Monday, July 30, 2012

not sure where this is going


Seven years ago, i started writing a fairy tale. I had intended it to be novel length (which, according to the almighty Google, should be somewhere above 200 pages). When my little masterpiece was all neatly typed and edited in Microsoft Word, it was 25 pages. But in the meantime, i had written several more fairy tales.

The first one, begun in the back of my diary on a slow night at the Quiznos where i worked, was supposed to be a stand-alone project. Over the next few years, the stories were written in Quiznos, in church, in my bedroom, in airplanes, in German living rooms, in Spanish kitchens, in English dorm rooms, in Italian hotels, and in the great outdoors. And as i wrote, i began to see connections between my stories, places of contact where the smaller pieces could be woven into a compelling whole.

Can't you just picture cute forest
animals helping her bake a pie?
I began editing in different colors of ink, writing and rewriting by hand until there was an established shape and structure to my narrative. I filled whole notebooks with studies on races, languages, geographical features, economic structures, histories, and diplomatic relations between countries i had invented. I drew maps, illustrating shipping ports, mountains, areas of high magical concentration, types of commerce and industry, and major cities. I created charters for magical societies, drew family trees, and studied existing fairy tales and fantasy novels for clues about battle, magic, sociology, layered meanings, and how to create an original fairy tale that was recognizably a fairy tale. When i had writer's block, i found a popular fairy tale and re-wrote it to fit the history of my own stories (Cinderella, Rapunzel, and Snow White all got this treatment. I also wrote an outline of an alternate Snow White narrative where this snow-white-skin-ebony-black-hair-blood-red-lips girl was a modern Goth teenager). 

I began typing and transcribing and editing further. I re-drew my maps. I sent pieces of stories to friends for review and suggestions. I put my notebooks and flash drive away for months at a time to focus on school. I pulled them out again to do more editing and transcribing and dreaming.

A few weeks ago, the final story was transcribed. All that was left was the final editing of the overall structure and the story would be complete and ready for publication.

Except that, as i worked on these stories, i realized something important: they suck. I know: it's shocking that a fifteen-year-old writing in the back room of a Quiznos between the dinner rush and the dirtbag rush didn't come up with a literary masterpiece, but somehow this was the case.

However, there are still elements worth redeeming. But i'm not sure that short stories or novels are really my "thing". In the interest of preserving the good parts and replacing the bad parts with more good parts, i'm looking into what can be done to "save" this endeavor. And here is my thought: graphic novel. See, the parts that i suck at the most are the descriptions. I can do dialogue, and i can do exposition, and i can do romance and humor and tragedy and all that crap. But i can't show you what's happening, and we all know that the cardinal rule of writing is "show, don't tell".

As i have been reading graphic novels and comic books, i have seen that they are a really great shortcut for the "showing" part of writing. With the exception of very early comic books (X-Men, i'm looking at you), works in these genres let the images do the showing, allowing the writers to concentrate on the other parts of the writing. I've learned that writing a graphic novel is a little like writing a TV show/movie/play: what the writer produces is, in fact, called a script. It has things like dialogue and exposition, but it also has things like, "Full body shot of girl in a skimpy blue negligee. She has choppy blonde hair and is thin, but painfully so, like she's malnourished. She is facing the reader, but is gazing at nothing -- zoned out." The writer collaborates with artists, inkers, letterers, and colorists (these may not all the the technical terms) to produce a beautiful, fascinating, cohesive work of art and literature.

I want to do that, please.

Catch 1: i can't draw. Like, at all.

Catch 2: the people i know who can draw can't draw like what's in my head when i write these stories, and i don't want to do this if i can't do it right.

Catch 3: being a broke blogger/aspiring poet/grad student/administrative assistant with ZERO experience with any actual publication, any novel/short story writing, or any real publishing credits to my name, i don't have anything to convince a real comic book/graphic novel artist to work with me. For free. With no guarantee of compensation.

Catch 4: the limited Google research i did before writing this post has led me to conclude that publishers won't look at a graphic novel script. They only want to see a polished manuscript complete with artwork. If you're someone with some clout, like an employee of a comic publisher or Neil Gaiman, you can announce that you'd like to create a graphic novel and someone will probably respond. If you're me, i don't know what you do.


I plan to continue editing/polishing/writing, possibly creating two copies of this book (one written as a traditional text novel and one as a script for a graphic novel). I plan to continue blogging/writing poems and being too scared to submit them anywhere/working toward my education degree/answering phones. And one day, maybe i'll meet someone who has always dreamed of creating a graphic novel of original fairy tales, but hasn't found anyone to write a script that matches the glorious images in his or her head.

And then magic will happen.

Friday, July 27, 2012

Matthew 22-28

All passages from NKJV.

Matthew 22:36-40
"Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the law?"
Jesus said to him, "'You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind.' This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: 'You shall love your neighbor as yourself.' On these two commandments hang all the Law and the Prophets."

Loving others as yourself does not mean surrendering all sense of self. It does not mean subjugating yourself entirely to the whims of others. It does not mean always putting your own needs and desires aside to care for others. It means giving people grace, believing in the best, leaving room for error and for growth. It means reserving judgement, listening, giving, receiving, and occasionally sacrificing. Sometimes it means tough love. Sometimes it means indulgence. Never does it mean emotional manipulation or abuse. Love God, love others. Everything else hangs on this, flows from this.

Matthew 24:23-28, 36
"Then if anyone says to you, 'Look, here is the Christ!' or 'There!' do not believe it. For false Christs and false prophets will arise and show great signs and wonders, so as to deceive, if possible, even the elect. See, I have told you beforehand. Therefore, if they say to you, 'Look, He is in the desert!' do not go out; or 'Look, He is in the inner rooms!' do not believe it. For as the lightning comes from the east and flashes to the west, so also will the coming of the Son of Man be . . . But of that day and hour no one knows, no, not even the angels of heaven, but My Father only."

Two words: Harold Camping.

Matthew 26:54, 27:3-5, 9-10
"How then could the Scriptures be fulfilled, that it must happen thus?"
. . .
Then Judas, His betrayer, seeing that He had been condemned, was remorseful and brought back the thirty pieces of silver to the chief priests and elders, saying, "I have sinned by betraying innocent blood." And they said, "What is that to us? You see to it!" Then he threw down the pieces of silver in the temple and departed, and went and hanged himself.
. . .
Then was fulfilled what was spoken by Jeremiah the prophet, saying, "And they took the thirty pieces of silver, the value of Him who was priced, whom they of the children of Israel priced, and gave them for the potter's field, as the Lord directed me."

When i was in high school, i took a public speaking class. One of our assignments was to choose a villain, either historical or fictional, and write a speech defending them. We had to dress as the villain and defend ourselves to the class, explaining why our actions were right or excusable.

Most people chose Disney villains, like Captain Hook or Cruella DeVille. I chose Judas.

My argument boiled down to two points: in order for salvation to come and for the will of God to be done on Earth, Jesus had to die; in order for Jesus to die, someone had to hand Him in. This had been prophesied for generations, including a prophecy by Jesus Himself earlier that same night. It is pretty clear from the story that Jesus bears no ill will toward Judas, and that He understood what needed to happen.

The second point was this: Judas clearly showed remorse. In one version of the story, God removed His presence from Judas and allowed him to be influenced by Satan (Luke 22:3-6). In all versions, Judas tries to return the money and then kills himself. In "!Hero: the Rock Opera", Judas doesn't know he is handing Jesus over to death. He thinks he's just helping Jesus jump-start his career and gain the recognition and fame He deserves. I don't know what was going through Judas' mind when he went to the chief priests and asked how much money Jesus was worth to them. I don't know what he thought when he witnessed Jesus' arrest. But i do know these two things: Jesus had to be betrayed, and Judas suffered remorse.

At the conclusion of my speech, one of the homeschool moms who was co-teaching the class cornered me to talk about my speech. She asked if I really believed that what Judas did was okay, or if I just did this for the assignment. I don't think i really answered her, saying something like, "It's not up to me to judge," and "I'm not saying what he did was okay, but if he hadn't done it none of us would know Christ today, and he was obviously sorry about it." She didn't want to hear any of that. She just wanted to hear that Judas would burn in Hell. The conversation ended when she told me she would pray for my soul and then walked away.

Read the above passages. Go ahead and read them in context if you want. Read the other three Gospel accounts of this event (Mark 14:10-21, 43-50, Luke 22:3-23, 47-53, John 13:21-30, 18:1-11, Acts 1:16-19). I'm not saying that betrayal of ANYONE is EVER okay. I'm just saying it had to happen, and he was sorry, and you're not the one who gets to judge anyway, so cut him a break, okay?

Matthew 28:1-10

I just like to point out that the first people to see the empty tomb and the resurrected Christ, and the first people to be directly commissioned by Christ to preach the good news, were women. So suck on that, bigoted sexist church leaders who say women can't speak!

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

responsible citizens

Every Monday morning, the admissions team meets in the green conference room for a brief Bible study and prayer, followed by updates and assignments for the week. It's a nice way to start the week, although we have (unfortunately) been stuck in 1 Samuel for months now. Don't get me wrong; it's a great book, but it's long and dense and a little slow, and when you're only reading one chapter a week it feels endless.

But this week, we read the story of David sparing Saul's life (1 Sam. 24). As we talked about it afterwards, i began to think about modern American politics.

For those unfamiliar with the story, Saul (King of Israel), was suffering what some scholars/psychologists believe to be a manic episode. He knew that David would succeed him as King, instead of his son Jonathan, and he was worried about his legacy being forgotten and his name wiped out. So he went a little crazy and began trying to kill David, who had been like a second son to him for many years (in fact, David was his son-in-law). Saul and his army were chasing David all over the country, and David was building his own little army of supporters that he met along the way.

One day, David and his men were hiding in some caves, when Saul and his troops came upon them. Not knowing that they were in the caves, Saul's men camped outside, and Saul went in to relieve himself. David's men all began urging David to kill Saul then and there, and some even offered to do it themselves. In those days, that was a perfectly legitimate way to gain a throne, and since God had already chosen David to be King, and since Saul had all but lost his mind, there would have been few objections to this course of action. But David refused to kill him. Instead, he crawled forward and cut off a corner of Saul's robe. Later, he walked out of the cave and presented himself to Saul and the army, holding up the corner of the robe. He pleads with Saul for peace, showing how easy it would have been to kill him, and reminding Saul that he had extended mercy.

David is praised for his actions (or inactions) by God, by his men, by Saul, and by the author of the book.

Imagine a similar situation with today's leaders.

Think back to 9/11, how the whole country was calling out for retribution. Think of election years (like this one). Think of one Twitter response to the Colorado shooting: calling the candidates (Romney and Obama) to stop offering mere words of encouragement and support and give us a firm plan of action for how to prevent future tragedies.

We do not allow our candidates or our leaders any breathing space before we demand a response, an action. We do not allow them to pause in respect for lives lost, to weigh options, to talk to experts and look at statistics and think. We demand a knee-jerk answer to our pain.

David lived in a theocratic monarchy. The King had to do whatever God wanted, but the people had no say in the matter, and a corrupt King could ignore God and do whatever he wanted to the people (as we'll see later in the OT).

We live in a democratic republic. Our leaders are required to listen to us, to respond to us, to give us what we ask for. They are not empowered to do otherwise: if they don't make us happy, they won't be asked to serve again and may even be asked to leave early.

Perhaps we need to be more careful about what we ask of our leaders. Perhaps we need to consider more deliberately what we want.

When we demand immediate action, we may commit ourselves to a ten-year war where thousands of lives are lost, thousands of minds and bodies damaged. Is it not good to consider carefully before declaring war? Is a delayed, deliberate, lasting action sometimes better than immediate satisfaction? When we demand immediate response, we may provoke an emotional statement that will be revised under calmer circumstances, at which point we fling accusations of flip-flopping and unreliability. Are people not allowed to change their minds? Are our leaders not allowed to grow their ideas?

In this country, citizens have power over their leaders. They work for us. I know the system is flawed, i know some politicians are corrupt, i know that things could be infinitely better. But that's the whole point of our country: things could be better. If we want better things from our leaders, we need to ask them for better things.

Monday, July 23, 2012

So i guess the moral of the story is that my grandmother is a cougar. And i was a sexy, if somewhat androgynous, 14-year-old.

Gay guys always tell me i'm pretty. Like, lots of different gay guys in lots of different contexts at different times and places. And they are not always drunk in a dimly-lit room at the time.

I was always highly complimented by this. Like, "They don't even like girls and they still think i'm attractive!" But it recently occurred to me that maybe they just think i look like a hot guy. Which has been said of me before. By my grandmother.

When i was fourteen, i cut my own bangs. I had cut my own hair before, most notably my eyelashes (story for another day. Actually, no: one time, i cut my own eyelashes. End of story), but up until this point, most of my experience was with cutting Barbie hair. However, i did a decent job of it. They were a heavy, straight-across fringe that, according to my crazy friend Renee, made me look like a little like Anck Su Namun.

Except my boobs were bigger. And usually covered by more than pasties and gold body paint.

However, my mom hated them.

For about a year, i'd been toying with the idea of getting a pixie cut. My hair is very thick, and Maryland gets very humid in the summer (like, from late April through mid October). Also, i was lazy and self-conscious and didn't want to spend hours every day trying to get my hair to look good. That was time i could spend knitting or re-reading Harry Potter or talking to a cat. I figured a pixie cut would be cute, comfortable, easy to maintain, and would give me a hip, rock-and-roll edge over my much cooler friends. (I was homeschooled and fourteen. Shut up.)

My mom decided that this was the perfect opportunity to talk me into making the leap. I was nervous, but consoled myself with the thought that hair always grows back. We went to a salon and i picked out a style. I was completely thrilled with the look and comfort, although less than thrilled with the sticky styling waxes and clays the stylist recommended. Can't i just comb it and air-dry, like boys do? Have we invented metrosexuality already?

The next day, at Wednesday evening prayer service, i was wearing a slightly baggy t-shirt and my hair had that "I-got-a-new-haircut-yesterday-and-have-no-idea-how-to-style-it" look. My grandmother was sitting on the other side of the (very small) sanctuary. My mom was chatting with her before the service, and Mommom asked her who the good-looking young man was sitting next to my brother. My mom glanced over, and then looked back at Mommom and said, "That's Diana."

Whatever, Mommom. That haircut landed me the Abercrombie model-lookalike who worked in the grocery store, okay? And he was totally hot and older and not even homeschooled and my sister saw him recently and said she thinks he's gay now and -- oh, fuuuuuuuuu . . .

Friday, July 20, 2012

Matthew 14-21

I don't have anything big to say this week. I guess all of my inspiration was crowded into last week's passages. Still, there is a lot of good in Matthew, just nothing that is particularly touching me right now.

I will say this: Jesus spoke in parables. Even His own disciples didn't know what He was talking about most of the time. So how can we read translations of memories of his words many years later and assume that we know anything? Parables are stories, and as someone who holds an English degree, i can tell you that stories are meant to live inside of you, to be explored and discovered and shared, to be discussed and analyzed and argued and loved, to be whispered at bedtime and shouted from the rooftops. They are not meant to be concrete. They are not supposed to be the same thing to every person, or even the same thing to the same person every time. I've read the Harry Potter books at least a dozen times through, and i still find new things to wonder at each time. Do we think that Jesus is less complex than J. K. Rowling? Do we think that His teachings are easier to understand and pin down?

Instead of trying to find The Answer to all of Jesus' teachings, The Lesson that He wanted to give us, why not accept that the Bible is a living text and that the Holy Spirit still speaks to us today? Why not read the Bible the same way that we read other literature, and understand that its shifting, multifaceted meanings are what make it beautiful and valuable?

Matthew 16:1-4
Then the Pharisees and Sadducees came, and testing Him asked that He would show them a sign from heaven. He answered and said to them, "When it is evening you say, 'it will be fair weather, for the sky is red'; and in the morning, 'it will be foul weather, for the sky is red and threatening.' Hypocrites! You know how to discern the face of the sky, but you cannot discern the signs of the times. A wicked and adulterous generation seeks after a sign, and none will be given to it except the sign of the prophet Jonah." And He left them and departed.

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Why I Can't Go Out In Public 2

Or maybe i just shouldn't go to Fuji anymore. Clearly, i get in a lot of trouble at that restaurant.

Clarissa and i were having lunch there a few weeks ago, as a combination farewell date/sushi eating lesson. I hadn't been sleeping and, if i remember correctly, hadn't had my coffee that day. Consequently, i was a little out of it.

This thing, but less crumpled and more folded. And more soaked in Coke.
As we chatted and i sipped my soda, i glanced at the glass and noticed something white in the ice cubes. I very smoothly and surreptitiously fished it out as Clarissa was telling me a story, and unfolded it. It was the wrapper from my chopsticks.

I stared at it for a moment, until Clarissa noticed i wasn't listening anymore and looked to see what had distracted me.

"Did you just take that out of your drink?" she asked.
"Yeah," i said, still bemused.
"Do you want to get a new drink?"

Here's the thing about Fuji: the soda comes in a can. They bring you a can and a glass of ice with a straw. So it would have been difficult for them to miss it a folded chopstick wrapper shoved into the ice cubes. Then again, i missed it and it was my soda. But still, where did the lighter fluid chopstick wrapper come from? (Arrested Development? Anybody?)

I thought about all of this for a moment. I also tried to remember what i had done with my wrapper when i removed it from my chopsticks.

"Um, no," i said at last. "It's just a wrapper, and i've already been drinking from it, so i can't imagine that i'll suffer any ill effects. Plus, i'm not really a hundred percent certain that i didn't put it in there myself and just forget."

Clarissa stared at me wordlessly for a minute.

"I'm really tired," i explained. "I do weird things sometimes when i'm tired."

But you know what, Clarissa? It's not even that weird. People do things like that all the time: leave their car keys in the freezer, put the empty cereal box back on the shelf, forget their child at WalMart, whatever. Sometimes you get distracted and do something that seems logical at the time and only strikes you as odd in hindsight. So stop judging.

And by the way, totally still alive. So it was fine. And i ate at Fuji today and spilled nothing and found no weird things in my drink. So, progress?

Monday, July 16, 2012

playing house, part two

When someone bought the lot with the mountain on it, the dirt was carted away somewhere. There was a smaller mountain further down the street where we played, but it wasn't the same. One day, when i was eight or nine, i was at the smaller mountain and i made a strange discovery. There was a cedar log -- really almost a whole tree -- abandoned in the dirt. There were no large trees for miles around, and this was not fresh. The branches and roots had been stripped away long since, and the trunk was weathered and dry. It had not been there before, but it had appeared that day, quite inexplicably. I decided that i needed to have it, and i dragged it all the way back to our house, a good two or three blocks.

We had a dirt pile in our back yard (you know, until i wrote this all out, i had no idea how many large piles of dirt were integral parts of my childhood. I really was Tom Sawyer.), left over from when we had put in our pool. It was an above-ground pool, but it was necessary to dig out a small foundation to protect it from tornadoes and windstorms and vigorous swimming. Anyway, with the disappearance of the mountain, the dirt pile in the back yard became more important to us. Though it was nowhere near as large as the dirt pile down the street, it was a lot closer. 

I brought the tree to this pile and set it up in the "house" i had carved into one side. Pieces of the aforementioned playhouse were sometimes integrated into this particular house. My mom hated the dirt pile and often wanted us to move the dirt to the garden, where it could be spread around and used and stop being an eyesore next to the deck. But we loved it and couldn't stand the thought of losing our favorite outside play space.

Somewhere around this same time, my grandparents had a rotting tree in their back yard. Afraid of it falling and breaking the swingset or the shed or the house, or even falling into the neighbor's yard, my grandfather cut it down preemptively. It was a big job and took some time to complete. Step one was piling the branches and logs into a huge stack, easily as tall as a house. While step two was formulating, i began examining the beaver dam-like pile in the yard and discovered that the branches had naturally formed a hollow space in the center. With some judicious rearranging of sticks and wriggling of my childish frame, i managed to crawl inside.

This was my house for what felt like weeks, but was probably no more than ten days. One day, i went to my grandparents' house to discover that my grandfather had fed all of the wood into a mulcher. My home was dissolved. There were other log homes from other fallen trees, but there was never another beaver dam.

Yesterday, my boyfriend asked me to tell him a story. I was bored at work and he was bored at home and we were on Facebook chat, and i started telling him stories about all of my childhood "houses". When i told him about my beaver dam and how sad i was at its loss, he said, "That's because it wasn't our house. If you still had your house there today, we wouldn't be able to live together. You would have had a happy little life by yourself in the beaver dam-esque abode, and never have come to Quincy to meet me . . . and we would never have loved each other."

"I would always love you," i replied. "I just wouldn't know that it was you."

I've been waiting a long time for him.

Friday, July 13, 2012

Overheard in the Office 20

"I sent you an email. But it's not urgent. You can read it when you get back. It's like, a work thing. So it's not, like, a non-work thing."

Matthew 5-13

All passages from the NKJV.

Matthew 7:1-2
Judge not, that you not be judged. For with what judgement you judge, you will be judged; and with the same measure you use, it will be measured back to you.

This week, Rachel Held Evans posted on this exact topic. It's all been said there already, but for those who, for whatever reason, can't or won't open a link in a new tab, i'll sum it up for you: give people the benefit of the doubt. Assume good things about the motives and hearts of others.

Matthew 7:7-8
Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives, and he who seeks finds, and to him who knocks it will be opened.

I'm going to refer to Rachel again, and to her brilliant book Evolving in Monkey Town, where she talks about the evolution of her faith. A little background: Rachel grew up in Dayton, TN, the town that hosted the infamous Scopes Monkey Trial. Things haven't changed much since then. Rachel was raised to believe that evolution was of the Devil, and was given handfuls of pat answers to those who would suggest otherwise. Then she discovered that there was a huge, compelling, empirical body of evidence to prove evolution, and that there were many people of all religions who embraced both science and faith. She also discovered that most people in the world didn't care that much about evolution. They were way more concerned with things like AIDS, and poverty, and bigotry, and rape, and hunger, and not having access to schools or water or clothing. When Rachel's heart broke for the 'least of these' that she saw, she began to ask how God could allow something like this to happen, which is a question that we nearly all ask at one time or another. But when she asked this question at home, she was told that God's ways are greater than our ways, and that we should have faith like a child.

Rachel, rightly, called bullshit on this. Have you ever spent any time with a child? What do they CONSTANTLY do? They ask questions.

Faith like a child doesn't mean that you're not smart enough or knowledgeable enough to care about facts and truth and explanations. It means that you ask questions out of a thirst to know and understand, and out of a desire to have your Father talk to you. Answers only lead to more questions, but an honest and open dialogue leads to a relationship.

Ask. Seek. Knock. This is what leads to loving Christ more. You won't always like the answers, but that's how it is, kiddo. Just keep asking, seeking, and knocking. You've got a lifetime for this.

Matthew 7:16, 20
You will know them by their fruits. Do men gather grapes from thorn bushes or figs from thistles? Even so, every good tree bears good fruit, but a bad tree bears bad fruit. A good tree cannot bear bad fruit, not can a bad tree bear good fruit . . . Therefore by their fruits you will know them.

(emphasis mine)

I wrote last month about a similar passage. The point still stands: stop worrying so much about what is or is not "Christian" and focus on loving people and God and doing good things. You know how people are always complaining about Christians being hypocrites? That's because they're looking at the fruit they bear: hatred, fear, bigotry, anger, condemnation, divisiveness, condescension, rudeness, etc. Don't be that guy. Bear good fruits.

Matthew 9:12-13
But when Jesus heard that, He said to them, "Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick. But go and learn what this means: 'I desire mercy and not sacrifice.' For I did not come to call the righteous, but sinners, to repentance."

This makes me think of the modern Church. We spend so much of our time, energy, and talents ministering to people who are already Christians. We have Bible studies catered to each stage of development, we have Sunday School classes and fun get-togethers, we have ministries and book clubs and movie nights and fundraisers, and all of it is good and important. Anything that promotes fellowship and personal spiritual growth in the Church is good and important. But what about ministering to the people who don't go to church? Sometimes we forget about that in all the kerfuffle of the bake sale to raise money for the sixth-grade girls Bible study to go to SoulFest.

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Your phone privileges have been revoked.

So this happened today:

Guy on phone: "Hey, uh, I was just looking at your school online, and I was wondering if you guys had an athletic trainer there."
Me: "Do you mean, like, an athletic training major?"
Guy: "Uh, yeah."
Me: "Um, we have sports management or physical education."
Guy: "Uuuhhh, like, you know when someone's playing sports and they get hurt and the guy runs out on the field to take care of them? Like that."
Me: "Okay, the majors we have are more like, if you want to be a coach or a gym teacher."
Guy: "Oh. Uh, okay. What is your deadline for application?"
Me: "You need to have everything done by the time classes start, which is August 29th. So your application, your financial aid; everything needs to be taken care of by then."
Guy: "Okay. Because I had just graduated on June 7th, and I was going to go to another school, and they accepted my application, but it was too expensive. But I didn't see athletic trainer on your website, so I wanted to call and check."
Me: "Okay. Well, we don't have an athletic training major, but we do have sports management and physical education. They are the closest things we have to what you are looking for."
Guy: "Uh, okay. Do you have criminal justice?"
Me: "Yes."
Guy: "Okay, thank you. Bye."

Wait, do you want to major in athletic training or sports medicine? Because those are two different things. And neither one of them is criminal justice. Am i on Candid Camera? Do you even know what you want to major in? Where is Larissa, my office lover, when i have a great story to tell?!?!

playing house, part one

Like this, but slightly different colors. And slightly less creepy children.
When i was a kid, i was obsessed with building houses. (When i say "kid", i'm talking about ages 3-14ish). We had a playhouse that my grandparents bought us -- one of those plastic, PlaySkool types of things that came in about six big jigsaw pieces. A tornado in our yard ripped it apart one year, and even though we put it back together, we later decided that we liked it better in pieces. We frequently pulled it apart and rearranged the pieces into different configurations, especially once we got too big to comfortably fit in it. Plus, it was a favorite hangout for jumping spiders, and that shit is inappropriate. Spiders aren't bad enough, and now they have to jump? Really, God?!

We would place some pieces on their sides, arranging them in a rough rectangle, and imagining the walls and ceiling between the gaps. I seem to recall that we had each claimed one storage space in the house; it had cupboards or drawers or something in the "kitchen" that we used to hide our favorite stones and our collections of the colored glass we used as currency. My childhood was so Tom Sawyer-esque.

We lived in a very new development. We were pretty much the only house for miles for the first few years. Even once people started moving in, there were no houses in our immediate vicinity. They were all a few blocks away.

Each time a new house was built, the dirt from the foundation was dumped into a pile across the street from our house. Before long, the pile was over twenty feet high. It was our mountain, and my siblings and cousins and i played on it nearly every day. We mounted expeditions to the peak, we played hide-and-seek in the foothills, we searched for special rocks and sticks and flowers, we claimed different sections as our own property, we dared each other to leap from the summit, we sledded down the steep side and almost into the road. It was more than our house -- it was our country, and we worked the land together.

Monday, July 9, 2012

Reason #14 Why I Should Live With My Boyfriend

One of my roommates went to the grocery store this week and brought back butter for everyone to use. Unsalted butter. Who does that?!

Friday, July 6, 2012

Micah 4-7, Nahum, Habbakuk, Zephaniah, Haggai, Zechariah, Malachi, Matthew 1-4


Habakkuk 3:17-19
Though the fig tree may not blossom,
Nor fruit be on the vines;
Though the labor of the olive may fail,
And the fields yield no food;
Though the flock be cut off from the fold,
And there be no herd in the stalls --
Yet I will rejoice in the Lord,
I will joy in the God of my salvation.
The Lord God is my strength;
He will make my feet like deer's feet,
And He will make me walk on my high hills.

First of all, i love the use of "joy" as a verb. "I will joy in the God of my salvation." This is why i like older translations of the Bible -- little grammatical surprises that are perfectly correct and perfectly lovely.

Secondly, it's been a shitty year. A lot of stuff has fallen on my head since i graduated: new stresses and responsibilities, family trauma, roommate tensions, heavy homework loads, and so forth. It's a lot to carry.

My academic adviser for grad school has taught two of my classes. He starts each class with a reading from "Chicken Soup for the Teacher's Soul", and then asks for prayer requests, and then prays for all of us. He has a big heart and a razor-sharp mind. He helped develop the curriculum standards for Massachusetts, and is widely known and respected in the field. He goes to my church. He is warm and compassionate, gentle and merciful, brilliant and dedicated.

Last week, he was riding his bike and the front tire struck something. He flipped over his handlebars and landed head first. His helmet was split in half, and there was extensive bleeding in his brain. His face was also badly damaged. He was rushed to a neurosurgeon, and we have all been anxiously awaiting updates. It seems that he is mostly okay, that the damage was relatively minimal, and the doctors seem more concerned about his face than his brain, which is a good sign.

Yet I will rejoice in the Lord,
I will joy in the God of my salvation.

It's not always a question of God "doing something" about the shitty parts of our lives. It's not always about a miraculous rescue, or total protection from all harm, or unimaginable prosperity and happiness. Sometimes, it's just about Him being there, by your side, when the shit inevitably hits the fan. Sometimes, the greatest miracle we can ask for is a friend to stand beside us no matter what.

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

independence day 2012

I hope you're all enjoying the holiday and not reading things on the internet, but just in case you are online, remember this: freedom only exists when everyone has it. Celebrate your freedoms today, but do so with the knowledge that you are more privileged than most. Even the fact that you have internet access makes you far better off than a large percentage of the earth's population. Practice your freedoms wisely and kindly, and fight for the freedoms of others, if for no other reason than to ensure the security of your own.

"First they came for the communists, and I didn't speak out, because I wasn't a communist.
Then they came for the trade unionists, and I didn't speak out, because I wasn't a trade unionist.
Then they came for the Jews, and I didn't speak out, because I wasn't a Jew.
Then they came for me, and there was no one left to speak out for me."

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Human Interactions 103

At 7:20 PM Monday night, a woman called one of our enrollment counselors and left a message, asking if she could bring a large group in for a tour on Tuesday morning. Several problems with this:

  1. The counselor she called is not the one who arranges the tours. She does not have access to the tour guide schedules. It is therefore difficult for her to set up a tour for anyone.
  2. The person who does set up tours was not in the office at all on Monday. She works from home in the mornings on Tuesday, but she does not check her voicemail from home. And this Tuesday being the day before a national holiday, i'm not sure if she will be in at all today. There has therefore been no opportunity for the tour request to be passed along to her, leaving it to the counselor who received the voicemail to do everything herself.
  3. Calling thirteen and a half hours before you intend to show up is not really ideal. Especially if you are calling after normal business hours. (Hint: normal business hours are 9-5, though 8-6 is not totally unheard of.) If you call outside of normal business hours, you should do so at least 24 hours before you plan to show up, giving the other person time to hear your voicemail, call you to confirm your visit, and set up the tour for you.
  4. Group tours are harder to arrange than individual ones, and really really really need advance notice. We can throw together a really good individual visit at the last second, but group tours are very tricky. 
  5. If you have left a voicemail for someone but have not yet spoken to them in person, you should not assume that they are prepared to handle your request. They may be on vacation, especially if you are calling two days before a national holiday. If their job requires travel (like, for example, a college enrollment counselor who goes to lots of college fairs and teen camps during the summer), they may not be in the office at all this week.
  6. Having left a voicemail thirteen and a half hours ago with the wrong person, and having failed to talk to anyone at all to confirm your visit, when you come strolling into the office at ten minutes after nine AM, it does not behoove you to demand that the tour be "quick". Our campus is a certain predetermined size and has a certain predetermined number of buildings. In order for the tour to be worth your while, it will necessarily take a certain predetermined amount of time. But showing up ten minutes after we have all gotten to the office and demanding that we abbreviate the service that we have not yet agreed to render you is a little presumptuous. 
So what can we learn from this?

Be considerate of others, especially when you are demanding a service from them. I know this goes against much of what you were taught. You are the customer, and the customer is always right. However, this is not true. The customer is always the customer, and always deserves respect, patience, and our best efforts to make you happy. But you are not always right.

Remember that this is our job, and we know a lot more about how it works than you do. Defer to our knowledge, experience, and skills. Ask us how we can best serve you.

Give people plenty of advance notice when you are planning to visit, especially if you are asking them to do something special for you on that visit. When you drop in with no notice, you are only hurting yourself. If the abbreviated tour you demanded does not meet your expectations, that is your own fault.

Respect normal business hours. If you have to call outside of them, that's fine. We understand. But leave a voicemail with the understanding that we won't be able to even listen to your voicemail until 8 AM at the earliest, and more realistically, 9. We won't be able to return your call until after that. We won't be able to talk to you personally and set up a visit and make sure  your needs and requests are met until after 9 AM. This is just how businesses work.

Know what you're asking for. Some requests are small and some are large. And when you don't work in that particular business, you don't always know which is which. Don't assume that a request that seems simple actually will be. There might be a lot more to it than you think.

There will be a test on all of this. Be prepared. Class dismissed.