Monday, January 31, 2005

And Every Woman You Meet is Lauren Whitetoes

I went to Iowa this past weekend. I had never been to Iowa before and, while it has gotten a terrible reputation for being boring, I wanted to go. I have to say, Iowa was much better than what people had led me to believe. I'll admit, a lot of it is farmland which isn't all that pretty in the winter, but Iowa City is a pretty cool place. Above all, I really liked the people I saw there. All of them, even the strangers, seemed really friendly. The main purpose of my visit, though, was to hang out with a girl that I worked with this summer who is now a really good friend. It was awesome to see her, to talk with her about life and faith and school and the future. She, like me, feels that Christianity is growing more conservative and we both fear that this will lead to less tolerance and more divisiveness within the church. Both of us feel like our lives are split in half between our Christian friends and our non-Christian friends. It's a scary prospect, but it's good to know that I'm not the only one who fears this. It was also really good to get to reminisce and rehash things from this summer with someone who was there. Yay!

The travel to and from Iowa was also fun, as I got to ride with Ashley. The two of us listened to the wonderful music that we had been addicted to in junior high. Talk about quality stuff. We had a great time laughing over our former love for 'N Sync and Celine Dion. It was incredibly fun.

In short, I wish to defend the reputation of the state of Iowa. It's a pretty cool place, after all, with exceptionally cool people like Shoeless Ho, Ashley, and KJ.

More later, for now I'm off to, you guessed it, church.

Sunday, January 23, 2005

Convenience and Campus Confusion

I have some issues with convenience items. For instance: the peanut-butter-and-jelly-in-one-jar products. If you are so lazy that you can't take the time and effort to open two jars instead of just one, you don't deserve to eat a sandwich. The extra ten seconds required to open the second jar and spread the second topping really aren't going to make a difference to your life in the long run. And besides, the separate products taste SO much better than the combination. Also, have you ever noticed that when you're using those motion-sensing, self-flushing public toilets, they always seem to flush while you're sitting on the toilet, but never seem to want to flush when you're finished and ready to leave. You get a swirly, but when you really want your mess to disappear, it won't go away. And you feel guilty leaving it, but there really isn't another way to flush, so you do a funny little dance in the stall, waving your arms, stepping to either side of the space, just to try to make it flush. Not fun.

Rec Center
Our school rec. center has just been renovated, so now there are several new features. I know that we needed more space, and it will be a great thing to have more excercise machines, weight rooms, and workout studios, but some of the new features are a bit amusing. For instance, the new treadmills have DVD players in them. This presents, for me, a great opportunity. I'm tempted to take a movie over on a Friday night and just watch the movie while I walk. I mean, what a great workout I could get if I just took over one of my favorite 1.5 hour films or, better yet, my favorite Jane Austen 6-hour mini-series and walked while I watched. But then what happens if the person next to you is watching a bloody slasher film or, worse, a porn? You've already chosen your machine and then there's this creepy person next to you watching something that you wouldn't watch if you were being paid! What's the proper etiquette on that? Do you say something about their viewing choice offending you, or do you just switch machines? And what if there are no other open machines? Truly a difficult dilemma. The thing that has most of the students excited about the new rec center, though, is the additions (yet to be completed) of a "lazy river" and a juice bar. This is a roundabout waterway with a current, making it possible to grab an inner-tube and float around in circles for a little while. So, in theory, you could say you were going to the rec. center, giving the assumption that you're going to work out, then go float around the lazy river for a while, drink a juice, and come back, having only really exercised on the walks to and from. Talk about a fun "work out".

Now, on to the subject you've all been waiting for, my new classes. (Yes, I know you don't care, but I'm going to ramble anyway.) I'm taking two religious studies classes, which are similar in subject and are held in adjacent rooms on different days. I'm also taking a history class and a sociology class, both of which are cross-listed with women's and gender studies, and which take place in the same room on different days. This combination leads me to the unfortunate predicament of never knowing quite what class I'm in. I go to similar rooms for similar subjects every day and I'm already getting mixed up as to which class is which and what homework belongs to what professor. On top of that, I keep forgetting which day it is and, consequently, what time to go to these classes. Fortunately, the subject matter is so good that it's worth these minor confusions. Another of my classes, a sociology class, has the worst logistical setup that I've ever heard of. It's a writing intensive class with two lectures and a discussion every week, but the discussion contains all of the same people as the lecture and immediately follows the lecture except in a smaller room. This results in every person from the lecture merely getting up and walking upstairs and cramming into a smaller space in order to listen to the same professor continue with the same diatribe. It's a truly stupid idea. My last class is an honors class about the criminal justice system called "(In)Famous Trials". This one looks like a lot of fun, except for the intense amount of reading. The cool thing about this reading, though, is that it involves legal jargon and I get to use words like "thereto" and "hereby" with good reason. It's exciting. All in all, aside from the logistical confusions, it looks like it's going to be a good semester.

Thursday, January 13, 2005

"I am all astonishment!"

I'm beginning to feel as though I actually live at the MT desk. I haven't gone an entire 12 hour period in the last four days when I haven't been at the desk at some point. I'm heartily sick of being there. Of course, I write this as I sit at the desk, where I have been since before 7 a.m. Perhaps I should just move a cot into the back room and take up residence here so that it's more convenient. I'll ask my boss.

Jane Austen
The hours that I have been free from desk work have been mostly boring since very few people are in town yet and in order to do any more paperwork, I have to make appointments and go see administrators and stuff. So, I have filled my time reading, doing puzzles and watching movies of Jane Austen novels. While this is quite enjoyable, it has one unfortunate consequence: I have begun to speak like a character out of a Jane Austen novel. I've picked up words and phrases from the movies and, unless I think carefully about it, I run around saying things like, "I can't abide it!" or "I'm all astonishment!" I definitely need to get out more.

Does anyone else hate asking for recommendations letters? You have to track people down that you aren't usually that close to, then ask them to write nice things about you. It feels to me like the ultimate fishing for compliments. The conversations always seem awkward, something like this:

Me: Hi! Do you remember me? I was in your .... class. It was a great class, really changed my outlook and challenged me. I loved your lecture style!
Prof: I'm glad you enjoyed it.
(awkward pause...)
Me: So, um, how are you?
Prof: I'm doing well, albeit busy. I just finished my syllabus for this semester, then I need to prepare things on WebCT and meet with the other faculty in the department to prepare for the guest lecturers we're expecting this spring. What have you been up to?
Me: The usual. Preparing for classes this semester. I finished all of my gen. eds., so now I'm working on the upper-level classes in my major. Also, I'm putting together my application so I can study in South Africa next semester.
Prof: Oh, really?
(awkward pause...)
Me: Yes, I'm really hoping to be able to go. I want to study sociology and do a service-learning capstone.
Prof: That sounds exciting.
Me: Yes. (More awkward pausing...) I know you're really busy, but would you be willing to write a recommendation for my application?
(Professor gets pained look, knowing that he/she is incredibly busy and has neither the time nor the inclination, but meanwhile feels obligated as an academic professional to consent to such action. Meanwhile, student gets uncomfortable-looking semi-begging-mixed-with-tight-smile, trying to keep eye contact for the guilt-factor.)
Prof: Well, yes, I suppose I could do that.
Me: Oh, thank you so much! Here's the form (hands Prof. packet filled with difficult questions.) It's due in two weeks, so if you could do it as soon as possible, I'd appreciate it.
Prof: (with weary, tired, annoyed look) Yes, I'll do that.
Me: Thank you so much!!! (exit, stage left)
Prof: Aw, hell. Another one. Why did I take this job? (fade out)

Talk about discomfort! Why do academic institutions insist on having recommendations when they know it causes both student and teacher such irritation? I am most seriously displeased.

But for now, I'm off to wrap up my desk shift (ick) then off to talk to a professor about a recommendation letter (double ick!) and then I'm going back to bed (YAY!!!!).

Sunday, January 09, 2005

Broken Trees

Power has finally been restored to my hometown. Due to a huge ice storm last week, the town lost power for four days. This meant that some people had no heat, some had no water, and some people had enormous generators. I had never realized how many people in our tiny village actually own massive, noisy generators. It's really befuddling. The most bewildering thing about this, though, is how quiet and dark it can be, even with a lot of people around, when there's no power. I drove down Main St. (yes, like all good tiny towns, my hometown has a Main St.) at night, and it was bizarre to see no lights in people's windows, no lit-up signs for stores or businesses, and no street lamps. It was eerily quiet and still, as though everyone had retreated into the backs of their homes, leaving the whole place deserted. If you ever want to see what your home town would look like through the lens of a slasher movie, wait until the power goes out. It's bizarre.

My former roommate has moved out to study next semester in Greece (lucky her!) and I have been left with a dorm room all to myself (lucky me!!). Now I have to figure out how I'm ever going to make the room not seem too empty. I need to decorate the walls on the other half of the room, plus I have to decide if I want to use the spare bed as a couch or bungee-cord the two beds together and have a queen-size. Any suggestions on this front, whether quotes to hang on my walls or good places to get posters or votes for queen-bed vs. couch would be appreciated. (Do I sound like a campus survey yet?)

Anyway, I can't wait to see you school folk again. COME BACK AND RESCUE ME FROM EMPTY-DORM BOREDOM!!!!!

Wednesday, January 05, 2005

2004: The Year in Review (Stolen)

"2004: The Year in Review"
I definitely stole this form, but as long as I give credit it's not academic dishonesty, right? Ack. Too much college. Anyway, this is my year in review, brought to you commercial free by Clark (see links)

1. What did you do in 2004 that you'd never done before?
Held a (temporary) full-time job. Got promoted (different job). Went to South America.

2. Did you keep your New Year's resolutions, and will you make more for next year?
Last year: Lose 10 pounds (nope) and be braver (yeah, kinda). This year: Lose 10 pounds (that'll probably be my resolution every year until I die) and have spiritual time daily (at least this is something that might be achieved).

3. Did anyone close to you give birth?

4. Did anyone close to you die?
Aunt Eunice. Betsy. It was awful.

5. What countries did you visit?
Peru. It was fan-freaking-tastic. Only 3 continents to go.

6. What would you like to have in 2005 that you lacked in 2004?
A clue. I would definitely like to have a clue for once.

7. What date(s) from 2004 will remain etched upon your memory, and why?
Feb. 14: I hate Valentine's Day, but I have to admit it was pretty fun.
March-whichever-day-I-got-my-ASP-call: I walked around on a cloud all day.
June-August: I can't pick a day, every day on staff was amazing and I remember every one!
September 19: Insanity on a platter.
October 28: Six Flags with two of my favorite people ever.
December 18: Al finally makes an appearance at MY school!

8. What was your biggest achievement of the year?
Completing ASP summer staff. It was seriously hard core.

9. What was your biggest failure?
Not staying in better touch with people.

10. Did you suffer illness or injury?
Nothing worth mentioning.

11. What was the best thing you bought?
With other people's money? Lumber and a septic-tank-cleaning.
With my money? Probably the pair of jeans I'm wearing.

12. Whose behavior merited celebration?
Hmmm... The nominees for this award are:
Ashley: for incredible courage and the exploration of Mexico.
KJ: for her performances as cheerful accomplice, playground buddy, and appendix chauffer.
Wombat: for slow deshellification, late-night studying, butt-saving, life support, and the stolen pants.
Bear: for hilarious incorrigible behavior and an endless supply of hot wings.
Prew Prew: Because no one else is quite like you. Or even remotely in your end of the spectrum, for that matter.
Clark: For facing *gasp* the real world and cracking me up while you did it.
Rachel: Perry and Lee counties will never be the same, and neither will we.

13. Whose behavior made you appalled and depressed?
Mr. Darcy because he is unfortunately ABSENT. Brother Jed, who continues to make all Christians look bad. W (enough said).

14. Where did most of your money go?
Travel and food, but it was worth it.

15. What did you get really, really, really excited about?
Being on ASP staff!!! Seeing my favorite people again after long absences. HP6: tH-BP!

16. What songs will always remind you of 2004?
Beware, it's a LOOOOONG list:

"Hey Ya" ~Outkast
"Both Sides Now" ~Joni Mitchell
"Ain't No Sunshine" ~Bill Withers
"Walk Down This Mountain" ~Bebo Norman
"Redneck Woman" ~ Gretchen Wilson
"Short Skirt/Long Jacket" ~Cake
"Stacy's Mom" ~Fountains of Wayne
"No Sex" ~Chris Rock
"Jump in the Line" ~Harry Belafonte
"Accidentally in Love" ~Counting Crows
"Sweetest Goodbye" ~Maroon 5
"Every Rose Has Its Thorn" ~Poison
"Friday I'm in Love" ~The Cure
"Dumb Girls" ~Lucy Woodward
"Emmanuel" ~Michael W. Smith
"Christmas Song" ~Dave Matthews Band
"Here With Me" ~Dido
"Safety Dance" ~Men Without Hats
"Constant Sorrow" ~Oh Brother, Where Art Thou Soundtrack
"College Kids" ~Relient K
"Down On the Corner" ~Creedence Clearwater Revival
"A Hazy Shade of Winter" ~Simon and Garfunkel
"Open Book" ~Cake
"The Luckiest" ~Dave Matthews
"Sell Out" ~Reel Big Fish

17. Compared to this time last year, are you:
i. happier or sadder?
About the same, I guess. Maybe sadder because my break is shorter.
ii. richer or poorer?
Richer. (Having a real job helps this a great deal)

18. What do you wish you'd done more of?
Really talked with people. Read more good books. Played sports.

19. What do you wish you'd done less of?
Wasted less time, spent less money.

Skipping 20, 21 was missing...

22. Did you fall in love in 2004?
Nope. Loved people like I always do, but didn't fall in.

23. How many one-night stands?
Sadly, none.

24. What was your favorite TV program?
Umm... Didn't really watch enough TV to have one. Probably Saved by the Bell reruns.

25. Do you hate anyone now that you didn't hate this time last year?
Can't think of anyone.

26. What was the best book you read?
Ouch. Probably Grace by Mary Cartledgehayes.

27. What was your greatest musical discovery?
Cake, Reel Big Fish, and Dave Matthews Band. I'm a little slow on the uptake.

28. What did you want and get?
An iPod and the ASP job.

29. What did you want and not get?
Clarity on decisions.

30. What was your favorite film of this year?

31. What did you do on your birthday, and how old were you?
I went to the playground wearing a tiara and a boa, played in the sprinklers, and ate cake. I turned a very mature 20 years old.

32. What one thing would have made your year immeasurably more satisfying?
I got nothing.

33. How would you describe your personal fashion concept in 2004?
The "I don't really care" jeans and T-shirt combination, with optional dirt and stink during ASP and additional sweatshirt for October-December

34. What kept you sane?
Too late for that. Seriously, though, probably the Wombat.

35. Which celebrity/public figure did you fancy the most?
It's a toss-up between Colin Firth and Hugh Jackman: I like tall, dark, older men with accents.

36. What political issue stirred you the most?
Poverty. We need to take care of the people we have. Welfare, with the current reforms, is doing more harm than good. We need to fix unemployment and provide real food, shelter, and health care for ALL American citizens.

37. Who did you miss?
I missed the Ohio people when I was in Missouri, the Missouri people in Ohio, family when I was at school, and ASP people when I was elsewhere. In short, I was always missing someone.

38. Who were the best new people you met?
ASP Staffers, people in Lee Co., VA, and the FARC freshies.

39. Tell us a valuable life lesson you learned in 2004.
"Dirty" is relative.

40. Quote a song lyric that sums up your year.
Two: yin and yang of my year.

"So walk down this mountain with your heart held high
Follow in the footsteps of your Maker
With this love that's gone before you and these people at your side,
If you offer up your broken cup you will taste the meaning of this life.

It's a common ground and I see we're all still standing.
Just look around and you'll find the very face of God
He's walking down into the distance
He's walking down to where the messes are." ~Bebo Norman, "Walk Down This Mountain"

"But now it's just another show
And you leave 'em laughing when you go
And if you care don't let them know
Don't give yourself away

I've looked at love from both sides now
From give and take and still somewhow
It's love's illusions that I recall
I really don't know love at all.

Tears and fears and feeling proud
To say I love you right out loud.
Dreams and schemes and circus crowds
I've looked at life that way.

Ah but now old friends they're acting strange
And they shake their heads and they tell me that I've changed
Well something's lost and something's gained in living every day

I've looked at life from both sides now
From win and lose and still somehow
It's life's illusions I recall
I really don't know life at all." ~Joni Mitchell "Both Sides Now"

Monday, January 03, 2005


I am drowning in a sea of paperwork and, trust me, it isn't the shallow end. I've got paperwork for study abroad, but mostly it's ministry inquiry paperwork. I know that they don't let just anyone be ministers, but SHEESH. I've got to write letters about everything that's ever happened to me, get a psychological test, a background check, and a drug test, plus an interest inventory (think Jr. High career exploration junk) and two workbooks of theological and doctrinal questions. I'm sure it'll be worth it in the end, but it's starting to make me just a little bit nuts.

One thing I have found time to do this break is catch up on some of my reading. I'm having a blast giggling my way through Al Franken's Lies and the Lying Liars Who Tell Them: A Fair and Balanced Look at the Right. On the spiritual side, I'd recommend Travelling Mercies by Anne Lamott or Henri Nouwen's In His Own Words. Both of them will get you thinking and make you laugh. I'm always a fan of the Rita Mae and Sneaky Pie Brown mysteries, so I delved into Whiskers of Evil to catch up in the series. I'm hoping to get through some heavier sociological and psychological theory yet this break, Jane Green's most recent works, and a few other things.

Coming Attractions
I'm heading west this coming weekend and, to my great excitement, I'm going to be in St. Louis to catch RENT at the Fox Theater. I've seen it three times, but I love it too much not to go see it again. Plus I get to introduce another friend to this fabulous musical, so I'm really pumped about that.

In the meantime, I've got massive cleaning and organizing and paperworking to do. Eek!