Wednesday, December 24, 2008
Proof that perhaps The Secret works.
Anyway, I love this time of year. And my Christmas note this year will be short, because my thoughts of Christmas have revolved around one word: home. Because to me, that is precisely what Christmas is.
As I exited the bus and hiked up a small hill to my parents' home, I walked past all of the houses in the neighborhood I grew up in and realized that one of the fundamental feelings I associate with Christmas is familiarity. Few of these houses have changed, and my parents have never moved since the momentous occasion of my birth. (Okay, okay . . . in all fairness, since before I was born)
The interior of my parents' house is in turmoil right now: they are re-modeling the entire upstairs floor (Merry Christmas to them!) and it's approximately one-quarter carpeted. The kitchen cabinets and counters were installed not too long ago, along with a sink . . . my dad even put up an awesome tile backsplash of pretty, earthy colors.
I'm not going to lie; it doesn't look remotely homey. But it feels homey. There is space for me here. (For a few days, at least.) And the people surrounding me (including the neighbors) are all people who know me . . . and who love me despite their knowing me.
My mom put up no Christmas decorations, unless you count the Christmas cards sitting atop the old microwave (the new microwave cannot go back onto its mount until the backsplash has been thoroughly grouted and refinished). But it's Christmas here. I spent an entire Christmas Eve day chilling with my mom and my brother, getting creamed at Scrabble and card games alike.
And although my dad is currently attempting to properly connect the disposal so that the dishwasher can, indeed, be run this evening--it's home. And it always be.
Just as I know Christ has prepared a heavenly home. For me. And you. And everybody. That's why He was born and that's why, this Christmas, I am celebrating home.
Monday, December 15, 2008
My usual exit is Christmas music. (And if you can't figure out my Christmas CD of choice from the last post, well . . . I hate to break it to you . . . but you're a little dense.) And I've been listening to the good stuff (I say "good stuff" because I'm sure that all of you, as well-informed and intelligent human beings, have noticed that the Christmas music that gets a lot of radio play is hardly what I would call "good stuff." With the exception of Josh Groban's "Believe" from The Polar Express soundtrack, which gets a decent amount of radio play and fits my criteria for good) since the beginning of December. But I found myself just not feeling it.
Perhaps because I was listening to it while reading, writing my assignments, falling asleep, and generally not having time to pay any attention whatsoever to what it said.
But between, December 7 and yesterday, I did three things that have left me in a decidedly Christmas-y mood:
1. I watched the First Presidency Devotional, which always gets me in the mood for the season. Plus I now have ideas for how to conduct my own nativity scenes someday: I quite enjoyed President Eyring recounting how, as their family grew, they had a scene that involved Samuel the Lamanite and they let the other kids attempt to "stone" him . . . But the messages, on the whole, reminded me why I love this time of year: although many people don't share my beliefs, it's a time when people are generally kinder. Softer. More good-willed. And all of the messages helped me to feel more of that good will.
(Related side: My roommate and I were talking about Christmas on the way home from Activity #2 and about how, while we are happy about the general goodwill people feel at this time of year, we find it sad that they never give proper credit to the Source of that feeling. Instead, they treat it as something that is "magical." Not that I think magic is non-existent or inherently bad; I just believe what they label magic comes from a divine source. Making it heavenly rather than magical.)
2. My lovely roommate (yes, she has entered blogdom! and yes, it's partially my fault!) and I went to see A Christmas Carol at Hale Center Theatre Thursday night. It was marvelously well-acted, well-sung, and it's one of my favorite things to see at Christmas time. In any form: Live theatre form. Muppet-style . . . The story is timeless and I always finish it feeling like a lighter, better person. And wanting to be even better than I am.
3. Yesterday, my parents, my little brother, and me got to see the Sunday version of the MoTab Christmas. Alas, on a Sunday, you don't get the whole program: you get Music and the Spoken Word plus a mini-concert. And this year was amazing. Brian Stokes Mitchell, in true Broadway fashion, did a little bit of acting while he sang. Not so much acting as to be campy, but it was a refreshing change from watching other singers who have been there in the past--the kind of singers who just stand still. He gave me something to watch as well as something to listen to. And I tell you right now: I'll get the CD of this particular performance for my listening pleasure next Christmas, if only to hear a couple of the fabulous arrangements (particularly of "I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day" and the "God Rest Ye, Merry Gentlemen" processional . . . not to mention Mr. Mitchell sang a great English carol called "The Friendly Beasts" and sang each verse in the voice of the animal it was about . . . seriously, you can't tell me it doesn't take talent to imitate a donkey, a sheep, a cow, and a dove on key).
By the end of the performance, I must admit I got a little bit tired of all of the popping up and down. I mean--come on, people--we know they're MoTab and they're good, but that does that mean we have to give them a standing ovation after every number?!
After a week like that, I find myself humming carols incessantly and dancing around and plotting little Christmas surprises for those who may or may not expect to have them. I am now, thankfully, in the holiday spirit.
So if you're feeling more like a Scrooge or a Grinch, watch you some Christmas Carol. Pop in a MoTab CD. Read past Christmas messages . . . And if you are still grouchy, then I'm sorry, friend. Something is seriously (and possibly--though probably not) irreparably wrong with you.
Monday, December 8, 2008
If, however, you dare to dislike this version (as sung by the ever-fabulous Josh Groban, whose Christmas CD every person with any sort of musical taste should own, because it's amazing) . . . well, then, you have two choices:
1. Learn to like it. (Or at least pretend to like it.) Or . . .
2. Allow yourself to be cultured by none other than me, myself, and I.
And if you don't like it, I have only one question for you: what do you have against the bagpipes?
Saturday, December 6, 2008
Not, mind you, that I'm not happy for Schmetterling.
It's just that I've been sick off an on since mid-October (ish), and I know that none of my professors would cut me that kind of slack.
Of course, since anxiety and stress have weakened the immune systems of 90% of all of the grad students and I'm pretty sure that the vast majority of us will be sick this week (which, really, seems patently unfair since it's the last week of classes and all of the big projects are coming due), the professors would be granting leeway less on an individual basis and more on the basis of the collective sickness of the group.
I had high hopes for the state of my health this morning. Until I woke up with a runny nose. A sore throat from you-know-where. And some severe congestion issues. I'd crawl back in bed, except I have things to do. Far, far, far too many things to do.
Tuesday, December 2, 2008
Often, the form comes out as poetry. But not always.
Anyway, last week, I read Steve Tomasula's Book of Portraiture for my Narrative Theory class, and a particular sentence caught my attention. (In fact, my reaction after reading it the first time was, "I know there's a poem in there somewhere.")
This sentence fascinates me to no end. You're allowed to love it, hate it, analyze it, or better yet--use it to write a thought/poem/short story of your own. Which you will then preferably leave in my comments. (Or, if it's really long, post on your own blog and then leave a link in my comments.)
Here it is:
Quixote can be a Knight-errant, Dulcinea his Lady if others are taken up and join in the story, for God, who alone can judge Good and Evil, lets his sun shine upon sinners as well as saints while we, His ignorant, earth-bound creatures, are left to arrange our chairs.
Monday, December 1, 2008
Unless you know me personally, in which case you might already suspect.
But here it is: I'm not truly a cynic. I'm actually a cock-eyed optimist (insert the one-eyed joke of your choice in these parentheses here, because really, with a descriptor like "cock-eyed," it's almost too easy, yes?) who dresses in cynic's clothing. You see, the cynics are never disappointed.
And since all of my disappointments are due to unmet expectations, wouldn't the disappointments of a cynical person be sort of an ironic thing? Because, you know, things turned out better than they expected?
Anyway, part of what has led me to this conclusion: this semester has been one of the most grueling experiences of my life. Rewarding, certainly. Fun, even. But more mentally, physically, spiritually, and emotionally challenging than any other time in my entire life.
I exaggerate not.
My first semester of graduate school has introduced me to a host of new ideas. A host of ways of approaching those ideas. A heckuva lot of new people I found intriguing. And these are all good things, these are all expectations that were met.
The unmet expectation: that I knew what I signed up for, what I was getting into. I thought I knew. But there is, simply, no way to know until you arrive at this point. The funny thing about my experience this semester is this: I was warned. And I let that warning slip out of my head.
While I was enmeshed in the process of completing applications at this time last year, Petra and I were having frequent e-mail exchanges. At that time, Petra was wrapping up her first semester of graduate school, and she was a fount of helpfulness and wisdom when it came to both my applications and what the practical experience was like. (In short, what she was experiencing at that moment.)
She felt out-classed. Overwhelmed. Exhausted. All of the emotions I'm feeling now, but I somehow managed to dismiss that series of e-mails between the time I read them and the time I received my acceptance letter. As soon as I received the acceptance, the rose-colored glasses were firmly secured back in their place.
The great irony is this: over the past couple of weeks, I found myself telling a couple of friends that nobody had told me what I signed up for. And then, in the course of trying to find a particular e-mail, I came across Petra's e-mails and re-read them for a second time and realized: someone had, indeed, warned me about this. Vehemently.
She never said it wouldn't be worth it, and she also stated an absolute certainty that I could manage the load. But she told me exactly what my experience would be like.
And yet the cock-eyed optimist in me found a way to overtake the pragmatic advice I'd digested (and if I never thanked you, Petra, for those e-mails . . . now, more than then, I am grateful to know you cared enough to tell me exactly how it would be without sugar-coating it) and turn my vision of graduate school into a sparkly, friendly, happy environment.
So the next time I seem terribly cynical, call me on it. Because the optimism isn't nearly as buried as it probably should be.
Wednesday, November 12, 2008
So here, from a six-and-a-half-years-younger me, is what made me feel chastised today. It's from something I wrote in a freshman honors writing class at BYU entitled "Unsolicited Solicited Advice from Me":
I can envision you in my mind. You are sitting at your desk with a blank sheet of paper laying in front of you in all of its bright, white glory. You hold a pen in your hand, but you aren't writing with it. You are fiddling with it, waiting for inspiration to strike you like an angry viper. You want lightning to strike you brain, and then you'll start writing things down. Why are you waiting, chump?
If I can give any advice, it's to stop sitting around on your rear end waiting for the hummingbird of inspiration to fly into your brain. Inspiration comes to those who earnestly seek it. It's just like praying for divine inspiration to help you in a decision you make. You don't sit around mulling over how much you need the inspiration. You get down on your knees and you pray your guts out. You do. You don't just think about doing. D&C 4:7 says, "Ask, and ye shall receive; knock and it shall be opened unto you." Please note that it doesn't say, "Sit around waiting for God to tell you what in the heck you should be doing." No, indeed, this scripture advocates action.
Mixed metaphors aside (give a girl a break . . . like I said, that came for a six-and-a-half-years-younger me, and I like to think I've learned a few things since then), I was surprised at something the younger me viewed as fundamental that the older me has forgotten: in short, I have forgotten how to throw myself wholeheartedly into something. I've forgotten how to act first and think later.
These days I spend entirely too much time mulling, and I'm relatively certain that my insistence on massive amounts of mulling is what lands me in apathy- and passivity-land. The more I think about writing something--anything--the more crippled I feel when it comes to actually writing it.
So today, I'm going to remember something my 18-year-old self seems to have known, but somewhere along the line, my 24-year-old self forgot: I'm going to remember how to do. How to act. How to achieve. How not to wait.
Tuesday, November 11, 2008
This semester, as it comes to an end, does not feel as though it is winding down: rather, it feels as though it winds up. It seems as though I have a multitudinous number of projects to accomplish in the next several weeks.
In all fairness, the project count tallies up to three or four, if I count the thery essay due this Friday. With, of course, homework assignments still occuring on a regular basis.
As time has progressed, I have sometimes wondered why I am doing this. But then I have a day or two of clarity, of knowing I'm exactly where I need to be . . . and then I soldier on. I have never been a person who backs down from a challenge, and I'm not about to start now.
Especially since, in the end, the achievements I struggle for always mean a lot more to me than the ones that come naturally.
Tuesday, November 4, 2008
(The writing assignment, incidentally, is not the point: but it's an assignment to evaluate my own writing processes--how I formulate, how I edit, how I revise--and how those processes may vary from elective writing to school writing. If they vary. So here am I, writing something electively. And as I write, I'm evaluating myself. If I reach any conclusions I find worth sharing, I'll let y'all know at a later date.)
Anyway, the Relief Society lesson on Sunday was about gratitude. (Apropos, of course, since November is a month of Thanksgiving. Thanksgiving with a capital T, of course, because every month of the year should be a month of thanksgiving.)
In the course of the lesson, the teacher drew a glass on the board and asked: "Is this half-full or half-empty?"
"It depends on your goal," a girl said. "If your goal is to empty it, then the glass is half-empty. But if your goal is to fill it, then your glass if half-full."
This response elicited a number of oohs and ahhs from girls who thought that particular insight was rather deep.
The teacher continued on, "This is like our blessings. So shouldn't we view it as half-full?"
While some of you may think, based on this blog, that I'm a particularly confrontational person, I don't like to cause big scenes in places like church. Or say anything that I think could potentially make someone feel bad. But not to put too fine a point on it: she was wrong.
If you don't believe me that she was wrong, please visit Psalms 23 and note that, when it comes to the gospel, our cups are never half anything. In fact, our cups are always overflowing. Heavenly Father doesn't do anything halfway. He didn't lead the Israelites halfway through the wilderness.
In fact, Heavenly Father likes things whole: He wants us to serve him with all of our might, mind, and strength. (As one of the sisters in the General Relief Society presidency put it during the Relief Society meeting a few years ago: he does not want us reading our scriptures with only one eye while tracking something else with the other, and he does not want us to pray with one eye closed and one eye opened . . . My older sister got a kick out of the idea of not reading the scriptures with one eye and elbowed me to let me know that I was obviously doomed since it's a physical impossibility for me to read with both eyes. But that's neither here nor there, which is probably why I included it in the parentheses.)
It may seem a technicality, but I thought it important to iterate to myself and now to you: our cups are running over. Always.
Not, mind you, that means people will always be grateful. Instead of whining about a half-empty glass, the most pessimistic people will find ways of whining about how a cup cannot contain all that water and, oh dear!, what a dreadful mess that's making . . .
Thursday, October 30, 2008
It's really been that long.
But unfortunately, my brain is currently less than functional due to a certain amount of cold medicine in my system.
Still, I felt obliged to say something.
So . . .
Something. And I'll write something real later, when I have some sort of normal time to think about it.
Wednesday, October 8, 2008
"We're adults. When did that happen? And how do we make it stop?" --Meredith Grey
I have recently discovered many of the people in my acquaintance have glorified adulthood. They have attributed some sort of magical, mystical power to act of growing up and moving past college into their career fields.
Graduating, entering the "adult" realm, and forging our own paths: all of these things seem far away while we're in the course of obtaining our college education. All of these things also seem to imply a certain amount of freedom, as well.
And it isn't that growing up doesn't come without freedom. Freedom does come--as part of a package. I think so many of my friends have found themselves disenchanted with post-school life because they weren't cognizant that freedom came as part of a package deal.
Once freedom is in place--and by freedom, I mean independence from things such as parents, school, and their matching obligations--a new set of obligations comes into play. Work. Rent. Food. Balance.
In short, we trade one set of priorities for another and one system of rules and obligations for a new system. (To a friend--not the above-mentioned--who recently whined about her inability to find a job that allowed her to be completely free, I felt required to respond: Seriously? No, seriously?!)
Funny, but we tend to glorify this idea of we are on our own while experiencing a mental disconnect that does not allow us to evaluate all of the ramifications of we are on our own. We are on our own to structure our time, to decide our hobbies, to find our jobs, to do consistently good work at our jobs, to pay our taxes, to pay our rent, to make our meals, to buy our meals, to buy our groceries . . .
We have support systems, sure. My two roommates make sure I don't live in a vacuum. But ultimately, all of our responsibilities lie with us. We have achieved the great dream: reaching a point in our lives where nobody is dictating to us what we do. But we forget this comes with the obligation to act as our own dictator.
In short, since when has being a grown-up been fun?
Like everything, it has its fun moments. But fun has never been the essence of growing up, and I have to wonder where on earth we get this idea. (I'm leaning toward the media. Thus the Grey's quote . . . but I don't know that the media are the definitive answer to this particular question of origin)
I never looked at my parents and thought, "Hey, they're grown-ups. And they're having fun!" But I do remember thinking my parents had quite the number of duties and obligations.
As a child, the only reason I ever wanted to be grown-up was for the power. It seemed to come with a lot of power. But other than that, my child-like mind held onto the never-grow-up, Peter Pan ideal.
Because I thought growing up would stink.
It hasn't stunk. But it sure hasn't been magical or mystical either.
Tuesday, September 30, 2008
Pride, my friends, cometh before the fall.
(Yes, Caroline. You were right. I tried to do too much. Please refrain from gloating.)
When the Relief Society presidency of our new ward came to visit my roommates and me on Sunday, they asked what we all did. One of my roommates, after I mentioned my insanely busy schedule, said: "Yep. She works full-time and goes to school full-time. She's Superwoman!"
It's a phrase she has repeated to various new acquaintances, and I cringe every time she says it. Because I'm not. I've been sleep-deprived, apathetic, and unable to shine at my homework assignments in all the ways I've wanted. I've stayed up late to finish papers, awakened early to make sure I had all of my reading done, and spent some of my time in class fiercely battling sleep.
My migraines have proliferated. I've been fighting off colds and the flu far earlier in the semester than I should have to . . . And I knew all along that if anything would fall by the wayside, it would be working full-time.
I handed in my notice today, and both of my bosses took it surprisingly well. (I keep waiting for the other shoe to drop . . .)
But now I find myself in a familiar employment situation: I need part-time work. I don't have anything lined up yet. But I have faith something will come up. Especially since I know this is what I need to do.
Just as the situation is familiar, so is this immense feeling of relief . . .
Friday, September 26, 2008
I don't know how I managed it, but somehow I lost sight of the way I write essays until approximately two hours ago.
This is rather funny, because my preferred methodology actually came as a direct result of learning, my freshman year, one of the ways Petra chose to organize her essays: by jotting ideas on index cards and then arranging the cards to mirror how she would structure her essay. And even funnier: it was not too long that I mentioned, in chatting with Petra, how I still used that particular methodology when organizing essays.
Due on Monday: a seminar paper about House of Leaves. But for a couple of days, I felt I'd hit a roadblock. Until I remembered this method. I spew out an amalgam of ideas, one per index card. And then I spew out a bunch of quotes from the text itself and a couple of analyses of the text.
Then I start playing feng shui with the index cards. Before I know it . . . there's a paper there! Magically appearing. I just have to fill in the blanks . . .
Thursday, September 25, 2008
In my last job, my boss liked to give gift certificates to restaurants as gifts--for Administrative Professionals day ("Secretaries Day" is, I don't know if you know, not as politically correct as it once was.), for birthdays, and for any major holidays.
Anyway, last night I remembered I still had two unexpired Pei Wei gift certificates, so I sent a text message to my roommate, asking if she wanted to go out to dinner.
I admit it: I didn't want to cook.
When I arrived home, I started to hunt for the gift certificates. I found one of them easily; it resided in the precise spot on my desk where I remembered placing both of them. But I didn't see the other one.
The hunt was on.
And my floor was--and is, for that matter--completely covered with stuff. Clothes. Notebooks. Books. Boxes. My printer. (I don't have the room to fit it on my desk, and even when my room gets messy, I have a very clear path from my bed to my door. And I've never bumped my printer hard enough to do any particular damage. I just tend to accidentally nudge the tray with my foot sometimes.)
I looked through everything on my desk. Didn't see it. And then, like an anxious little mole, I started digging. Not on the floor. But since my floor is home to such large quantities of clutter, I determined the only way to verify the missing gift certificate was not on the floor was to clear off one corner, thus ensuring it wasn't there, and then shift all of the clutter to that corner.
My roommate came into my room to see if I'd found the gift certificates, and I explained the situation to her. She offered to help search as I told her what I was doing and detailed how I'd looked on my desk four times and under my desk four times . . . how I knew I'd had the gift certificates me with my little brother and I had gone to see Wall-E in Bountiful just a couple of weeks ago (we didn't use them then, because my little brother wrinkled his nose at Asian food, so we ate at Rumbi instead . . .)
Furthermore, I remembered pulling them out of my purse together and setting them both on the desk. As I threw around more objects and more clothing items, I got increasingly frustrated. Yea, verily, I do believe some actual growling may have occurred.
In a precursor to conceding defeat and either just making dinner or just buying dinner, I sat down on my bed, nudged a paper or two on the desk, and saw . . . the remaining gift certificate. It had been sitting on my desk the entire time.
(At this point, I almost complained about turning my room upside down. But then thought better of it, when I realized that I couldn't have maintained my room was right side up--so to speak--to begin with.)
In my defense, I was looking for the yellow of the front side of the gift card cover thingie (I don't know what you'd call it, it's certainly not really an envelope). And the side facing down was white.
I still felt more than a little stupid.
But at least it provided enough laugh therapy for my roommate to last two weeks.
Thursday, September 18, 2008
Given the right person and the right circumstances, I can have an entire conversation (that makes sense, no less) quoting Stargate: SG-1 or Gilmore Girls.
It's true; I really am that talented :)
Lest you think I'm some sort of lemming (and if you think I'm some sort of lemming, you obviously don't know me well at all), I found the idea intriguing. I'm not going to tag anyone, because I get far more enjoyment about telling you how I'm quirky. But if you see this and have the urge to follow suit, consider yourself tagged.
And anyway, I'm just a quirky person. So here are six quirks of mine:
1. I think chips and guacamole are one of the ultimate brain foods. If I feel hungry but I know I need to keep studying, I'll smash up a couple of avocados and add some magically miraculous seasoning packet . . . and proceed to eat all of the guacamole while I study.
2. If you've ever seen my bookshelves up close and personal, you already know this. (And if you're Steve, then you've probably exploited this small instance of OCD to drive me crazy. Even though I tried not to be driven crazy . . .) But my books are very specifically arranged from shortest to tallest. (Major B, as I recall, called this a crime because I separated "book families." Not all of the Card is adjacent, nor is all of the Rowling. Nor is all of the Tolkien, for that matter.)
3. Sometimes, when I'm in church and having difficulties paying attention, I make snarky or sarcastic (or snarkastic!) comments. Like the day in one of my old wards when the Sunday School teacher was talking about the story of Rebekah at the well. He asked, "What do we learn from this?" I muttered to my friend: "That to find a husband we should go hang out by the drinking fountain?"
4. Cleaning things is my primary form of procrastination. And at the beginning of this school year, I vowed I would keep my room clean so that I would not be able to engage in this particular form of procrastination. That hasn't worked out so well for me. Right now, I cannot see my bedroom floor.
5. Spending a couple of years in marching band has permanently affected me. Now, whenever I hear music, I find myself automatically adjusting my pace to walk to the beat.
6. In my entire lifetime, I can only think of two times I've walked out of a bookstore empty-handed. It seems like a betrayal to so many good books to not buy them. Also: I like to smell books.
I definitely have more quirks than that, but I'm not going to tell you what they are. Those are for me to know and you to (maybe) find out.
Tuesday, September 16, 2008
There's a lady in that class who's probably in her fifties or so, and she annoys me. (Which might be why I found this so humorous) And just to be clear: she doesn't annoy me because she's in her fifties. It's her personality that annoys me. I can't even put an exact finger on why, but her personality in someone the age of twenty would bug me just as much.
Anyway, yesterday, she talked about how many years ago she worked with kids with autism.
"We always wanted to give them choices," she said, "but we always wanted them to choose what we wanted them to choose. So we'd always offer our choice as the second choice, and that was the choice they usually took. Do you think it relates."
"Did anyone ever tell you that you were going to hell for that?" The professor asked. "Did they mention the word 'manipulation' at all?"
Today, he is wearing a suit.
I am wearing a t-shirt, jeans, and flip flops.
The visual would be that much better if there were actually a visual. Sigh . . .
Thursday, September 11, 2008
As I had suspected, though, it was only a matter of time before I found myself getting acclimated. Before I readjusted to how school life works. Granted, this time around I'm juggling a more demanding job, but I'm back into school mode and it feels good.
Anyway, while I enjoy my Narrative Theory class and I find my Composition Theory class intriguing and frustrating in turns, I adore my Critical Theory class. And it isn't because I particularly adore critical theory.
I love the way this particular professor teaches it.
As I discussed with a couple of fellow students on Monday: when I was taught these theories as an undergraduate student, the professors had the tendency to treat each individual theorist as God. (I'm sorry if you find this blasphemous, but I just can't think of a better way to put it.) They were the Ultimate Experts on their theories, and we should not question them. Because they were brilliant! That's why we learned their theories!
(This by the way, is the line of reasoning people followed. Just to clarify. I didn't particularly subscribe to this line of reasoning.)
Any questions about problems inherent to the theories were quickly disposed in whatever way the professor chose, and class continued on back then. As I said, questioning wasn't an option. Unless you were questioning the methods of applying the theories--and even that, sometimes, was kind of a gray zone.
This professor encourages the questioning. Asks us to reason our way through the arguments if we can . . . and then proceeds to tell us why the argument is faulty. Or not faulty. But usually, why the argument is faulty.
My roommate, I can tell you, still exists in the theorist-as-God paradigm, because last week when I declared Plato to be nuts, she told me: "You can't do that. He's Plato." That's right. He's Plato. He's not God. Just because some people thought his ideas were good or important does not mean I can't question those same ideas.
You can imagine how validated I felt when I went to class the next day, and our professor declared Plato to be completely insane. So far: Plato is starking raving mad, Saussure had kinda a good idea, Aristotle sort of got it . . . but sort of didn't. Right now, we're discussing Descartes. Who is also bonkers.
When it comes to learning, I have always been a questioner. That is one of my fundamental ways of learning. I have sometimes questioned the basic premises of theorists (which some professors found interesting and some found annoying) when I didn't understand how they arrived at their basic premise.
I don't care what anyone says, it's very rare for a basic premise to just exist (voila! basic premise! like magic!) in its own natural right and be so intuitive that it can be proven. I'm sure some of you might be itching to disagree with this statement. Disagree away.
I thrive on disagreement. That's why I like this particular class.
Friday, September 5, 2008
Today, I have a paper due by 3 PM. (To be submitted, thank heaven, by e-mail . . . I so dearly love that this particular professor enjoys being in the loop electronically and finds it far more handy and convenient to receive essays, print them off on his paper, scribble notes on them and return them.)
Since I work full-time and I don't exactly have time in the course of my work day to pause long enough to figure out why, exactly, Plato argues that written communication is inferior to spoken communication . . . I knew I needed to do it last night.
So here is the sequence of what I did when I got home.
1. Dropped bag on floor, grabbed laptop, and checked e-mail and Facebook.
2. Ate dinner. While skimming Plato.
3. Returned to room, where I picked up my laptop again. And visited YouTube, where I discovered the trailer for Nick and Norah's Infinite Play List, a movie based on a book recommended by a former roommate.
4. Decided I was in the mood to watch Ewan McGregor sing. Therefore, searched "Moulin Rouge--Elephant Love Medley" . . . and viewed four different incarnations. (I was enriching my linguistic experience! One of the videos was in French!)
5. Hid my head in shame when roommate came home and brought my keys to me, because I'd been so absorbed in thinking about my assignment I'd left them in the door. (Note to self: no more teasing her about the absentminded things she does)
6. Thought Plato might be easier to digest with a side of guacamole and chips. Hoped deliciousness would prompt a wonderful stream of thought and cause me to finish essay in a matter of mere minutes. (Mere minutes=twenty or so)
7. Returned to room. Vowed to knuckle down. Started typing outline of points Plato makes.
8. Got bored and started writing a stream of consciousness about how graduate school is far different than I expect, about how I do and don't wish my fellow students were as smart as me, about how I'm beginning to learn to get creative with my time management.
9. And another visit to YouTube. This time because I felt a spontaneous impulse to watch the Nerdfighters vlog with the Harry Potter song. (You know: "I need Harry Potter like a grindylow needs a water . . . accio, Harry Potter!")
10. Followed by an urge (resisted) to look up my favorite Potter passages.
11. By now, we have reached 10:15, when my thoughts started to congeal, but were still only in a semi-gelatinous state.
12. Which--of course!--could be cemented by eating more chips and guacamole.
13. Other roommate arrives home. Must chat!
14. Already home roommate starts chatting too.
15. 10:40: the thoughts are solidified. But the words aren't coming.
17. Growl at Word 2007, because what's up with the spacing??
18. Figure out spacing.
19. Erase everything I'd written that's formal and review notes again.
20. Write. Get on a roll. Reach conclusion of essay at 12:05 AM.
21. Get stuck. Decide to e-mail to self at office and use ten minutes this morning to finish conclusion.
It's just a good thing I'd already cleaned my room and it's super-tidy. Otherwise, the procrastination list would have been much, much longer. As it was, I resisted vacuuming, cleaning the bathroom, and wiping down the mini-blinds. All things, mind you, which need to be done. (Unlike much of what I did to procrastinate yesterday . . . Hmmm . . .)
Tuesday, September 2, 2008
In the course of my undergraduate work, I was used to being one of the brightest, most vocal people in the class. The sort of student people think of as consistently intelligent with episodic epiphanies of brilliance. You know, nothing special.
And don't get me wrong: I don't hate graduate school. But I certainly wish someone had managed to completely quash my expectations. You know why? There isn't much witty talk and banter, and I highly doubt I'm stunning my professors. Rather, I'm now the student who is episodically intelligent but otherwise quiet.
As for the absorbing of new information: there is a lot of information involved in taking 3 graduate classes. A lot. Which is probably why we're not all witty and in bantering moods--we're tired from reading and reading and reading some more.
(Incidentally, my Composition Theory professor says that is what graduate students do: they read. And read. And read some more. And, every few hours, they look up from their texts to verify their own existence. Then they continue reading.)
It's interesting for me to think about my expectations for this experience, because they were far off the mark. The funny thing about school is this: junior high teachers attempt to prepare you for your high school workload by telling you that you'll have teachers who act like theirs is the only class. That didn't happen to me so much. High school was like junior high, but with more advanced materials.
Then high school teachers told me that undergraduate professors would act like their class is the only class in the world. And again, I didn't have that experience as an undergraduate. I did my fair share of work, sure, but it didn't seem that any of my professors harbored the delusion they taught the only class I was taking.
The undergraduate professors didn't really give me much feedback about how grad school works. But grad school is finally the point where professors acts like their class is the only class students are taking.
It makes for an interesting work load. I have yet to determine whether the job will or won't fall by the way side. I'm giving it a couple more weeks . . .
Tuesday, August 26, 2008
Well, recently, I've been thinking that at least one of my e-mail addresses must be spam Shangri-La, because I get an awful lot of it. Thankfully, that e-mail address is forwarded to my g-mail account . . . which is then smart enough to promptly file it in the spam folder. Astonishingly--and depressingly--I get about five times as much spam in any given day as I do e-mail from regular human beings who actually want to communicate with me.
(And if you want to send me an e-mail, I welcome it. Especially if it's an e-mail that isn't asking me for something. I tend to get a fair few of those . . . usually from siblings and friends who perform the equivalent of e-mail small-talk and then get to the real question: "Could you help me with a resume/cover letter/paper/musical number?" Not that I mind helping. It's just that sometimes I get terribly excited when I see e-mail and then terribly disappointed when I realize they don't really want to know about me . . .)
Anyway, I thought that surely I must have been projecting again. Surely, surely I wasn't getting such inordinate amounts of spam I could call my spam folder Spam Shangri-La. (Even though it has a certain ring to it.)
But today, friends, I have arrived. Because now, I'm not only getting spam in English. No, indeed. (I know this, because periodically I scan through the spam folder to make sure that non-spam messages don't end up in there)
As of today, I've also received spam in French, Spanish, and--get this--Russian.
I obviously have no idea what the subject line for the Russian spam says, and I probably don't want to know. I've got a pretty good idea of what the subject lines for the French and Spanish spam said, though.
And I'm rather saddened that the French and Spanish spam isn't much different than the English spam. I was hoping they somehow got more inventive with theirs . . .
Monday, August 25, 2008
- The handy little planners with the University's name, all crucial dates (including football games--because football here actually is kind of crucial to a lot of the students), and advertisements for the school's newspaper on every other page.
- The sheer number of people. I arrived for work at 7 this morning and was astonished to see four times the number of people I'd seen on campus the whole summer wandering around, acquiring parking permits, buying books, and doing those things students generally do.
- The people persistently glancing at me on public transportation. (I used to think I had a rather unique face; it turns out that, after all, I have one of those faces that belongs to just about everybody.)
- The utter revoltingness of the bathrooms. Now, all of a sudden, I remember why I used to run over to the Institute building at Weber whenever I needed to go to the bathroom. They were the only ones in the near vicinity with any semblance of clean . . .
- Getting lost. This isn't something I plan on doing, but I didn't plan on getting lost in the Languages and Communications building when I attempted to find Orientation last Thursday, either.
- Looks of perpetual sleep deprivation. On the first day, no less! But not me. Even though I woke up heinously early (5:30 AM), I'm bright-eyed and bushy-tailed. At least, that's what I keep telling myself.
- The hurried pace. People are heading to where they're going quickly. Probably because they think once they get there, they're going to be lost.
- Free food. How on earth had I forgotten about the free food? (But just this first week. Come next week, I'll have to bring a lunch or actually pay for one.)
Friday, August 22, 2008
I’m a native Utahn—born, raised, and usually not terribly ashamed of it, either. I’m a first year American Studies student, and I’m leaning toward a Rhetoric and Composition emphasis. Working at the Weber State University writing center sort of addicted me to the idea of teaching writing in one way or another for the rest of my life. I graduated WSU in 2006 with a B.A. in Creative Writing/Poetry, and I’d discovered by the end of my tenure there that I loved it when I could find ways of making theory and creative writing meet. Then when I started registering for courses this fall, ta da! This one appeared. It seemed more a less a given, considering what my interests are.
Right now, I’m rather adamant about having a loosely defined life plan. Ultimately, I’d like to teach college—but I’d also like to find other things I like to do in the meantime. Unfortunately, this process has worked, so far, by means of process of elimination. For example, I do not like to try to bum it as an unemployed person, I do not like working in an office environment, and though HR involves people . . . well, the fact that it’s called Human Resources should have said something to me in the first place. (Seriously, who likes being called into the boss’ office and being told, “You are a good skill set”?)
I love all foods ethnic—especially Indian, Greek and Thai. My roommate just introduced me to Aristo’s on 1300 East, and I’m not sure she knows exactly what she’s done. My siblings and I all play the piano (it was pretty much mandate in our household going up), so I tend to like music that has some cool piano/keyboard instrumentals going on: Keane, Ben Folds, etc. I also just discovered Even Elroy, and they are my now favorite band ever. (And not just because one of their songs is called “Wanna Meet Katie.”)
My family likes to joke I’ve never laid my hands on a book I didn’t like. But I’m a particular fan of Gregory Maguire, all of the Russian greats, Willa Cather, and a number of others. I have a serious addiction to books about books, and I love The Shadow of the Wind. I’d also be remiss if I neglected to mention Big Fish.
I’d like to find myself more open to different genres after taking this class. I fear I’m a rather homogenized reader who stays squarely in her comfort zone, purely because I think I’m going to read a new sort of work in the wrong way. (Which, I know, is pretty silly. Especially since one of the reasons I decided to study English is because it lacks the whole right answer/wrong answer dichotomy present in so many other disciplines.)
Thursday, August 21, 2008
One of my classes has requested the students to write an introduction and post it online. As a preemptive strategy, I suppose it's good at getting rid of all of that annoying first day of class "please tell us about yourself" introductory hogwash. All we'll have to do now is go around and tell each other our names, and we'll have already read about each other online.
And while I certainly don't feel that my writing skills are lacking in any way, shape, or form, I find myself intimidated. Because now that I've entered a graduate program--an English graduate program--nobody else has writing skills that are lacking, either. The department would not have otherwise let them in.
(Incidentally, I keep having dreams that I get a letter from the U, indicating my admission had come in error and that I am not, after all, graduate school material. So sorry. Apply again next year. But then I usually feel better once I wake up and check my e-mail, only to see that the bulk of the new messages are from the graduate advisor and they are obviously not being sent in error.)
This is why I've already signed up for which book I'll present my seminar paper on. And I know what other book I'm going to write a review and summary of. (Understanding Comics, in case any of you were curious. I'm all for making my classes overlap, and since it's required reading for another . . .) But it is why I'm a little bit blocked when it comes to my introduction.
The one student who has already posted an introduction has invested it with a lot of personality. And she's published. And she sounds smarter than me. Also, I have the feeling I'm the newest of the newbies for this class. The subject matter interests me, but I'm starting to feel stupid and I haven't even attended the class yet.
I'm neither ineligible for this class, nor am I stupid. I know I'm not stupid. And I know I want to take this class. I also know I'll never forgive myself if I underestimate myself from the beginning. And I also know I need to start practicing what I preach and stop comparing myself to others. So what if more than half this class are admitted to the intensely competitive M.F.A. program. So what if more than one of the students is in the process of earning a Ph.D. I can be the smart kid in all my other classes.
(Unless, of course, I'm not. It's possible I might just need to learn to handle that.)
And in the meantime, I'm going to write an introduction full of my personality. Something that is vintage me. That may be clever or may not be clever. But I'm not going to try too darn hard from the outset. Because to quote a famous SNL skit: "I'm good enough, I'm smart enough, and gosh darn it! People like me."
Wednesday, August 20, 2008
Yesterday was not the best of days for me. The reasons why hardly matter; suffice it to say that the migraine caused by the ophthalmologist dilating my one good eye lasted all day and did nothing to improve my mood. (Neither, may it be noted, did the Reader's Digest jokes my mom read me as I sat in the waiting room. But it's been a longstanding tradition that any time she's at a doctor's office with me, she has to find the RD and commence reading any joke she finds funny.)
However, when I got home, I realized that sometimes--sometimes--I can be quite the actress. (Let's be honest: this doesn't happen often, since I have a hard time disguising my feelings.) Before I opened the door, I plastered a smile on my face. Took a deep breath. And prepared myself to be chipper.
During dinner, I chatted away. Somehow the conversation turned to our high school friends and how all of our individual groups of friends had predicted who would get married off first. And I mentioned how my friends thought I'd bite the bullet long before the rest of them, purely because I didn't date much in high school and they thought I'd marry the first man who cropped up in my life. (Let's just say: my goodness, I'm glad that didn't happen)
But after dinner, when I retired to my room, I found myself sinking into that dark funk again. I can't hard my moods from myself, it would seem.
And as I did a number of things and I thought about it last night, I wondered why I think I need to hide such emotions from my roommates. Why I tend to overflow with good feelings, but I tend not to share the bad ones with the people who are right there and could help.
Is it a matter of pride? Do I not want to cause them to share my troubles? Do I think they'll misinterpret somehow? That they won't understand? That they'll tell me I'm being ridiculous?
I think it's probably a matter of that question. When I know I'm feeling low, and I think my reasons are ridiculous, I don't want to have anyone else pointing out the silliness going on there. Because I want to find my own way to talk myself out of the silliness.
Tuesday, August 19, 2008
Anyway, before my brother returned home from his mission, his bed was the officially nominated guest bed. And rightly so--it's a queen-sized bed. And it's also the only other bed confined to a bedroom. There's a hide-a-bed in the couch upstairs, and the leather couch in the basement isn't so heinously uncomfortable it's impossible to crash there. But it was nice to sleep on a regular bed.
Those days are gone. My little brother now gets to sleep in his bed. Last night, my brother-in-law and sister claimed the leather couch. My dad wakes up ridiculously early now that he has to work four ten-hour days instead of five eight-hour days, so he's been relegated to the upstairs couch. And that left me smashed into the sewing room on an air mattress.
But at least it was the good air mattress. The big one. Not the twin size air mattress I slept on the last time I'd been home. When I slept on that air mattress, I turned just a little in the night, and found myself plunked on to the floor. And yes, I bruised as a result. (Thankfully, most of them weren't noticeable. And in regard to the bruise people did notice, I just told them I must have run into something. Technically--I did. I ran into the floor. But I wasn't about to tell them that.)
Still, I remember the days I used to have a bed at that house. That house carried a certain hint of permanence to it. For a short while, I was the boomerang child--I could move out of the house, but there was always a place to move back to.
That, alas, is no longer the case. My former bedroom is no more. My dad, my brother, and my brother-in-law knocked out walls to expand the front room . . . and my former bedroom has merged with the living room.
This means that though Centerville will always be home, I will never be living there again. It's kind of an odd feeling.
A minor change. Nothing I can't handle. But when Bon Jovi asks, "Who says you can't go home?" My response is now: my dad and his sledge hammer. Obviously.
Monday, August 18, 2008
My arms are now numbishly tingly feeling. And slightly shaky.
I could have used someone with much bigger muscles than I have to carry my three bags of books . . .
But at least the cashier smiled at my comment when I deposited the heavy basket of books in front of her to be scanned.
"Such is the life of an English student: so many books, so little muscle."
Thursday, August 14, 2008
And if you were one of the people who thought I just may be crazy, well, you're probably right. Because it's no longer full-time work and 6 graduate credit hours. It's now full-time work and 9 graduate credit hours. Indeed, I'll be a full-time worker and a full-time student and a sometime sleeper, roommate, and friend.
No worries. I'm sure that, after August 25, I will still have some Internet presence. Procrastination has always been an essential part of my character as a student--and though I know I won't be able to get away with procrastinating in the monumental (and, I've been told, disgustingly unfair) fashion I did as an undergrad (My best grade was on a 10-page paper I wrote in three hours the night before it was due. I don't even recall reading over it for grammatical errors before I handed it in.), I have no doubts I will still periodically put off till tomorrow what I could have done two weeks ago.
If anything should need to fall by the way side, it will most assuredly be my job. And they've promised to be understanding if that happens. But they think I'm so extraordinary that I can juggle it. Maybe I am extraordinary.
Or maybe I'm extraordinarily crazy.
Either way, I'm looking forward to my graduate student experience.
Tuesday, August 12, 2008
The book today, ladies and gents: Breaking Dawn. If you haven't read it yet and you'll hate me forever for revealing key plot points, stop reading now--because here be spoilers. And not even the this-particular-part-of-the-book-made-me-tingle! spoilers. Nope. These would be spoilers of the I-think-I-may-have-just-thrown-up-a-little-in-my-mouth variety.
A list of highly lame things I didn't like about Breaking Dawn.
- The monster spawn. And even worse, Jacob imprinting on the monster spawn. And okay, okay. I know Edward is a good vampire and Bella was human while she carried Renesmee, so it's probably not fair to call her monster spawn. But she struck me as a rather lame contrivance to be able to carry on a story line if Stephenie Meyer should so choose. Also, her name is stupid.
- Question: if all bodily functions disappear when Bella becomes a vampire (yes, Bella becomes a vampire--but honestly, it's not like you weren't expecting that), why is it that she manages to retain control when she realizes the Jacob situation until she discovers that Jacob's nicknamed her daughter Nessie? Because, um, wouldn't PMS have disappeared when she became a vampire?
- In a completely non-plot-related note: Little, Brown isn't exactly a small publishing company. But whoever proofreads these books should be fired. Twilight was an engaging enough story to me that I could let all of the typos and errors go. New Moon and Eclipse didn't have that going for them. And Breaking Dawn was just as bad. I'm half-tempted to take a red pen to these books and send them back to the publisher with a note: why can't anyone on your staff seem to do this properly?
- On a related non-plot-related note: The word is dependent, people. Not dependant. I recognize that our friend the dictionary says it can go either way. But seriously--who spells it with an a? (Schmet, you can say you spell it with an a, but I just won't believe you)
- Meyer needs a new conflict-resolution model. Also a new plot model. She's the queen of the anti-climax. Of course, it didn't help that the major conflict didn't happen until more than halfway through this book. All of the vampires were gathering against the Volturi to witness that Nessie wasn't dangerous and she wasn't immortal and they were all geared up for a fight. And then . . . ta da! Diplomatic resolution. Possibly because one of the extraneous vampires willed it. Phooey. And seriously, could we just skip the la-la-la, ooey gooey Bella-and-Edward are in love and like to make out parts of it? Do they serve a purpose? Aside from the aforementioned throwing up a little in the mouth?
- Also, let's see how many times Edward and Bella can have (implied) sex! That should be exciting! And then it should be really funny when Emmett starts throwing around innuendos. Because then Bella can arm wrestle him and kick a rock to pieces just because she can.
- And it's official: she made enough comparisons to Greek gods that I wondered why there's nothing and nobody else she can compare these vampires to.
- Those Romanian vampires? They sort of reminded me of those Muppet critics. (You know, the ones whose names I can't think of right now.)
- Wow! Bella has a power to block people! Except wait . . . she could already do that as a non-vampire.
- But also! She has such self-control as a newborn vampire that she doesn't need to worry about seeing her dad. How wonderful for her that she's such an anomaly. And now Charlies knows. Ish.
- And Jacob comes to live in peaceful habitation with the vampires, purely because he imprinted on Nessie. One of the most gag-worthy lines in the book: "We always knew I was attached to part of you, Bella. Now we know what part." Or something to that effect.
- Aw, Edward and Bella are going to live happily ever after. Forever and ever.
- And in one last non-plot-related point, the publishers will be (conveniently) releasing an official guide to the Twilight world at the same time the movie is released. Coincidence? I think not. And I think it's kind of a lame idea, because it's not like there are a lot of intricacies to the world of Twilight. I can understand the concept of Harry Potter companions because--come now!--Rowling created a whole new world. Meyer used an existing one and stuck vampires in it.
If you loved it dearly and want to temporarily disown me as a friend, I'm cool with that. Because it's now official: if I want to escape to a fantasy world, I'll be visiting Hogwarts. Or the Discworld.
Sunday, August 10, 2008
Um yeah. I'm a hypocrite. Not that I think anyone is dying to see what happens in my own little corner of the world, but . . . I shouldn't gripe about people not updating their blogs for a few days when I haven't either. Pot, kettle, and all that jazz.
It looks like I'll be doing more moving on. When my roommates and I moved, we were quite cognizant our house no longer stood in ward boundaries. But since the boundaries to our particular ward seemed less a guideline and more a suggestion, we didn't feel terribly guilty about staying.
The leadership in that ward is due to change. The bishopric will be released this month, and they realized just how many outliers they actually have in the ward. So they're implementing the boundaries, to graciously acknowledge that the new bishopric should not have to be viewed as the bad guys.
I'm not nearly as sad about the switch as either of my roommates, although there are certainly people I'll miss seeing in church on a weekly basis. And I've learned that the Church is true, no matter which ward I'm in. Or not in. In truth, I'll miss teaching Relief Society. And I don't know how I'll handle making a new set of friends.
But I have faith I'll make them. Changes happen for a reason. Yea, verily, I believe there is a purpose to just how much my life will have changed by August 25. I just can't see the purpose yet. (And me not seeing things? Not that new to me.)
And to end on a completely random note: it's official. The only other big change that could happen to me this year would be for me to get married.
(But don't worry. I don't think I'm that much of a change magnet . . .)
Sunday, August 3, 2008
Every Thursday, I sojourn to my parents' house. I'm homeward bound for one reason. Or rather, I suppose, four reasons in one. I teach four different piano lessons on Thursdays. (One each to two little girls who live across the street from my parents', one to another neighbor closer to my own age, and one to my mother.) But coming home involves participating in small family traditions, especially now that my brother is home from his mission. One such newly revitalized tradition is family scripture study.
Before the lessons started, we read Alma 38 as a family. My mom read verse 2, and then as we read, she must have been thinking about it. She made the observation that Shiblon was a good son because he was steady. Then she looked up at me and said, "Katie's steady."
I found it an interesting statement to make. If anyone asked me to describe my character in five minutes or less, I'm pretty sure I wouldn't think of saying I'm steady. Stubborn, focused, happy . . . not steady. Facetious, smart, open . . . but again, not steady.
In fact, I admit that the word 'steady' brings to mind my physical balance when I first hear it. And in that instance, steady most certainly doesn't apply. (To wit: when we moved, I packed a box rather more full than I had thought. And when I attempted to carry it from the bedroom to the living room, I was tired, my balance was off-kilter, and . . . well . . . I more or less looked like a drunk. So much so, in fact, that the box--which donated kindly by Melissa's work once they'd removed the Dell computer that inhabited it--was thenceforth called 'the drunken Dell box.'_
My moods, too, tend toward the mercurial. As I've mentioned before, I've more Anne than Marilla in me.
I'm working on reaching conclusions. And the closest I can guess about what my mother may have meant is that I try to be unwavering in the things that matter. I'm steady in my church attendance. I try steadily work at my callings. In short, I try to establish good habits.
And perhaps that's all true steadiness is comprised of--habitually doing the things we know are good, true, and necessary for our salvation.
Friday, August 1, 2008
And if no context exists for some things, then I tend to invent context. So I know that if someone posted a blank blog entry, I'd find myself compelled to reading all of the other entries on that page.
Of course, it could be completely unrelated. But it would be blank. The only way to know the context I invented was wrong would be to say something about it.
In the course of recent communications, I've found that context is a funny thing. Whereas offense is a thing rarely given on purpose, but always taken---context is something both given and taken.
Wednesday, July 30, 2008
Points to you if you can guess why.
Also, as a note: I don't think any of you exist entirely inside my head. The "Imagined" is my way of saying--hey! you're a cool cyber-friend that I found through a "real" friend (that is, a friend I know and have interacted with in person).
Because let's face it: if some of you existed entirely inside my own head (*cough* Schmetterling *cough*), I'd be in a near-perpetual state of internal conflict. And that just wouldn't do.
Monday, July 28, 2008
Anyway, once was more than enough for me because this film was dark to the edge of my limits. Which my roommate found interesting, because I own The Prestige, and she finds that movie far darker. (I don't. Obviously. But then again, The Prestige isn't something I watch on a regular basis . . . I've decided it's worth repeated viewings, but only if those viewings are spaced out to such an extent that it's not so easy or obvious to look for clues about what is going on.)
That said, it was definitely worth watching. There were lessons from the movie definitely worth learning. (Yes, yes . . . I know that modern cinema is no Aesop's fable, but I sort of feel like I should be able to find at least one theme in a movie, even if it has nary a plot line in sight) But it's highly unlikely I'll see it again.
Once we got home from the movie Saturday night, panic ensued. On the way to the movie, I'd made a flippant (yet not untrue) comment about how I'd yet to unpack the notebook containing the notes for my Relief Society lesson. But how I was so sure I knew where it was.
When I got home, I promptly retired to my room to review my lesson notes. Only to discover I did not actually know where I had packed said notebook. It would not have been nearly so stressing if we had an Internet connection, but alas--we're 'Netless at home until tomorrow afternoon. Otherwise, I would have printed off the talk and rewritten my lesson. My memory, after all, works quite well and I remembered--more or less--what I wanted to.
Instead, I asked my roommate if she knew where her copy of the Conference Ensign was, and more panic ensued as we searched for that. She found her copy, only for me to go upstairs, look at my laptop bag, open it, and therein find my copy. All was right in the world.
And my lesson went well. The sisters laughed when they were supposed to laugh, participated when I asked for their participation, and paid attention to what I said. Nobody gave me a deer-in-the-headlights, our-Relief-Society-teacher-is-crazy kind of look.
But I learned something valuable yesterday that's rather paradoxical: when you teach, you have to plan a lesson. But you can't truly plan the lesson. I invariably plan how I teach based on the way I would react to my lesson. But that's the thing about teaching church: you aren't teaching you. Well, actually, you are. I learned any number of things while preparing this particular lesson. But you're called to each (in my case) about fifty other sisters, none of whom think in exactly the same ways you do.
(Thus my surprise at some of the answers to a question I posed yesterday. We were discussing President Uchtdorf's "Faith of Our Fathers" and a quote that says (I'm paraphrasing): "True religion should not originate from what pleases men . . . but rather, from what pleases God." So I posed the question: what sorts of things please God? I was looking for answers like service, being kind to others, and faith--my segue between the "pleasing God" part of my lesson and the "faith" part of my lesson . . . Because according to Hebrews, without faith it's impossible to please God. The sister who quoted that scripture with no solicitation whatsoever earned many, many brownie points. I wasn't looking for answers like, um, chastity.)
Lessons, I learned, are evolving creatures. While a teacher can steer them in the direction she wants them to go, the boat never ends up at precisely the pre-determined destination she wanted. And that, I discovered, is not a bad thing. In fact, I think I will worry far more if my lesson goes exactly according to plan. (I will also be disturbed, because that would mean that 50+ girls were channeling my thoughts, and that is downright frightening)
And so I leave you here with a thought I had when I prepared my lesson: though Alma 32 teaches us that faith is not to have a perfect knowledge of things, faith--once cultivated--eventually becomes knowledge of perfect things (when we're talking about principles) and of The Perfect Person.
And as we learned from Elder Oaks, that knowledge--though not empirical--is no less valid than things we learned by seeing. In fact, I think that knowledge may be more valid. But that's a topic for another time.
Wednesday, July 23, 2008
Let me explain this particular form of ache: I would say it's more or less metaphysical, but that would be a lie. If not a lie, at least a half-truth. Because it is, to an extent, part of my genetic composition. I think it's hard-wired into my genetic composition to write. As I sit here thinking about what types of things I haven't been writing, I can feel a gnawing in the pit of my stomach.
And I'm not speaking of the writing of blogs here. I've been doing just fine with that recently. I've also been doing a rather smashing job of doing nothing in particular (with the exception of packing boxes and moving them) for far too long now.
For some particular reason, I must have decided that a brief period before I commenced my graduate degree and start stuffing my head full of composition theory and critical theory (again! come August!) would be entirely devoted to--wait for it--nothing in particular.
Don't get me wrong. There is some idling I've done that I've greatly appreciated and that has helped to relax me. I exercise no regrets about having watch 3/4 of the DVDs in my second season collection of Psych. (If you haven't watched this show, find an episode. Watch it. Report back. And if you didn't laugh at all in the course of watching the episode, then I'm afraid I'll have to temporarily disown you as a friend. But no worries, when I say "temporarily," I mean it. I'll disown you for thirty seconds or so. Not even long enough for you to realize except I just told you I would!)
But today, I stumbled upon the blog of a friend I tutored with and took many classes with. (He, too, was a Poetry Major. And not the aforementioned of the bad-boy looks) His blog included links to his published poetry. Discussed his writing techniques. He's heading to Purdue for his MFA in the fall. He's a genius.
He is also working at writing. I haven't been. And as I read, and then when I stumbled upon more writing of other people I know via his links, my stomach sank. And kept sinking. In fact, I'm pretty sure it has sunken completely out of my body, past the ground floor of this building, and now resides somewhere in the dirt.
Some days I wonder why I feel so blase.
Today I know why.
It's time to break out the notebooks again. (Literally and metaphorically. I have to unpack them before I can write in them.)
Monday, July 21, 2008
Sunday, July 20, 2008
In Relief Society today, we were talking about missionary work. One of the question posed was why talking about religion intimidates some of us. One of the comments pointed how ridiculous, even crazy, part of the premise the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is based on. We believe a fourteen-year-old boy had a vision. That he saw the Father and the Son, and he was told what to do. Other people find that hard to accept.
My mom, when she once spoke with me about her conversion (she was baptized at age 20), mentioned that it was something that seemed pretty unbelievable. But she found herself believing in spite of any urges she had to think of it as a crazy story. She knew it was true.
But that wasn't what brought her to the missionaries. She was friendshipped into the church. When her family moved into the house in Kaysville shortly after her high school graduation, she and her sisters were assaulted by a myriad of invitations to church activities. And they weren't invitations designed to convert my mom or her sisters. They were welcoming invitations. Everyone there wanted to be friends with them.
And my mom found herself impressed by all of these people. By the way they interacted with each other. How they related to other people. Their optimism. Their kindness. In short, she wanted to learn more about what religion they were because of who they were. I can never express to any of the people who had such an impact on my mom how grateful I am.
One of my Institute teachers used to talk about how the world likes to compartmentalize their life as they would a pie: a slice for work, a slice for play. Slices for hobbies, slices for religion. All part of the same pie. His point was always this: for us as members, religion is the whole pie.
It affects who we interact with and how, our work lives, our home lives, and our relationships of any kind. It dictates what we say and how we say it--and how we feel afterward. I can't think of any part of my life that isn't affected my what I believe.
Because there is an amazing power in living what we believe. They say a picture is worth a thousand words.
I think a good example is worth a thousand sermons.
Tuesday, July 15, 2008
Anyway, I've been good. This time around, I have been merciless in sending clothes to DI. If I hadn't worn it in a month or more, it got tossed into the big donation bag. I've been clearing out extraneous papers. You know, like the copies of checks I wrote in 2002? Those got taken to my parents' house to be shredded.
But I've discovered something: I am far more prone to acquiring things I won't get rid of. Things like DVDs and books. My shelves runneth o'er. And that's no exaggeration. I now officially have more books than I have shelf space. (Of course, I know the solution: more shelves!)
This makes the most intensive packing--by far--the packing of the books. The DVDs took ten minutes or so, but the books are taking significantly longer. And I can't get rid of any of them. I love them all. I wouldn't own them if I didn't have particular attachments. Throwing them away would be a crime. Practically unmentionable. Book blasphemy.
Which is why this afternoon has been exhausting. And I'm not done yet. But I'm providing myself incentives. I just got the second season of Psych on DVD, and I told myself the number of boxes of books I pack is the number of episodes I'll allow myself to watch tonight . . .
Sunday, July 13, 2008
And they have a great deal of faith in me. More than I have in myself.
It is also a place where I have multiple surrogate mothers. Where the reminiscing takes a very, very long time to get old because there a lot of years to cover. It's a place where the woman conducting Relief Society doesn't have to ask my name to introduce me, because she already knows me. Where they don't judge me if the speaker is boring and I have no attention span, because a lot of them don't either.
Of course, things aren't exactly the same. Three of my siblings are married. My sister has three children. And I've reached a point where it's odd for me to be in a family ward. There's, you know, noise, during sacrament meeting.
But it's nevertheless a place where I learn. Where people love me. Where the Young Adult Sunday School class is half life stories (of the most highly entertaining variety) and half doctrinal teachings. It's a place where it's not only okay to laugh, laughing is encouraged.
Because that's what it's all about, people. 2 Ne. 2:25. We are that we might have joy.
Friday, July 11, 2008
I am not a person prone to anxiety. In fact, I've purposefully induced stress in specific situations--because I work better under stress. I push myself more in those circumstances. And while it sometimes leads to a particularly bad case of wipe-out after the fact, it always produces magnificent results. You may think I'm exaggerating. But I'm not. I am the weird sort of person who thrives on challenge.
Anyway, back to the point at hand: pets bring out the paranoiac in me.
This is another blog (of course) about my friend's fishies. Which (yay!) aren't dead.
But that doesn't stop me from worrying that they are going to die in the next few days. Because even though my senses tell me that the fish are still alive, my memory tells me that I don't have the best track record with people's pets. While I've never killed birds, they've gotten sick on my watch. And more than one fish has met its doom at my hands before.
Not intentionally, mind you--but it has happened nonetheless. Often enough that I pause every time I walk past the fish bowl and they aren't really moving. Which brings me to a question: do fish sleep? Because yesterday, I saw them and I swear I thought they were dead. But then I saw their fins moving. Which brings me to another question: would the fins of fish still being moving in the water after they died?
Just when I think my paranoia has peaked, something new comes up: what if I somehow manage to kill the fish with toxic water? What if I overfeed them and kill them? What if they die from neglect because I didn't play with them enough or watch them enough? (And really, can one play with fishes?? And if so, how would I go about playing with them?)
Also, the fish aren't catching my psychic vibes about how they should be moving every time I pass the bowl. And this morning, when I came back to the apartment after spending the night at my parents', I didn't see the littler fish at first. Which led me to believe it had died, and one of my roommates had probably flushed it down the toilet, or the bigger fish had finally had enough and eaten it . . .
And then I saw it. And the hyperventilating stopped.
From now on, I am only going to look at the fish when I feed them. No matter how guilty I feel. No matter how much I worry. Because so far, they're alive. And they're bound to stay that way. They're the fish that won't die.
And that, for me, is a good thing.
Wednesday, July 9, 2008
That is how I came to be a designated fish-sitter. Also, I have a very difficult time when it comes to telling people no. That may have factored in as well.
But I'm proud to say that since she left her fish here on Sunday night, they haven't died!!
For me, this is nigh unto a miracle. Ever since I've lived on my own, I've kind of been a fish killer. Not an intentional fish killer, mind you, but I've never had the best of luck in keeping little fishes alive. So naturally, when I said yes, I immediately started praying that her fish won't die.
Yesterday, I passed their bowl, and they were both very still. I thought for sure I had killed them. But then they moved. And I breathed an immense sigh of relief. No dead fish here.
Although if you want proof about how knowledgeable one of my roommates and I are about fish: well, we thought that some of the big one's entrails might be spilling out when we saw a string hang from it. My other roommate got a kick out of that. Apparently, it was just pooping.
Speaking of which, I should go feed them. So they don't die. So that next week, I can triumphantly declare that I managed to not kill the fish.
Tuesday, July 8, 2008
Sort of daunting to think about, isn't it?
What I tend to forget, though, is that readers also have their own set of privileges. We do not have to accept the reality proffered by everything we read and consume. (And thank heaven, for that, I say!) We get to choose what we believe. We get to see what we want to in writing and ignore what we don't want to see.
(And trust me, as an English major, I can think of a number of realities and ideas I've rejected. Because I disagree. And it's my prerogative to do so.)
This is my way of saying that I like all of you who comment on my blog. Sometimes--but only sometimes--I need someone to question my reality.
Monday, July 7, 2008
It's a house.
The rent is reasonable.
We move in July 24!!
Also, Heavenly Father loves us.
Unbeknownst to each other, we were all fasting about this yesterday.
Our parents have been praying.
And we'll be living in a house.
A cute, 3-bedroom, 2-bathroom house.
Sunday, July 6, 2008
The first sunburn was the result of pure folly: when my roomate and friends said we'd only stay at the arts festival an hour or two, I took them at their word. I thought that surely, surely I'd not get terribly sunburned in the course of an hour or two.
Three hours later, we left the festival and I looked at my arms with slight dismay. I was, indeed, sunburned. When a fair-skinned person stays in the sun for 3 hours, she burns. Despite her hubris.
Yesterday, my roommate and I decided to relax by visiting the waterpark at Cherry Hill. They have a lazy river that can be wonderfully relaxing. (I say "can be," because at one point there were roughly twenty little munchkins swimming around the lazy river, playing tag and splashing any and all in their path. And pretty much everyone else was in their path.)
We applied suncreen before we left. And she came home with a slightly sunburned face, whereas I came home with red shoulders. A slightly red back. And upper legs that look like they're on fire. Which they sort of are, I guess.
I whined about the unfairness--two roommates, same amounts of sunscreen, and I got fried? And she didn't? And then I heard my dad's voice in my head, asking who told me life was fair.
Nobody, obviously. It's just a presumption I've had. But as we sat in Sunday School today talking about all of the different (metaphorical) weapons we need to bury so we don't fight against God, a girl made a comment about how all of our "weapons" are obviously different things. That's part of what makes us individuals. Part of the reason our lives, our experiences are tailor-made.
It's important that we bury our weapons: not our siblings', not our friends'. We don't share the same weaknesses, just as we don't share the same strengths.
And when I stopped to think about that, I stopped to think about how ridiculous it is to decide our lives are not fair because we are comparing ourselves with others.
Our lives are, in fact, as fair as Heavenly Father makes them for us. And given all the aids and resources He has provided us, I would say that's pretty darn fair. In fact, I'd say that our lives are more than fair, because they are ours.
And we don't really gain much in comparison.