16 August 2010


I've been approaching writing about Days 3 & 4 with trepidation, and even considered not writing about them at all.  They didn't even happen on the same planet as Days 1 & 2.  I could tell you what we did, but you still wouldn't know what happened.  On the one hand, I want you to know what I experienced because I want it to have at least a reflection of the impact it had on me, but on the other hand I know that my words will fail, which makes me think maybe I just shouldn't try to write about it at all.  I would rather not represent than misrepresent.
By now you're on the edge of your computer chair going, "What happened???"  Don't worry.  Nothing big, scary, or outwardly monumental happened.  I will try to give you a brief sketch.
You know how God likes to spring things on you without telling you about them first?  Apparently e3 partners does too.  We didn't find out until the end of the tour day that part of our team (i.e., the part I was on) would be spending 2 days in the West Bank doing an eyeglass clinic; our small group of 4 would be in a predominately Muslim city notorious for producing suicide bombers, it would be illegal to share our faith, we might not have interpreters, and we were supposed to somehow show the love of Christ to the complete strangers in the clinic, but not to the opposite sex.
The first day the clinic was in a Palestinian cultural center.  I don't know if they have AC anywhere in the West Bank.  We were working with a couple of Christ-followers, but the center and all the patients were Muslim.  I felt so useless.  Looking back, I'm still not sure how God used me in that place.  I don't know if I exuded the love of Christ.  Most of the time I talked with a group of Palestinian girls, my age, only a few of whom spoke any English.  They were beautiful and delightful.  If God worked in their hearts that day, it was not because of anything I did.  It's hard to feel so useless and inadequate.  When we go somewhere to do ministry and we see no results, it seems impossible to believe that God did anything.  I will probably never know what happened to the girls I spent the day with, but can I really not trust God that he can work without me?  Do I really think that there must be instantaneous visible results in order for there to be any results?  Does God work like a bag of popcorn in a microwave?
There is one definite result, though: God broke my heart for Palestinians those two days, and I knew by the end of the first day that I wanted to come back.

We stayed the night in a nearby village, in an apartment the Catholic church had rented for us.  There was no AC, no fans, and cracks in the window sills large enough to let in what felt like a few hundred mosquitoes.  Donkeys and roosters serenaded us at night, and the call to prayer woke us up at 4 AM.  But, the place was beautiful:

All of Palestine was beautiful, even if it was "dirty" by American standards, run down, and battered.

I think that sometimes when God takes us places to do ministry, it's not because he needs us there; rather, he has something to teach us there.  Turns out that maybe mission trips aren't just to change the places we go to, but to change our hearts and grow them to be more Christlike.  God used the West Bank and my feelings of uselessness to teach me that he is made perfect in my weakness, and that I must trust in his plan, even though I can't see it.  Also, he began teaching me the use and power of prayer, which I would love to delve into in another blog post.

13 August 2010

Israel Rewind Part 2

Ohhh, jet lag, I feel your sting.  The first night home I slept like a baby, you deceptive little bugger.  Even though I stayed awake ALL DAY yesterday, until almost midnight, I still woke up at 4:30 AM ready to take on the world.  I thought, hey I prepared for this, I'll just take a tiny little melatonin (not even time-release) and slip right back to sleep.  Uggh.  Now it's almost 11 AM and I'm stumbling around like a drunk monkey.

The reason I made it until nearly midnight yesterday (besides two cups of coffee, weak American coffee, and lots and lots of tea), is that my American brothers and sisters and I met to continue our study of Acts and how to be doers of the word.  Leaving Israel was pretty heartbreaking.  I can't explain how God puts an instant deep love in your heart, but it happened.  Plus, I was afraid that I would come home and return to the disgusting stagnancy I had been living in before the trip.  I was missing all my new brothers and sisters I met in Israel, and from our team, but God gently reminded me that he gave me brothers and sisters here in Birmingham, too.  I'm using the phrase "brothers and sisters" for a couple of reasons.  One, it's Biblical.  Two, there is no more accurate way I know to describe them.  I don't call my sister Eileen "the girl who has my parents, too."  God reminded me last night that my faith family is far and wide, and just because I'm no longer in Israel doesn't mean he's going to stop working in my life and pushing me to greater faith in him (what a RIDICULOUS idea.  I am so idiotic sometimes.  Praise Jesus that his grace covers stupidity, too).

Day 2: Super whirlwind tour

I've had the lucky privilege of traveling a lot.  About a year and a half ago, my sister Eileen and I saw Berlin, Rome, Geneva, and Zurich in about 10 days.  In retrospect, I would have liked to spend more time in each city.  BUT, even then, our tour was not nearly as speedy as the tour of Jerusalem on the second day in Israel. At the end of the day, I could barely even make a list of what we saw (and I'm sure I've left something out):

The Dome of the Rock
The Golden Gate
The Pools of Bethesda
St. Anne's Church
The Church of the Holy Sepulchre
The Via Dolorosa
The Mount of Olives
The Garden of Gethsemane
The Church of All Nations
The Mount of Olives
The Garden Tomb

In some cases, I was overawed by the honor of standing where Christ would have stood.  My savior was here...wait, what?  Many of the sites were sad, though.  For one thing, most of them are not confirmed locations, merely guesses confirmed by tradition.  Also, for almost every site there is a gaudy church.  The most depressing was the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, the most commonly believed site of Jesus' tomb.  Six different denominations of Christianity FIGHT over this church.  They've divided it into six sections, but still the fight is so bitter that Muslims have to lock the church at night and unlock it in the morning.  How bitter?  Priests have been known to get into fistfights over things like extension cords crossing over somebody else's "territory."  The picture here is of where you can go down to see Christ's supposed tomb.  We didn't have time to wait in line, and I was pretty happy about that.  It was such a dark place.

The Mount of Olives was definitely cool, and we had an amazing view of Jerusalem.  But did you know it's also the largest graveyard in the world?  The gold dome you see in the picture is the Dome of the Rock.  We were lucky to get to go there.

Here's the thing: I'm a history major, and I love getting to see where history happened.  But even though we saw all these cool places, they are still just dead stones.  If (I mean WHEN) I go back to Israel, I'm not going to go see them again.  Jesus isn't there.  Far more beautiful than any of these sites were the faces of the people I met and saw Jesus in, and the faces of the people that Jesus desires to bring to himself.

The British tour guide at the Garden Tomb (another possible site of Jesus' death and resurrection, and archaeologically more likely) put it this way:
Whether or not this is the site of Jesus' crucifixion and his burial, there are two things that we can be certain of: One, that Jesus Christ was crucified on the cross and bore all our sins.  Two, that he rose from the dead three days later, defeating death and bringing eternal life to those who believe in him.

"But on the first day of the week, at early dawn, they went to the tomb, taking the spices they had prepared.  And they found the stone rolled away from the tomb, but when they went in they did not find the body of the Lord Jesus.  While they were perplexed about this, behold, two men stood by them in dazzling apparel.  And as they were frightened, and bowed their faces to the ground, the men said to them, "Why do you seek the living among the dead? He is not here, but has risen.  Remember how he told you, while he was still in Galilee, that the Son of Man must be delivered into the hands of sinful men and be crucified and on the third day rise."
Luke 24:1-7

12 August 2010

Rewind: Israel

I find that keeping a journal is hard to do on trips, because traveling is so overwhelming and tiring.  The worst part is, trips are exactly the kind of thing I want to keep a journal of!  I managed to update my private journal every few days, but blogging was impossible.  Still, I know that the best way to tell about my trip, and a good way for me to process and remember, is writing about it here, for all of you to see.  With my journal, pictures, and memory as a guide, I think I can give you a pretty decent recap of an amazing week.

Day 1: Flight to Tel Aviv and a first glimpse of Jerusalem

Israel is....rocky.  Numbers 13:27 tells us that it is a land flowing with milk and honey.  Either it's changed a lot in the last few thousand years, or the Israelites had been colorblinded by too many years in the desert (having seen the desert...that's totally possible).  The drive from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem (a very crazy taxi ride) was like driving on a different planet; the roads snake in and out of endless hills covered in pale rocks.  Jerusalem is built entirely of white limestone, by requirement to match the ancient buildings.
Our small team of 10 met the big group of 43 at our hotel for dinner.  Afterward, we walked to the Western Wall.  It was smaller and less grand than I had imagined.  It was below the Temple Mount, tucked away in a corner - still big, like the side of a huge building - but still just a remnant of the former glory of Solomon's temple (see 1 Kings 6).  

On the way back to the hotel, we stopped in the corner of an alleyway - so small, inconspicuous - which overlooked a remainder of the wall Nehemiah rebuilt.  How amazing; I just read Nehemiah recently, about the time I found out I would be going to Israel.  I remember reading about Nehemiah rebuilding the wall in 52 days and thinking "I'm going to be there!"  Standing above that wall, wide and rounded from age, was too surreal.  Physical evidence is absolutely unnecessary to faith, but it's such a privilege to see the historical reality of the Bible right in front of your face.  Nehemiah tells us that the Israelites toiled day and night at the wall, despite the opposition of those surrounding them, weapons in hand, ready for a fight (Nehemiah 4).  It only took them fifty-two days.  What a God Thing.  After they rebuilt the wall, Nehemiah read the Book of the Law all day, and the people stood before him and listened all day and worshiped God.  And we get antsy when the sermon runs past 45 minutes!  

After seeing the wall, most of the group stopped for ice cream.  Some of us were tired and/or lactose intolerant, so one of our team leaders said he'd take us back to the hotel, a group of maybe 6 or 7.  Well, turns out he didn't really know the way back to the hotel...so we wandered around old Jerusalem and made a full circle before actually turning where we were supposed to and got back after everybody else did.  Even though it was late and we were tired, and we mocked Paul endlessly for getting us lost, I really didn't mind.  It was very cool, since the sun had gone down, and I love getting wandering foreign cities at night and also getting lost in foreign cities - probably not very safe habits, but adventurous ones.  I always seem to find the way back, and once you've been lost in a city, you've probably seen parts most tourists would never see.  We were also in the Christian Quarter, which is a pretty safe section of the old city (it's divided into four quarters, Christian, Jewish, Muslim, and Armenian).  
One last thing: Israel is overrun with mangy street cats.
Pretty cool first day.

"When our enemies heard that it was known to us and that God had frustrated our plan, we all returned to the wall, each to his work.  From that day on, half my servants worked on construction, and half held the spears, shields, bows, and coats of mail.  And the leaders stood behind the whole house of Judah, who were building on the wall.  Those who carried burdens were loaded in such a way that each labored on the work with one hand and held his weapon with the other.  And each of the builders had his sword strapped at his side while he built.  The man who sounded the trumpet was beside me.  And I said to the nobles and to the officials and to the rest of the people, "The work is great and widely spread, and we are separated on the wall, far from one another.  In the place where you heard the sound of the trumpet, rally to us there.  Our God will fight for us."  So we labored at the work, and half of them held the spears from the break of dawn until the stars came out."
Nehemiah 4:15-21

02 August 2010

Ok, I'm ready! Except, I'm not...

I'm going to Israel tomorrow (today, by the time I finish this blog post).  I have all the physical things I need, but I feel so unprepared and inadequate.
I would appreciate your prayers.
I'll be back August 12.


21 June 2010

10 tried and true methods of losing your cell phone

How did we ever communicate before cell phones?  They keep us connected to everyone and get us out of jams, if we don't lose or forget them.  Maybe you never forget your phone, but I do.  I wonder if the subconsciouses of those of us who forget our phones are trying to tell us that we would be better off without the barnacle in our pocket all the time (although, my subconscious may be trying to get rid of my baby-butt-pink phone permanently).  It's not hard to lose your phone.  I lose my phone in many different ways on a weekly, sometimes semi-weekly basis.  I'm pretty much a pro, so I'm going to give you some pointers.

1. Put it in a pocket you never use.   After searching every pocket you normally store your phone in and pretty much given up, you will accidentally stick your hand in the pocket you have never used in your life, and voila!  Phone.
2. After your friendly phone wakes you up in the morning, slide it under the covers of your bed as you stumble toward the coffeemaker.  If you don't get to stay in the cozy covers, at least somebody (or something) does.
3. Put it in the door of your car, then exit the car.
4. Keep it in an open pocket so that it slips out when you put your bag down.
5. Leave it in the bathroom.
6. Place it on the counter, then put your groceries on top of it.
7. Put it in your bag, then take it out, and leave.
8. Leave it in a room or building that will be locked after you leave it.
9. Put it in your pants pocket, then change your pants.
10. Use it, then put it down.

This way, you'll search every place you normally put your phone and retrace your steps before you finally decide that you've actually lost your mind rather than your phone.  About 5 minutes after loss of mind, you'll find your phone.  Trust me.  I speak from experience.

19 June 2010

Time for an update!  As I type this, I am watching a very ominous thundercloud pass outside our wonderfully large living room window.  People keep asking how the new apartment is, so, I guess I will tell you.
1. I have my own room and bathroom.  Big plus.
2. Real kitchen.  HUGE plus.
3. Big porch, fairly roomy overall, lots of storage (relatively), and a wood-burning fireplace, which is a bit irrelevant right now.
1. Haphazard administration.
2. So many college students it's like an extension of campus - I don't dare try the pool for fear of an unhealthy water/beer ratio.
3. Cable companies are evil monopolies!  Don't we have laws against that?
4. Minor things that go wrong, like sticky doorknobs and one broken stove burner, and my toilet, which runs all the time.  The water is either too hot or too cold, etc.

The living room has a big tri-window, and there is a spectacular storm going on right now.  Birmingham has been especially hot lately, in the 90s with 60-70% humidity, and every few days we have a faint promise of a storm, but so far they've been very isolated.

28 May 2010

The Best Sports Movie Ever

Everybody loves an inspirational sports movie. Remember the Titans.  Rudy.  Radio.  The Blind Side.  Glory Road.  We Are Marshall.  You get the point.  They move you to tears in the end, but even if you're a man that's okay because you're crying about sports.  Once you've seen a few, however, you start to notice a pattern.  If you're interested in becoming a director/screenwriter/producer someday, you'd do well to adhere to the award-winning sports movie formula.

1. True story.  Otherwise it's less inspirational and you just look silly if you're crying over it.

2. Situation of adversity that must be overcome.  Desegregation and civil rights in Remember the Titans.  A small town trapped by a dead-end industry (coal mining, factory, etc).  Rudy dreams of impressing his dad by playing for Notre Dame, but he's too small and not smart enough.  Radio is mentally challenged and poor.  Michael Oher is homeless in The Blind Side.  The plane crash in We Are Marshall.

3. Inspirational character overcoming the odds.  We must sympathize with this character, root for him, feel his pain.  Radio, Rudy, Michael Oher, Herman Boone (Denzel in Titans).

4. Tough but kind-hearted coach.  This coach mercilessly whips the team into shape while mentoring them to be young men of integrity.  Denzel in Titans, Ed Harris in Radio.  Sandra Bullock's character fills this role unconventionally in The Blind Side.

5. Working hard/Things are looking up montage.  The team trains and bonds.  They become really good and start winning games.  Cue cheerleaders, roaring crowds, lots of team colors flying around, and games set to music.

6. Unforeseen tragedy/setback.  It seems like there's no chance of triumph now.  Back to the dead-end future, back to the loser's circle.  The car crash in Titans.  The accusations against the Touhys in the Blind Side.  Radio's mother dies.  Rudy is going to graduate and he won't get to dress for the final game.  

7. Personal victory.  The team might win the championship, and they might not.  What matters is the adversity that has been overcome, the fact that they continued despite tragedy, the odds that they defeated.  The characters are forever changed and have changed the opinions of those around them, achieving a victory for humankind.  Cue the tears.

You know I'm right.  All of our favorite sports movies follow this formula, more or less.  But that doesn't mean we can't love them, can't cheer for the underdog or cry at the bittersweet triumph.  After all, it's real life, with better-looking people and dramatic background music.  Go team!

24 May 2010

I can read!

I'm relearning how to read.  After months of cramming hardcore philosophy and historical dissertations during the week and suffering from serious brain drain on the weekends, I'm slowly rediscovering the delight of tasting the words on the page and not checking the page number to see how much farther to the finish.  Last week, I finished The Great Hunt by Robert Jordan, part of his Wheel of Time series.  I read half of it the weekend before this past semester started, read about 5 pages during the semester, and finished it in a night last week.  Now I'm finishing A History of the World in 6 Glasses, an easy read that I've only had time to chip away at since last summer.  If you're at all a fan of drinking beer, wine, spirits, coffee, tea, or coke, you would enjoy it, although I'm fairly convinced that any good historian with a readable persuasive voice and decent research can "prove" that history was definitively shaped by their pet interest; for example, see Salt: A World History or Robbing the Bees: A Biography of Honey or one of the drier dissertations I read recently, The Revolution of the Saints: A Study in the Origins of Radical Politics, which argues that the Puritans created liberal politics and that all subsequent revolutions are descended from their radicalism.
Unfortunately, my recent flurry of pleasure reading and all of the reading and writing I've done in school lately have made me realize that I furrow my brow intensely when reading, which inevitably leads to a headache.  When I unfurrow my brow, I somehow have more difficulty focusing on the words.  Since I don't think that the placement of my eyebrows on my face has much to do with my cognitive ability, I'm going to the eye doctor tomorrow.  It may be that my reign as the Eyesight Wonder Kid of the family (everybody else wears glasses) is finally coming to an end.
This is a minor setback, however, and I will be victorious in tackling my stack of summer books.  (I almost re-wrote the previous sentence, placing the "however" at the front, as one of my professors hates it when the "however" is in the middle of the sentence.  I once told him that one of my teachers had taught me to put it in the middle and not the front, and he said "Who was it??  What's his name?  Was it somebody in the English department?  They don't know how to write over there."  I'm having a hard time adjusting to writing by my own preferences.)  If the problem isn't my eyesight, I'm not sure what I'll do to prevent the furrowing.  Maybe duct tape my forehead smooth?  This could prove difficult.  That's okay - I can fix it.  I can also fix dinner, which is what I'm going to go do now.

"I am not a speed reader.  I am a speed understander."
- Isaac Asimov

11 May 2010

T Minus 24 hours and counting!

If I could make time pass by the sheer force of wishing - it would be tomorrow afternoon, yesterday.  I can taste freedom.  I am somewhere around 70% packed and 100% ready to go.  When I was a freshman, people told me that 2nd semester junior year was the hardest.  They were right.  But it's ALMOST OVER!  In the spirit of  impending senior year and graduation, I've been exploring post-grad opportunities.  I'm possessed by a desire to plan my future.  Where will I live?  What will I do?  How will I make money?  I want to know!

Sometimes, it's very hard to let go and let God, as my mom would say.

19 April 2010

Yesterday, I fixed my roommate's computer:

Pretty sweet, right?  It's only a temporary fix, of course, but she was pretty excited to be able to use her own computer for her final papers.  I told her I was excited that I had gotten to fix something, because fixing things means A) I get to solve a problem B) I get to experiment with ideas and C) I get to feel good about my abilities when I finish.  She laughed at me for saying "feel good about my abilities" instead of "feel good about myself."   I explained (although she kind of already knew) that for me, really for NTs in general, abilities = identity.

This is a good motivator for success.  NTs include Socrates, Einstein, Nietzsche, Marie Curie, C.S. Lewis, Ayn Rand, and Thomas Jefferson.  Successful people, right?  I wonder how many of them were plagued with the fear of impending failure.  I would bet money on every single one of them, although Lewis knew one thing that I know: my abilities are not my identity.

On my own abilities, I could become very successful, but I would never satisfy myself.  I would always be disappointed in myself.  I would consider myself a failure if I was not the absolute best.  I don't have to live in that fear, though.  My abilities and failures don't matter in the light of Christ's victory.  In my own life, I have experienced the freedom that comes from surrendering my constant quest for greatness to the Greatest of all.  In Him, I have found my identity and my purpose.  God even uses my weaknesses and failures in uncomfortable and life-changing ways.

Even though I fixed Mary Beth's computer, tomorrow I may do poorly on a test, or I may look stupid in front of people I respect.  The beautiful thing is, that doesn't have to eat me up anymore.  I don't have to live and die on my performance, because I have died and live in Christ.

03 April 2010

Nothing-Happened Saturday

Happy uneventful Saturday between death and resurrection!
My church has a 5k (called Run to the Cross) and a spring festival (mostly for kids) every Nothing-Happened Saturday.  This was my first year, since I usually go home for Easter.  There are big inflatable castles and slides, and Easter Egg hunts, hot dogs, one slightly awkward Easter bunny, and live music.  This year, a few members of the regular worship band, and me, were asked to be the band - which is why I went, because egg hunts have long lost their luster for me.  Apparently for the past three years the band has been Act of Congress, an AMAZING local band that is now making it big, at least too big for our Easter festival.  Just go to their page and listen to 5 seconds of a song, and you'll know why this makes us, the worship band, look like lame follow-up wannabes.
It rained and our drummer canceled, so our venue changed from outside to in the gym and we switched from electric to acoustic.  When we got to the gym, we had to wait for a children's choir, armed with kazoos, to finish.
Then the saxophone player decided to show up - even though he didn't come to rehearsal, and we no longer had the full electric sound to back up a LOUD and resonant instrument like the sax.  The boss man likes the sax, though, so those of us actually playing the acoustic instruments had to grin and bear it as he jazz improv'ed all over our harmonies.
When the children's choir was done, they all left, with their parents (the gym wasn't full to begin with).  Then after we played a few songs, we had to stop so that they could hold the Diaper Derby.  Once that was over, all the parents with the cute little babies left.
About one-third into our set, it was announced that the inflatables were closed due to their being too wet to be safe, and this was our death-knell.  A couple songs later, all that was left was the cleaning crew - the die-hard church volunteers who had probably heard our songs 50 times before.  They do know how to appreciate, though!  We didn't finish our set and took a couple requests instead, and as the Spring Festival officially withered to a close, the sun came out.
Tomorrow is EASTER, though, which means Resurrection and rejoicing, and 5+ hours of rehearsals and services.  But Easter is a very, very, very good day.

27 March 2010

Criminal Record

Recently, I received a mysterious e-mail from Stepford Residence Life summoning me to a "hearing" of the "Community Standards Council" to determine if I was responsible for allegedly being "involved in a incident in violation of Stepford's values and honor code."   I told my roommates and Amber immediately began channeling all those Law and Order marathons we've wasted good sleeping hours on.  We (really, just she) poured over the Student Handbook and discovered that the summons technically violated Values Violations procedure as outlined in the handbook, as it did not inform me of whatever the alleged incident actually was (although it did tell me the date of the incident, from last semester - like I remember what I did last week!).
We didn't have time to get pencil skirt suits and briefcases, so we marched into the hearing wearing jeans and backpacks instead - Amber playing the role of my legal counsel and Mary Beth just there to be amused.  It took us a while to find the room, as it was in a part of the University Center we never go in.  At first I thought it was the door behind the big statue of a dead white guy that used to be in the room in the Capitol where they have statues from all the states (they replaced him with Helen Keller, she's more PC), but the door was unmarked, and when we stood in front of the statue and said "Lemon Drop," nothing happened.  We did find it, though, and we weren't late, although half the council was - the council being comprised of a staff adviser and seven students, only two of whom actually showed up.  A handful of other equally confused students were present to get their sentences (more politely called "sanctions").  You parked in the wrong parking lot?  Hang them on the Quad!  Hang them all on the Quad!
They explained how we would each get a chance to tell our side of the story privately to the council before they discussed our sanctions.  They finally presented us with written reports of our "incidents" - thus removing a leg from our defense about "not following procedure."
The incident?  We have visitation hours in the dorms, when we are allowed to have members of the opposite sex in the dorms (co-ed dorms are for heathens and sexual vagrants), provided we sign our visitors in at the residence life office and fork over a drivers license and a kidney as collateral.  On weekends, visitation is from 2 PM - 12 AM, and usually when we have guys over, it's the weekend.  However, on weekdays, visitation ends at 10 PM.  The day of the mysterious incident was a weekDAY, not a weekEND, and we were hanging out in the dorm, when at 10:15 PM I received a phone call from Residence Life telling me to come sign out my visitor.  We signed out and I apologized to the (apparently pissed) RA on duty, explaining that I had forgotten visitation ended at 10 and not midnight.  No harm done, right?  Wrong!  Stepford has been VIOLATED and someone must be punished!  The RA on duty, contrary to the forgiving nature of almost every other RA I know, wrote a report on the heinous and malicious breach of protocol and it was this report that caused me to be summoned to the Community Standards Council on a rainy Thursday afternoon.
I told them my side of the story - what I've told you here, minus my comments on the RA's bad mood.  One of the two students on the council said dubiously, "That's it?" and they sent me on my way with their characteristically Stepford smiles, promising an e-mail the following day that would deliver my sanction, if there was any.
My thoughts afterwards?  That this was a ridiculous, trivial waste of time, and these reasonable people understood the harmless and thoroughly accidental nature of the incident.  Well, I got my sentencing via e-mail today, as promised, and I received two points on my "record," seven of which will send a person to the "Values Advocate" and likely put them on probation.
You know what else I did today?  I put down a deposit on an off-campus apartment.
I don't foresee suddenly accumulating 5 more points in the next year, but the absolutely useless nature of the entire process from start to finish has only solidified my firm dislike of the Stepford administration.  I have wonderful professors, I've met a few interesting people, and I've gotten a good liberal arts education for what is unfortunately a bargain, but I will have no feelings of nostalgia or affection for the institution when I step off its perfectly landscaped campus for the last time.  This one incident is not what has tarnished my view of Stepford, it's only the cherry on top - a battle scar, if you will, and an enjoyable story to tell.

25 March 2010

Existential Mortality = Joy

We have been reading dead Germans for longer than anyone should ever be forced to.  Whether or not Tuesday's lecture/discussion/monologue was on the Heidegger reading we were required is beyond me, because I'm still on Nietzsche.  The discussion - which is really just Dr. P talking about what he thinks about the reading and anything possibly related in his life currently, with the occasional lewd joke thrown in - somehow ended up being about death.  According to Heidegger, man's ultimate possibility is his impossibility.  In English: the only thing certain in life is death.
Philosophy lectures can be long and frustrating, because they are often a lot of jargon to no end.  Philosophers supposedly search for answers, but they seem to delight in coming roundabout 360 degrees.  That, combined with the cheery prospect of death, should have made it a particularly depressing lecture.
On the contrary, it made my day about 100% better.
Dr. P presented a few different reactions to our mortality: we can become nihilists, we can become hedonists, or we can relish each moment of joy with added value because of its scarcity and inevitable end.  Of these three, I agreed with the third.  To paraphrase C.S. Lewis, if not for shadows, we wouldn't know what light means.  Dr. P continued with the the consequences of our mortality and our general insignificance on earth - in a hundred years, he said, nobody will think of us anymore.  Nobody will remember us, and even if we do something that goes in the history books, we're still dead, and we're not coming back.  This was the absolute highlight of my day, because - in two hundred years, when nobody remembers my name,
And who even cares about the history books then?

24 March 2010

I finally remembered to bring my metronome to work today.  Luke, my 9 year old student, thought it was THE COOLEST thing ever.  He had a hard time playing with it at first, which always made me loathe the thing as a kid, but he still thought it was SO COOL and wanted to know WHERE he could get one for himself.  He also was thrilled to show off his awesome multiplication skills when I wanted to switch from the quarter note getting the beat to the eighth note getting the beat.  When Luke's lesson is over, he always sends his 7 year old brother Kyle in for his lesson.  Kyle opened the door and gave the room a quick once-over, like he was looking for something really big, and said (loudly),
"Where's the metronome thingy?  Luke said there was gonna be a metronome thingy!"  I picked it up the small ticker and showed it to him,
"This is it.  Do you want to see how it works?"  Kyle's face immediately fell.
"Oh.  Luke said I was gonna be really surprised."  He paused, shook his said wryly and said, "I'm not."

In other news, I bought an electronic piano today, secondhand from my boss.

The only thing it doesn't have is weighted keys, which would give it more the feel of a real piano.  Nonetheless, it was a great deal, and after I moved Mary Beth's bed into the living room it fit perfectly.  Ah, I'm kidding.  I had to move my dresser into my closet, but it's a sacrifice willingly made.  All that remains to do now is get a good pair of headphones so as not to bother the roomies when pounding out Regina Spektor's "Apres Moi" or tripping over Clair de Lune.

This semester is a tough one, with 5 classes total, 3 of them upper-level and reading/writing intensive.  I've become a bit burned out on writing the opinion column and, obviously, blogging.  I hate that I feel so apathetic toward writing, but I'm too apathetic to overcome that apathy.  Music is becoming more important to me (not that it was ever less important) and I find myself drumming piano fingerings on my desk during particularly long lectures.  I am counting down the weeks until summer (6 1/2!), even though I usually hate summer.  I find if I have low expectations, my expectations will be pleasantly exceeded.  I know, I'm a regular Pollyanna.  We found an apartment we like and will be moving in hopefully in June.  Maybe I will finally have room for all my instruments and 1/4 of my books!

22 February 2010

Heigh-ho, Berlin!

My Russian history book is open to the chapter on Russian exile in Berlin, Paris, and America, post-Bolshevik.  My ticket for the DDR (German Democratic Republic) museum in Berlin, ever the faithful bookmark, is tucked between the pages.  Berlin here and Berlin there, and it makes me want to go back.  We only spent 4 days in Berlin, those few days packed with snow, trains, and tourism, but it was enough to generate a lifetime of interest.  I'm no worldwide explorer, yet, but I've been to my share of European cities, and Berlin stands out starkly, embracing its scandalous and tragic recent history to defy traditional spire-filled European skylines. The panoramic brochure of Berlin as seen from the Reichstag that makes a pretend window on the backing of my desk shows a different, clearer, and more cluttered Berlin than the dark, snowy, light-studded city I saw from the same perspective the freakishly cold night that we ventured to the glass-domed building.  What is it about Berlin?  Is it the Soviet bloc buildings?  The ruins of a French Prussia?  The insistent modernity sprung up alongside, in spite of, inescapable past?
It's quite possible that I am romanticizing the city.  I tend to romanticize things I don't know much about.  Yet, the remnants of a soviet world, so foreign to me, whisper enticingly.  There are hundreds of cathedrals and castles in Europe, but only one Berlin.
Berlin.  It speaks to me just like all the other places I long to visit.  Always restless, always wanting to go somewhere, do something, have an adventure!  Adventures are never what I expect, though.  Usually they're decidedly less adventurous.
Robert Louis Stevenson reminded me recently that "the most beautiful adventures are not those we go to seek."  I was frustrated when he told me this...does this mean I should sit at home and just wait for adventure to come to me?  Robert, what are you thinking?  Unfortunately, he died a while ago, so he can't answer me back.  I do agree with his statement, but it leaves much to be desired regarding how to approach adventures.
It would be nice if I could achieve some resolution in this short blog post.  Adventure equals __, therefore I should ___ in my own life.  Enter dreamy and optimistic phrase with a sunny outlook on life.  Adventure is out there!  You know.  But alas, life is always far more complicated, varied, nebulous, ambiguous, turbulent, and deceptive.  How's that for sunny side down?

20 February 2010

golden crust on the apple pie

Tell you what I like about jazz trumpet...sometimes you can't tell if it's the muted trumpet or someone singing nonsense.  Is it the instrument or the voice?  Does it matter?  The feeling's the same - mournful, staggering, playful, and a little bit drunk.  
I know what you're thinking.  What on earth am I doing up so early on a Saturday morning?!  (It's 11:48 AM)  I have actually been awake for over an hour.  How is that for crazy?  I have plans to get stuff done today.  Therefore, I have to have a couple hours to contemplate what it is that needs doing, before I can contemplate starting.  Furthermore, it is a blueskyed almost-60 degrees here in the recently frigid 'Ham, which means that an outdoor excursion is absolutely necessary.  
Last night I went ice skating and was reminded why I hate ice skating.  Luckily I was with several people, because misery loves company.
Best get to that contemplating.  Have a lovely Saturday!  Don't over exert yourself!

05 February 2010

the anti-romantic

Since Valentine's Day is rolling around soon, I thought I would share my feelings with you regarding this popular holiday.  I thought that videotaping myself hurling would be an accurate description, but I haven't thrown up since Christmas, so I am resigned to use words instead.
I do not like Valentine's Day.  I think it is icky.  Think about it: crappy candy and obscenely prolific pink.  What's not to hurl about?  Trite expressions of love written by greeting card companies are supposed to convey our true feelings to the people we care for, or just to whomever will consent to be our beloved for a day in a mutual desire to stave off loneliness during a holiday exclusively for twos.
Do I sound like a woman scorned?  Well, I'm not.  Truth be told, I have never been in love.  I'm told that when I finally am in love, all the mushy-gushy stuff I sneer at now will seem terribly romantic and exciting.  Still, I don't think I will embrace teddy bears with hearts, want candy hearts, or anything with hearts for that matter (I really don't like hearts), and I'm fairly certain I'll still hate pink and dislike Titanic.  However, I doubt this will be a problem.  When trivialities are removed, truth is allowed to stand starkly in full view, no longer cluttered or obscured by additions.  Love will be allowed to be love when it has shed trite expressions or poor imitations.  That, I can look forward to.
Meanwhile, the singles are looking, or at least hoping and wishing for a perfect Valentine to appear within the week.  Couples will make reservations at expensive restaurants and buy each other expensive trinkets.  Third-graders will make Valentine shoeboxes, which actually is pretty cute.  And I have good news.  Next Saturday night I'll be with the ones I love the most: my parents.  I'll take good old familial love over the Feb 14 scramble any day.  Particularly if they are going to drive 200 miles just to see me and to bring the things I forgot last time I was home (I need to send them that list...). I don't know how this ended up as a tribute to my parents, but when I start writing I rarely know where I will end, so: Be My Valentines, Mom and Dad?