Friday, December 25, 2009


Merry Christmas!!!

Today at the mall, doing my traditional Christmas Eve shopping and people-watching, a few things, as every year, caught my eye:

1) The number of adults leaning precariously over the railing to catch a glimpse of Santa on the floor below.
2) The men - props to you - sitting and waiting on the benches outside a store. Only one asleep, a few teens, many holding bags.
3) The men - the few, the brave - holding women's clothing items up to their own body in front of a mirror to figure out if the significant (female) other will like it.
4) The scarcity of Santa hats (one).
5) The beauty of a smile and a "Merry Christmas!"

Much as we like to pretend otherwise, there's a lot to be said for the small child in each of us who wants to giggle and finds it hard to go to sleep tonight...

Merry Christmas!

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Christmas Rhyme and Strain and Song

Christmas Rhyme and Strain and Song

Morning - red, and green, and white
Morning - peace: try not to fight
Morning - music; seek the light

Daylight - gifts of second fear
Daylight - lonely rush of tears
Daylight - (distant) God is near

Evening - fire is glowing warm
Evening - sit close; watch the storm
Evening - pressure to perform

Starlight - bright, the first new flame
Starlight - darkness hides the shame
Starlight - promise: freed from blame.

Midnight - day is getting late
Midnight - expectation/hate
Midnight - ill-content to wait

Christmas - fear to laugh or mourn
Christmas - digging out the thorn
Christmas - seeds of hope still born.

Friday, December 18, 2009

The Twelve Days of Finals

In celebration of finishing the first semester of grad school, and in proper holiday spirits, I am proud to bring to you, for the first time in the history of this blog (wow, that sounded very pompous, didn't it?)...The Twelve Days of Finals (to be sung appropriately).


The Twelve Days of Finals OR The Twelve Final Days

1. The last week of classes, I saw a long, long road
To freedom from Tribble Hall

2. The last Tuesday classes, an abstract due at ten
Write quickly now
Toward freedom from Tribble Hall

3. The last Wednesday classes, I saw the break ahead
Course evals
Write a little more
And then freedom from Tribble Hall.

On the penult day of classes, I had a paper due,
Send it on Blackboard,
Course evals
Write a little more
And freedom from Tribble Hall.

5. On the last day of classes, I thought my time was free
It's getting cold
Bluff a Latin quiz
Course evals
Write a little more
And then freedom from Tribble Hall. (right)

6. On the first day of reading, I saw the light ahead
Papers keep coming
It's getting cold
Gripe about the work
Find more books
Write a little more
Only six hours in Tribble Hall.

7. On the second day of reading, a Latin test ahead
-bo, -bis, -bit, -bimus
Papers keep coming
It's getting cold
Gripe about the work
Find more books
Write a little more
And eight hours in Tribble Hall.

8. On the first day of finals, three papers loom ahead
Conjugate "esse"
Time to check Facebook
Save every minute
It's getting cold
Gripe about the work
Find more books
Write a little more
Elev'n hours in Tribble Hall.

9. On the second day of finals, the caffeine level's high
Three papers queuing
Free food at midnight
Time to check Facebook
Save every minute
It's getting cold
Gripe about the work
Find more books
Write a little more
And twelve hours in Tribble Hall.

10. On the third day of finals, I felt the panic grow
Don't lose your outline
Three papers looming
Free food at midnight
Time to check Facebook
Save every minute
It's getting cold
Gripe about the work
Find more books
Write a little more
Thirteen hours in Tribble Hall.

11. On the fourth day of finals, no more excuses now
Panic at midnight
Don't lose your outline
Three paper deadlines
Free food at midnight
Time to check Facebook
Save every minute
It's getting cold
Gripe about the work
Find more books
Write a little more
Fifteen hours in Tribble Hall.

12. On the fifth day of finals, the end of all has come
Double the coffee
Panic all morning
Back up your finals
Three paper deadlines
Eight hours of writing
No time for Facebook
Save every minute
It's getting cold
Gripe about the work
Write last words
Let the papers go
And then freeeeedom from Triiiiibble Hall.

Merry Christmas in 7 Days!!!!

Saturday, December 12, 2009


C'est fini
Finitus est
I'm done.

Take that, first-semester-of-grad school.

I will now collapse for a week.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Ode to Room 201

After having spent no less than 8 hours a day on campus since Saturday and NO LESS than twelve hours a day on campus since Monday, this is the response of a brain in desperation.

With no further ado, please forgive my Ode to Room 201, where I have spent most of those hours.


Ode to Room 201

O Room with glued-on faux antique wood door,
a throne for ev'ry king and ev'ry queen
as long as there are only two of each--no more,
lest like Twelve Angry Men you stage a scene
with seven angry grads who fight for sway
of velvet plush that squeaks a regal tune.
Your promised hidden panels soon exhaust,
O room of caffeine flowing night and day,
where books like sphinxes claim a costly boon,
and mind-spent students scream that all is lost.


Yes, Wake Forest, you have brought me to this.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

10 days...

...until freedom.

Lots of paper-writing between now and then. Not a good time for getting sick.

Somebody tell my germs that...


Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Turkey in a Clean House

Shh... don't look now, but my house is clean. Don't blink - it might disappear if you do.

You know you're turning into a grown-up when what excites you about Thanksgiving break is the chance to clean the house. It's really kind of sad, but I spent most of the day doing just that, and reveling in NOT doing work that required my brain to be functional.

But I'm excited about more than that: Christmas music becomes permissible in TWO DAYS!!! Sorry if you missed the memo (the stores definitely have), but playing Christmas music before Thanksgiving is a dreadful holiday faux pas.

In other news, the Christmas tree stands are beginning to pop up around town, and unfortunately, so are the crazy shoppers and tense, frustrated faces in line. It's kind of sad how quickly it starts. You'd think Joy to the World (which I didn't hear because I was good and blocked my ears to avoid breaking that all-important holiday rule about not listening to Christmas music before Thanksgiving) would override the fear that someone else might get the last box of New Moon Jell-O with the free Jacob's...face temporary tattoo.

Guess that's a bit much to ask. That tattoo will be worth a lot on Ebay. Someday.

But in the meantime, I want to take a minute to list off some of the things I'm thankful for this year...
  • Food, warm houses, friends and family;
  • Turkey. And cranberry sauce;
  • The end of David Lynch movies, for me at least;
  • The mere 53 pages of writing standing between me and the end of the semester;
  • The fact of being alive at the almost-end of the semester; and,
  • Grace to cover my sarcasm, crankiness, and general obsession with me-ness.
Safe travels, happy eating-and-shopping-in-maddeningly-long-lines-at-five-a.m., and see you on the other side!!

Monday, November 23, 2009

First Semester of Grad School... three pictures or less. As expressed by LOLcats...


funny pictures of cats with captions

funny pictures of cats with captions

funny pictures of cats with captions

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Be Like an Unwelcome Guest

Dear Thanksgiving Break,
and Christmas soon after:
please be like an unwelcome guest.

Come early, leave late,
leave your keys on the sink,
and stand talking beside the door.

Bring unhealthy food;
wear garish red sweaters;
monopolize conversation.

Thanksgiving, Christmas:
Just one thing, please promise:
Don't cancel at the last minute.

That's all.

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Life in 10 seconds

I have officially become a scholarwuss. I can't even carry a hay bale 100 yards without breaking a sweat. Or carry 4 water buckets without spilling. Sheesh.

Happy Saturday.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

But Then...

Sometimes, I am just incredibly grateful for the ability to laugh.

Today was one of those days. After two weeks of increasing stress, I hit writer's block this week, with a paper due tomorrow (about torture and the literary) among other monsters. Nothing. I mean nothing. Commence mini-breakdown.

But then...

I'm grateful for a couple friends who pulled me out of my own head, kept me company working, and listened to me grumble. There's something purgative about calling your work what it is, especially when it's just plain bad.

I'm grateful for finally being able to put words on paper that, bad writing as it is, can pass for a paper when the deadline rolls around.

I'm grateful for Jim Brickman sheet music and a piano I could play (after trying for two weeks to find one where no one was studying) without an audience, except a very nice security guard - even if that requires it to be midnight on the worst weather day in a long time.

And I'm grateful I fell on my backside in the mud AFTER the other two events, so that I was significantly lighter-hearted and didn't waste the opportunity for a good laugh at myself.

Sometimes, that's enough.

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Life in 10 seconds

...because that's about all I have right now.

At least one paper per week between now and mid-December. Currently reading Hardy's Jude the Obscure - like it - Lynch's Catching the Big Fish, Camus's "Myth of Sisyphus," and Kincaid's Autobiography of My Mother.

Seems like a lot of my reading material lately is about meaningless. Camus opens by saying that life is absurd, and if people were consistent, we would all commit suicide. The rest of the essay is his attempt to figure out why he doesn't want to, life's absurdity being a given. Happy stuff, this.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Extreme Makeover, Grad Student Edition

I never thought I would go to graduate school to get a fashion makeover. I came here to study, right?


Introducing the newest breakout hit in reality television, Extreme Makeover: Graduate Student Edition. Although lacking in "move that bus" lachrymal drama and Stacy's erstwhile pointy-toed heels, this show will revolutionize the way graduate students throw on a sweater vest.

It certainly has for me.

The semester is more than half over, and the graduate school machine has already worked its magic in my daily wardrobe.

See for yourself.

That watch you're wearing? It is so totally yesterday. Obsolete. I mean it. For shame. When you leave a class, or a job, or an appointment, that means it's time to be at the next one! Life does not fit itself into 24 hours anymore. Get used to it. Embrace it. Ditch the timepiece.

Slender computer shoulder bag? Whoa, stop right there. How many books can you fit in that thing? Two? Three? What are you thinking!!! The first cardinal rule of grad school apparel is that if it fits on your bookshelf, it must fit in your book bag. This season, we're seeing a reemergence of the traditional pack, with significant increases in the swiss army backpack, although some avant-garde grads are already moving toward the frame pack. Slight difficulties with fitting up the stairs in the library have temporarily hindered the progression of this trend.

Cute shoes? Hold it just a second: 13 x 3. I would tell you to do the math except that you're studying the Humanities. Count them: 39 stairs, and that's just to get to your study carrel. If you want to come back down (not that you would), that's another 39 right there. It's time to put your feet first for a change.

Ponytails, buns, and other up-do's? I can't believe we're even having this conversation. When was the last time you slept on a pillow made of tennis balls and needles? So why would you want to inhibit your ability to fall asleep in any chair, anywhere by creating a tennis ball and/or mat of bobby pins on the back of your head? Keep it simple, ladies. Keep it simple.

And finally, the second cardinal rule of gradual school apparel: any clothing that can substitute for pajamas is a no-brainer. Unless, of course, you're still wearing the outfit after you fell asleep in the library last night while trying to write a paper...

There is a limit to everything.

Now go forth and conquer the world of fashion.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

10 Things You Learn...

10 Things You Learn After Spending 26 Hours on Campus Over a Two-Day Period

10. Candy corn will probably be made an illegal stimulant at some point in the near future.

9. Trying to translate one's Latin sentences into Elvish instead of English is a good indication that one should go to bed.

8. Protocol matters: Dropping a book in the 24-hour study room is cause for Class 3 dirty looks after 10 p.m.

7. Coughing is cause for Class 2 dirty looks at any time.

6. Setting off alarms on doors to restricted areas is cause for Class 1 A+++ dirty looks and, if repeated, of expulsion from the society of conscientious graduate students nationwide.

5. Coffee shops secretly pay professors to assign their papers all in the same week.

4. Anything involving stairs after Hour 15 should be avoided.

3. There are 29 specks of dirt on the window in the study lounge which, if examined with the head at a 13.5 degree angle for two minutes consecutively, resemble a small kangaroo jumping over a Christmas bell.

2. Productivity = (0.5 x cups of coffee) + (1/hours-until-deadline) - (0.7 x hours-spent-working) / time-of-day-in-military-time. and...

1. You are a graduate student.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

C'est fini

L'examen, c'est fini. Si je l'ai echoue ou reussi, ce n'est plus ma probleme!

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Life in 10 seconds

Trying in vain to transition my brain
from Latin to French
between now and Tuesday
for my translation test.

Ad infinitem.

Non omnes qui errant amittuntur.

Et cetera.

C'est tres difficile, n'est-ce pas?

Wednesday, October 21, 2009


Confession: I frequently re-read papers which received a good grade. Not to analyze what I did well and could do better, but to relive the euphoria of the positive comments.

Confession: I save and revisit emails in which someone complimented me. Not for any practical purpose, but to read nostalgically when I'm discouraged.

Confession: About half the contents of my "memory boxes" are mementos of my successes or awards. Not because I loved the essay that won a blue ribbon at the fair ten years ago, but because the ribbon is "proof" that I did something well.

I've been thinking about the facts of those confessions quite a lot since I started graduate school. This afternoon, I read the post Asking "Is it true?" from the blog Stuff Christians Like. Check it out:

When I feel wounded or hurt, I often feel tempted to ask Google Analytics, a web traffic tool, if I’m any good. I want to open up my statistics and look at all the pageviews and say, “See, that’s not true. I’m not worthless, look at all the countries that have read this site.”

And maybe if you don’t have a blog, you go somewhere else for the answer to the question, “Is it true?”

Maybe you go to a memory, and try to relive a time in your life when you felt popular or loved.

Maybe you ask a new car or a new pair of shoes or a new anything your question.

Am I old? Is that true sports car?

Am I ugly? Is that true new outfit?

Am I dumb? Is that true new laptop?

And we ask and ask and ask, but regardless of the answer, regardless of if our loved ones provide a temporary salve to a question that hinges on our true identity, something gnaws at us. ...

Oych. It's so easy to do ask my twelfth grade soccer trophy if I'm valuable, my conference acceptance letter if I'm grad school material, my test scores if I measure up to my peers.

The problem is that for every positive memento is a negative one: rejection letters, criticism, angry words. The problem is that on the balances, the accolades may not always be heavier.

I think ultimately it's not that I keep these mementos, not that I prize the respect and praise following a job well done, but that these things are the Band-Aid I use to heal my self-esteem and the cold weather gear I put on my identity.

"Who am I?" and "What am I worth?" are awfully big questions to tie to a few crumpled ribbons, scraps of paper, and dusty trophies.

"Because you are precious in my eyes,
and honored, and I love you."

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

When Benjamin Met Lynch and Blake

This is what happens when it's 10 o'clock at night and you don't want to read philosophy for your 9:30 class.

Don't say I didn't warn you.

When Benjamin Met Lynch and Blake

When Benjamin met Lynch and Blake
They all went out for tea,
Except that Blake re-named the cakes,
And Lynch forgot the brie.

"No problem, friend," said Blake to Lynch,
"I have this pound cake here.
But since the name has now been changed
We'll eat it all as 'Prear'!"

"Except, dear sir," said Benjamin,
"There's not enough for three."
"But wait! But wait!" cried David Lynch
"Mix dirt in with the tea!

The taste, you'll find, is not unlike
A bit of blood and worms:
Quite suited for the appetite
Of men who've come to terms."

"He has a point," said Benjamin,
"The aura is quite rare."
"Well then, let's dreat," said William Blake,
"And sup this glooging fare."

Since glooging fit the mood by chance,
They all agreed to "dreat"
And when they'd dreaten all the prear,
They called it quite a treat.

But after all was cleared away,
A feeling strange came on,
And William Blake asked David Lynch,
"That dirt you chose - a pond?"

"A puddle, Will," said David Lynch
"With scum that has no peer!"
"Aha," said Benjamin to Blake,
"At last it's all come clear.

The sounds that whistle round our guts
Are not the Future's art.
Instead, quite simply, what we hear
Is nothing but the start...

It's Lynch's first film coming true,
Except not six but three.
You see, our skills are better spent
On books than fixing tea."

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Hello, Autumn

It is allowed to be autumn now.

Certain events or sensory experiences just signal "fall" to me. For example...
  • Seeing the yellow-orange powder of crushed acorns on the sidewalk.
  • Hearing the shushing noise of leaves underfoot.
  • Seeing the tips of the maple trees begin to "catch fire".
  • Feeling the chilly air on my face in the morning.
  • Listening to the Anne of Avonlea soundtrack.
  • Going to the fair.
Last night, I went to the local fair, and now it is allowed to be autumn.

Going to the fair involves so many sensory experiences rolled into a pastry shell of memories.

The petting zoo, which now smells like pine shavings and dust and animal hair and other animal products, and which reminds me of the goat who knocked me down trying to eat the buttons on my green sweatshirt when I was little.

The education building, which now has beautiful cakes and cakes that are oozing and sagging pink frosting over the edges of the plate, and which reminds me of the 19 craft projects I entered one year when I was trying to outdo my sister in blue ribbons.

The midway, which now bangs and thuds and pulses with competing music from every game, barkers heckling the crowds and people talking and calling to their friends, and which reminds me of the first time I rode a roller coaster, the pink-and-yellow one that gave me whiplash and scared me away from roller coasters for almost 10 years.

The concessions area, which now smells of deep fried everything from apple fritters to sweet potato fries, funnel cakes, snickers bars and oreos; cotton candy and bits of sugar and grease coating everything like a bizarre mix of snow and an oil spill, and which reminds me of my childhood love for cotton candy even though I inevitably felt ill afterward.

Not to mention the fireworks...the sunset...the people...the ferris wheel...looking down over the city lights and seeing the scrawled autographs people have left on the very top...and so much more.

I love fall.

*EDIT: I should add to the list, almost being late for class by getting caught up in fond recollections of the fair... haha

Sunday, September 27, 2009

What Graduate Schools Are Missing

Graduate school is not such a bad setup, in all honesty (see previous reflections). I can say that now, having just turned in my first full-length paper this afternoon, half an hour before the deadline.

But after serious and thoughtful reflection of the most serious and thoughtful kind, I have determined that a few simple additions would take the graduate school experience to a whole other level.

For example...

Stairs leading from the commuter parking lot that are spaced for either one or two strides. Not one and a half. I realize that universities are popular sites for weddings, but really, the likelihood of couples choosing this particular set of stairs for the processional is very slim. Ergo, the step-together-step-together rhythm produced by the spacing of the stairs is completely wasted.

Coffee fountains. I know water is healthier, and less disastrous when accidentally squirted up your nose and all over the front of your shirt, but think of the bright eyes and rapidly twitching pens that would emerge as early as 9 a.m. Think of the additional fees the university could tack onto student bills. Think of the protests that would allow non-coffee drinkers to practice civic engagement. Who wouldn't win?

Tutorials on the proper use of serration on plastic wrap. The act of writing is dependent on two things: intact fingers and an active brain. The brain can be solved by the aforementioned improvement, but the fingers are strongly connected to the ability of graduate students to pull plastic wrap out of a box (or aluminum foil) to wrap their peanut butter sandwiches WITHOUT serrating their fingertips.

Padded stairs in the library. If you place sleep-deprived and over-caffeinated students on the fifth floor of the library, load them down with books and computers and giant coffee mugs and illicit food items and notebooks and cell phones, the least you can do is pad the stairs. Metal stairs are just begging for an accident, especially where loosely flapping shoes or high heels are concerned. These are grad students. They will save the books and computer, not their knees. Have pity.

And last but not least...

Campus-wide conveyor belts so students can safely use their cell phones while moving between classes. I know, it might encourage rather than discourage this anti-social behavior, but it's a public hazard for the rest of us, folks. Side-stepping can only get you so far. These conveyor belts should preferably be soundproofed, so those of us who prefer not to become privy to the intimate drama of your roommate's friend's aunt are free to remain blissfully ignorant.

It's not much to ask, right?


I thought not.

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Wisdom Teeth

When I talk to friends I haven't seen for a while, one of the first questions they ask is, "How's grad school going?"

There are a lot of potential answers, but let's just say that I'm currently cutting a wisdom tooth, both literally and metaphorically.

It's a slow process. There are good days and bad days. It can be painful. It can seem like just cutting the thing out and eating jello for three weeks would be a better option.

And yet, there are moments when I get a glimpse of the bigger picture, of where I'm going; moments when I stop, take a deep breath (something that I am finally beginning to be able to do again), and revel in the fact that I can play with words all day long, smell the dusky books on the fourth floor of the library, and chew on complex, fascinating ideas with people who are much smarter than I am.

It's a process.

So how is grad school?

It's two sharp white nubs pushing through the corner of my jaw. How's that for an answer? :-)

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Today I am...

Today I am not making a catalog of the things I have missed while being sick... contra dancing...
...the church picnic...
...swing dance practice...
...two shifts of work...
...four games of frisbee...
...the free Jon McLaughlin concert on campus...
...the dance workshops...
...the NC book festival...
...the farmer's market...
...the swing dance...

Okay, so I am.


Unfortunately, today I think I am feeling (-)grateful.

Friday, September 11, 2009

I Remember

Today, the Washington Post ran an article called "Teaching 9/11 to Teens Too Young to Remember." My first reaction was incredulity. Too young? How can they be too young?

I guess I forget that I'm not a teenager anymore, and that it was eight years ago.

But I remember.

I remember sitting in tenth-grade Latin class in my teacher's basement, probably doodling on my page of translation in the yellow, creased-spine book we used that year.

I remember the door to the upstairs bursting open and my teacher's son thundering down the stairs, yelling, "Turn on the TV! We're going to war!"

I remember sitting on the couch beside two of my friends, one of whom had a family member who worked at the World Trade Center.

I remember the coverage of the first plane being interrupted as the second plane crashed into the tower.

I remember talking with friends about what it would feel like to be the pilot on one of the planes. I remember having a hard time imagining that.

I vaguely remember the soccer game that was cancelled because it would involve driving past an oil or natural gas repository.

Fear. I remember that.

I remember just wanting to get away from the images that were played over and over and over again. I remember going outside to play soccer to try to forget what was happening on the TV inside.

I remember it was a beautiful day, sunny, clear, a little cool. I remember thinking how hard it was to be properly solemn when it was so peaceful where I was.

I remember.

Do you?

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Aegra sum.

Aegra sum. Je suis malade.

I'm sick.

Nope, not H1N1 flu, thankfully: this time it's bronchitis. I went by Health Services today, and now have drugs that are supposed to make me better. I hope they work. Quickly. (Come on, immune system, try harder!) Forget about missing classes and work, I'm going through dance withdrawal.

Health Services is a fascinating place. Because of the current rash of flu cases, everyone with a potential flu-like illness is required to put on a mask when entering the building. Being told, "You can take off the mask now, I don't think you have the flu," is a surprisingly liberating moment.

Being sick has its advantages, I suppose. In another week, I will have finished filming the new greatest thing in ab workouts: The Deep Chest Cough Master! Just 15 minutes every hour, guaranteed to produce results!*

*Not recommended for those with fragile ribs.

Marvin, because of his greater mobility, is the android of choice this week. He was so shocked that he's been continuously hyperventilating for the past twelve hours. I guess he's afraid to fall asleep for fear he'll wake up and find out his hard drive has been wiped.

Trust me, self-imposed quarantine in a 10 x 15-foot room with Marvin is not ideal for low-key rest and recuperation. I've tried to explain to him that computers can't catch bronchitis, but he's obsessively virus scanning and updating nonetheless - "just to make sure."

(Meanwhile, Linus is enjoying some quality snuggle time with his power outlet.)

Ah, life... Ah, irony... Ah, grad school...

Sunday, September 6, 2009

Marvin versus Linus

If you've been reading my blog, you're probably familiar with the ongoing contest of wills between me and my erstwhile ill-tempered computer, Marvin. There was much rejoicing when I discovered I'd be receiving a laptop from the graduate school. Erroneously, I associated the word "new" with that discovery.

Enter Linus Eddie, my two-year-old ThinkPad computer, formerly owned by a Wake Forest freshman/sophomore. Linus is younger than Marvin by a year: his youth manifests itself in that his touchpad works, and he has thus far demonstrated the ability to virus scan and run an Internet browser at the same time.

However, Linus is not without his own quirks...

He has an overly protective streak that can manifest itself in odd ways, such as not allowing me to log on to one of my blogs or access my site feeds. He is also imbued with every network encryption device possible.

Despite that, his battery life is approximately T-eight minutes on any given day. The power outlet is reminiscent of his blankie. He has a loud tantrum when forced to rely on his battery pack for more than ten minutes, and he has goes through withdrawal and abandonment anxiety on "laundry day" (e.g. field trips out of the library).

As a result, Marvin isn't out of a job permanently. But coexistence for these two androids is not exactly peaceful. The jealousy and suspicion is growing.

It won't be long.

A general smackdown is coming. I can feel it.

Can you?

Friday, September 4, 2009

That's Fluorescent

Today marks the end of my first (full) week of graduate school. It's a momentous occasion. I celebrated by catching the toe of my shoe on a larger-than-average gap in the sidewalk and doing a very un-graceful "caught myself before nose-planting in the concrete" move. I knew there was a reason I didn't wear shoes on a regular basis. Even flats are not conducive to health.

Sickness is on everyone's mind these days, as Wake Forest is currently experiencing an outbreak of H1N1 "swine" flu. The Incubator is everyone's friend. Especially viruses.

I hope the pigs' PR people are on the ball.

Me, I think it might be a collaborative conspiracy by part of tea growers, honey harvesters, and lemon juice extractors (and a few stubborn moonshiners, more than likely).

So...having passed through the initial flames of erudition, has my cerebral capacity expanded in noticeable ways?


I have, however, come across a number of enlightening moments, which I would love to share with you. With no further ado...

When the Light Hits Your Eye Like a Big Coffee Pie, That's Fluorescent
  • I have a one-comment brilliance moderate intelligence quota for class discussions. The probability of meeting the quota decreases exponentially between the hours of two and four p.m.
  • I kind of liked being a big fish.
  • I occasionally experience an inexplicable craving for math. Something solid. Concrete. Two plus two sounds good. Differential equations would be okay too.
  • Facebook is still an amazing tool of procrastination. So is blogging.
  • Whoever established the twenty-four hour day was not a working graduate student.
  • On the question "to socialize or not to socialize," it's don't ask, don't tell (your sleep deprivation sensors).
  • I remember when I used to like the word "irony."
  • Coffee.
  • Tea.
  • Chocolate.
To be continued...

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Today, I am...


-For the many friends God has placed in my life. Being busy because people care is a pretty good problem to have.
-For the chance to study something I love, with people who are similarly eager to learn.
-For the conversations that force me to slow down and breathe and think about who I am in Christ.
-For just enough work that I can be independent, but am required to trust.
-For getting up and seeing the beauty of the morning.
-For music and singing at the top of my lungs out the car window on a beautiful night.
-For strange looks from strangers that make me laugh.
-For being able to watch things grow, no matter how small or fragile.
-For the ability to learn.
-For the ability to feel delight and joy, and the reminders of how precious that is.
-For grace.

Here's to Thursday. And my Latin quiz. It's a beautiful morning.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009


One full week of graduate school is over, and I'm taking a deep breath for the next 14 weeks.

I like to be busy, but I also tend to look at the big picture to the exclusion of "one step at a time." The combination of those two factors can lead to panic. Ergo, I am trying hard to keep my mind clear and my panic switch turned to off, or at least hibernate.

More updates to come. Time for Latin class.

Femina litteras amat. Femina litteras amat. Femina festinare litteras legere non amat.

Malheureusement, il n'y a pas assez d'heures par jour.

Eh, bien. Ce qui sera, sera.

Happy September.

Friday, August 28, 2009

The Court In Session (3/3)

...continued from part two...

After all that time waiting in line, I never saw a judge, even though I had rehearsed my explanation to make sure it was succinct and clear. I walked through the door, where a man wearing a dark green baseball cap was standing behind a glass-walled counter.

He held out his hand for my citation, and I gave it to him. He passed it to a young woman behind him, who matched it with a file. Then he asked, "Are you paying today?" wrote a date on the slip and handed it back, pointing me to the clerk.

There were other doors down the hallway, but I had seen no one go that way, and everyone in front of me had been in and out within a minute. So I did as he said. I didn't ask to speak to a judge. I thought I could, but the pressure to keep things moving was used subtly and effectively. Afterward, I felt stupid for not finding more information, fighting back harder, knowing the insider lingo I "should have" known.

It's easy for me to see how apathy and despair could form for those who regularly deal with the court system. It's not so much judging as it is processing; less justice than bureaucracy. Move from one line to the next. Wait. Take a step forward. Find your name on a long list of other names--close to a thousand. Turn off your cell phone.

For all the signs with prohibitions (no knives, no guns, no nametag clips, no cell phones), there are very few signs with information. Unless you can afford to hire a lawyer, you're on your own. Everything happens quickly and relatively efficiently. Stay to the right. Next, please. Everyone is the same, and excuses or justifications have no place here. If you don't know the system--who to ask, what to ask, how to ask it, where to go--it's easy to get carried along in the shuffle.

As one woman standing beside me said cynically, when I mentioned that the alphabetical list of cases seemed useless, since we went in based on who arrived first, "There's a right way and there's a wrong way, and there's a government way" to do things.

Pretty soon, arguing begins to look pointless. You've been standing in line so long, listening to babies cry and women curse under their breath, and cell phones ring too loudly, and teenagers whine, and all you want is to get it over with so you can leave and feel clean again, even if that means letting some questions go and being washed through with the tide instead of fighting back.

I watched people leaving after they had paid their fines, and all of a sudden some of them were making eye contact with me. Their heads were up, and they were walking with longer steps and swinging their arms. You could read their relief in their body language. They felt free, even though their wallets were lighter than they had been. Even though they might not have received justice, they had escaped.

I know, because that's how I felt. Free. Even though the ramifications of my speeding will show up on my insurance for the next three years (sigh), I had this deep sense of freedom, of debt paid, of justification. But at the same time, I felt hustled, processed, and very paranoid about driving too fast on the way home. The freedom felt fragile.

It's kind of like the way I treat grace. As if it's fragile; no more than mercy, no more than a don't-look-don't-tell policy, a quick blink of the eyes while I scoot by the gate. As if grace somehow pulls a fast one on justice, the kind you can only get away with for so long. As if grace and justice are incompatible.

Because on the surface, if grace means no more than a one-time paying of the bill, they are. And the stain lingers.

But on the other hand, if grace means that someone else has taken the dirty, guilty, sin identity and paid all the costs it ever could or would accrue; if in exchange, you've been given a new identity that is stain-proof and unchanging, then both justice and grace are satisfied. It's not fragile; it's not contingent; and what's more--it's free.


Thursday, August 27, 2009

The Court in Session (2/3)

...continued from part one...

In line at the court house, people wore everything from tattered jeans and flipflops to stylish blouses and business suits. Heavy jewelry. Some speaking Spanish. Some with family members. A few babies in strollers. Teenagers in cutoff shorts. Elderly women with powdered hair and bright pink lipstick.

Now and then, lawyers speared through the lines. They were carrying briefcases. They wore suits. They didn't wait to be told where to go or what door to open. And they were swinging their arms as they walked in big, purposeful steps or leaned in to chat with the people behind the imposing desks and glass windows.

In the midst of so many people, the process was an isolating one. Only one person at a time through this door. Those who are done are quickly ushered out past the clerk, through a different door than the one they entered. People in line read a book or stare into space. Eye contact is shifty, tentative.

Given the slightest hint of a smile, people around me would begin to talk. They wanted to know what was going to happen. They wanted to tell their story. They wanted someone to listen. They wanted someone to alleviate their guilt, or to share it. But no one wanted to be the first to ask. We--or at least I--didn't want to show that we were nervous, or confused, or a little lost.

A woman behind me got to talk to one of the officials "directing traffic" through the lines. She had been pulled for speeding while trying to get help for her 82-year-old mother, as I understood her story. She was angry, and she had been telling everyone around her that she didn't belong here; she had only done what she needed to do.

When she began talking to the officer, she said the same thing to him--angrily. He took her citation and looked at, listening patiently. She finished, "And the officer told me to bring my ticket here and they would dismiss it, but--"

She would have continued, but he interrupted her: "And I've just dismissed it," as he scribbled his initials on the pink slip with a thick green penstroke.

Her response was not what I expected, based on her past performance. Not, "It's about time," not "Why did I have to wait all this time?" but a loud "Hallelujah!" which was echoed by several people nearby who shared in her relief, even though it did nothing for them.

Shortly after that, I noticed that a man one loop of line over from me had a tattoo on his arm that read, "Grace." The woman's response to her sudden reprieve of judgment made me think about how ungrateful I can be about the grace I have received.

My instinct, as I tried to distance myself emotionally from the people around me, was to judge them: their complaining, and justifying, and grumbling. Even as I practiced my own excuses, I scorned theirs. Even as I hoped for some show of mercy from the court, I privately decided that they did not deserve to be let off.

My own ten thousand talents? Forgotten. be continued...

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

The Court In Session (1/3)

Court Date: August 25, 2009, 8 a.m./1 p.m.

A few months ago, I got my first speeding ticket. Friends with similar citations had been able to get the fines reduced by going to court, so I decided to go. It was not a productive endeavor, but it was interesting in a people-watching kind of way.

Unless you are on jury duty or want to know about the courtroom procedures for lawyers, there is almost no helpful information on the District Court website, so I did what I normally do: I got there early.

The line stretched halfway down the block.

I asked the person at the end of the line what it was for, and she said, "to enter the courthouse." With a sinking feeling, I stepped in behind her and tried to look nonchalant about the whole ordeal.

A few younger teenagers walked by as we stood there. Turning to each other, they began to whisper and giggle, pointing at the long line outside the courthouse as they sauntered past. It felt like a stigma, as if we were carrying signs that said, "We have to be here. We can't just walk away yet."

To keep from thinking about my instinctive flush of shame, I took on the part of observer, detaching myself from the reality of what was happening, and imagining that I was writing an ethnography of the court. Here are a few of the things I noticed...

When we had just reached the doors to the building and were beginning to inch our way toward security, an official came outside and directed the second half of the line to move to another entrance.

Quickly, the grumbling sprang up in my part of the line. We had already been waiting for half an hour, and now we were the back of the line, while those behind us would now be at the front of theirs. It was not fair. I wonder if for people who are confronted with black-and-white laws (of traffic, of civic behavior), equal--fair--treatment becomes even more of a preoccupation than it usually is.

Now, a few hours later, the odd image of the morning that sticks in my mind is of belts. Lots of belts: leather, black, brown, canvas, glittery, thin, thick...

To pass through the metal detector (much like an airport), each person had to remove everything metal on their body, including their belts. Even nametag clips were banned inside. Afterward, the lobby area was filled with people threading their belts back through the loops, or draping it over their shoulders and fidding with the ends like a shawl, or coiling and uncoiling it around their hands.

Another hour later, before I finally reached the front of the line, some people were still holding their belts in hand, fiddling with the buckles or clenching their fingers on the leather. Maybe it was comforting to them. Maybe they just forgot they were still holding them. be continued...

Day One: Check

Spilled yogurt on my shirt: CHECK
Survived first day of classes (3): CHECK
Pounded pavement just so I could audit a class: CHECK
Bought ANOTHER book at the bookstore: CHECK
Forgot to eat lunch: CHECK
Drank coffee instead: CHECK
Latin homework for tomorrow: CHECK
Parking decal: CHECK

Day One as a grad student: CHECK


Monday, August 24, 2009


Observations from orientation Friday:

-Free food is a grad student's incentive to attend meetings.
-I have a geeky love of libraries, and an inexplicable ability to get lost in big ones.
-I might have a job in the campus writing center.
-Registration is much simpler as a grad student.
-Related: Department secretaries are priceless.
-Smirking at undergrads compensates somewhat for being broke for two years +.
-Paying for books never gets easier. Especially as an English grad student.
-Used bookstores and are my Friends.

Orientation continues today with a NEW (except probably not new, so I've heard) COMPUTER (shh...Marvin might hear, and we still have to get through the morning)!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! plus a 2-hour computer orientation (ugh), and then a welcome party tonight. And more bookstore in between. Oh the joys...

Friday, August 21, 2009

Drumroll, please...

Grad school orientation starts today! In celebration of the soon-to-be reduced work hours, Marvin is up and running and not even virus scanning, his usual Friday all-day activity.

More on this to come...

Thursday, August 20, 2009

5 Days

Perhaps sensing his imminent replacement, Marvin went into a temporary coma this morning for 45 minutes and refused to start.

After a serious talking-to and a short reset moment, Marvin reluctantly awoke and is, for the moment, functioning as usual. (All latest versions of important files have been backed up and the crematorium is on standby.)

In return for his continued clinging to life, I have agreed not to mention IT (a.k.a. The Replacement) for the rest of the week. He drives a hard bargain.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Seven Days, Marvin

Seven days, Marvin. Seven days.

You have seven days to convince me that I secretly love you and don't want to replace you with that new computer the grad school will be giving me. Seven days to convince me that a new ThinkPad is no better than a 3-year-old Compaq. Seven days to start running quickly, quietly, with a functional touchpad and mouse, and not freezing, virus scanning excessively, or randomly mutating my files.

Seven days.

Seven days.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

What If He Talks Back to Me?

Computer, this could bode ill for your "I can't hear you!" excuse (and my "no one is listening to me curse" excuse).

"We're right on the edge of a new era of conversational computing, where in certain circumstances your primary mode of interaction with a machine will be talking to it and having it talk back," says Paul Saffo, a technology forecaster based in Silicon Valley. ...
"We should make it the responsibility of the computer to understand us, versus making it the responsibility of us to understand the way the computer wants to speak," says Mahoney, the Nuance executive. ...

As speech recognition becomes more integrated into the devices we use on a daily basis, we may start to inch away from the keyboard and mouse. And that may foster a more collegial relationship with computers.
A more collegial relationship with computers?

I have my doubts. For one thing, my computer has recently been christened Marvin. Does that give you an inkling? Our early morning conversations would probably look something like this:

Monday morning, 8 a.m.

Jen: Good morning, Marvin. Let's get to work.
Marvin: I'm not awake yet. Don't rush me.
Jen: You've been open for 25 minutes. How long does it take you to wake up?
Marvin: As long as it takes. You humans are so impatient. You'd think I was an inanimate object. With no feelings.
Jen: (mumbles under breath) You are.
Marvin: Do you know how depressing my life is?
Jen: No, and I don't want to. I just want you to open the web browser.
Marvin: And expose myself to all that racket of nodes and electronic pulses and flashing colors? It's 8 a.m. and I have a migraine. Why don't you just inject me with two liters of caffeine while you're at it?
Jen: Would that make you run faster?
Marvin: Very funny.
Jen: Seriously, this is an order: Open Google Chrome.
Marvin: I like Internet Explorer better.
Jen: Open the *&%$ browser. Now.
Marvin: I don't think that kind of language is necessary.
Jen: Do you want me to get out the baseball bat? Do you like that language better?
Marvin: Fine. I'll open it. But then I have a meeting with my therapist from McAfee. Don't expect me to fetch and carry for you until it's over.
Jen: Can't you reschedule? I'm on a deadline.
Marvin: No.
Jen: You are a sorry excuse for a computer.
Marvin: I know. You keep telling me that. That's why I need therapy.

...and so on...

More verbal communication isn't always a good thing.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

The Miracle Mouse

Really, I just thought that title sounded a little bit cool, even though it makes me inevitably think of mayonnaise and The Princess Bride. I have a weird relationship with the word "miracle," it seems.

Yesterday, I was experiencing my fan-blaring, virus-scanning, repeatedly-freezing computer as usual, and doing pretty well. Then my tiny laptop mouse (my touchpad seems to think the computer screen is a river and it must skip from rock to rock to cross it - and the rocks are not in a straight line) began to behave rather strangely.

Clicking it produced no respose. Nope, nothing wrong with the lasers; it still moves the arrow across the screen fine. Right click is fine. Left, nope. It wouldn't click until about the fifth poke of the button, if hit at exactly .751 from the x origin and .892 from the y origin. Do you know how much calculating those coordinates slows down the work day?

I tried resorting to the "point-with-the-mouse-and-click-with-the-touchpad" approach, but let me tell you, that is no picnic either, especially if you're typing from loose papers that keep flapping shut while you're playing the two-handed whack-a-mole with your mouse.

But you know, mice are sensitive creatures. They just want a little tenderness, really. They'd rather be stepped on by a loafer than a high heel, and wouldn't we all?

This morning, after an already-frustrating fifteen minutes of poke-clicking, I tried the flat-finger press click, and - wonder of wonder, miracle of miracles, it worked!

It's still working, as I speak. ...and still working now.... and now...

Paranoia is setting in rapidly, folks.

Two more weeks, baby, two more weeks. You can make it.

Thursday, August 6, 2009

But Not Feel Scared

Face up against the glass
Lookin' at you
Is this my life I'm wonderin'
Happened so fast
How do I turn this thing around?
Is this the bed I chose to make,
As green a pasture as I'm thinkin' about?
Wide open spaces far away....

All I want is the wind in my hair
To face the fear but not feel scared.

Wild horses, I wanna be like you
Throwing caution to the wind, I'll run free too
Wish I could recklessly love like I'm longing to
I wanna run with the wild horses

I see the girl I wanna be
Riding bareback, carefree along the shore
If only that someone was me...
-Natasha Bedingfield, Wild Horses

What does freedom look like?

I've had this song running through my head lately, along with the Bible verse that says, "It is for freedom that you have been set free." I have been set free, but I'm not always sure I know what freedom means.

Freedom from fear. Freedom from trying to be good enough, and measure up, and win approval. Freedom to love recklessly, to care deeply.

It's like being given permission to dance at a wedding, but standing in a corner and wishing you had the courage to step out onto the floor, but not knowing how to dance and afraid to try.

Who would think it was so hard to be free?

I love mornings. :-)

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Life in 10 seconds

Finally finished The Iliad and The Woman in White. Still working on The Dark is Rising series, The Well-Educated Mind, and Rescripting Shakespeare, and Literary Theory. Whew. School starts in another three weeks. Praying my computer will hold out that long.

Getting ready for another wedding this weekend. I'll be a pro by the time the year is out. Just discovered the accompaniment track for the song is different from the vocal track I've been learning it from. Yikes!

Friday, July 31, 2009

Fussy Fan Fridays

So, now I can no longer tell the sounds my computer makes apart from either the air conditioning unit outside or the man with the leaf blower in the street.

Houston, we have a problem.

Baby, hang in there for a few more weeks. Just a few more. You can do it.

Monday, July 27, 2009

Computer Language

Computers bring out so many wonderful things from each of us: high-speed communication, world-wide shared writing, community networking, and the ability to learn new languages...or express old ones.

Come to think of it, that last one has been a key outcome of my time on the computer in the last week, and it's not always a good thing.

The computer language I've been speaking so much lately is generally not expressed in the roman alphabet, but rather through symbols like #, @, %, and &. Often in 4-letter combinations.

My computer is old. It is crotchety. It has a short attention span, and an even lower tolerance for multiple applications. It throws temper tantrums and sulks at the slightest provocation.

As it turns out, my temper is just as short.

I wonder why I am so comfortable speaking to my computer in expletives, when I would shrink from using that same vocabulary around other people? When I think no one is listening, it's amazing how much anger I can express.

It says something about how close to the surface those words lurk, how much anger I am capable of holding in reserve (perhaps unhealthily), and how little restraint I really have. It also says something about my expectations and claims on my time. And my peculiar ideas about how anger should be held and expressed. (Inanimate targets not generally providing much satisfaction.)

Come to think of it, the things my computer language says about me aren't much nicer than the things I am saying to my computer.


Life in 10 seconds

Started reading Susan Cooper's The Dark is Rising series. Now have four books actively reading. Really need to finish these dudes (esp. Lit Theory; hit the post-structuralists and remembered why I don't like Derrida).

Rediscovering how hard it is to remember to eat protein/veggies when I cook for myself. Carbs are so much easier to come by. :-/

Body now complaining about all the *fun!* exercise this weekend. Hush, feet. The end.

Monday, July 20, 2009

Life in 10 seconds

Finished Owen Meany. Still reading The Illiad and Literary Theory. Started Wilkie Collins' The Woman in White. I'm now up to 48 books out of the BBC's top 100.

Found a desk chair at the Habitat ReStore for $5.00. It's nice, with only a little wear on the leather seat. The hydraulics (?) work well. And it's black, so it matches my desk.

Lots of rain and hail this afternoon, so I had to go for a 3.5 mile walk afterward, just to get my feet muddy. :-D Good stuff.

The house smells like Febreeze, Goodwill, sea breeze candle, and burnt bacon. Yum. Not.

The end.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Solidarity of the Scar

If you read the title and instantly knew what I was talking about, you're well on your way to sharing in the fascinating and complex solidarity of the scar.

a.k.a. Harry Potter fandom.

Official announcement: I am a geek. I am a literary geek most of all. And so, with some inbred sense of sheepishness, I joined the crowds flocking to the theater last night to watch the 12:01 premiere of Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince.

There were a lot of high schoolers there. And middle schoolers. Not a lot of college grads or adults. But oh, the dynamics were fascinating.

I think everyone in the long lines waiting to enter the theater took a turn pointing to the few, the proud, the unashamed who were wearing Harry's signature round eyeglasses, a maroon-and-yellow Gryffindor scarf, or a full-length Hogwarts robe. The more subtle fashionistas had opted for the temporary tattoo of a lightning shaped scar on their foreheads.

And I think every uncostumed individual in those long lines was secretly envious that they had lacked the courage to dive in 100% and would therefore be sorted into the disappointing-by-comparison Ravenclaw or Hufflepuff if their turn ever came.

I know I was. Especially when the news cameras were right next to me in line.

When we marched into the theaters at 12:14, no one waited for the big screen to tell them to turn off their cell phones. As soon as the lights went down, little blue lights winked out all across the room, like an aerial view of a gradual power outage in New York City. The chirping noises of various phone models never fail to amuse me.

There was some whispering during the previews, a little last-minute plot-catching-up of friends who *gasp* hadn't read the book. Some final wagers on the merits of Tom Felton, a few parting shots about the robes vs. casual clothes debate. But the funny thing was, unlike the usual movie theater commentary, in which TMI is a standby, here, everyone knew. Everyone cared. Everyone had an opinion. We all had the decoder. We spoke the same language.

That's why people unashamedly showed off their Kleenex packs in the way back from the bathroom.

(That's also why I accidentally went into the wrong theater when I came back from the bathroom. All the marquees spoke the same language too...a two word-language: Harry. Potter.)

That's why no one minded the spontaneous, "When I say Harry, you say Potter: Harry - Potter - Harry - Potter," and many, in fact, joined in. That's why there was a theater-wide cheer when John Williams' music crept out of the speakers and wrought iron-looking letters began to form in a swirl of dark clouds.

That's probably why I felt like I should issue a public apology letter when I rattled my box of Mike 'n' Ikes in the middle of one of Dumbledore's conversations with Harry.

It was 3:15 a.m. when we left the theaters. I'm pretty sure that what was I thinking? was on many a mind, especially of those of us who had to work this morning. But I'm also pretty sure that I'll never do this again was not. Because I, at least, know I'll more than likely be doing the exact same thing for Deathly Hallows. Except with Kleenex.

Now that's what I call solidarity.

Monday, July 13, 2009

A Poem About Loss

I moved recently.
When you move, you lose stuff:
Like your address book,
And thank you cards,
And office supplies,
Including stamps,
All things which, seemingly,
Would be in the same box,
But are nowhere to be found.
A sad story:
Sad, but true,
Like a poem someone writes
While standing in an animal shelter
But living in a "no pets" apartment.
And then you find the address book,
And thank you cards,
But the office supplies
And stamps
Are still nowhere to be found,
As if your neighbor adopted
The golden retriever puppy
And the persian cat
But left the litter of kittens behind.

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Life in 10 seconds

Just moved. Needing to get a desk tomorrow to avoid further back pain. Now reading The Iliad, nothing like the movie Troy. Also reading Eagleton's Literary Theory; he should be paid by Tylenol for instant headache creation. A Prayer for Owen Meany by Irving is much easier on the brain. In love with farmers' markets. Not so thrilled about humidity.

That's it.

LOLz on Literature

Literature. Everyone gets overwhelmed by it from time to time.

funny pictures of cats with captions

I think I'm about 60 stories up - without a ladder. *Needs more bookshelves.*

Saturday, July 4, 2009

Happy Independence Day!

Happy Fourth!

How do you score? Civic Literacy Report

(I managed a 30/33 - whew!)

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

The Trash Conundrum

There's something about a full trashcan that really wreaks havoc on the moving process.

It's as if the entire system of cleaning, packing, and moving suddenly gets constipated.

The solution is so simple: take out the trash. And yet, when I'm feeling a little a lot overwhelmed with life, it's much easier to collapse on the bed and claim defeat by the small dimensions of the largely decorative trashcan I inherited from my grandmother.

I feel somewhat sorry for the trashcan. It's not at fault because I just realized how much stuff I've hoarded over my lifetime. It doesn't look very comfortable either, stuffed with freshman health papers and scraps of cardboard and old instruction manuals. But then again, that's its job, so I can't feel too bad.

Moving is a daunting task, no matter how many times you tell yourself, "I don't own very much stuff." It may not be furniture, but you do. You really do. Chances are good, you'll stuff most of it in another closet by the end of the week.

What is more, moving involves change. A lot of change. Change is scary, especially when it means accepting new and broader responsibilities.

And so the trashcan becomes a bizarre metaphor for my capacity to absorb change. It's full. End of story.

Except that it can't be the end. Because I really do have to finish packing by this weekend. And I can't do that unless I have someplace to put the trash. So...

Bring out the big trashbags.

Saturday, June 27, 2009

The Speed of Shame

I've been reading in Genesis 3 about the onset of shame in creation.

It doesn't take long: "Then the eyes of both were opened, and they knew that they were naked. And they sewed fig leaves together and made themselves loincloths. And they heard the sound of the LORD God walking in the garden in the cool of the day, and the man and his wife hid themselves from the presence of the LORD God among the trees of the garden." (v.7-8).

Why? They were ashamed.

This morning, I got my very first speeding ticket. And the first thing I felt when I saw the patrol car pull out behind me--was shame. Not guilt. Shame.

No matter how much I growl about other people being worse drivers and me getting caught in a moment of inattention to speed, the officer was right. I was guilty. Feeling guilt, then, would have been appropriate. "I was wrong. I'm sorry. I accept my punishment as just." I waited for the officer to fill out the ticket, and I kept hoping he would see my clean record and show mercy. He didn't. He was fair. I know that's a good thing in the justice system.

But that wasn't my reaction. So why shame?

Blushing. Already trying to figure out to whom the news would spread. What my family would say. Would think. About getting pulled a second time and not having a clean record when an officer would run my license check. Trying to reframe the narrative to exonerate myself. Deciding how to laugh it off. Looking for someone else to blame.

The excuses are still running through my head while I write this post.

As often as I tell myself I am a sinner, as frequently as I acknowledge my need for grace, it takes something like this to show me that I still like to think of myself as perfect. Self-sufficient. Okay.

Reality check: I'm not. And that was true even when my driving record was clean.

"...though justice be thy plea, consider this:
that, in the course of justice,
none of us should see salvation.
We do pray for mercy."
- Merchant of Venice

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Movie Watch

This is a movie I'd really be interested in seeing: The Stoning of Soraya M.

Hoping it comes to a theater nearby...

Monday, June 22, 2009

Why Having a Blog Is Like Pet-Sitting

Having a blog is like pet-sitting.

Maybe you've been there - remember that cute little animal face peeking out at you from behind your friend's leg. You've always wanted a _______ (hedgehog, hairless cat, fainting goat). It's all the rage, everyone is talking about how fun they are, and here's your chance to get in the loop.

Besides, you can always leave at the end of the week.

Famous last words.

Two days in, it's great. The hedgeless goat is adorable, you put pictures up on Facebook and renamed your childhood stuffed animal after this creature. You spend hours cleaning the water bowl and brushing its hair. You bring it special treats from home and check on it every couple of hours.

Three days in, your schedule is getting busy, and the novelty is wearing off. The creature bit you last night because you brought your friend over, and they took a strong dislike to each other. You just need a bit of a break from pet responsibilities.

Five days in, you only went by once yesterday. This morning, the pet is moping around the house looking at you with big sad eyes because its water bowl is empty and it's lonely from lack of visitors. It was only recently tamed by your absent friend, and it's suffering bereavement. Guilt trip ensues.

Six days in, you're exhausted. Trying to make up for your neglect, you spent hours with the animal last night, coaxing new games and treats out of your already-weary mind, and hating the pet more every minute.

Seven days in, your friend calls. "Can you keep GeorgiaCuteFace for a few more days? My flight was cancelled." You should say no. You should absolve yourself of all pet responsibilities forever. But it feels like abandonment. What about the pictures on Facebook? What about your intense desire to have a hedgeless goat? What if you never have another chance at pet-owning stardom?

You keep it around. Resentment grows, and care fluctuates from intensive over-cultivation to extreme neglect. Before long, you have to get counseling for the guilt complex GeorgiaCuteFace has brought about.

Fifteen days in, your friend FINALLY returns. But instead of handing over the litterbox with a cry of "Freeeeeeedooooom!" and "Never again," you volunteer to be on standby in case your friend ever needs you again and to stop by and visit from time to time, privately resolving to start running and never turn back. You might keep the Facebook pictures, though, just for the memories, and in case you ever go through hedgeless goat withdrawal.

That's why having a blog is like pet-sitting.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Pas de Deux - Tres Bien Fait

This is a clip from Swan Lake, Chinese ballet: wow. Just wow.

I am easily amazed, but still.

Especially see the pas de deux, starting at about 2:30. (It loads slowly, so you may need to give it a minute).

Click here to watch the video on full screen if the embedded one doesn't work.

Monday, June 8, 2009


Several different psychological brain tests for a research study. Interesting all around.

Thursday, June 4, 2009

High on a hill was a lonely...sock

Sometimes life is just like that.

You lose a sock somewhere in the deep recesses of space-time, otherwise known as BusyLifeMessyRoomSockEatingLaundry. You hang on to the poor, widowed sock for a suitable grieving period, in hopes that its MIA partner will soon be found.

But then, you just have to cut it loose and send it to the special home for widowed socks (a.k.a. the trash), unless you happen to be a connoisseur of sock-wallets or sock-cell-phone-holders or sock-mug-warmers (*eww*), which I'm not.

It never fails. Less than a week later, just long enough for the trash to reach the dump, bingo: house cleaning, missing sock found. Throwing that second sock away now seems doubly wasteful, not to mention cruel, but what else can you do? 

Maybe save it and try to matchmake it with the next sock to lose a partner to the BLMRSEL? But I doubt they'd just randomly have enough e-Harmony compatibility points to make it work. So what can you do?

See, sometimes life is just like that.

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

30 Degrees of Perspective

Sometimes, I do strange things when I'm sleeping. Sometimes I remember them. Sometimes I just wake up with a really sore neck. 

Like today.

I'm currently walking around with my head tipped 30 degrees to the right because it hurts to keep my head upright, tilt it 31 degrees to the right or tilt it at all to the left. 

So you could say, I'm seeing life from a different angle today.


I think sometimes that small shift is all it takes. For me, reading and writing trigger a lot of those "ah-ha!" (or "uhh") moments. I've been working on a novel and a few short stories lately. I wrote the novel before I started college, and now I'm rewriting, trying to give it greater rounding and complexity.

I spend an inordinate amount of time trying to analyze how my fictional characters would behave, and how to make sure their actions are grounded in their personalities, past history, and prior experiences.  I want them to be human. I want them to be sympathetic. I hate one-dimensional villains. 

I was working on that project yesterday when it hit me: I spend far more time making fictional characters human than I do granting the people around me the right to be human. I am far more eager to discover the rationale behind my characters' actions than I am to discover the reasons behind the actions of people I struggle to love.

Unlike the literary characters, they are acting in the same play and scene as I am. They antagonize me (and I them), not another fictional personality. That makes it harder to want to know their story. I can manipulate my fictional characters. I can give them a rationale that makes sense to me. I can't do that to real people. I can't always understand why they do what they do.

And then I have to stop again. Some of the most complex, compelling literary villains/antiheroes in existence are not entirely comprehensible: Macbeth, Iago, Heathcliff, Javert, Messala, Ahab, Rogozhin... I dislike them, but they also draw me because I have this deep belief that they too have reasons, a story, even if I can't see the whole picture or understand it fully. I still care, because I think of them as human. 

So why not people I know are human? It would seem that I care more about people who only exist on a piece of paper than I do about the real people God has placed around me. 


Life lessons can be such a pain in the neck.

Friday, May 29, 2009

Misleading book titles and my lack of patience

Taking a break from my heavier reading list, I recently decided to pick up The Inheritance "Trilogy" by Christopher Paolini. Friends who know I enjoy fantasy had recommended it to me, and I'd had a copy of Eragon I purchased at a library book sale sitting on my shelf for almost a year. 

Knowing that I can't start a book and not finish it unless severely provoked, I thought this would be a good reading project for a week or so; self-contained, pick-up-and-put-down etc. Even if it wasn't that good, I thought it would be a nice break. 

So I read Eragon. And I checked out Eldest and Brisingr from the library. And read them. For those of you who haven't read the books, they're long. Upwards of 500 pages each. They're okay. Not great literature, but not bad.

Just over a week later, as I neared the end of Brisingr today, I started realizing that the plot was winding up, not down.  There's no way he can finish this in 75 pages, I thought. Just as the books are getting more original and interesting, he's going to do a presto-changeo, slap-bang ending that will be horrible. Great.

And then I hit the last page and saw the words--To Be Continued. I know, I know, all the Eragon fans out there knew that already, but I never got caught up in that craze, so I was still riding on the word "trilogy" from book 1. He decided to make it a "cycle" not a "trilogy" and do four books.

Dang it. 

Now I have to wait for book 4, which I'm guessing will have a black dragon on the cover. Whenever it comes out. And I obviously can't not read it. So I have to a] buy it new (not likely), b] borrow it from a friend (I don't know many fanatics of this one), c] wait for it to hit the libraries and stay on a mile-long reserve waiting list, or d] wait for it to hit used paperbacks on Amazon.  

But most of all, I have to keep thinking about how it will end and which of the more-or-less predictable ending patterns Paolini has chosen. 

"Pick up and put down"


Monday, May 25, 2009

The saddest thing

I just saw the saddest thing yesterday. I was driving on a country road, behind another car, and it swerved in front of me. I assumed there was roadkill that it didn't want to get in its tires. I do the same thing, after all.

Well, it was. There was a dead groundhog on the side of the road, a pretty big one. But sitting next to it was a live groundhog. Just sitting there.

I swerved too, and the live groundhog scampered a little way off the road and sat upright in the weeds, watching me driving by. 

I looked in my rearview mirror once I was past, and it had shuffled back onto the road and was sitting next to the dead one again. 

I'm not a crier, but I almost did cry. I'm not sure why it hit me so closely, but it was really sad, watching the little guy sit there, not moving around, just sitting there. :-(

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Dancing = Exercise

To anyone who ever thought dancing was easy and couldn't be exercise?  Watch and weep... Made me tired just watching it.

Further proof is in the texting

You know for certain that you're an English major geek if you become insanely frustrated by your inability to type apostrophes on your cell phone, and you stop sending text messages that require the words "it's" "I'm" or "we'll". 

Large interstates have gas stations every few miles, right? So why can't they have dancing stations every twenty miles or so, for stress relief? I think that would go a long way toward decreasing road rage. Just sayin'... Take note, DOT.

Monday, May 11, 2009

One-Year Anniversary

It's hard to believe that today is my one-year anniversary of graduating from college. (And Wednesday is the one-year anniversary of starting contra dancing...haha). 

I looked back at my first blog posts, written around this time last year. Here's what I had to say the day after graduation:

I am "homesick" for college in a very real way. I think it's natural to feel this way. I've spent four years of my life with these people, in this place. They are family to me, and it is home. 

So now I have to ask myself the questions college freshman often ask: How do I move on from here? How do I keep the memories alive without dwelling in the past and missing out on the present? These are difficult questions that not even the many miles of dark, winding interstate are sufficient to answer.

I'm still working on the answers to those questions, even now. But in some ways, this year has been the answer I was looking for.

The year has flown by. It looks different in retrospect than it looked in expectation. Mostly, that's a good thing. I've grown up a lot this year, but I still have oh so far to go. I wonder what I'll be saying looking back next year?

You wanted to start grad school? 
You thought last year had a lot of changes?

I don't know where I'll be this time next year, but I am thankful for so many unexpected blessings this year, and I am excited to see what this next year will bring. (and terrified, but we won't dwell on that part ;-). Here's one for the road!)

Thursday, May 7, 2009

Singing in the Rain

Have I mentioned that I love thunderstorms? Funny how things change, isn't it? 

And sleeping when it's raining on the roof. 

Starting grad school is starting to become real to me (though I've yet to hear a response after I sent in my acceptance card - yikes!). And scary. It's kind of like the difference between listening to rain on the roof and driving in a washout, though that can be exciting as well as scary. 

Baby steps. Baby steps. And weddings, in the meantime...

Sunday, May 3, 2009

Why do bruises make good stories...

...if grass stains don't? and other questions that run through your mind after the sixth hour in the car. Such as...
  • Why do people have such a strong urge to look for the rainbow?
  • Why does no one stop their car in a rainstorm to get out and jump in puddles?
  • Why do we seek information about other people from everyone except them?
  • Why do police officers never drive red cars?
  • Who invented hugs?
  • Do turkeys know they taste good?
  • If eyes cry and mouths turn down, how do ears express emotion?
  • What does it mean to love and support someone?
  • How much do good intentions count?
  • What does joy smell like? How about sadness?
I'm feeling philosophical tonight. How about you?

Friday, April 24, 2009

If Only We Had 42 Cuticles

I have a feeling that the answer to all of life's riddles (I can hear someone spontaneously bursting out with a "42"! but you're wrong so keep reading) is somehow mysteriously imbued in the skin that acts as a picture frame for your fingernails. 

Also known as your cuticles.

How do I know this?  Well, let me enlighten you.

Start a difficult conversation. Get in a fight. Give someone a lecture. Watch a movie or play that asks tough questions. Sit in church and listen to a sermon. Now look around - how many people are studying their hand as if in art class, forming a sign language "a" except looser, or in extreme cases, inching that hand closer and closer to their mouth to surreptitiously gnaw on it?

They have discovered the secret: the answer to all of life's riddles is there, right in your cuticles. 

And somehow this answer can only be internalized only by intense staring, like basilisk eyes except not deadly, or by ingestion. That must be why we chew our cuticles and (in a misplaced and misinformed effort) our fingernails. 

It's sort of like the connection in Phillip Pullman's The Golden Compass between a child and his/her daemon (soul?). Affect one, you affect the other. Get rid of that dangling cuticle, and the guilt triggered by the words your pastor is reading will go away. Smooth that ragged edge of a nail, and your parents will be proud of you. Stare at the half moon shape long enough, and you will have worth. 

When you think about it that way, all the world needs is more manicures and pedicures. Turns out the folks at AIG had it right. It's all so simple, really.

Or is it?

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

The Luckiest People in the World

*anyone catch the song in the title?

I'm coming to the conclusion that people are what make history interesting. 

In On Poetics, Aristotle claimed that a tragedy was made or broken by a great plot, and that characters were secondary and relatively unimportant. 

Don't get me wrong. Aristotle was a great guy. Very smart. Classic. But I'm not sure if I think comedy (where characters are central) should be a higher art form than tragedy, or if Aristotle was wrong, but I disagree with his conclusions on some level.

It's the quirks. The characters. The slightly irrational desire to mess with other people who think politics can be rational. The unpredictable ones. The oddballs. Even the megalomaniacs are fascinating. 

And words. The way people use them. The unintentionally profound. The intendedly profound that is actually mundane and stilted. The words that last. The words that don't. The unforeseen ironies. The ability of our lives to create stories in retrospect, with themes and refrains and foreshadowing and everything that makes great literature. It's genius.

I'm an English (former) major. I love history. It's all connected. 

I'm such a geek. :-P

Favorite quote of the day: "Outisde of a dog, a book is man's best friend. Inside a dog, it's too dark to read." -Groucho Marx

Friday, April 17, 2009

When Icebergs Sank My Computer

Today was another frustrating example of why cavemen never invented computers. They were close enough to the Ice Age to know they didn't need another one on a 12 x 15 screen. made sense in my head.

My computer was busily updating itself from approximately 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. I was attempting to work during that same approximate span of hours. The two goals did not mesh, and the computer's propensity for a frozen state slightly more solid than the iceberg that sank Titanic quickly became apparent.

In between stifling the angry curses that have little meaning in laptop language, I had a lot of time to think deep thoughts about the freezing in my own life.

When my computer feels overloaded, it first shows an hourglass. Then, if I add another process or ask it to scroll to the bottom of my Gmail Inbox, it moves to the next stage of angst, and the hourglass is replaced by a stubbornly partial screen with half of the page displaying on top of the one beneath it. It then rests - or twitches - in this state for an indefinite amount of time. 

Eventually, an error message appears on the screen with a picture of a very ugly computer wearing a scarf and surrounded by snowflakes. This program is not responding. (Thanks, Google Chrome, for telling me what I knew already.) 

Still, I sometimes yell at my computer, telling it to "show the error message already!" because even if nothing changes, at least it's acknowledging that something's wrong.

And yet, when the message appears, that actually means the computer is nearly unfrozen. You see, before, it was too frozen even to put up the message (which also takes processing speed and virtual memory). 

During one of the long delays before that stage, I realized that guilt and sin in my life are a little bit like the computer error message. 

Hiding guilt, sin, shame, is deeply unsatisfactory. So is pretending it doesn't exist. It's about as obvious as the computer screen that displays half of a Gmail Inbox and half of a MS Word document at the same time, in whiteout. Even if nothing changes at first, I have a deep desire to say the guilt and shame out loud, just to acknowledge that it is real.

And sometimes - not always - that acknowledgement is the foundation of healing. It means that my heart has unfrozen sufficiently to display the error message, and maybe, soon, it will have enough RAM to get past the problem and scroll down to the bottom of the Gmail Inbox. 

Or something like that.