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.