivocally enjoy the art of writing.

I also had to write my SOP: Statement of Purpose. I love that name!! Essentially, it is a pitch about myself. I have pitched many things in my life – cameras, contact lens solution, travel, scanners, sandwiches, mountains, but I have not had to write a promotional piece about myself. I do quite well in interviews and I am a resume connoisseur but this was different. Luckily, I was able to cut down my crazy little life into three pages, succinctly-ish spelling out why the university should take me.

The moral of the story: Life is Wildly Unexpected. Just a few weeks ago, my husband and I were offered a teaching opportunity in Shanghai. The conversation with his advisor went like this:

“Hi, I’m Paula, so nice to meet you finally.”

Advisor: “You too. You work full time, right?”

Paula: “No, actually I was laid off.”

Advisor: “Great!”

I was shocked by her response. She is happy that I lost my job? I mean, I am happy to some extent, but what? She obviously was not happy about me losing my job, she was happy that I could go on this trip and teach. How cool! It fits a million cliches (which I do not buy into) but seriously, weird! Life is wildly unexpected. Go live it!

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