Monday, December 26, 2011

Christmas Comfort

In his sermon this weekend, Pastor Piper talked about how God is not efficient. He's a big God, and he likes showing off how big and all-controlling he is by doing things in complicated and awe-inspiring ways. Like getting a girl from Nazareth to Bethlehem by using a world tax.

I find that very comforting. Sometimes I don't get why God does things in my life the way he does, or I don't get how God is going to use something in my life for good. But sometimes what doesn't make sense is actually just God showing off how amazing he is.

Friday, December 16, 2011

Joss Whedon Kindred Spirits

This time last year, I was sad because all of my friends who liked Buffy and other Joss Whedon things lived far, far away from me, so I had to watch Whedon stuff alone. But today, I had a Joss Whedon watching party with my friend Bethany from grad school, and it was great!! We watched Once More with Feeling and Tabula Rasa and Dr. Horrible. And we talked about Buffy and grad school and church and boys and . . . it was just a really great night. Just what I needed at the end of a crazy busy end-of-the-semester week! I'm going to start watching Battlestar Galactica over the break, and we already have plans to get together and watch some 'sodes of that. It's gonna be Legendary.

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Losing People

Thoughts about death have been weighing heavily on me the past month or so. This year, it seems to have been coming up more frequently than (at least what I thought was) normal. I got into two car accidents in January. One wasn't very serious, but in the other, I swerved through two lanes of traffic, missed crashing into a car on the side of the road by a few moments and the grace of God, and took out a mile marker post as I ran down the side of the freeway. I wasn't injured, and even my car was repaired, but those few moments of thinking I could be about to die--the kind that I had experienced during the tornado--really shook me.

The next month, my best friend got into a car accident which was way more serious than either of mine. She suffered some bad injuries and is still recovering from and dealing with a concussion. One of things I'm most grateful about in this year is the fact that God protected her and allowed her to survive, but it was yet another reminder of how fragile life is.

In September, someone I knew from Union passed away. She was a year younger than me and good friends with some of my friends. Even though she and I were not close, it really hurt to have someone whom I had seen every day suddenly not be around anymore.

In October, a good friend from graduate school lost her mother to a battle with pancreatic cancer. I had been with them a few months before when I visited them in Virginia. Her mother was such a kind and welcoming person. And this friend--when I think about what she's going through, I cry. I know that there is nothing I can do to make her pain any better, and I hate that her mother is gone.

Then, last week, a friend called me saying that two people he knew had passed away that week. One was a really good friend of his, and someone in one of my fantasy football leagues. I didn't know this person, but I felt for my friend. It also was hard for me to imagine a wife and two kids suddenly without a husband and dad, a church without one of its members, friends without him.

I know that I believe in a God who is bigger than our momentary lives, but sometimes I still have trouble dealing with the shortness and fragility of life. And even if I can handle that my own life is short and could end at any moment, even if I can look forward to eternity with Christ, I selfishly don't want to let go of people while I'm here on earth. These kind of moments remind me that I still have a ways to go before I'm fully trusting God to know what is best and to be everything that I need.

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Apologies, Random Thoughts, and Written?Kitten!

So, it's been a long time since I've blogged. Um, yeah. I just checked and there's been nothing since October. I wish I could say it was an ironic commentary on NaNoWriMo, but alas. It was just my life getting in the way of my personal blogging.

In good news, though, November wasn't entirely blog-free. I did write an entire blog post on Faith for Let's Get Jossed (one which, I might add, I was quite pleased with :-P). AND, a professor from UU recommended me to an editor of a major publication who wants someone to blog about grad school!!* So, I sent two sample posts in and am waiting to hear back to see if they like it. Either way would be great and feed my writer's ego. (Because, really, what doesn't make you feel like a "real writer" like rejection?)

Anyway, I'm planning to revitalize my blog in January. I don't usually do "New Year's Resolutions," but I am going to aim to write on my blog at least once a week in 2012. Which means I'll stop worrying about actually having something amazing to say every time I want to post and just say whatever. Cause* let's be honest. Even when I plan to say something amazing, it often isn't as fascinating to the rest of the world as it is to me. For now, I'll just say a few things that are on my mind . . .

1. TV shows should not only have 22-24 episodes a season. Because when HIMYM leaves me on a giant cliffhanger like it did two weeks ago, or when I really need a laugh and Modern Family isn't there . . . that hurts.

2. Car shopping is one of the most stressful things in the world. I always* told myself that I would be the cool sacrificial-living kind of person that drove old cars until they fell apart and then bought a different used car to drive around until it fell apart. Because then, I figured, all the money I wasn't spending on the car could go toward church and ministry and stuff. But this past year has taught me that keeping an old car running can sometimes be almost as expensive as making payments on a newer car. So . . . it looks like I might be looking at a newer car. And there goes* all of my hippie Christian cred.

3. Written? Kitten! is one of the best websites ever for anyone who does any significant amount of writing. And/or anyone who likes kittens a lot. See every asterisk mark in this post? I got a new kitten picture on the screen each time for having written 100 words :-)

Saturday, October 29, 2011

Feminist Quasi-Rant

Question: Why do you write strong female characters?
Answer: Because you're still asking me that question.

--Joss Whedon

"Wait," you say. "You have an entire blog on Joss Whedon. Why do you quote him here?!?" A) Because my love for Joss Whedon is great, and I only post on Let's Get Jossed once or twice a month. B) Because this post is going to be a little bit about Joss Whedon and a little bit more about feminism.

The little bit about Joss Whedon is to say, Joss Whedon frequently kind of stinks at feminism. Yes, he has amazingly strong female characters whom audiences learn to love with a passion. But his "feminist" episodes tend to be very second-wave, elementary, not-complex versions of feminism, and in Buffy especially, his women characters' power overshadows the male characters somewhat frighteningly at times. But, all that being said, this quote is fantastic. It's a great reminder that feminism is still needed in some form or another.

Every time I teach gender issues to my students, I talk through the three waves of feminism. Most people's understanding of feminism is strictly second wave. And often they pick up on the worst moments of second wave feminism, too. They think feminism means "women can't stay home with babies," "women are as good as (subtext: better than) men," and "women can/should have abortions." Many people would be confused to hear me say, "I'm a feminist," and then hear me also say, "I'd love to stay home with my kids when I have babies," or, "I want my husband to be a spiritual leader," or, "I'm pro-life." (Admittedly, some of these people are feminists themselves. I just say they're a different kind of feminist.)

Joss Whedon's failing feminist moments aside, this quotation says something that needs to be heard. It says, "Feminism's battle isn't over." It points out the ways in which culture still assumes a double standard for men and women in the fact that we see a strong female character as something unique and, perhaps, unusual.

I've mentioned the fact that I think that one of feminism's most important battles-not-yet-won is the issue of being able to be a mother and be a professional. I spoke to a professor at Union who said that she didn't think you could be a full-time, 100% mom and a full-time, 100% professor. She also told me that most of the people she's known who have stayed at home with their kids when they were first born have a really hard--or impossible--time re-entering academia. I don't think that this should be the case. I think professions need to make room for women--and men!--who want to work part time and be a parent part time. I don't think that it should work to your disadvantage in the hiring process if you've taken 4 or 5 years off to be a full-time parent. And I think that those who work full-time deserve understanding that sometimes your family comes before your job.

So that's my Joss-inspired feminist rant of the day. Sorry if it's not as rant-y and bra-burn-y as you expected :-)

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

The Long Absence

I've been away for a long time. Well, at least it feels long. 12 days, almost two weeks--that's long, right? The last three weeks have been a roller coaster of craziness. It started with my eye problems three weeks ago. Then it moved into new eye problems, trouble pronouncing words, and crazy balance issues (and I'm used to being dizzy!). Then, just to spice things up, we added an intermittent headache on top of it all. Somehow (well, by God's grace), I got through it all while still mostly keeping up with teaching, grad school, and work.

I've had 11 doctors and/or test appointments in the last three weeks, averaging around 2 hours each. We poked at my eye (yes, literally--yuck!), took an MRI of my brain (it's still there!), did an angiogram, and threw a chiropractic adjustment in there for good measure. At the end of it, it turns out I have a somewhat rare form of migraine that originates in the basilar artery (the one that goes to your brain in the back of your head). These can become scary because, especially as you get older, they can cause things like strokes and TIA. Thankfully, I haven't had either, and if the medication I'm starting works, I won't have TIA or the dizziness, lack of coordination, embarrassing pronunciation issues, or eye pain.

I've learned a lot about trusting God through this all. The last few times I've gotten major diagnoses, I've gotten angry and frustrated with God, inadvertently shut him out for a little bit, and then realized I needed him and turned to him. Going into this, though, I was at a really good place with God and was praying that he would do whatever it took to help me grow to know him more and not lose the awesome closeness we had. I definitely felt like the last few weeks were tempting me to pull away, try to become self sufficient, and maybe even sulk a little bit. But even though it's sometimes been harder to turn to God, I've felt like it's been a little easier to trust him this time than it has been in the past when I've gotten frustrating diagnoses.

I have a conference next week, but after that, I'm planning on being back on the blog full-blast. I'd like to talk about some TV shows I've been watching, share some things God's been doing in my life, and discuss the awesomeness that is books. And there'll probably be plenty of other great stuff too!

Friday, October 14, 2011

Why I Love Teachings: Reasons 52 and 58

Me: So, because we had a sub on Monday and cancelled class Wednesday, I haven't seen y'all for a week! I'm very sorry; I'm sure it was very traumatic for you. I had some crazy health stuff going on, but I think we'll be good and you won't have to go this long without seeing me again.

[Pause]

Student: Is there going to be a baby Benhardus?

---

Of course the answer was no. But it made me laugh for a week. In other teacher-related news, I had a dream the other night that my grocery budget was subject to all the rules of FERPA. Therefore, I legally could only discuss it with official employees of Hy-Vee.

Teaching does strange--but sometimes wonderful--things to one's subconscious.

Friday, October 7, 2011

Let Me Tell You About My Eyes

I thought of another kind of post I do on this blog, one I haven't done in a little while. The random health-related post. I'm sure they're probably not why everyone comes back to this blog day-to-day, but the "dealing with my health journey" posts were what originally started it. The fact that even through all the hard and difficult things going on with my body, I believed that God was working it all for good and that others might be encouraged by the story.

This last week's adventure might work toward the encouragement purpose. Last Friday, at the end of the day, I thought about everything that had to happen before the month of November and I freaked out. Majorly freaked out. So much so that I had to take myself on a walk through Iowa City, buy myself a comic book, check out the next Harry Potter book (I'm still not finished) from the library, and sit down with an iced tea and some tortellini salad from Bread Garden before I even allowed myself to head home for the weekend. Saturday was a little better as I mapped out the next two weeks hour-by-hour. "Okay," I thought. "As long as my health doesn't do anything unexpected or crazy in the next month, I'll be okay. And this is the best I've felt at this point in the semester in a few years. What are the chances of new health problems?"

Fast forward to Tuesday. I wake up and put on my glasses. I walk out of my bedroom and sit on my couch. I can't read any of the titles of my DVDs only a few feet away. Check my face. Yep, glasses still on. This is weird.

An hour later (I obviously can't drive to campus until I can see straight), my left eye can see just fine. But when I cover it and look out of my right eye, the world becomes a blur. I made my way to campus with some very careful driving, but all day, reading is insanely hard and driving home at night is even harder.

All day, I did well not freaking out. "It will clear up," I told myself. "It's probably something really silly that the doctors will laugh off when I go in tomorrow morning."

Wednesday morning came, and my right eye was significantly better. I called my mom because I couldn't decide whether or not to go into the doctor. We decided I should. And man, did she not laugh it off. In fact, after spending an hour being check out by the technician and my normal ophthalmologist, I found myself canceling my entire day so that I could do a vision field test and be checked out by a neuro ophthalmologist.

I was at the hospital for over 7.5 hours. I discovered the cafeteria. Something that was fun to discover . . . in the past, hospital cafeterias always made me think about my family members having surgery or visiting sick family members in the hospital. I can picture the cafeteria at Northwest Memorial really, really vividly. And that's what I always used to think when I thought "hospital cafeteria." But, this time, I instantly imagined that I was at Princeton General or Sacred Heart. One made me feel smart and awesome, the other just made me keep my eyes out for something silly. It was great.

At the end of the day, the doctors basically told me that they couldn't give any definite medical explanation for what had happened. But they did tell me that they could rule out any bad and scary eye problems after their test and examinations. I'm suppose to go in if anything happens, but at this point, I check out okay.

I took two things away from the experience . . .

First, when I called my mom on Wednesday morning, she told me that she emailed Grandma, aunts and cousins and friends to ask them to pray. I had texted two of my close friends to ask them to pray the night before. When there's no medical explanation and they're surprised to see that you're eye has recovered so quickly, it makes you think that God really answers prayer and sometimes heals us so that we can see how awesome he is as the Great Physician and give him lots of glory.

Secondly, I lost at least a day and a half over all of this. Maybe more. But I'm totally not freaking out right now. I'm having one of the most restful evenings I've had in awhile. By destroying any chance of "keeping up" with my plan, I feel like God was encouraging me to trust in him. I don't need a perfectly kept schedule. I just need trust and perseverance. He'll take care of the rest.

Also, if you're reading this, please do keep praying for my eyes. They're mostly recovered now, but I'd like them to keep moving in that direction, and I'd love to never have to go back to the neuro ophthalmologist again!

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Existential Quandry (My Blog, Not Me)

So today, as I checked google reader (something I do at least once or twice a day), I saw this post pop up from a blog I didn't recognize. I stared at it for awhile and decided to follow the link. Then I was reminded: I subscribed to it on a whim about two or three weeks ago. To which I said, "Seriously, dude? You haven't updated in at least two weeks? I forgot you existed, and now I'm not even interested in you any more!" After unsubscribing about as quickly as I had subscribed, I was suddenly convicted. I hadn't posted in almost two weeks. How could I judge random-blog-dude when I wasn't doing much better?

Of course, I immediately logged onto blogger in order to fix the situation, but I quickly was reminded why I had gone two weeks without blogging. Before this summer, I could say my blog posts fit into four main categories: my life, missions and God, Joss Whedon, and other sundry passions. Since I redirected my Whedon passions to the new Whedon blog, I have written:

--2 posts about Mumford and Sons
--3 posts about missions
--3 posts about my life

See a pattern? Well, how about this? When I thought of what I wanted to write today, two topics came to mind. Yep. One was a Mumford and Sons song. The other was missions. So, upon noting this pattern, I said to myself, "Self, if you're not careful, this is going to turn into the weirdest Mumford and Sons+Missions themed blog ever!" But then I asked, "What do I want this blog to be about?" Should I come up with a theme? Should I try to create some kind of unity between my posts?

And this is where I am right now. In what Weird Al would call "an existential quandry of loathing and self doubt." Except without the loathing. Or the self doubt. Maybe blog doubt? Anyway, I think that I've decided to keep on posting on the same kind of topics. But I'm also going to try to branch out. Focus on a few of my other passions, like excellent non-Whedon TV shows, or teaching, or music by artists other than Mumford and Sons. And I'm going to try to not get stuck on a single topic for too many posts in a row. Instead of coming up with a single theme for this blog, I'm going to embrace an all-around pastiche theme.

And, yes. I can admit it. 75% of that decision is because pastiche is an awesome word.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Love (And not just the mushy kind)

"There will come a time you'll see with no more tears
And love will not break your heart but dismiss your fears
Get over your hill and see what you find there
With grace in your heart and with flowers in your hair."

I love Mumford and Sons. I've mentioned that before? I know. But today I was listening to them again and I felt like every song fit uniquely into the narrative of my life. And I especially liked what each had to say about love.

I love the chorus of "Winter Winds" which says, "My head told my heart, 'Let love grow,' but my heart told my head, 'This time no.'" Because, sure, we've all heard the story of the heart going against the head and diving into love. But what about the other story of the person who rationally knew that she should love someone and could trust them but whose heart was too scared and too scarred to give it a chance? The ones whose "shame that sent [them] off from the God that [they] once loved" sent them "into the arms" of human lovers? Or the "little lion man" whose heart was on the line and got broken because of someone else's decisions?

And yet there's hope. Past shame, past hurt, past betrayal--these are not reasons to run away from love forever. Definitely not on a theistic level because then we would never be whole. The awesome line of "Awake my soul," cries, "Awake my soul! For you were meant to meet your maker." Even better, one of my all time favorite parts of a Mumford and Sons songs promises:

Love, it will not betray you, dismay or enslave you
It will set you free
Be more like the man you were made to be.
There is a design, an alignment, a cry of my heart to see
The beauty of love as it was made to be.

And I think that if we find perfect love in God, we can accept imperfect love from people. We can forgive them when they hurt us, we don't have to be ashamed to let them see us and know our past, and we can trust them without putting the pressure on them to make us "believe in love again."

And I know that most of this fits well into a romantic concept of love, but it totally works for other relationships too. I think that romantic relationships just magnify issues we have in all of our love-based relationships, anyway. So it's nice to dream about finding this kind of peace and love in a boyfriend and husband. But even if that never happens, it's even nicer to see it actually, currently happening with friends and family.

Monday, September 12, 2011

How Hegel and Beethoven Rocked My World Tonight . . .

Tonight, I taught my first Greek class. All by myself. Like, I have five students and they meet with me every other week just to sit around and learn Greek. Greek! I love languages a lot, and I love each foreign language I know in a special way, but Greek . . . Greek has a special place in my heart. I spent so many years with it through my Biblical Language major. I grew more fond of it as Hebrew reduced me to tears. Oh yeah. And it allows me to access the Bible in a deeper and more intimate way!

After class, I got into my car, filled with all kinds of happy, nerdy feelings. I wanted to listen to something, but not the awesome rock stations from Waterloo or Cedar Rapids . . . not my folksy collection on my IPOD . . . suddenly I knew what I did want to listen to. I wanted to listen to IPR (Iowa Public Radio).

I turned on the radio, and the third movement of Beethoven's 6th symphony came on. Light, happy. And full of French horns. Just as a symphony should be. It was the perfect companion to my thoughts. I drove down 380 thinking about how good the beginning of this semester was feeling. I love taking history, I love my seminar. I don't remember the last time I truly loved all the classes I was taking. And, on top of that, teaching literature has been going wonderfully. Thus far, it's been a good fall.

Then, the fifth movement of the symphony started. My thoughts drifted in the direction of the music. Not that I was really listening to it. I was absorbing it, letting it seep in through my skin and conduct my emotions. And I loved driving in that moment. Just me, Beethoven, French horns, and the freeway.

When it ended, I almost had tears in my eyes. I'm glad I didn't; crying and driving is a combination which--though highly therapeutic--scares me. Especially after my two-accidents-in-a-week month in January. As I savored the beauty of the final chord, though, I thought about how I loved to listen to classical radio. And I thought about how I used to listen to nothing but MPR when I was in high school. When I was in college, of course, I started exploring other music. I listened to the Beetles and Andrew Peterson my freshman year, Simon and Garfunkel my sophomore, Stone Sour and Lit my junior, and Rihanna and Guns N Roses my senior.

I started thinking about the other things that had changed during college. The way I dressed, the fact that I went from viewing TV as a (sometimes immoral) waste of time to obsessing over certain shows and making complex arguments for their artistic worth, the fact that I "perfected" my social graces (so awkward in high school, slightly less awkward in college).

Then, I started thinking about the ways I've become slightly less like my college self and more like my high school self the past few years. Yes, I do love Seether, Mumford and Sons, and Emmy the Great. But I've started listening to my "Brahms" and "Schubert" pandora stations almost as much as I listen to my "P!nk" station. (I clean to P!nk and Kelly Clarkson. Don't judge. I like them.) Yes, I still defend my love of Buffy with a fiery passion (to those who listen). But I've taken a step back from my fanatic watching of TV shows. I've grown slightly critical of some shows I watch, and stopped watching one because I decided that the extent to which it morally offended overshadowed any brilliant social commentary.

At that moment, I remembered Hegel. Remember him from introductory philosophy? There's the thesis, the antithesis (the thing that opposes the thesis), and then the synthesis (the thing that develops from the thesis and antithesis interacting). Like how we had hard-core capitalism in the early 19th century, communism in the early 20th, and now mild forms of socialism in many countries (which try to balance the benefits of capitalism and the benefits of socialist thought--see--synthesizing?) Anyway, I realized I was in a synthesis mode. College had been the antithesis to my high school. After college, I realized things that I valued from both, and things I disliked about both, and now I'm a mixture of the two.

The next thought blew my mind a little. I realized that my synthesis was not a stable, permanent condition. I realized . . . I could be in the thesis/antithesis of another moment! I could be heading toward a new synthesis! I could be getting more and more and more mature, more like who I want to be, more like who God wants me to be!

And then I laughed at myself and wished my honors classmates were there to laugh with (at) me.

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

¡Viva la Productividad!

Today I . . .

--graded reading responses for just over two hours. I spent lots of time writing long, helpful comments that I desperately hope my students actually read and consider.

--wrote a 2 page paper and posted it on the class discussion board.

--watched an episode of Modern Family. ("Someone to Watch over Lily." I love that episode. It kinda makes me want to tear up a little bit when Jay is so sweet to Manny.)

--read a chapter of Sons and Lovers.

--read all of Heart of Darkness. (Well, except for the first 15 or so pages I had heard on librivox which is the BEST WEBSITE EVER!! Or, at least, among the pretty awesome sites for book lovers.)

--made the most delicious roast beef wrap EVER! (This time there's no exaggeration. I don't think I've ever had a roast beef wrap quite as awesome as this one.)

--watched an episode of Gilmore Girls.

--filled in my calender for much of the semester.

--gathered and took out the trash.


--read a chapter of A Chance to Die, had my devotions, and worked on my Scripture memory.


Why am I not exhausted, y'all?!? It's one in the morning and I've gotta get sleep! I guess I'm just so excited about my productivity. And might be running on some excess adrenaline. I should learn to pace myself, but I just wish I could be this productive every week day. It's a natural high :-)

Friday, September 2, 2011

Inspiration from Amy Carmichael

I'm currently reading Elisabeth Elliot's biography of Amy Carmichael, A Chance to Die. I had started reading it my senior year in college, but when grad school aps and the horrors of Hebrew class took over, the book got set aside. And then it got destroyed by the tornado. I replaced it sometime afterwards, but I'm just getting around to restarting it now. And the timing is perfect.

As those who regularly read this blog know, I've been thinking mission-y thoughts especially lots this past year. Some of those thoughts have changed, developed, and become more complicated since the last time I posted, but in doing so, they've laid my heart bare before God and made me deal with some of the struggles I've been trying to hide in the crevices. And, through Amy Carmichael's life, my own prayers, and the time I spend in the word, God gently has been helping me surrender those struggles to him.

Here are a few things that have encouraged me in the last few days . . .

1. I had heard this interchange before, but always paid attention to the Latimer's famous last words. This time, though, my heart was encouraged by Ridley's. He's speaking of literal flames, but it's true of whatever God calls us to endure, even to the point of martyrdom and death:

"Be of good cheer, brother, for God will either assuage the fury of the flame, or else strengthen us to endure it."
(Latimer's later response, for those who haven't heard it, was, "Be of good comfort, brother Ridley, and play the man. We shall this day light such a candle by God's grace in England as I trust shall never be put out.")

2. I cried during the entire chapter when Amy is called to leave England and everyone she loves and go overseas. It was so comforting and encouraging to see her struggle so hard to make the decision to go--to realize that even one of the world's more famous missionaries had trouble leaving everything behind. It also inspired me, made me want to love Jesus so much that everything else the world had to offer paled in comparison. It made me realize that only when we value Jesus more than everything else in the world can we really know the joy in sacrificing earthly pleasures for his kingdom.

3. Tonight I read a section about Amy's first few months in Japan. She had a friend who was one of the few people she had to connect with there, and at a conference, the friend (called Twin), was seated with another woman leaving Amy alone. When Amy struggled with her feelings of loneliness and jealousy, she realized, "Half-unconsciously, perhaps, I had been saying, "Thou and Twin are enough for me"--one so soon clings to the gift instead of only to the Giver."
Reading it now was perfectly timed. Just Saturday, I sat down and had a very long conversation with God about my tendency to say very similar things.


I'm so glad that God has given us saints to go before us, to encourage us, and to spur us onward toward Jesus and his kingdom.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Beginning of the Semester Craziness

This is going to be one of those spattering-all-over kind of update posts. Just to warn you.

Last week was my first week back for training, and this week was my first week back for students and classes. I've gotten over my fear that I'll fail as a literature teacher, I've nerdishly loved the return of structure, and my people-loving self has cherished the return of frequent interpersonal contact.

I've also been reading for comps. Currently, I'm reading DH Lawrence's Sons and Lovers. I wasn't going into it planning to hate it, but I was approaching it as "A book I'm reading because I have to." My goodness, though. This book is beautiful. Sure, it's Lawrence and therefore a little heavy-handed with the sexual undertones and metaphors. But it's also one of the most beautiful portraitures of family life I've ever read. In fact, no book has made me cry this early into it since Little Women made me cry halfway through. And that was 15 years ago. Sons and Lovers has it beat by making me cry in the first quarter of the novel . . . and that just because an oldest son comes home to his dysfunctional family and "Everyone [is] mad with happiness." And then, one of my favorite sentences, "Home was home, and they loved it with a passion of love, whatever the suffering had been."

So. Beautiful.

Okay, so those have been happy highlights of my week. I really am so glad to be back. Today, though, I found out through facebook that someone I went to college with passed away this weekend. At first my logical mind went, "Oh no! I feel so badly for her family and husband! I wasn't very close, but it makes me very sad," and then was ready to go on. But the emotional part of me won over and I sat in my office and cried for probably half an hour. (These are the moments you're glad you mostly have an office to yourself!) I think that part of it was that we had a lot of friends in common and even talked on a semi-regular basis, so it was strange having someone who had been a constant part of your life for three years be gone. Another part of it is that I over-empathize, so just thinking about her husband and remembering how in love they were broke my heart. And another part of it was the more selfish, scared "people in their 20s aren't suppose to die" reaction. And a last part of it was a "feeling guilty because I could have been closer to her and chose not to" reaction.

But most of it, I think, is because I over-empathize. I just slip into people's situations and imagine myself in them so vividly that I tend to get very upset no matter who they are, and I get even more upset if people's situations at all relate to me and my life. After today, though, I think that I decided that empathizing is a good thing as long as it helps me love other people, serve them, and pray for them more fervently. It's just not a good thing if I let it consume me, depress me, or make me more focused on myself than God and other people.

So as not to end this post on a sad note, though, I will share something exciting . . . I contacted the US office of the Kenyan university to ask about teaching there next summer! Who knows what the response will be, but I'm praying that the answer is, "yes, come!" and I can start planning and support-raising in the next few months. I'm a little nervous about planning to be out of the country for 6+ weeks and having to raise a couple thousand dollars, but I'm mostly really excited that an actual missions trip may be in my near future! It's been very hard wanting to do overseas missions and feeling like God has been saying "wait" the past seven years. (And actually saying "no" by canceling missions trips post-tornado.) But it is all very worth it to follow him where he intends me to go . . . and I think that might be Africa this next summer!

Monday, August 22, 2011

In Retrospect: The Epic Roadtrip

So you know how I promised that I'd post about the epic roadtrip, like, a week ago? Well, I didn't. Obviously. And I'm sure you've all been looking forward to it all week. So I'm sorry, y'all. But here they are . . . the highlights of Epic Roadtrip 2011.

1. Jackson

So first I went to Jackson. I spent Thursday night hanging out with Katie, eating pizza, reminiscing about honors classes, all nighters, and Oxford, and discussing the possibility that we might never get married. So, you know, normal 25-year-old-(single)-girl stuff. And it was really good. It felt super natural to be hanging out with her again, and I felt like we fell right back into our friendship from college. It's nice to know that some friends will always be there, even if you don't get to see them or talk to them as regularly as you like.

Friday I hung out at Union. I talked with three professors, saw the awesome new commons building, and got a sweatshirt at Lifeway. Being there also renewed my dream of being hired as the Union English department's British Modernism specialist. We'll wait and see if that happens.

Friday night, I hung out with the Pflasterers. It was both wonderful and sad. Natalie was super sweet and asked all about my life and shared about hers. It felt like nothing had changed. Isaac, however, is much younger than she is, which probably means that he doesn't remember me living with them over three years ago as well as she does. Two years ago, he cuddled up with me and watched a movie when I came to visit. He also arranged all our meal seating arrangements so that he could sit on one side of me. This time around, he didn't want to ride in the car with me, and he ran off to play with his friends when we went out for frozen yogurt/gelato. I totally expected it to happen, but it still made me sad that he wasn't my sweet little-kid-who-adores-me Isaac friend any more.

2. Harrogate

Saturday through Thursday were Harrogate days. It was SO good to see Amber and Cody again. I hadn't seen them since their wedding two years ago, and two years is a long time to go without seeing your best friend. Amber and I have a pretty awesome phone/skype/facebook message relationship, though, so we're good at staying in touch, and it felt really normal to be together again. We went camping in the Blue Ridge Mountains and had dinner at the most amazing restaurant in Ashville. It's called Tupelo Honey Cafe, and it's . . . awesome. They serve honey biscuits before the meal, and the actual meals were really good, too. I had a sweet potato pancake. Yeah. That's right. Sooo good!

I also love how I feel like I'm getting to know Amber and Cody as a couple. I feel like I'm getting closer to Cody and being friends with him, and I really feel like there's not much that I don't feel comfortable talking to both of them about. So that's really neat, that my friendship with Amber can turn into a friendship with them as a married couple. Of course, it's still good to get plenty of girl time, and since Cody was writing a paper much of the week, we got lots of that.

3. Richmond

Friday and Saturday were Richmond days. I got to see Taryne, a friend from grad school, and we had a fabulous time. Friday night, we took my computer to the Apple store and passed a Whole Foods on the way. I got really excited and Taryne agreed that we could go. And the great thing about Taryne is that she totally gets the being super crazy excited about stores with food that you can actually eat. I got cookies and rice cheese and a pastry. Then, the next night, we got dinner from another grocery store with a salad bar . . . with salads I could actually eat!! First time that's happened in 14 months! I was quite excited.

Lest you think that the only good thing my time in Richmond had going for it was the food, I also had a really good time with Taryne. We talked a little bit about various health things, and she was super encouraging to me. And I hope that I was encouraging to her in the midst of the different things she's dealing with in life. The visit both reminded me how much I enjoy her friendship and made me miss her being in Iowa.

4. Fairfax/DC

Seeing Ian was so great. I know that it's cliché to say this, and that all the movies warn against saying it, but I really do feel like Ian's like a brother to me. I guess it's just the "You've known me pretty much my entire life and you're still friends with me" thing and the "We know each other so well that we don't need to be worried about saying or doing the wrong thing" thing. We had so much fun. Also, I was a little nervous about being a guest in his host family's home, but I really loved them. They were super friendly. Tuesday morning, I woke up early and spent half an hour just chatting with the mom of the family before Ian woke up. That's how great they were.

We went to the National Gallery, the Museum of the American Indian, and the American History Museum. All of them were great. We have somewhat similar tastes in art (except that I like modern art better), so it worked well. We saw some great Degas--whom we both liked quite a bit already--and discovered that we really liked John Singer Sargent. In the American Indian museum, I discovered an entire section of an exhibit about a Mohawk tribe in Quebec! It was pretty great to see so much about the tribe my family is descended from. Then, we went and ate fry bread. And that was awesome :-)

After the history museum, we took the train home and had dinner with Calvin, a friend from our freshman year. Then we headed to his apartment and watched Star Trek (TNG). Because we're all nerds.

5. Pittsburgh

Whenever you've lived somewhere, I think you must get connected to it in some kinda semi-physical way. Because I get this tingly physical and emotional reaction whenever I drive to Jackson, fly into Minneapolis, and--now--arrive in Pittsburgh. It's just that "part of me belongs here" feeling, I guess. Pittsburgh was great, as always. I got to spend Tuesday afternoon with Aunt Jo, which was so good. Wednesday, I spent the day cooking large quantities of food because that night, Shari and I celebrated Christmas. After our first year living apart, we decided that we didn't like celebrating Christmas over the phone. So, now we wait to celebrate Christmas until we're together. We had a fun dinner, watched Christmas episodes of TV shows, and opened gifts. I got a really pretty bowl, and I gave Shari all the freezer meals I had made. (It might sound lame, but if you were super busy and had health stuff to deal with, you'd want lots of freezer meals too.) On Thursday, we hung out, talked a lot, went shopping, and just generally had a great time being all best-friend-y.

6. Peoria

Last stop was Peoria! I had a great time with Tricia. We went out for dinner before returning to Tricia's home to watch . . . Doctor Who!! She showed me three of her favorite episodes, and I got hooked. I've now got the first series out from the library, and I'm working my way through it. We also had a good time catching up on life and talking about big life issues. Once again. Normal mid-20s stuff :-)

Tricia's kinda an awesome photographer, so people are now paying her to do senior pictures. She wanted to practice before doing this girl's pictures on the Riverfront, so she took me down there to be her model. It was fun doing "senior pictures" again. I totally think I should ask her to send copies to me so that I can write cute things on the back and give them to all my friends :-P

7. Home

After Peoria came home. It was weird being all alone again after 17 days of visiting people. Iowa felt weird, but I think I appreciated it more too. I wouldn't want to live here forever, but there are things I like about it. It was good to remember that before the semester began.

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Thoughts on "The Cave" and Life

Starting tomorrow, I'll write a few posts about my EPIC ROADTRIP!! (Which was just as amazing and epic as the all caps and double exclamation marks indicate.) However, for tonight, I want to just post briefly about something else.

This evening, because of various things I've been praying and thinking about, I listened to "The Cave" by Mumford and Sons. I listened to it because I needed to hear the chorus about "I'll find strength in pain . . . I'll know my name as it's called again," but I also really noticed a verse in a new way:

"So tie me to a post and block my ears
I can see widows and orphans through my tears
I know my call despite my faults
And despite my growing fears."

I had always just listened to this verse as "The Odysseus" verse. Yes, I love this song for being so sickeningly rich literarily. However, I also love it because of what it says about fighting against temptation and about strengthening each other during our trials. And, today, I loved it because . . .

A) This verse spoke pretty directly to how I've been feeling about my future these past few weeks. Going to Union was great, but it made me really want to teach at a school like Union (okay, so even Union itself), and it made the life I envision for myself as a professor, writer, and mom look maybe actually possible. And that confused my desire to go into missions. Thankfully, I also saw awesome people like Cody and Amber--who are going into ministry--and Tricia--who is all about missions and fighting the allures of the American dream--so God didn't let me get swept up into something without reminding me of the other desires and the call he's put on my heart. In addition to seeing these people, I listened to a sermon by Pastor John about how in missions we should, "remember the poor," and it made me realize that even if I ended up at a Christian university in Kenya, it would mean that I'd get to teach a lot of students who could not afford an education or who's culture and family would normally not allow them to (if they were women). It helped me see how even something like that could visibly fulfill a clear, Biblical element of missions, and that was good.

Anyway, when I listened to this verse today, the first thing that happened was to realize that part of my call is to "see widows and orphans"--or students in third world and developing countries who need education--through my desires for a comfortable life in the United States. And speaking about "comfortable life"--that's another thing I really realized during this vacation. I don't want to leave the states. By which I mean, I don't want to leave my family behind. I love my family a lot and I can't imagine only getting to see them once or twice a year, especially if I have kids or my brother gets married and has kids. But despite the "sirens' call" of shiney, glamorous academia or a comfortable life in the same country as my family, I need to remember that God's passion for the lost and poor in the world should trump any of my own desires which interfere. Maybe he will call me away from the US and maybe he won't. But I know that he has called me to minister to the lost "despite my growing fears."

B) Part A was about 3 times as long as I meant for it to be. This will be much shorter. Basically, I love the way that the song interprets Odysseus's experience. I always thought the message of the song and the Odysseus story of the song were two separate things. But today, when I heard the "I know my call despite my faults/and despite my growing fears" part, I realized how cool it was that Odysseus captained his ship the way he did and came home to his wife and reclaimed his home despite all the things he did wrong and badly. He knew what was right and did it despite the fact that he wasn't perfect and had made some really bad mistakes. And, just like Odysseus (says the song), we need to pursue our calling despite our imperfections, sins, mistakes, and fears.

Saturday, July 16, 2011

Kenya and Missions (AKA, That Missions Post I Promised You Weeks and Weeks Ago)

I haven't posted about Kenya in awhile. I think the last time I posted about missions, it was that "Ahh! I feel like God calls me to do something in my life and then makes me physically unable to do it!" post. But I've been thinking a lot since that post. And here are a few of those thoughts.

First, I've been struggling with the fact that the opportunity God seems to be calling me with is not necessarily where or what I thought it would be. I love East Africa. Uganda was one of the most amazing experiences of my life. But it was also my first time spending a significant amount of time outside of the United States/Canada, so of course it seemed like the most amazing place in the world. Even on the trip home, though, the three days in England made me feel more like I "fit" in that country than the weeks I spent in Africa. When I think about those cultures where I feel like I belong, I think about Hispanic or European or even Middle Eastern cultures. I don't automatically think "Africa!"

Also, when I initially thought I was being called to teach overseas after graduate school, I felt like I was being called to teach in a secular school in a mostly non-Christian place. I thought that a lot of what I was called to do would be evangelism and being a light for Jesus somewhere where not very many people knew him. By my senior year of college, I was fairly convinced that I should live in a Muslim nation. I didn't think that teaching overseas would mean teaching in a strong Christian university in a country which was 45% Protestant and 33% Catholic.

I still don't know what I'll end up doing after grad school--even if I'll end up overseas or not. I have been thinking and praying about it a lot, though. I've realized that missions isn't about going to a country where you feel like you "fit." I love the way that the book of Hebrews talks about the men and women of faith: they had "acknowledged that they were strangers and exiles on the earth" because they were "seeking a homeland" (Heb 11:13). Our homeland is the new heavens and new earth. If I teach in Kenya long-term, I'll be so fortunate that I will be going to a part of the world I love, even if it isn't on the top of my list of "places I feel I belong."

In response to my "but this place is sooo Christian!" thoughts, I've started to think that part of my desire to go to a Muslim nation comes from a selfish desire to do something "hard." I want missions to be difficult and challenging and--honestly--impressive. I want to go somewhere where I can really explain to people why I need to be there and what awesome sacrifices I'm making in the process. I don't want people to look at my life and say, "Well, yeah, that's easy." And that means that I'm thinking too much about myself. I have this idea that what I do matters, and that my efforts mean something, and that I know better than God does where I can do him the most good. Maybe God sending me to a Christian nation is his way of saying, "Anything I do through you is because of my power and for my glory. I don't need you here--I've done a lot here without you. But I'm choosing to let you be one of my instruments in this place."

Like I said, I don't know where I'm going to end up after graduate school. I don't know if I'll end up in Kenya or South America or the Middle East or even the United States. However, my prayers and Bible study have led me to the conclusion that I should pursue the option of teaching in Nairobi next summer. I've already figured out a preliminary budget and figured out how much I can save toward the trip and how much support I would need to raise. In the fall, I'll contact the university's US office in the Twin Cities to talk to them about whether it would be a viable possibility and how I should go about planning for it. I'm open to the possibility that God might say "no" at some stage through health or money, but I'm also excited that he might continue to give me yes-es.

Monday, July 11, 2011

Joss Whedon Blog!

Those who have followed my blog for awhile have, no doubt, become accustomed to occasional, long, enthusiastic, Joss-Whedon-related posts. I know that, at best, 25% of my readership is even slightly interested in Joss Whedon. Yet every once in awhile, I force everyone who reads my blog to sift through my complex (and frankly amazing and fascinating to myself) thoughts on Buffy, Dollhouse, Angel, etc.

I can't promise that those will stop, but I can announce that some of them will shift over from this blog to a blog where they truly belong, "Let's Get Jossed!" I'm starting this site with my friends Ian and Tricia, fellow Whedon lovers who are excellent writers and insightful thinkers. If you're at all interested in Joss Whedon, I recommend following the blog and experiencing their awesomeness.

The blog is at letsgetjossed.blogspot.com. It will be updated weekly, and it will be all Joss Whedon all the time.

Saturday, July 9, 2011

Sleepover!

Last night, I had five of the youth group girls over to my apartment for a sleepover. It was great. Moments included . . .

1. Food. 5 girls eating 4 frozen pizzas, 1.5 bags of popcorn, a cake, and approximately 4 liters of pop. (I ate lasagna and cookies which were friendly with my crazy food restrictions.)

2. Watching Hairspray and falling asleep to Secret Garden. (Except that I didn't fall asleep until afterwards 'cause I'm a good adult like that.)

3. The following conversation:
E: How old are you?
Me: 23.
E: No you're not! Are you really?
Me: Uh, no. You're right. I'm not. I'm 25.

4. A game of truth or dare in which I ended up holding a giant ice cube in my mouth and daring a girl to put ketchup on her forehead. (Don't worry. We washed it right off.) I also ended up telling the girls that the two things I look for most in a future husband is that he needs to love Jesus and inspire me to love Jesus more and that he needs to love stories. Yep. Good priorities, I think :-)

5. Playing Apples to Apples and Would You Rather.

Overall, the entire event made me feel like I was in college again. Yes, I know these were 12-17 year olds. But either they're mature or I was immature in college because it totally reminded me of eating crazy amounts of food at crazy times in the night and giggling over silly things and playing awesome games. I suppose I did all that in high school, too, but less often. Which leaves me with the conclusion that college is just high school except that you get to do the cool parts way more often and leave some of the social awkwardness behind.

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Didn't Summer Just Begin?

In an attempt to create an organized plan of attack for the independent study which will be replacing the eeeeviiiil! course, I decided to map out the rest of my summer. It was a good idea because it helped me figure out how much I could reasonably hope to accomplish and it reminded me that I need to start working hard quickly, but it was also sad to realize how little of summer is left! Between now and mid-August when my summer officially ends, I need to read twelve books, write two weeks of lesson plans, go to twelve doctor appointments, proctor tests, and be good and do my PT exercise three times a week.

That's the "required" stuff. There will also be fun stuff, though. This weekend, Sonia and I are going to the Twin Cities for 4th of July weekend. I'm very excited. We're going to a Twins game, and I'm hoping for a Lake Calhoun/Wild Rumpus Bookstore/Great Harvest adventure, since that general area is one of my favorite places in the Twin Cities and--hey!--bookstores with cats and birds and rats and chickens! Plus, the Twin Cities is home of The Wedge coop, which happens to be the only place I've found anywhere (and I've checked three cities) that has baked goods I can enjoy.

Next weekend, I'm having the youth group girls over to my apartment for a sleepover! I'm pretty excited, and I hope it turns out as fabulously as I think it will be. I'm generally just excited for a good old-fashion sleepover with pizza and movies and games, etc. Being a grown up is so less fun.

The week after that, my parents are coming down because I'm having one of those can't-eat-the-day-before, get-hopped-up-on-loopy-drugs tests which will mean I really shouldn't drive for two days and may be feeling kinda "meh" afterwards. I figured that I could just drive super carefully the day before and find someone at church or elsewhere to drive the day of/get over being embarrassed by loopiness, but then my parents decided to be awesome and come down and take care of me. I love my family.

At the end of the month, I'm headed on the grandest roadtrip ever! Or, at least, the grandest roadtrip I have ever endeavored to do on my own. Two years ago, Shari and I did a pretty epic roadtrip that included 80 hours of driving in 10 days and covered 12 states. This summer, though, I'm headed out on my own and doing 37 hours of driving in 17 days and covering 9 states. I'm going to get to see many of my favorite people from college (and favorite people not-from-college) and also hopefully go into Washington DC for the first time ever!

So, the summer is flying away quickly, but I still have lots of good to look forward to. And even though I'm nervous about the busy fall I'm going to have, I know that it will be good, too. I'll probably even enjoy it when it gets here.

Friday, June 24, 2011

How I Discovered I'm Not an Analytic Philosopher:

I'm totally failing at blogging this summer. I don't understand why. I have lots of thoughts, and I want to share them, but then at the end of the day, I come home and my brain just says, "No. I don't want to work right now."

Happy news, though, I got out of my philosophy class (The Nature of Evil) that I was going to take this summer. I really didn't know how uncomfortable I'd be with analytic philosophy until after the first couple of days (English peeps tend to be more continental, what with the Marxism and postmodernism). We also spent the first hour of class on the first day watching an emotional movie about the BTK killer that really upset me, and I was even surprised when I was so bothered because I like to think that I'm tough and I can handle stuff like that. (My mom made the wise observation that I can handle it when it's on my terms--I like to decide what I want to read or watch and when I want to do it--I don't like it to pop up on me by surprise and then have to watch it. She's so insightful.)

The other thing that frustrated me about the class is how we started with a lot of assumptions about what "evil" meant. We talked about "what makes people evil" and "what makes people bad" with the assumption that badness and evil were abnormal. That was the first day. Then, on the second day, we read an article arguing that "faith" was not a valid motive for moral action, and we seemed to take the author's definition of "faith" for granted. I actually did try to point out some weaknesses in his definition, but I made the mistake of trying to do it at the sentence/logical level in a sort of deconstructive move. Deconstruction=French, which± Analytic philosophy. And then the professor took my attempts to be subversive and somehow launched into a discussion of scripture which basically ended with the conclusion that the Bible is not logical and therefore also not a good basis for moral action.

It's not that I mind someone claiming that evil and bad are abnormal occurrences or that faith and the Bible are not valid guides for moral decision making. But I do mind starting with assumptions that I think should be conclusions.

So, between all those things and the fact that the class wasn't really going to help me that much toward comps, I decided not to take it. And the good part is that now I'll take a 20th c. British history class next fall instead, which will be very helpful! Plus, now that I'm finally in a summer schedule, I should have the ability to think smart thoughts and put them into blog :-)

Monday, June 13, 2011

Excuses, Excuses

Okay. So I kind of totally and completely failed at my multiple post goal last week. But wait. I can explain. I was exhausted from the (very awesome) weekend of Mumford and Sons, Cake, and extended family, I jumped back into work, and I had a sleep study. They stuck little suction cups all over my body with glue and tape and put a breathing monitor under my nose and then, when I was surrounded by wires, watched me sleep. It was actually fascinating and cool--as far as medical tests and procedures go. Yes, I have a weird relationship to medical tests and procedures. Probably because I've had so many. But I occasionally find it interesting to watch the nurses take blood or dermatologists sew up biopsy punctures or look at monitor screens or . . . yeah. Definitely weird. But it's like science, and Mrs. Frizzle and Bill Nye both taught me that science rules. Anyway, all that goes to say that a medical test that involves watching TV for an hour, having glue in your hair, and getting to wear new pajamas (yeah. I totally got them) is one of the "cooler" ones. (I also have a theory that if you have to do this kind of thing, you should try to make it as much "fun" as possible. Sometimes this is difficult, but I try :-D)

This weekend, Tiffany stayed over. She was coming into town for a friend's 21st birthday party which lasted two days. However, because she's an RUF intern and can't be out with students doing the drinking thing, she was a good intern and hung out with me both nights after dinner. So . . . I win. Hehe. We had lots of fun watching the eHarmony video profile youtube video and quoting The Office (I said that I needed to give a fashion show for opinions on my new clothes and we both started clapping our hands and saying "Fashion Show! Fashion Show! Fashion Show at Lunch!" It was great). We also made some homemade onion rings. I had discovered them earlier that week, and deep frying is one of my new favorite activities. Last night, after Tiffany left, I made pineapple fritters with the leftover batter ingredients. Imagine a pineapple ring dipped in a light beer batter, fried, and then covered in cinnamon sugar. Yep. It's awesome.

Anyway, I'm sorry for only posting once when I'm sure you were all checking this site daily to see if I had fulfilled my promise of posting multiple times a week. Please forgive me. And enjoy this comic I have saved to my desktop. I look at it every few months and it makes everything better :-) (Click on the image to see an enlarged version)



Monday, June 6, 2011

A Few Thoughts . . .

I have so much I want to write about, but I am so tired that my full posts will have to happen later. I'll probably make up for a dry few weeks with multiple posts this week. Until then, though, here are a few of my thoughts, and a preview of the things to come . . .

1. Mumford and Sons is awesome. You already knew that? Well, did you know that they are even more awesome in concert than on CD? Yeah, I know. I didn't think that was possible either.

2. I just went to a worship night at Eliza's church. She's in the choir at the Vineyard Church and invited me. I had an amazing time. We sang a lot of songs that I grew up singing at Bethlehem and a bunch that the worship pastor wrote, too. And there was clapping and hand raising and even a little bit of dancing and tambourines by the end. I re-realized how conservative the worship at my current church is. I love our hymns, etc., but sometimes I wish I wasn't the only one that ever raised my hands when I'm talking to God.

3. This point is about missions and sacrifice and calling. And how sometimes it's confusing when God gives us desires and yet calls us to sacrifice and . . . if I tried to keep explaining this now at almost-midnight, it would sound confusing. So, stay tuned for a future post.

4. Finally, I'm trying to decide on something. When I was little (well, through high school), when I went to the doctor because I was sick, we'd frequently stop at a bakery nearby for a treat afterwards. When I had my braces adjusted (which happened at least once a month for almost four years), I'd get a milkshake. On Thursday, I'm having a sleep study. Does this mean I should get new pajamas???

Thursday, May 26, 2011

PTSD

I've been going back and forth between posting on this subject for almost two months now. On the one hand, there's definitely a line between what's appropriate to share with the wide world of interwebbiness and what you should maybe not share with absolutely anyone who would want to read your blog. On the other hand, I'm pretty sure I know at least most of the people who read my blog, and I figure that they're really the only audience I should be worried about. Plus, sometimes I just need to write about something and know someone out there will read it. It's a way of processing, but it's also a way of telling myself, "Hey, it's okay to talk about this."

Because I really don't feel like I can talk about it. Sometimes I may say things. If the tornado sirens go off in class and I'm freaking out inside, I might mention to one of my friends after class that I hate tornado sirens. But if they show any kind of concern, I quickly say, "Yeah, it bothers me, but it's okay. I'm fine." And I put on my cheerful face. When a friend was in an accident and nearly died and dealt with post traumatic stress, I knew what she was dealing with before she did, and I recognized the way she talked and processed. I'd say things like, "Well for me after the tornado . . . so it makes sense that you . . .." But I tried to never let on that watching her trauma made me think of my own, and I actually felt badly that the tornado could still bother me so much, that even watching someone else deal with trauma could make me relive the tornado as if my head had turned into a giant movie screen and I was stuck in the red velvet chair. I felt badly that I could not focus my entire attention on her and what she was going through. I felt stupid that I was still so bothered by the tornado three whole years later.

This was before 2011 officially became the year of the tornado. Thankfully, a few weeks before the Alabama tornadoes, I had gone and talked to someone about it and we agreed that I was still "officially" dealing with PTSD. That was helpful. But then Alabama happened. Then, this past Sunday, the sirens went off. My grandparents, aunt, and cousin were here, so that meant sitting in the basement surrounded by people who didn't get that talking about tornadoes a few miles away was not the most helpful thing for someone who was almost killed by one three years ago. And then I found out that the tornadoes tore through the neighborhood I lived in from ages 2-8. And that that same day tornadoes may or may not have touched down in North Liberty. And then Joplin happened, and that was even more fuel to the "everywhere I turn, there's tornado coverage" fire.

I guess I feel like I can't talk about it because I don't get why tornadoes still bother me. Logically, I think about it and say that I'm fine with the fact that I almost died and that I almost lost many of my close friends, I'm fine having lost most of what I owned--I really don't get sad about losing everything and hardly did even a few months after the fact, and I'm not really afraid that it would happen to me again because--really--how statistically improbable is it that it would happen twice to the same person. Why, then, do I want to cry every time I hear tornado sirens? Why does my heart race and my stomach knot up every time I see pictures of tornado damage? Why do I still get angry about the tornado emotionally when I'm not angry about it in my head, logically?

I know it doesn't make sense and that it isn't suppose to make sense. I probably need to worry less about how I'm *suppose* to be and learn to be okay with how I am. I just am so convinced that everyone else from Union is perfectly better now and that something must be wrong with me for me to still be dealing with it. And that's just silly. I wouldn't be surprised if many people still feel the way I do but also feel silly for expressing it.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

I Was Hoping Not To Cry At This One . . .

Seriously. I didn't think I'd cry at my brother's graduation. I'm pretty sure I didn't cry at his high school one, though I have cried at other graduations before (probably including both of mine). But then I was planning and prepping some things today. And then it happened. I pulled out something I've been saving for awhile, and I remembered that when I put it away, I thought, "It's going to be years before I need to find this, I hope I remember!" And then I realized how quickly those years have gone, and how grown up James is--and therefore how grown up our family is--and I got just a teeny bit choked up. I'm so glad that through all of his growing up, though, we have remained such amazing friends :-)

Here's hoping that I make it through semi-tearless!

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Craftiness

I have a long and complicated relationship to craftiness. No, not the sneaky, conniving kind--the William Morris, stereotypical homeschooler, Country Home kind. I was "officially" adopted into my extended family at age 9, and all of my cousins were 4H kids. That means that all of my female cousins can cook, sew, quilt, scrapbook, etc.. I cook well, and I enjoy the little scrapbooking I do, but sewing, crocheting, quilting, knitting, embroidering, cross-stitching . . . these are all things that I really don't do.

In addition to being surrounded by a wonderfully crafty family, I am currently a half-Victorianist. The other half of me is a Modernist. It's a difficult split identity. Stereotypical modernists tend to be hardcore academics, progressive thinkers, possibly experimental (especially the American modernists), and probably snobs (especially the British modernists. Like me ;-) . . . ). Victorianists, on the other hand, tend to be sweet cardigan-wearing girls prone to socialism. They also tend to like arts and crafts.

And it's not just my fellow Victorianists who enjoy the arts and crafts. This semester, I've realized just how many of my friends knit, sew, crochet, and do other wonderfully crafty things. All of these forces came together, and I felt this urge to become crafty. The problem is, I've tried knitting, and I don't think I'm a knitter. Knitters tend to be multi-taskers, and when I do something, I want to do that thing. And I think that crocheting is a similarly multi-tasking kind of craft. So, I decided that I wouldn't try to be that kind of a crafty person any more.

At first, I thought that meant that I had given up craftiness altogether. I'd just cook and bake and let that be my thing. But, recently, I've decided that I want to learn how to sew. It's hard to multi-task when sewing. Plus, you can do it in bits or you can work on small projects that only take a few hours. The problem with scrapbooking was that I took forever on a single page and never finished a full scrapbook. I'm hoping that won't happen with sewing.

So, next time I'm in Minnesota, I'm going to get my mom's sewing machine, take it home, and teach myself how to sew! In my head, I envision myself being like Lorelai--teaching herself how to sew and then becoming an awesome sewing lady. Also, she's not crafty, but she's really good at sewing and she really enjoys it! Unfortunately, I don't have a baby to make clothes for. But maybe I'll just make little things for other people's babies.

Monday, May 9, 2011

Because the Interwebs Told Me To . . .

Yes, you're right. It's been forever since I've written here.

Because, really, I admit it. A play-by-play of a Saturday of paper writing doesn't cut it as a "real post."

In my defense, there was work. A lot of it. So much teaching, paper writing, class attending, proctoring, student meetings, and grading to do. And also a little sleep. I still have the grading left, and I'm alway proctoring, but I am happy to report that the rest of it was finished as of last Thursday.

Why, you may ask, has it taken you four days to return to you blog? Well, after finishing everything, I crashed. I sat around and caught up on my TV shows, and I cleaned my apartment in short spurts. But mainly, I laid around on the couch and slept a lot in bed. I thought about posting, but at first nothing came to mind and then everything did.

I wanted to post about the world's reaction to bin Laden's death and the very awesome class discussion I led about President Obama's (equally awesome) speech. I wanted to post about my newly dubbed "Complementarian Feminism" and talk all about how I believed that Christian Complementarianism and Feminism work perfectly fine together. I also wanted to post about how I've started writing again, both poetry and non-fiction, and talk about that for awhile.

Instead of any of those posts, you're getting this one. And it really isn't about anything.

Saturday, April 30, 2011

A Day in the Life of a Graduate Student

9:30 Wake up. Decide to get out of bed and start working. Realize that I can't keep my eyes open. Decide to eat applesauce and go back to bed.

12:00 Wake up for real. Eat a real breakfast. Grade speeches for two hours.

2:00 Begin Romanticism paper. Get exceedingly frustrated at how not awesome it sounds.

4:00 Quit writing Romanticism. Eat a snack.

5:00 Don't know what I did for the past hour, but it's time for dinner.

6:00 Give up on Romanticism for the night. Begin Education paper.

7:30 Feel very good about the two pages I have written for Education. Decide to take a break for some more food.

8:30 Return to Education. Spend half an hour trying to get the UI database site to work.

9:00 Finally get to the article I've been trying to get for the past half hour. Find out I really don't want it. Find another article to use.

9:30 I've been working for an hour. Time for another break? Call parents. I need human contact!

10:00 Write one more page of Education.

10:30 Set the goal of having 2 pages of a Romanticism paper and 4-5 pages of an Education paper finished by midnight. That's 2 more pages to go tonight, people! And then an exciting 10 pages to write tomorrow after church . . .

Thursday, April 21, 2011

I Cannot Sleep . . .

And so I am reading poetry. I love poetry with a passion. And I choose the words "love" and "passion" carefully because poetry is able to affect me emotionally--even physically--like very few things can. Music, sometimes. Or an episode of Buffy the Vampire Slayer. Poetry, though, is my first love. And I don't know why I don't read it more often.

As I've mentioned before, I'm on a huge Denise Levertov kick. She is my poet soul-mate. She helps me understand myself better and--even more importantly--she makes me draw closer to God.

I thought I'd share a couple of short Levertov poems which struck me today . . .

Intrusion

After I had cut off my hands

and grown new ones

something my former hands had longed for

came and asked to be rocked.

After my plucked out eyes

had withered, and new ones grown

something my former eyes had wept for

came asking to be pitied.


This one really struck me because of some things happening in my life. I won't go into detail now, but I've realized how I've started closing myself off from things and people since the tornado. It changed the way I deal with stress, and not entirely in a good way. And this poem just struck me by reminding me, I don't want to lose my compassion and ability to love because I'm unwilling to deal with my own grief and struggles.


This one provoked a literally physical reaction . . .


The ache of marriage:

thigh and tongue, beloved,

are heavy with it,

it throbs in the teeth

We look for communion

and are turned away, beloved,

each and each

It is leviathan and we

in its belly

looking for joy, some joy

not to be known outside it

two by two in the ark of

the ache of it.


The thing I love most about this poem is the fact that it's harshly raw in its honesty about the bitter painfulness of marriage. The fact that sometimes, you're not satisfied. And yet, it has hope, because it claims that they are "looking for joy . . . not to be known outside of it." And it makes me want to experience marriage and experience that joy and the ache and the awesome relationship that can exist despite the ups and downs of both.


Okay. Gonna go try to sleep now. Happy National Poetry Month :-)

Monday, April 11, 2011

"As a Feminist . . ."

I consider myself a feminist. Not the angry, second-wave, bra-burning kind of feminist, but the kind who believes in both the uniqueness and equality of women, who believes that women should have the equal right, ability, and validation to be successful in the workplace or stay home with kids, who believes that some issues women face should actually be looked at from the angle of both femininity and masculinity and what needs to change about the way both men *and* women are perceived, and who believes that even though many feminist battles have been won in the United States, women around the world are still facing some very horrible situations because of their sex/gender and that we need to fight for their equal rights. (Oh, also that there are still feminist issues to be discussed in 21st c America.) In other words, I consider myself a third wave, sometimes conservative, feminist with an equal interest in masculinity as I have in femininity.

However, I rarely make claims using the phrase, "as a feminist." For one thing, most Christian circles have a very skewed image of feminism which tends to focus on second wave feminism and pro-choice movements. Realizing that not everyone lives in academia and that feminism does have some problematic elements attached to it, I find it more useful to break down the issues and discuss them instead of dealing with the label "feminism" in these circles. The one time when I want to do otherwise is when Christians start talking about being against feminism. It's like when Christians get together and talk about the evils of postmodernity or the dangers of deconstructionism. Not that there aren't bad elements to any of these movements, but the people behind these movements equip Christians to think that they "understand" the academic movement when really, they set up an over simplified version of what is wrong about the movement and ignore the inherent potential for feminism, postmodernity, and deconstructionism to be vehicles of Christian truth. I haven't read Carolyn McCulley's Radical Womanhood: Feminine Faith in a Feminist World, so I can't make claims about it, but I know that it generated and fit into a discourse within Christian circles about feminism as a bad thing. (McCulley actually had a conference at my church in Cedar Rapids, and I wanted to go just to hear her, but the weekend ended up not working out and I also was afraid that she'd say things that would bother me and that I'd want to read about it in the book instead. Which I need to do. And then, hopefully, I can actually make informed claims about the book and also bring it into dialogue with my belief that complementarianism and feminism can coexist.)

Okay, that was a long tangent I didn't mean to get into. BUT, the second reason why I don't make claims "as a feminist," usually, is because I don't want to privilege the feminist position or my minority position as female/woman. If I make a claim, it should stand on it's own, not because I've suffered and so have a greater voice on the topic than those who haven't. (Something that becomes even more of an issue, in my opinion, if you're talking about issues like race or sexual violence--areas that I think victimization becomes a privileged position even more.) Likewise, I shouldn't have a greater voice because of my ideological background.

However, today, I started a statement with, "As a Feminist." An education professor gave a long speech about how "you guys" is gender biased language and should be avoided in the classroom because you don't want to offend women. (Short version.) What bothered me was the way in which he talked about this, and has talked about other gender issues this semester, as if representing a feminist position. So, when I responded about how I believed that instead of changing something just to make a student feel better, a teacher should start a dialogue on the possibility of "guys" as a degendered term or the ways in which even offending someone can have a rhetorical purpose, I wanted to make it clear that I thought that this was in line with my feminist viewpoints. So, I began the comment, "As a feminist." In retrospect, I would have said more, and I would have said it differently, but I do get angry at lazy feminism--the kind of feminism that rides on the back of second wave assumptions and reduplicates old rhetoric about gender.

That turned out to be much, much longer than I intended it to be. This is what happens when I get into my passionate academic mode . . .

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Tornado Survival Bag

So, I came up with this brilliant idea of having a tornado survival bag ready in case of tornado warnings. It will be filled with things I need if I have to go hide in the downstairs hall, plus a list of things to grab before I go down there. Here's a conversation I had with my mom to show just how well thought through this idea is:

Me: I still need to write the list of things to grab, and I've already got a flashlight and a book in there.
My mom: A book?
Me: Well, yeah. If I'm going to be stuck in the hall, I need something to do other than freak out.
My mom: Did you think of putting a bottle of water or some of your snack-y things in there?
Me: Well . . . um . . . well . . . no. I didn't.

Yep. I've got my priorities straight :-)

Monday, April 4, 2011

In Love with Denise Levertov and Mumford and Sons

I am totally, entirely, head-over-heels in love with Denise Levertov and Mumford and Sons right now. And I mention them together for two reasons. 1) They both bring me closer to God, and 2) They both made my day infinitely better today. Yes, those two are related :-)

Today, I discovered this crazy awesome Denise Levertov poem:

The Love of Morning

It is hard sometimes to drag ourselves
back to the love of morning
after we've lain in the dark crying out
O God, save us from the horror . . . .

God has saved the world one more day
even with its leaden burden of human evil;
we wake to birdsong.
And if sunlight's gossamer lifts in its net
the weight of all that is solid,
our hearts, too, are lifted,
swung like laughing infants;
but on gray mornings,
all incident - our own hunger,
the dear tasks of continuance,
the footsteps before us in the earth's
beloved dust, leading the way - all,
is hard to love again
for we resent a summons
that disregards our sloth, and this
calls us, calls us.

I would talk about how much I love it, but I'm afraid anything I would say would take away from its sheer awesomeness.

Also, tomorrow I am lifting my moratorium on buying music and finally actually purchasing some music by Mumford and Sons. Just listening to them tonight gave me chills and made me want to want God more. Maybe some day I'll be able to talk about them more. But, for tonight, I leave them to their own awesomeness: