Saturday, December 31, 2011

Auld Lang Syne

I have decided--unflinchingly so--that it is time for a new blog post.  Not because I particularly feel like writing one this new years eve, but because the previous entry depresses me.  Utterly depresses me.  You will undoubtedly be cheerful to learn that I finished grading my student portfolios on time, early even, and was promptly whisked, wait, no, shuttled rather--whisked sounds far to graceful for red eye air travel--to the east coast where I have been enjoying some truly delightful family time and unseasonably warm weather.

I keep conspicuously bracing myself for the cold that never comes.  I trudge around in thick wool socks and bulky infinity scarfs while this 40 degree weather keeps rendering me ridiculous; I look even more the part of the privileged SoCal wimp than I already do.  It's tragic.  But that's not to say that there hasn't been any chilly weather.  We have had one or two minor snow falls since I've been here, one of which was on Christmas eve.  The afternoon light was such a shade of pale golden loveliness that I decided that I absolutely had to walk in it.  So my youngest brother Isaiah and I took a winter stroll along the pond and through the woods by our parents house.

We played in the life guard chair (we're a daring pair, well, Isaiah is anyways):

Isaiah did his best to befriend some geese (alas, they didn't seem too keen on the idea):

This is the certain slant of light that Emily Dickinson wrote about:

Despite some wardrobe malfunctions--the snap on Isaiah's snow pants broke when he was leaping over an icy stream on the way back and they proceeded to sink down to his ankles about every 10 feet--it was a charming outing and my mom made hot chocolate the old fashioned way (on the stove, like she did when I was a child) to warm us up when we arrived home.

There have been many other noteworthy experiences since I've been back in Ithaca and if I wasn't saddled with the fatigue of this cold (courtesy of my typhoid brothers) I would happily prattle on about them.  Perhaps when my vigor is restored, I will revisit these adventures in precise and stirring detail.  For now, I will leave you with some thoughts for the new year.

I have never been a strong advocate--or any kind of advocate at all--for new year's resolutions.  I steadfastly believe in self-betterment but resolutions always seemed so shamefully contrived to me.  But recently, I have been contemplating a lot about the future, more specifically, the thrill and uncertainty that this particular new year ushers in.  This is the first year of my twenty-seven years where I cannot say with certitude where I will be living and what I will be doing this time next year and that is at once inspiring and terrifying.  Yet, for all its precariousness, I do know this, as pitifully corny or trite as this may be: whatever or wherever this new year brings me, I will embrace it with humility and gratitude because I know that it's the love of my family and friends that truly anchors me.  So I raise the cup of kindness to all of you.  Cheers to you and all you have done for me this past year and all these past years.

A Happy (Belated) Christmas and a Merry New Year from the Kozak Family (minus Isaiah who refused to be photographed):

Just kidding that was the test shot that we weren't quite ready for (although Mom and Uncle Henry look good).  Here's the real one:

And from the Kozak-Wilks':

Saturday, December 17, 2011

'Tis the season

Don't be fooled.  In addition to this, I currently have ten portfolios sitting on the couch with me...

Monday, December 12, 2011

A Shining Star Upon the Highest Bough (and other stories from the past two months)

It's usually around this time of year that I begin losing myself in the reverie of snow covered new york landscapes and craving the thrill of lifting the shade on certain winter mornings to the sight of white laced coniferous.  I get particularly nostalgic for these types of scenes whenever I am stressed and sick and, since I have been both recently, I have more sentimental than usual.

In an effort to quell this yearning, I began prematurely listening to Christmas music.  And when I say prematurely, I mean: department-store-donning-Christmas-decor-before-Halloween prematurely.  It started out innocently enough.  The She & Him Christmas album came out right before I took the subject GRE's and since I adore She & Him and since that was a particularly hellish time in my life, I decided to make an exception to my no-christmas-music-before-thanksgiving rule, and played it each morning on my car ride into work.  Of course, it worked much like a gateway drug.  Before I knew it, I was on Christmas crack: I found myself whistling all sorts of Christmas carols, purchasing a bevy of snowflake themed Christmas sweaters--my heart even grew two sizes when Starbucks switched to their holiday cups (yes, yes, I realize that I am an utter consumer whore).

It's no secret that I love Christmas.  I do.  Quite conspicuously.  Just look at my nails.

Moses (luckily) finds this level of unabashed devotion to the holiday season endearing, but I realize that, as with most rabidness, it can be quite alarming.  It's just that Christmas is kind of a big deal in my family.  In fact, the majority of Kozak traditions focus on or around December the 25th.  Every year on Christmas Eve, as I'm sure I've mentioned in previous blogs, we sing carols by candle light.  It's positively charming and corny and everything that Christmas can and should be.  And we are so obsessed with holiday films that, in years past, we've had to make a Christmas movie sign-up sheet to ensure that we all get to watch our holiday favorites (although invariably it never works because someone's either not home or asleep when everyone else wants to watch the movie that that particular someone had signed up for).

In any case, I am thoroughly looking forward to the cheer and muppets and baking and spreadsheets that a Kozak Family Christmas necessarily engenders. Unfortunately, as always seems to be the case, a great deal of work stands in between now and then.  Some of it pleasurable, some of it trite, and most of it entirely and unmitigatedly tedious.  But no matter.  I will continue to fill my gray little Southern Californian mornings with various renditions of "Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas" (while I quietly weep into my dashboard) until I find myself headed eastward.

And for the time being, for interested parties, here are some photo relics or remnants (I'm still not entirely sure which) from the past two month of my unreported adventures:

Moses and I had a Halloween Party at the end of October.  It featured pumpkins, a rather popular leek and bacon dip, spider web decor, and dry ice.  It was, by all accounts, a great success.  And here are the pumpkin cupcakes to prove it:

For Thanksgiving, Moses and I traveled to San Francisco.  We had a grand ole time and the weather was gorgeous.

We even caused a minor traffic jam on a narrow winding road along the coast to get the following shots at sunset:

It was totally worth it.  As was the rather scenic bumper to bumper traffic on the car ride home.

Although I'm not entirely sure that Moses--who was driving--would agree...

And finally, here is the first (but certainly not last) Wilks-Kozak Christmas Tree:

A humble little spruce who I am determined will soon have a poinsettia sister (cousin?) and/or wreath brother soon.

'Tis the season!  More blogging to come soon.

Saturday, October 15, 2011

GRE Fever (and the perils of being a kangaroo)

This might get ever so slightly ranty/preachy/wallowy, so be warned.

My forays into standardized testing have never been what one might characterize as especially "successful."  In fact, more often than not, they are utterly disastrous.  I spend far too long being far too analytical about questions that should really be simple and straight forward.

Case in point,

Bob is Tommy's Dad; therefore, Bob is:

a. male

b. female

c. a tooth brush

Chances are, if confronted by such a question on a standardize test, instead of judiciously selecting (duh), a. male, I will begin by contemplating the meaning of gender and the nature of language as an arbitrary system of signs and symbols.  I'm not kidding.  I will actually start thinking about these insipid multiple choice answers philosophically.  As a result, I will in all likelihood end up selecting, c. tooth brush, with a whole beautiful mind-esque collage of notes and scraps of underlined passages from Heidegger explicating my reasoning.  It's a problem.

Initially, I thought my largest issue with standardized testing was boredom.  When taking my PSATs and SATs in high school, I, being an intrinsically irresponsible waltzing-to-my-own tune-free-spirit, found myself circling random answers in an effort to stave off the ennui and inevitable hunger pains (who takes a test before lunch, honesty!).  It was all so dumb and tedious and I just wanted it to be over with--I just wanted to curl up with my tattered copy of Jane Eyre and a hot dog and forget the whole thing ever happened.  It wasn't until years later when I actually tried to do well on the GRE's, and found that I couldn't, that I realized this type of timed thinking/reading/inquiry really wasn't a talent of mine.

And I'm okay with that.  Emily Dickinson once described herself in a letter as "the only Kangaroo among the beauty" and that's me.  I'm the kangaroo--a peculiar, random, at times imprudent, and often unconventional creature.  I will always be an odd choice as the subject for a poem.  But it is precisely my strange kangaroo nature, with my unusual kangaroo way of thinking, that makes me such a good literary critic.  I rarely, if ever, read the same text and come to the same exact conclusion about it as everyone else.  And I really value that about myself.

Well, most of the time, anyway.

I must confess, it's sometimes hard not feel defeated when I study my little tail off for one of these exams and still earn poor to mediocre scores. 

My most recent adventure in standardized testing was taking the GRE subject test in English literature, which I was convinced that after passing the comprehensive exam for my graduate program (with flying colors), would be a cinch.  I was wrong.

I took one practice test and did abysmally.

So I reviewed more and studied harder and took another.  Still, no change.

Before we proceed any further, dear reader, it's vital that you understand the sheer broadness/difficulty of this test; otherwise, what I am about to relate will be totally lost on you.  This particular subject test requires you to know EVERYTHINGEVER about literature and expects you to not only retain absurd amounts of literary trivia but also to read complex passages and answer questions in response to them all in less than a minute a piece; that is, if you want to finish all 230 questions in 175 minutes.  Don't go too fast or you'll mess up.  But don't go too slow or you will run out of time.

In short, it's an impossible feat for me: the slow (very unkangaroo-like in this respect), obsessive, methodical scholar that I am.

To appreciate how much effort I put into preparing and studying for this exam in order to do well, I have provided some visual aids.

Exhibit A:

My stack of literary terms

Exhibit B:

My stack of authors and author's works.  Arranged in chronological order.

Exhibit C:

More notes of more authors with more information about their works and contributions (this is double sided)

And it did absolutely no good.  I would have been equally prepared to take the test, had I gone into it cold.  There was positively nothing, for example, on the Victorian essayists even though they dominated the practice tests that I took which in turn led me to spend so much expletive time learning how to differentiate between them.

I'm hoping that I did better than I think I did.  I'm hoping that my scores won't cause me to be filtered out of programs that I want to potentially get into.  I'm even (secretly) hoping that God will intervene and change all my incorrect answers into correct ones (the same hope my father had after he turned in tests during college).  I am hoping and hoping and hoping.  For lots of things.

And Moses, in his infinite wisdom says, "Wendy, you can't be amazing at everything."

And he's right (as usual) but I want to be.  And I want to not feel stupid and alienated after finishing these tests.  And I would prefer not to have to spend $160 to be reminded of just how particularly inept I am at solving these simple riddles that I myself embroider with complexity.  Bad kangaroo.  Bad.

Well, in happier news, it's fall.  Not that that means very much in California.  But I find my thoughts tenderly turned eastward to the brilliant hues of home that this season brings.

So I leave you with one of my favorite fall pictures (of our pond and the beavers' dam) taken by one of my favorite people (my brother Scott):

Happy Autumn.

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Everyone should have a Moses.

Today has been an absurdly long day of conferencing with students and lecturing on semiotics--relying on little else than coffee for sustenance.  It was preceded by an even longer and more arduous day of pacing around my apartment and muttering to myself for no fewer than twelve hours to compose two measly paragraphs of my peculiar uni-bomber-esque manifesto (referred to affectionately by academics as a statement of purpose).  Which, I might add, eventually needs to be three single spaced pages.

It already feels like it's been a long week and it's only Monday.


And here's the best part.

I returned home to find that Moses had cleaned AND vacuumed AND rearranged the furniture (like we had been planning).

It was glorious.  I almost cried.

He's the absolute greatest.

Yes, you are.

Monday, September 19, 2011

Beer, Baseball, and Birthdays

There hasn't been much to report recently.  Life has been decidedly dull.  I spend my mornings leisurely sipping coffee and entertaining the idea of work, before realizing that I am late.  My afternoons are busied with babies and teaching.  And in the evenings, I sit with Moses on the sofa and lesson plan while listening to the pleasantly innocuous murmur of Law and Order SVU.  It's quite splendid, actually.  A fine existence.  But not blog worthy.
And for a good week or so, I succumbed to the quiet panic that my dear little Adventures would become a mommy blog.  Not that I am a mommy or have anything particularly against mommy blogs but, for the better part of September, the most fascinating things that were happening to me, were all things that were happening to and with Kate’s baby Jake, while I was watching him.  And as much I will, I am sure, someday glory in narrating how my baby is advancing developmentally, that day is not today.  Also, I do not want to steal Kate’s thunder—since the baby is pretty much all she has going on right now (insert winking emoticon here).

But FINALLY this weekend, after getting our “adventure car”—as Moses so adorably refers to it—back from the body shop (where it underwent reconstructive surgery for nearly 18 days), we broke from our sitting-on-the-couch-watching-movies-in-our-pjs-all-day pattern and went out and had us some adventures.

On Saturday, Moses and I traveled to Pomona California to visit the LA county fair.  It was something that Moses and I had been talking about doing essentially for an entire month, but that is neither here nor there.  What matters, is that we eventually did it and it was tremendous fun.

I can’t say as though either Moses or myself are particularly fair-going people—I would perhaps classify us more as festival frequenters (there is a difference, yes?)—but, I went primarily for the food and Moses went primarily to make me happy, so we had a grand ole time.

We munched on a ½ lbs(!) hot dog and drank some truly spectacular $9 Pacificos beer.

We visited a surprisingly dangerous petting zoo.

Saw some modern art horse statues (which was part of a larger socialist piece?).

Poked fun at the hideous tribute to freedom.

If I were freedom, I would be terrified.

I ate a snow cone the size of my face.

Hung out with Smokey the Bear, as one of his forest critter friends.

Laughed at the unfortunately suggestive name of a lemonade stand.

Had a fun round of bumper cars (where I, at one point while driving, felt with my foot for a break…oh, delightfully inhibiting responsibility…)

Rode an absurdly un-scary haunted house ride that was not even remotely photo worthy.  In fact, I think that the haunted house that my parents made in our basement one Halloween was more terrifying than this.

I got excited by the promise of a pony ride, only to discover that you couldn’t be over 80 lbs (so 2/3 of me could have ridden).  But, don’t worry, I didn’t cry…too much.

Overall, we had ourselves a mightily good day.

And on Sunday, we went to Dodgers Stadium for a little baseball, beer, and, naturally, more hot dogs.

As you can see, we had some truly excellent seats...

It was randomly and somewhat bizarrely Hello Kitty themed...   

Which I liked.   


It was a truly enjoyable (and exhausting) weekend.

And today, is one of my absolute favorite people’s birthday.

This guy. My brother Scott.  

HAPPY BIRTHDAY SCOTT!  You are such a great brother and such an extraordinary person.  I’m so proud to be your older sister and I’m sorry for all those times I said I’d play with you when we were younger and then forgot…

And thanks for not only being my brother, but being one of my best and truest friends.  I love you and miss you!  Wish I could be there to buy a $16 beer…