Saturday, November 24, 2012

Autumn

"One's perceptions blow out rapidly like air balls expanded by some rush of air, and then, when all seems blown to its fullest and tautest, with beauty and beauty and beauty, a pin pricks; it collapses. But what is the pin? So far as I could tell, the pin had something to do with one's own impotency. I cannot hold this--I cannot express this--I am overcome by it--I am mastered."

--from "Evening over Sussex: Reflections in a Motor Car" by Virginia Woolf


"The beauty of this world which is so soon to perish has two edges, one of laughter, one of anguish, cutting the heart asunder."

--from A Room of One's Own by Virginia Woolf

Thursday, November 1, 2012

Crazy (How We Talk about Mental Illness)


Today, in class, we began reading Virginia Woolf's novel The Voyage Out. Something came up, and one of my students mentioned that she read somewhere that Woolf was "maybe, borderline crazy?"  I responded that Woolf wasn't crazy but bipolar.  A large number of students responded, "Well, that's crazy."

I don't share this story to make my students look bad.  In fact, in the past year alone, I've had multiple conversations with various people--many of whom I love and respect--about the use of the term "crazy" to describe mentally ill people.  I think my students' reaction was "normal," and I tried not to over-react for the very reason that I think most people would have responded in the exact same way.  At the same time, though, as I walked back to my office, I realized just how much it bothered me that "crazy" was such a common and comparatively socially acceptable response to mental illness.

As someone who knows and loves many people with bipolar and other mental health disorders, I care very much about the way that our society thinks about mental illness and the way that it talks about mental illness. Once I got back to my office, I tried to find an article from a semi-reputable site which could maybe express my thoughts on the issue better than I could.  I found a few things, but nothing that really said what I wanted to say.  What I told my students in class was to "Never call someone with a mental illness crazy."  Then we moved on to talk about how Woolf's condition interacted with her writing life.  It bothered me, though, that I couldn't adequately articulate my reason behind that imperative on-the-spot.

In the time since, I have done some reading and thinking.  What I'd like to do here is briefly mention why calling mental illness "craziness" is unhelpful, harmful, and offensive:

1.  The attitudes with which we say a word and the connotations which the word has accumulated are as equally important as the word itself.  Think about the kinds of things you call "crazy."  Think about the contexts in which you have heard the word.  Also think of words like "insane" and "lunatic."  At one time, a word like "madness" or "insanity" may have been the medically correct word, but connotations and attitudes have since linked them to a negative stigma.  Most of us grew up being taught to never use the word "retard" or "retarded."  Yes, at one time, the medical profession did use these words, but in the past few decades, the word has been used almost exclusively negatively.  I'd argue that the same is true for "crazy," "insane," "madness," and "lunatic."

2.  One health provider's site had a blog post I found helpful.  In this post, the author argued that the way we talk about mental illness--and the stigma that results from that language--might prevent people from seeking professional help.  She wrote, "Imagine feeling physically ill and fearing that this illness could threaten your quality of life. You’d likely seek medical help, and early intervention might well return you to full health. Imagine feeling mentally ill, fearing that this illness could threaten your quality of life, yet being afraid to ask for help, terrified of being labelled as 'nuts,' 'crazy' or 'insane.' Imagine feeling that ill health was more tolerable than seeking treatment."  I know that this scenario goes beyond hypothesis: I'd dare to guess that it happens almost every day.  Even if calling someone or something "crazy" were not innately wrong, the way that our language could negatively affect those around us should be reason enough to modify it.

3.  The last thing I wanted to share was a quotation I found on--of all places--Yahoo Answers.  Not the most credible source for making an argument, but someone said something I thought was worth sharing.  He or she said, "Calling someone with mental illness crazy is like calling someone with, say, diabetes broken."  I won't get into the still ongoing debate over whether mental illness is equivalent to physical illness.  (If you're wondering, the prevailing medical opinion--and mine--is that it is.)  I will say, though, that to reduce a complicated mental or mood disorder to "crazy" reflects insensitivity and disinterest toward something that is very difficult and very painful.

I do not believe that mental illness is "normal" or "good."  It is a result of the fall, and when Christ returns and restores the earth, there will be no more mental illness.  Even now, though, as evidenced through his time on Earth, Christ cares for those who are suffering the effects of sin and the fall.  When here, Christ healed the blind man and made the lame walk.  He wept when his friend died.  Surely we should show the same love, the same sensitivity and the same care.  A good place to start doing so is by changing our language.

Crazy (How We Talk about Mental Illness)

Today, in class, we began reading Virginia Woolf's novel The Voyage Out. Something came up, and one of my students mentioned that she read somewhere that Woolf was "maybe, borderline crazy?"  I responded that Woolf wasn't crazy but bipolar.  A large number of students responded, "Well, that's crazy."

I don't share this story to make my students look bad.  In fact, in the past year alone, I've had multiple conversations with various people--many of whom I love and respect--about the use of the term "crazy" to describe mentally ill people.  I think my students' reaction was "normal," and I tried not to over-react for the very reason that I think most people would have responded in the exact same way.  At the same time, though, as I walked back to my office, I realized just how much it bothered me that "crazy" was such a common and comparatively socially acceptable response to mental illness.


As someone who knows and loves many people with bipolar and other mental health disorders, I care very much about the way that our society thinks about mental illness and the way that it talks about mental illness. Once I got back to my office, I tried to find an article from a semi-reputable site which could maybe express my thoughts on the issue better than I could.  I found a few things, but nothing that really said what I wanted to say.  What I told my students in class was to "Never call someone with a mental illness crazy."  Then we moved on to talk about how Woolf's condition interacted with her writing life.  It bothered me, though, that I couldn't adequately articulate my reason behind that imperative on-the-spot.

In the time since, I have done some reading and thinking.  What I'd like to do here is briefly mention why calling mental illness "craziness" is unhelpful, harmful, and offensive:

1.  The attitudes with which we say a word and the connotations which the word has accumulated are as equally important as the word itself.  Think about the kinds of things you call "crazy."  Think about the contexts in which you have heard the word.  Also think of words like "insane" and "lunatic."  At one time, a word like "madness" or "insanity" may have been the medically correct word, but connotations and attitudes have since linked them to a negative stigma.  Most of us grew up being taught to never use the word "retard" or "retarded."  Yes, at one time, the medical profession did use these words, but in the past few decades, the word has been used almost exclusively negatively.  I'd argue that the same is true for "crazy," "insane," "madness," and "lunatic."


2.  One health provider's site had a blog post I found helpful.  In this post, the author argued that the way we talk about mental illness--and the stigma that results from that language--might prevent people from seeking professional help.  She wrote, "Imagine feeling physically ill and fearing that this illness could threaten your quality of life. You’d likely seek medical help, and early intervention might well return you to full health. Imagine feeling mentally ill, fearing that this illness could threaten your quality of life, yet being afraid to ask for help, terrified of being labelled as 'nuts,' 'crazy' or 'insane.' Imagine feeling that ill health was more tolerable than seeking treatment."  I know that this scenario goes beyond hypothesis: I'd dare to guess that it happens almost every day.  Even if calling someone or something "crazy" were not innately wrong, the way that our language could negatively affect those around us should be reason enough to modify it.


3.  The last thing I wanted to share was a quotation I found on--of all places--Yahoo Answers.  Not the most credible source for making an argument, but someone said something I thought was worth sharing.  He or she said, "Calling someone with mental illness crazy is like calling someone with, say, diabetes broken."  I won't get into the still ongoing debate over whether mental illness is equivalent to physical illness.  (If you're wondering, the prevailing medical opinion--and mine--is that it is.)  I will say, though, that to reduce a complicated mental or mood disorder to "crazy" reflects insensitivity and disinterest toward something that is very difficult and very painful.

I do not believe that mental illness is "normal" or "good."  It is a result of the fall, and when Christ returns and restores the earth, there will be no more mental illness.  Even now, though, as evidenced through his time on Earth, Christ cares for those who are suffering the effects of sin and the fall.  When here, Christ healed the blind man and made the lame walk.  He wept when his friend died.  Surely we should show the same love, the same sensitivity and the same care.  A good place to start doing so is by changing our language.

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Things that Brighten our Days

Today was a very hard day, but this evening, I impromptu-called Renee and said "Do you want to hang out?"  I went over, and as soon as I walked in the door, Zuzu immediately demanded I hold her and read her a book.  It was exactly what I needed to brighten my day.  Especially because the book was "Sheep on a Ship."**  Then Renee and I had dinner and went and walked around the mall.

At the mall, I finally gave in and bought the bath and body works bath gel I've been wanting to buy for the past four weeks (since I used it at someone else's house).  It's funny how something as simple as a pleasant smell can make a day better.  I'll be honest, I've sniffed my arms once or twice as I sit here at the computer.


**"Sheep on a Ship" is the entertaining story of pirate sheep who get into a storm, "collide" with one another on the boat as it fills with water, create a raft, float to shore, but then miss the dock by two steps and fall into the ocean.  They then climb onto dry land as some very wet but very relieved sheep.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Favorite Quotations from a Favorite Book

Tomorrow, my British Literature class is finishing The Story of an African Farm by Olive Scheiner.  I read the novel for the first time last fall, and it quickly became one of my favorite books.  I plan to make a list of my favorite 25 books (from all of my life--childhood, adolescence, adulthood), and I think it would make the cut.  It's beautifully written.  Here are some of my favorite quotations:

"There is a love that begins in the head, and goes down to the heart, and grows slowly; but it lasts till death, and asks less than it gives.  There is another love, that blots out wisdom, that is sweet with the sweetness of life and bitter with the bitterness of death, lasting for an hour; but it is worth having lived a whole life for that hour."

"It is a delightful thing to be a woman; but every man thanks the Lord devoutly that he isn't one."

"And so, it comes to pass at last, that whereas the sky was at first a small blue rag stretched out over us, and so low that our hands might touch it, pressing down on us, it raises itself into an immeasurable blue arch over our heads, and we begin to live again."

Friday, October 12, 2012

Pittsburgh

I spent last Friday through Tuesday in Pittsburgh for fall break.  It was wonderful.  In Rome, it's been too warm to see too many changes of leafs yet, but leafs were bright and falling and beautiful throughout the Pittsburgh hills.  I wore my fall coat for the first time of the season, and even though I was in the Northeast instead of the Midwest, and even though I've only been to Pittsburgh one other time in the fall, the coolness of the October weather hugged me in a way that felt like home.

Of course, my favorite part of the trip was the people.  Shari and I spent the majority of the days talking, laughing, joking, encouraging, and praying.  If possible, I think her best-friend-ness increases each time I see her.  Aunt Jo took me to lunch.  We spent two hours at the table during which we drank lots of coffee (her) and water (me) and had wonderful conversation.  (Thankfully, we had a patient waitress who gave us all the time that we needed.)  We also spent time with Shari's parents, and I enjoyed the general "family" feel of the weekend, especially because I've been missing my parents and brother lately.

Besides the vital people parts of the weekend, there were also some fun adventures including a trip to Macys for makeup, a trip to Wholefoods for (nonperishable, shippable) hard-to-get-in-Rome foods, and a trip to Target where I found a few good deals on decorations for my office and house.

Coming back to Georgia was hard.  I wasn't planning on it being hard, but I also wasn't shocked when it happened.  I was going from a city I've increasingly connected to over the past six years and from some of my closest friendships to a place where I'm still new and settling in.  After the initial sadness, though, I reminded myself of the adventure I was living.  New job, new house, new friends, and hopefully a new church?  Rome might not be as "homey" as Pittsburgh, Tennessee, Iowa, or the Twin Cities--yet, but when I let it, it is definitely exciting and fun.

Monday, October 1, 2012

Disjointed Thoughts

It's October.  I used to say that October was my favorite month and that I wanted to get married in October.  I've now realized that if I ever get married, it should be during the summer when I'm not teaching.  Now that I live in Georgia, I'm not sure what October will be like.  But I'm prepared to like it.

Oh right, it's October.  My rent check is due today.

This weekend, I went to a consignment store's sidewalk sale and bought 35 items of clothing for 10 dollars.  I love consignment/thrift shopping.  A few weeks ago, I got a Cynthia Rowley dress for 6 dollars at Goodwill.

I'm still on the early, challenging stages of my elimination diet.  I made pumpkin quinoa muffins because I missed baked goods.  They're very good but very dense.  Also, I was trying to adapt a few recipes, and I ended up putting in about twice the pumpkin I should have.  They taste better with butter and milk.

I get to go to Pittsburgh for fall break.  It will have been 14 months since I last visited.  The last time I visited in the fall was 5 years ago in 2007. It will be nice to be there in the fall again.  Fall is a good season for spending time with friends.  (Though every season is, really.)  I've been to Pittsburgh 6 times in 6 years and one of those times was when I lived there the summer of 2010.  It's not as much a part of me as Minnesota, but it is a part of me, and I like that.  I'm really looking forward to this visit and to seeing some people I love.

I have to drive to Atlanta to fly to Pittsburgh.  I'm looking forward to that less, but because I have to be at the airport by 7:30, I assume I'll miss rush hour traffic.

Speaking of things I miss, I miss eating little things like mayonnaise and tomatoes.  I also miss eating major things like cheese and bread and french fries.

. . . And now I want a hamburger.

I've started writing poetry more regularly again.  Some of it is absolutely awful, but it feels good to be writing consistently again.  And I like some of it a lot.  I've told myself I can't submit to literary journals until I've submitted my Oscar Wilde article to a critical journal, though.

It's been rainy all day, but the sun just came out.  I'm going to finish this blog and open my blinds.

Happy October!

Monday, September 24, 2012

Elimination Diet 2.0

Those of you who have followed this blog for awhile may remember that I started it when I moved to Pittsburgh for a summer two years ago.  I was having health issues, and I wanted to work with a clinic that might be able to help me get my health under control.  It may have been one of the smartest decisions I've made.  After physical therapy, chiropractic, and the aid of a dietician, I went home feeling noticeably better.

One of the biggest things that helped me was going through an elimination diet.  I got rid of grains, corn, nuts, seafood, coffee, chocolate, tomatoes, lettuce, a whole bunch of spices . . . and a lot of other foods.  It was hard, but because I was feeling better and gaining more energy, it was totally worth it.

In the months that followed, I reintroduced a few grains, a couple vegetables, and coffee.  The reintroductions seemed to go fine, and if they didn't go well, I permanently eliminated the food from my diet.  Recently, though, I've started feeling less well.  I'm not miserably sick--and I'm especially nowhere near the level of sick I was two years ago--but I'm not as well as I know I can be.

I'm going back and redoing the elimination diet.  My body may have changed, or perhaps I reintroduced something that my body wishes I hadn't.  Right now, I'm going through a three week period in which all I eat is basically meat, fruits, vegetables, milk, yogurt, and sunbutter (like peanut butter made with sunflower seeds).  The first time I did this, I was miserable.  I was sad, I was emotional, I missed food, and my body hated me for at least a week.  This time around, I decided that wouldn't be the case.  I mapped out a week's worth of meals in advance--picking foods that I knew would seem "special" and making sure that I'd get plenty to eat each day.  I also realized, after the first day, that if you make the food look good, you'll emotionally feel good about it!

I know that eating healthily is hard for many people.  So are allergies and food sensitivities.  I spent a lot of time being upset about the foods I couldn't have.  For the past two years, I've had practically no chocolate or garlic.  (Yes, I've cheated a few times, but I could count all the times I've cheated on any part of my diet on one--or maybe two--hands.)  I went a year without coffee.  Those who know me well know that those are probably my three all-time most favoritest foods.  I've decided, though, to intentionally shift my focus away from the food I can't eat toward enjoying the foods I can eat.  It doesn't work all the time, but I have to say that the past three days have been so much easier than the first week of my elimination diet the first time around.


Breakfast: bacon with peaches and cinnamon



Lunch: peaches, snap peas, and ham


Dinner: steak seasoned with lemon/lime juice and cilantro, onions and peppers, and greek yogurt

Friday, September 21, 2012

Seven Series of Doctor Who

I've been meaning to write this post for awhile, but I keep putting it off because my thoughts on Doctor Who are vast and sometimes confusingly complicated.  A few days ago, though, I started talking about the current series with Tricia, and I promised her I'd write a post outlining my general thoughts about the past seven series of Doctor Who.  The thoughts won't be well organized, and they won't be comprehensive.  But I'll at least number them so that it deceptively looks like I'm organized:

1.  I suppose I should start off on a positive note by mentioning things I like without resevation.  So, the first thing I like: the actors who play the ninth, tenth, and eleventh doctors--Eccleston, Tennant, and Smith.  Each is a very strong actor who effectively portrays the doctor's complexity of character.  I wish Eccleston had done more than one series because I really did like him.  In fact, I was resistant to Tennant at first because I like Eccleston so much.  (I was also resistant to Tennant because it just seemed like the faddish, hipster thing to do to be obsessed with David Tennant.)  Tennant broke my resistance down pretty quickly, though.  He has a wonderfully expressive face.  It's less subtly nuanced than someone like Cumberbatch's, but it has this honest, transparent simplicity that I love.  I was much less resistant to Smith.  The eleventh doctor won me over quickly with fish sticks and custard.  I have to admit that I'm not sure how much of my adoration for the eleventh doctor depends upon Smith's ability as an actor and how much depends on the writing, but even if the writing takes a lot of credit, I think we can all admit that Smith embodies the character written for him brilliantly.

2.  Another thing I like without reservation: Amy and Rory.  Although I like each of the other companions, I have to qualify my statement by saying, "But the writing was sometimes so bad," or "But they didn't get the best episodes," or, "Sometimes she's just so annoying, though!"  (Yes, we'll get to that later.)  Amy and Rory's characters, though, I think are always well written.  I also think they're unique compared to the other companions--probably largely due to the fact that they were written more by Moffat than Davies.  Davies companions had some strengths, but they all shared mannerisms (does Davies just assume that all females automatically hug or tenderly touch everyone who's sad and crying?) and ways of speaking.  Even though there were differences, these difference seemed so intentional and obvious as to almost become heavy-handed.  To run into Amy, then, who was so different from any previous companion (sometimes she even shrinks away from people instead of automatically hugging/touching/leaning in toward them!) and to also get Rory--a MALE companion--was a relief.  I love their relationship with the Doctor, with each other, and with River.  I love how complex all these relationships are.  Previous companions' relationships to the Doctor were marked by a single, dominant characteristic.  Rose and the Doctor loved each other.  Martha love the Doctor but the Doctor didn't love her back.  (That way, at least.)  Donna and the Doctor were platonic friends.  Amy starts off in love with the Doctor.  Then, she's somewhat in love with the Doctor and somewhat in love with Rory.  Then, she's in love with Rory but Rory is jealous of the Doctor.  Then, Rory and Amy are crazy amazingly in love with each other and the Doctor is awesomely friends with both of them.  Oh!  Plus, Amy gets mad at the Doctor.  So mad!  Other characters might disapprove of the Doctor for parts of an episode, or even be a little angry with him for a full episode, but the anger is never deep, and the disapproval is generally resolved pretty quickly.  (Perhaps Martha is an exception, but she's no longer a companion once her disapproval becomes established.)  Amy, however, has some of the greatest reasons to be bitter with the Doctor.  Because of him, she loses her baby and misses out on years and years of River growing up.  Because of traveling with him, she can never have children again.  Plus, no other companion is as angry with the Doctor as Old Amy is in "The Girl Who Waited."  (I love that episode!)  And disapproval?  In her first full-on adventure with the Doctor, when the Doctor is caught in a moral dilemma, Amy makes the quick decision to force Liz to abdicate the throne.  Most recently, Amy keeps the Doctor from practically killing a man in the name of justice.  Amy and Rory side with River in "The Wedding of River Song" in trying to save the Doctor's life.  While I love the other companions, at a literary level, I can't help but appreciate that Amy is the most complex of them all.

3.  Have no fear.  I'll talk about the other companions.  I love Martha.  She ties with Amy as my favorite companion.  Since I talked about Amy so long, I'll keep this brief.  The thing I like most about Martha is that she's the only companion who truly chooses to leave the Doctor.  Amy and Rory take breaks from the Doctor, but that's partially their decision and partially his.  Martha intentionally rejects the offer to continue traveling with the Doctor because she knows that the Doctor will never love her and because she knows that she is needed on earth.  I like that.

4.  Okay, now I'll get into the things that I partially like and partially dislike as I discuss the other companions.  I like Donna, but sometimes she annoys me.  She's fun, but not very complexly written (somewhat predictable), and she's also loud.  I appreciate her a lot because we needed someone who was very different than Rose and Martha at this point.  As I mentioned before, though, her difference was so extreme that it was obviously intentional and sometimes awkward.

5.  I like Rose.  She's the first companion of the new show, and she and the Doctor have an amazing relationship.  The thing that bothers me, though, is that her key motivations as a character are "romantic love" and "a desire to travel."  These are fine motivations, but they're both somewhat selfish.  Yes, her love for the Doctor is centered on the Doctor, but it's also based in herself--she can't exist without the Doctor.  (She does for two series, I suppose, but she's eager to come back.)  I sympathize with her love for travel, but she travels for the sights and experiences more than she travels to be a part of the serving and helping and saving that the Doctor does.  I think this is at least a little bit of a problem with all of the companions, but I think it's highlighted in Rose.

6.  Problems with Martha?  I didn't mention any before, but the way that Martha's character is written--script, mannerisms, etc--is sometimes a little too much Rose 2.0.

7.  Issues with writing.  Davies write amazing series finales, but his individual episodes sometimes fall flat.  He also has an annoying habit of stating the obvious.  The most painful moment I can remember is when Martha watches the Doctor fall in love and says, "You had to go and fall in love with a human, and it isn't with me!"  Ug.  A 10 year old could have figured out that that's what she was feeling.  Moffat writes amazing story arcs and great stand alone episodes, but he's too ambitious in his series finales, and they often feel overly complicated and underdeveloped.  I really wish I could take the strengths of the first through fourth series and combine them with the strengths of the fifth through seventh and just get rid of all the stuff I don't like.

8.  Last problematic thing: The Doctor is a super old man who always travels with young, pretty women: being their guide, opening up a whole new world for them, teaching them, sometimes talking down to them.  While the problem is partially addressed by introducing Rory in series 5, it looks like the Doctor will soon have a single, pretty, woman companion again.  So . . . what are the gender politics of this?  Problematic, unfortunately.

9.  I'll end on a positive note since I really do like Doctor Who quite a bit.  So, I'll list my favorite two episodes from each series:

Series One: "The Empty Child" and "The Doctor Dances"

Series Two: "The Girl in the Fireplace" and "Doomsday"

Series Three: "The Sound of the Drums" and "Last of the Timelords"

Series Four: "The Doctor's Daughter" and "Forest of the Dead"

Series Five: "Vincent and the Doctor" and "The Lodger"

Series Six: I have to list three--"The Impossible Astronaut," "A Good Man Goes to War," and "The Girl Who Waited."  And even limiting myself to three is hard.

There aren't enough for series seven to have favorites, but I do have to say that the Christmas special for series six made me cry.  A lot.  SO GOOD!  Also, "Pond Life" managed to make me cry a little bit, too, in only 5 minutes.



I've spent an hour writing this post and only said half of what I wanted to.  But it's enough for now.

Thursday, September 6, 2012

Update-i-ness

So I went to the doctor yesterday.  I really didn't like him.  He had horrible listening skills and seemed to think that when he couldn't notice anything wrong in a 2 minute examination, it meant I was perfectly healthy. After I pressed him and told him that keeping on living like this was not an option, though, he did suggest that I try an inhaler.  I tried it this morning, and now I'm breathing so much better!  Let's hope that this might be the end of my breathing-related problems.

Please be in prayer for the people I mention in my post a week ago.  It breaks my heart to have them hurting so much.  I also had two students with serious health/life issues this week, so it's a little overwhelming.  I'm trusting God, though, that he understands each and every one of their bodies and has all of these situations under his control.

Monday, September 3, 2012

Irony

So next time I want to make a statement like, "No one I love is allowed to get sick or injured in the near future," I'll just keep quiet.  Because I've learned my lesson.  Less than 24 hours after making that post, what do you think?  Of course I end up in the ER.

Everything's fine, it just took 4 hours for them to make sure everything was fine.  I'm glad tomorrow is Labor Day because I will be doing significantly less work than I was planning to do and will be sleeping the rest of the time!

Also, the title of this post leads me to share this The Oatmeal comic.

Saturday, September 1, 2012

Dear People I Love: No more of you are allowed to become sick or injured in the near future.

Those of you who are sick or injured better start healing quickly.

Too many people I care about are sick or hurt.  It seems like every few days I hear another story, and the last few have escalated in seriousness with each story.  It started a few weeks ago when a couple I knew in college had a baby girl undergo a very scary open heart surgery.  God carried her through the surgery, and she's home safely now.  Then, I found out about a family at church whose baby girl has leukemia.  She's undergoing chemo now, and I can't even imagine how hard that would be on a little baby body and soft baby skin!

Last week, my best friend found out that she has a mystery systemic infection, and it's been making her quite ill.  She's been out of work for almost two weeks, and she's still waiting for a specialist to see her.  Then, a few days ago, another close friend's brother--whom I've known his whole life--fell and lacerated his pancreas; he's had surgery and is looking at a week or two in the hospital recovering.  Today I found out that someone else I love needs to have an extremely invasive and potentially very dangerous surgery.

It's hard when people you love--and even just people you know about--undergo these kind of difficulties.  After a phone call today, I found myself asking God, "Why all the sickness?"  In my heart, I know that these "light and momentary afflictions" are preparing us for the glories of heaven and making us long to be with Jesus more.  But it still hurts when people around me suffer so much.

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

An Adventurer is Me!**

I had the best time in Iowa this past weekend.  Once everything was finished on Saturday, around 1:10, I hurried to find Sonia and the two of us went to Shorts.  Shorts is my favorite hamburger place ever.  About a month ago, I started visualizing this meal every time I needed encouragement to keep working.  Seriously.  My brain would cry "Stop!" and I would respond, "No!  Remember the hamburger!"  When the hamburger came, I looked at it and said, "I'm so excited for you.  I've been thinking about you for a month."  Outloud.

Then there was the new cupcake store in Iowa City which has vegan, egg-less cupcakes that I can eat.  And the comic book store, which had held about 16 comic books for me over the past few months.  I went home Saturday afternoon a very happy woman.

And in case you think all the wonderfulness of the weekend had to do with my purchases, I assure you that I also had amazing times with people.  I stayed with Johanna and Brandon and their adorable 5-month-old Maisie.  I had so much good baby time!  And also great time talking and hanging out with the adults.  I went to Northbrook on Sunday and--my goodness!--I miss my church so much.  We sang great, deep, theologically rich songs and had communion and the sermon was great and there were people that loved me and I loved them . . . Afterwards, a bunch of us went out for lunch.  Later that afternoon, I went into Iowa City and hung out with people from grad school.

When I got home Monday night, I worked on lesson plans for three hours and went to bed, exhausted.  On Tuesday, I was on campus from 7:30-6:30, and I stopped at Walmart on the way home.  So, it wasn't until late last night that I realized just how homesick I had become for Iowa.  I was sitting on the couch, wasting time on facebook, and it suddenly hit me how much I miss my church and my friends.

I let myself be sad for a little while.  But then I started thinking about what I had in Rome.  I have a job that I really love.  I have amazing students, and a giant office, and a really supportive group of people to work with.  I also have a great house.  I love how big it is, and I love that I don't have upstairs or downstairs neighbors making noise.  I love that I have a dining room and a bay window.

I also love that I already have a couple friends in Georgia.  Bryan and Renee have had me over a few times, and Renee and I had lunch in her office last week.  Tomorrow evening, I'm headed over to their house to have a girls' night with Renee while Bryan's at work.  Yes, it's going to take awhile to branch out and meet new people, but how wonderful is it that God's already given me two people whom I really enjoy spending time with and who seem to enjoy spending time with me?

When I got this job, I thought of it as an adventure.  And adventures are sometimes hard.  No one would want to read The Lord of the Rings if Frodo had just taken a few steps and tossed the ring into Mount Doom.  For one thing, the hard parts of an adventure make it more exciting and challenging.  The good stuff is even better in contrast to the hard stuff.  Plus, the hard parts of an adventure are what take a little hobbit from the Shire and transform him into a hero.

What I'm also, realizing, though, is that what I sometimes think of as "hard" parts of the adventure are actually the "fun" parts.  I find myself wanting to hurry up to find a church, make friends, etc., but in doing so, I think I miss out on the fun aspect of getting to visit lots of churches and experience lots of different kinds of worship services or the excitement of meeting a lot of people and wondering which of them will become close friends over the next few years.

I'm going to put my hobbit-hero hat on and try to make the most of this adventure.


**Cool points to whoever knows the source my title references.

Sunday, August 12, 2012

My First Week of Shorter Stuff

It's hard to believe that, just a week ago, I was getting back to Georgia from California.  So much has happened in this past week!  Tuesday was new faculty orientation.  We learned all kinds of important stuff, and a student group did a skit full of Shorter-themed song parodies.  (It was so cute I hardly mind that I've had "Call me Maybe" and Justin Bieber songs in my head ever since.)  That afternoon, I moved into my office.  It's huge!  I could fit my old office in it three times over, and this time I don't have to share.  I've got two big windows that overlook the main quad, a wall and a half of bookshelves, and a big, fancy desk.  The walls are a nice buttercream yellow, which is a significant improvement over the avocado green of my last office.  

Wednesday, I spent working on syllabi and lesson plans in my office.  It felt very official to be working on lesson plans in my new office.  Then, Thursday, we had the faculty retreat.  It was at the WinShape retreat center (where Chick-fil-A holds its marriage retreats).  They were super hospitable--opening umbrellas to give us as we walked between buildings and providing blankets when it got cold in the meeting room.  I think all meetings should be accompanied by blankets.  I also met a lot of people, many of whose names I have embarrassingly forgotten.

That evening, I had the sort of experience that makes one want to write a short story.  I'm not sure precisely of what the story would consist, but it would involve me going outside to take out my trash and encountering a woman, smoking a cigarette, walking through my yard.  I look at her, questioningly, and say hello.  She responds by telling me, "I'm finding my dog.  My dog's in heat."  She proceeds to tell me that the female dog belongs to a family that never lets her outside and that the boy dog simply walks over to her house and sits at the window staring in.  I'm not sure exactly how to respond, but I feel like some kind of emotional response is in order.

I worked in my office Friday and at home yesterday.  Last night, around 5:00, I called it quit and went out in search of people.  (Living by yourself in a new town can get a little lonely, but I'm beginning to see the dangerous potential of becoming "that creepy lady" who sits in coffee houses eavesdropping and butting into conversations all day.)  I went to Panera for dinner, and then I went to Ross where I found a pair of Nine West jean capris on sale for 99 cents!  And they fit!  It was pretty exciting.

All in all, I'd say my first official week at Shorter went pretty well.  Bring on week 2 and the students!

Monday, August 6, 2012

Dickens Universe

Those of you who have read my blog over the past few years might remember that a year and a half ago, I got really excited because I thought I was going to Dickens Universe.  Then, someone ended up having more seniority than me, and they got to go instead.  I was sad.  Very sad.  Not only would I not spend a week talking about Great Expectations, but for the first time in a few years, I would not get to go to my beloved California.  After a little moping, though, I realized that no DU meant a free summer, so I planned the second biggest roadtrip ever to spend a week with my best friend Amber and stop and visit some friends on the way back.  (The biggest roadtrip ever was two years earlier and involved two drivers instead of just me.)

(Each day of Dickens Universe, the Friends of the Dickens Project would host tea.  We drank out of adorable tea cups and ate yummy cookies.)

It ended up working out well that I didn't go to Dickens Universe last year, though, because while Great Expectations is fine and all, I was way more excited about this year's book, Bleak House.  I don't care how insipid others find her, I love Esther Summerson, and I also love the novel.  So, two weeks after having moved into my house in Georgia, I packed my bags and headed to Santa Cruz, California. Friday through Sunday were a conference, and I sat through many interesting lectures and book talks.  Sunday through the following Friday were the Universe, or "Dickens Camp."  Each day featured two main lectures, a graduate seminar, and a class that I co-taught with someone from UCLA.  There were other things as well, including a one-woman show by Miriam Margolyes (best known for Professor Sprout in Harry Potter, though she's been in a number of period pieces and has done voice work for Babe, Mulan, and Flushed Away) and--my favorite part--a Victorian ball complete with dances that felt like they came straight out of a Jane Austen movie.

(Santa Cruz, California)

It was a busy week, but I also had some time to explore the area.  I made friends with some people, and one of them had a car.  It was a good thing, too, because eating in a cafeteria can be difficult when you can't eat corn or garlic; after the first few days, we went to Whole Foods and I stocked up on crackers and cookies.  The friend-with-a-car was also very kind and took a few of us with on afternoon excursions.  One afternoon we went to the boardwalk on the beach.  Another, we drove through a redwood state forest.  On our last afternoon in Santa Cruz, we walked along the wharf and saw tons of seals.

(The redwood state forest)

It felt strange to have just moved into my house and then leave for 10 days, but I think it was a much-needed break.  Between moving, getting ready for a new job, and stressing out more and more as August 25 gets closer and closer, it was good to be away.  Granted, I probably would not have planned to take a break at this point or chosen a week of intensive study to be my break.  In some ways, though, it was good.  I was so busy at Dickens Universe that I didn't have much of a chance to worry or force myself to read and re-read nineteenth and twentieth century novels.

(The seals)

I had an overnight flight Saturday night to Sunday morning, and I couldn't sleep a bit because of how bumpy it was and how sick I felt.  Yesterday, I came home, got into my pajamas, and napped most of the day.  Today, I still wasn't feeling great, so I told myself I needed another day to rest.  I managed to shower and change my clothes, but I've spent most of the day watching episodes of The Big Bang Theory and How I Met Your Mother.  Tomorrow, though, the break ends.  I need to resume my preparations, and also, tomorrow is the first "real" day of my job at Shorter!  I did a two hour employee orientation in July, but tomorrow is new faculty orientation!  I also get to move into my office!  I'm so excited.

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Georgia State of Mind

So, I haven't posted since May 21 when I announced that I got a new job and was moving to Georgia.  I have my reasons.  Mainly, because working on comps, preparing for a new job, and moving 19 hours across the country (not to mention breaking up with the boyfriend in the midst of all this) is ridiculously time-consuming and stressful, and even when I had the time to blog, all I wanted to blog was, "I'M SO STRESSED!" or "I'M SO SAD!" or "I'M SO TIRED!"  And let's be honest.  No one wants to read that.

Now I'm in Georgia.  The move went mostly well, minus a car accident in Indiana, a scary night getting lost outside of Nashville on tiny streets with a huge Uhaul in the dark on our way to the hotel, a number of work orders being sent in the first few days of living in my new house, and the grossest kitchen EVER!  What I realized through all this, though, is that I have the greatest family.  My parents spent a full day cleaning, scrubbing, soaking, and waxing things in my kitchen until the cabinets and floors literally changed color.  My brother worked non-stop building my bed and moving heavy things and doing other things that required muscles, etc.  And they were all so patient with me!  We also got great family time.  My brother and I drove together most of the way down, and we had such good talks ranging in topic from theology to Mumford and Sons to favorite characters on Whedon shows.  My parents and I explored Rome together, unpacked, and watched lots of Warehouse 13 in the evenings.

My parents left Sunday morning, and I've been fighting the loneliness since then.  It helps that Bryan and Renee--peeps from Union--are here and had me over for dinner on Monday night.  Then, tonight, Shari and I talked for quite a long while.  It also helps that I've been overwhelmingly busy during the day.  I sent off my portfolio (110 pages if I hadn't single-spaced annotations!) today, wrote 1.66 syllabi, and ran a bunch of errands.  But I still have those moments when I feel alone.  Sometimes I feel like I don't really belong in the South.  Sometimes I'm afraid that I won't make friends or that I won't find a church that I like.  Sometimes I hate the fact that I'm so far away from my family.

The worst was Sunday night.  I was sad and lonely, but I had finally calmed myself down and gotten ready for bed by watching some episodes of Modern Family.  Then, in the corner of my eye, I see a GIANT cockroach running toward the couch.  Before I could run and get a shoe to step on it, it had disappeared under the couch.  The next hour was spent scaring it out from under the couch, scaring it out from under the bookcase, spraying it with supposedly deadly spray, and watching it run back under the couch again.  At this point, I was almost in tears and thinking, "Why did I move back to the South!?"  (To my credit, this thing was three times as big as any roach that came into the dorms at Union.)  I called my mom and she suggested I keep the light on in my room and go to bed.  (I had previously refused to go to bed knowing that thing was out there and could come into my room.)  The next morning, the spray must have gotten to it, because it was curled up on my kitchen floor.  I stepped on it about 7 times to make sure it was really dead.

Since then, I've mostly recovered and realized that, even with giant bugs, I can probably handle living in Georgia.  I also am trusting God to provide friends and help me adjust to the new job.  And although this post emphasizes the fear part of the move, I also have to say that I AM really excited about things.  I'm looking forward to things like wearing regalia to convocation and teaching an entire class in British literature and getting to pray with my students.  (I realize that, if the order of that list shows my priorities, they may be backwards.)  And I also love things about the South, like friendly Post Office workers and next door neighbors who give you hugs when they meet you.

Monday, May 21, 2012

Georgia!

I've been away for a long time, I know.  This past month, a lot has been happening, and I didn't want to blog about it when everything was still uncertain.  Now, though, the uncertain has become certain.  After a crazy month of application preparation and interviews, I can now say that I will be moving to Georgia and becoming a college professor.

I feel so strongly that God has led me to this decision.  For one thing, I wasn't even looking for a job.  I had two years of funding left at Iowa, and although I was getting tired of my routine, I expected to stay there until I finished.  There were various issues weighing on my heart.  The biggest of which was missions.  I had been so certain that I would teach overseas upon finishing my degree, but in a variety of ways, the past few months, I had felt like God has been closing doors in that direction.  So, I finally said, "If you want me to stay in the US to your glory, God, I'm willing to do it."  And apparently he did.

As I said, I wasn't looking for a job.  I was just looking forward into the great unknown of "after grad school" and waiting until it was closer to deal with it.  Until I got a facebook message.  A fellow Union alumna messaged me: "There's a position at our college, and my boss is interested in Union alumni.  Would you be interested?"  I looked at the university's website and answered, "Yes!"  Within half a week, I had gathered my application materials together and sent them off.  A week later, I had a phone interview.  Two weeks later, I was in Georgia for the on-campus interview.

I can't begin to say how much I felt God leading me each step through the on-campus interview.  Suffice it to say, it was all done by his grace and through his power.  I felt really good about it when I left for my hotel room that afternoon, and by 6:00 that evening, I had been offered the job.

I am so excited.  I'm excited to move back South.  I'm excited for the warm weather and the sweet tea and getting my accent back.  I'm excited to be in an environment that values family and relationships.  I'm excited to meet a bunch of college students and be an influence for Jesus in their lives.

I'm also nervous.  I'm nervous about moving, about wrapping up things at Iowa in just a few short months, about all the work I need to do before next semester begins.  I'm nervous about going somewhere and needing to make new friends and find a new church.  But I know that God has led me to this place, and I know that he will provide.

One of the things I've realized lately is that I believe that God's call for me to go to Georgia is just as important and exciting as if he had called me to go overseas.  I have a ministry to fulfill at this school, and I get to teach students how to do everything to God's glory.  There will be sacrifices and adventures and God teaching me lots of great stuff.  I can't wait!

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

"Who Ever Said Life is Fair? Where's That Written?"

So, for about six weeks, I was on a bunch of supplements that were supposed to raise my blood pressure and thus relieve me of some of my fatigue. This sounded like a great idea to me. More energy? Yes please! I was excited and really wanted it to work.

My body, however, disagreed. One of the supplements was a natural SSRI--I wasn't on it for depression, but the way it interacted with my brain was . . . not good. It was doing all kind of wonky things with my emotions and my energy and pretty much my life. I was more miserable than I'd been in quite a long time. So, naturally, a week ago, we said goodbye to the supplements.

About then, I also developed a very bad cold. Right now, I feel better, but I have this nagging, persistent cough that makes it hard to sleep. So, in the grocery store tonight, I grabbed a cough suppressant. Good idea, right?

Apparently, not. The cough suppressant can't be taken within 2 weeks of any SSRI. I'm glad I caught it before I took it and developed serotonin syndrome and ended up in the hospital, but . . . really? After all this, you're going to make me live with a miserable cough, too?

It's always the tiny, little things that make me realize that life is not fair.

Sunday, March 25, 2012

Mainly Just a Poem, Now

I wrote a very nice post all about my plans to celebrate April as National Poetry Month. But, then, editing went crazy on blogger and it messed up the html or something, so now all I have is a bunch of code that means nothing. In that original post, I ended with a poem by my new-as-of-last-April favorite poet. (Not that the poet is new, just that she's newishly my favorite.) I'll post the other stuff tomorrow or soon, but--for tonight--I give you the poem.

The Mutes

Those groans men use

passing a woman on the street

or on the steps of the subway

to tell her she is a female

and their flesh knows it,

are they a sort of tune,

an ugly enough song, sung

by a bird with a slit tongue

but meant for music?

Or are they the muffled roaring

of deafmutes trapped in a building that is

slowly filling with smoke?

Perhaps both.

Such men most often

look as if groan were all they could do,

yet a woman, in spite of herself,

knows it's a tribute:

if she were lacking all grace

they'd pass her in silence:

so it's not only to say she's

a warm hole. It's a word

in grief-language, nothing to do with

primitive, not an ur-language;

language stricken, sickened, cast down

in decrepitude. She wants to

throw the tribute away, dis-

gusted, and can't,

it goes on buzzing in her ear,

it changes the pace of her walk,

the torn posters in echoing corridors

spell it out, it

quakes and gnashes as the train comes in.

Her pulse sullenly

had picked up speed,

but the cars slow down and

jar to a stop while her understanding

keeps on translating:

'Life after life after life goes by

without poetry,

without seemliness,

without love.'

Saturday, March 17, 2012

Fighting for Joy

Be still my soul: thy best, thy heavenly friend
Through thorny ways leads to a joyful end.

The secondary title to Pastor John's When I Don't Desire God is "How to Fight for Joy." And growing up at Bethlehem, I heard the phrase a lot. But it wasn't until the last few years that the concept really sank down in me. I think in college, I had this idea that joy was something that was given to me. Like, "Here I am, God, give me joy now, please!" and if he didn't immediately satisfy my desire, I had this sense that it was out of my hands and I could just wallow and feel sorry for me what with my lack of joy and all. I trusted God to be my everything and get me through the hard times, and I even knew that there were things like reading the Bible and praying that I should do in pursuit of joy, but I envisioned joy-less situations as times to sit and wait for God to give me joy, not actively pursue and fight for joy.

This started to change by the end of my junior year and into my senior year of college, but just within the past year or so, I've really grasped the idea of fighting for joy. When I'm discouraged, when I'm hurt, when I'm depressed or anxious, it's good to trust God. It's good to believe that he and only he will give me joy, and it's good to wait on his timing. But, if I trust him, I'm going to act on that trust. I'm going to fight with all my might against the darkness that wants to keep me from enjoying him, and I'm going to read my Bible and pray actively--not hoping that God will maybe give me joy but actively trying to get joy and expecting God to give it to me. And, if I have trouble feeling that joy at the end of the day--if the darkness doesn't totally go away--I'm going to wake up the next morning and start the fight again, grasping to every bit of joy that I find and believing that God will give me more and more in his time.

In When I Don't Desire God, Pastor Piper writes, "Indifference to the pursuit of joy in God would be indifference to the glory of God, and that is sin." I don't think that being sad or heartbroken or depressed or lonely is sinful. But it's good to be reminded that what is sinful is allowing that kind of situation to take over and not pursuing God and his glory. Negative emotions give us a victim mentality, and while we are the victims of spiritual warfare and attacks in such times, we are also commanded to take up the armor of God and believe that through the depression, sadness, loneliness, God is leading us to be able to enjoy him more perfectly. We need to fight to find that enjoyment.

Sunday, March 4, 2012

California!

One of the fun things about academia is that you sometimes get really good professional excuses for traveling to cool places. (One of the downsides is that sometimes you have to travel to really uncool places . . . ie, Terre Haute, IN.) This summer, I get to go to one of my favorite places ever in the name of professional development! California, here I come!

I've blogged about California before. Last year, I thought I'd get to go to Dickens Universe and was disappointed when someone with more seniority ended up going. But, this year, I get to go, and it turns out to be a good thing because the book they're doing is Bleak House, which I'm much more interested in than last year's book, Great Expectations.

I'm also going to spend a few days in Los Angeles doing manuscript research. I love Oscar Wilde's manuscripts so much. Getting to sit there and touch the same paper he touched and see all the doodles he doodled in his margins and see his works develop onto the page as he thought them . . . Okay, to someone not obsessed with Oscar Wilde, all this might seem creepy. But tons of people get super excited about old books, and I never got that. I'm not just touching a notebook that is 125 years old; I'm touching a notebook that belonged to a famous author and playwright. If people can be "normal" and get excited about old books, I can get excited about manuscripts.

(I just realized I based that argument on a theoretical threat of being perceived as creepy. Eh. I'll keep it handy in case someone actually does tell me I'm creepy someday.)

I'm also thinking of going to San Francisco. We only spent one full day there when we went on our crazy, awesome, over-the-top roadtrip, and I'd like to go again. I hear the farmer's market is really great on Saturdays, and I'm sure there's a lot that I didn't see last time I was there. I need to figure out everything cost-wise to see if I could afford it, but how often do you find yourself an hour away from San Francisco?

Ah. I love California. Warmness. Manuscripts. Ocean. Real Mexican food. Real Chinese food. Palm trees. Cool California people. I can't wait.

Sunday, February 26, 2012

Why I Watch the Oscars


I'm not sure why I enjoy the Oscars so much when I've usually only seen a small handful of the nominated films. Maybe it's because they make me want to watch movies? My current list of ones I want to watch after tonight includes Iron Lady--because Meryl Streep is amazing and I spent a full week being told what a horrible woman Thatcher was a PM in 20th c Brit Lit, Midnight in Paris--I'm going through French withdrawal right now and am craving all things that have to do with French/France, Hugo, and The Artist. Yes, how haven't I seen The Artist or Hugo yet? I'm not sure.

(To be honest, I wanted to watch all of these already, but tonight reinspired me.)

Other reasons why I think I like the Oscars . . . the pretty dresses. Of course. I like to pretend I'm a fashion expert and give out grades. My all time favorite tonight was Gweneth Paltrow . . .




She's such a classy lady. And tomorrow people might hate on the cape, but I like it!

I also have to admit that I like good acceptance speeches. Ooh, or speeches where award winners point out their moms in the audience. Or just generally nominees who bring their moms to the show. I think that's so sweet. But, anyway, best acceptance speech tonight was Christopher Plummer, classic, sweet, and witty. He started off saying, "I have a confession to make. When I first emerged from my mother's womb, I was already rehersing my Academy thank-you speech. It was so long ago, mercifully for you, I've forgotten it." Then he ended so sweetly: "And to my long suffering wife Elaine, who deserves the Nobel Peace Prize for coming to my rescue every day of my life."

Okay, so those are my Oscar thoughts. I'm thinking that next year I should have a party and make everyone dress up in a fancy outfit.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Love and Suffering

Of all arguments against love none makes so strong an appeal to my nature as “Careful! This might lead you to suffering.”

To my nature, my temperament, yes. Not to my conscience. When I respond to that appeal I seem to myself to be a thousand miles away from Christ. If I am sure of anything I am sure that his teaching was never meant to confirm my congenital preference for safe investments and limited liabilities.…

There is no safe investment. To love at all is to be vulnerable. Love anything, and your heart will certainly be wrung and possibly be broken. If you want to make sure of keeping it intact, you must give your heart to no one, not even to an animal. Wrap it carefully round with hobbies and little luxuries; avoid all entanglements; lock it up safe in the casket or coffin of your selfishness.

But in that casket — safe, dark, motionless, airless — it will change. It will not be broken; it will become unbreakable, impenetrable, irredeemable. The alternative to tragedy, or at least to the risk of tragedy, is damnation. The only place outside Heaven where you can be perfectly safe from all the dangers and perturbations of love is Hell.


C.S. Lewis The Four Loves, (New York, Harcourt, 1960)

---

I wish I could be cool enough to say "I woke up this morning thinking about Four Loves and decided to post this awesome quote." Except that I stole it from Desiring God's blog.

Sunday, February 5, 2012

Tornado Posts

It's been four years since the tornado. In some ways, it seems like four years. So much has changed. I look back at the person I was before the tornado, and she seems like a totally different person. I look back at my life and even it seems foreign. When I remember going to school at Union, I remember it the way it was at the end--living off campus with the Pflasterers, having band class in a church sanctuary, and hanging out in Barefoots Joe. Life before that definitely seems four years old.

But at the same time, it feels like fewer than four years have passed. That tornado was probably one of two or three events which have changed my life most significantly, and since I still feel its effects so strongly, it feel like it's a recent thing. And, honestly, I feel like I shouldn't be as freaked out about weather as I am four years after the fact.

I've processed through the tornado a lot, even seeing a counselor for awhile to deal with PTSD. I think I'm in a good place, mostly. But on a day like today, when lots of people are mentioning it on facebook and my brain keeps on thinking about it, I need to process just a little bit more. So I went back and read through my old blog posts. It was a good thing to do because it helped me remember how much good came out of the tornado. Yes, I've had some really hard days in the past four years and especially during that first year. I had forgotten how claustrophobic I was for the first month or so, and somehow I had forgotten about the flashbacks I used to get. I had also forgotten how my brain was functioning all out-of-whack for the first few months and I had trouble doing silly things like spelling words correctly. But I had also forgotten the extent of the joy I found in the Lord as all of this was going on. One of the paragraphs that made me smile the most in my past posts was written 5 days after the tornado:

I am so happy. Happy to be alive, happy to have all my friends, happy that so many people are showing the love of Christ through so much sacrifice. Whenever I get discouraged by everything I have to do, whenever I get frustrated by people who lost so much less being angry and irrational (only a couple of those situation but still stressful and frustrating), I just remember the amazing grace that God has shown me and the love that all my friends are showing me. I don't need any of that stuff that I lost, cause I've got Jesus and lots of brothers and sisters who love me too!

Most of my old tornado posts follow the basic pattern, "This is hard, or this is weird, or this is how things are . . . but God is so good!!!" I love that God taught me that attitude through the tornado, and I love that I'm closer to God because of the tornado.

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

True Story

I was about to come and start off a blog post saying how all my friends were having babies or just had babies because I was on facebook and it was covered with babies. But first, I checked my google reader, and today's XKCD is about . . . baby names!! Haha. So, yes, I am officially surrounded by babies. It's a good thing they're wonderful and adorable and I love them. I just sometimes wish I could have one of my own since some of my friends have two. But I'm told the baby thing doesn't work that way ;-)

Also, I had a very good birthday weekend this past weekend. James came to visit me again this year, and we had a great time. We were both sick, so we weren't a very lively bunch, but it was fun to just lounge around and hang out together. I've got a wonderful brother.

Sunday, January 22, 2012

This Weekend's TV Show: Angel Season 5

This weekend, during my CFS crash, I watched 4 episodes of Angel. Season 5. Emotional. Rollercoaster. Especially since I ended the marathon on what I think is the most emotionally difficult episode of the entire show: Hole in the World. I wept. When Fred calls out for her stuffed bunny and then, when Wesley asks who Feigenbaum is, she says, "I don't know"? And when Wesley reads her A Little Princess. My favorite childhood stuffed animal was a stuffed bunny, and my favorite book as a child (still one of my all-time favorites) was A Little Princess. It's like watching myself die. And then this moment:

Fred: You won't leave me?
Wesley: I won't.
Fred: My boys. I walk with heroes. Think of that.
Wesley: You are one.
Fred: Superhero. And this is my power: to not let them take me. Not me.

Fred fights so hard, and I think we like to believe that if someone fights hard enough, they'll survive. But Fred doesn't, despite her beautiful resistance. And then her last words, "Why can't I stay?" They break my heart. They make me wonder how in the world someone faces death without Jesus. Death is big and scary and sad. I don't think I could face it without the assurance that I have peace with God, that there's something good and beautiful waiting on the other side.

Saturday, January 21, 2012

Emmy the Great's New Album: Virtue

Emmy the Great's new album came out this fall, but I just listened to it recently. I was nervous since her first album overwhelmed me with its awesomeness and still continues to do so, and it seemed improbable that I would love the second album as much as the first. I don't, but it does have a few genuinely great moments. The first few songs I listened to saddened me because they lacked the poetry of her First Love songs, but then, I came across "Trellick Tower." I think I might love this song more than any of her songs on First Love:



It doesn't have a music video to go with it, but that might be good because the music video from the first single from Virtue had a little girl playing with glass eyeballs and was slightly creepy. However, I do like the music video for "Paper Forest." The song is another of the high moments of the album, and I adore Emmy's facial expression--or lack thereof--in the music video. Something about the juxtaposition of a cold, emotionless face with strongly emotional lyrics touches me.


One thing that gets my attention the most on this album is the way the songs engage with religion. In the past, Emmy the Great's treatment of religion has been cynical and angry. Though I don't think her viewpoints on religion have probably changed all that much, there's something softer about the way she approaches it here. Like it has something beautiful to offer, and something that might be valuable in moments of desperation. And I like to see that softness.

So even though I don't love this whole album the way I love First Love, it has moments which remind me of why I like Emmy the Great so much. It's like being in love with a person. At the beginning, you see all the best that they have to offer, and love is a widespread passion for everything about them. Then, as time passes, you discover things you don't like about them. It's not because you love them less; it's because no one can measure up to the standards that we like to set up upon first acquaintance. But from time to time, you experience something about that person which surpasses even your first experience of their awesomeness. And that's when the love becomes deep and real.

Yep. That's how I feel about Emmy.

Monday, January 16, 2012

Downton Abbey and Teaching

I've been away awhile. I've been sick, and the only thing I could think about when I tried to blog was, "I'm sick, poor me," and I don't think most people would want to hear that. But since then, I've been thinking about the good things about being sick. Like having a great excuse for sitting around and watching Downton Abbey all day. I had avoided watching Downton Abbey when it came out last year because it seemed like a wannabe show. Like, "This is a good excuse for pretty costumes and it will make you feel smart because it's set in the early 1900s and seem literary, even though it's not." Then, Ian recommended I watched it, and since he has an even lower tolerance for pretension than I do, I figured it must be good. Also, my dad stumbled across the premier for season 2 one night and we watched it together and it was good! So, I watched all of season 1 in four days, and I fell in love with it. My favorite character is Anna, but I also really like Mary and Sibyl. Ooh. And Carson. Umm . . . and Daisy is adorable. So, I guess that what I'm saying is, "Good job on the characters, Downton Abbey!"?

The semester starts tomorrow, and I'm still trying to figure out what I want to do for the first day of class. My mom tells me this nervousness for the first day never really goes away, but I still feel like starting my sixth semester of teaching should mean that I'm fully confident knowing that I'll be a perfect teacher this semester. Or something like that.