Wednesday, December 27, 2006

It is scheduled.

My defense, that is. For Wednesday, January 10th, at 1pm.

I MAY have heart failure before then.

I MAY have heart failure after then, when I see all the revisions I still have to do. :)

I DO, however, see a light at the end of the tunnel, and it looks like it just might be a disco ball at the biggest party of the decade.

Friday, December 22, 2006

I feel sorry for my sisters.

After all, nothing they give my dad for Christmas this year can POSSIBLY compare to what I am giving him -
A COPY OF MY COMPLETED THESIS.
Printed and bound last night, delivered to the committee today - it is ready to defend. And seriously, I am wrapping one copy in a box and giving it to my dad for Christmas. (shh...don't tell him!)

But right now - I'm going shopping. :) Merry Christmas, internets!

P.S. And really, somehow I thought I'd have more to say about this day, when it arrived. But, huh. I don't. Maybe later. Blog out.

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Let's revisit...

...this for a second. Just that part right after "Blog out" and before "Blog out, take 2." Oh, and this, too.

'Cause people, I'm freaking out here. I have worked approximately a million hours on the "last few details" of my thesis today, in prep for printing it out and giving it to my committee, and I haven't even STARTED the main task on it that I was going to do today.

And it's 11:37pm and I have to teach junior high tomorrow and so far have no lesson plans written.

And I HAVE to get up early enough to wash my hair tomorrow, because "3rd-day hair in a ponytail with bobby pins keeping any greasy strands from touching my face" is one thing, but 4th-day hair? I'm afraid to even THINK about it.

But all the stuff I DID do today needed to be done.

But there is sOOOOooOOoOoOOOOooo much more to do.

And I HAVE to have it done by Thursday. And I teach all day tomorrow. (Did I already say that?)

And I HATE that that post that I linked to was in MARCH. MARCH, people. That was EIGHT MONTHS ago. Or so. Whatever. And I'm STILL not done, and I have until Thursday.

I'm freaking out here.

Monday, December 18, 2006

I'm frightened...

...at how well this pegged me.

Your 1996 Theme Song Is: Ironic by Alanis Morisette

It's like rain on your wedding day
It's a free ride when you've already paid
It's the good advice that you just didn't take
Who would've thought ... it figures

Thanks, Lauren. I DO feel better knowing.

Friday, December 15, 2006

This does not bode well.

My gChat status currently reads, "frantically attempting to quell feelings of total panic."

AAH. AAH. AAH. AAH. AAH. AAH. AAH. AAH. AAH. AAH.

It's finals week, and I have no finals. But don't be jealous - I am in the throes of "manuscript preparation," as I get my thesis ready to give to my committee next week, so that I can schedule my defense for the beginning of January, and I just found out that I was doing one type of citation TOTALLY WRONG.

AAH. AAH. AAH. AAH. AAH. AAH. AAH. AAH.

And it frightens me to think that there are probably a million other things like that, lurking in the background, just waiting for me to think that I'm close to done so they can poke their nasty little formatting heads up and say, "ha ha, fix me!" like one of those sick sick sick SICK games at the amusement parks and roller-skating rinks where you have to hit the little heads of the chipmunks or whatever as they pop out of various holes and you don't know which hole the head will pop out of next or how many more there will be before you are done with your turn but you HAVE to hit them all to win the game...

That's what this feels like. And I've NEVER been good at that *&*$%# game.

Favorite license plate of the day

It said:
ONOIML8
The best part was that the car that it adorned was going slow. Huh.

Friday, December 08, 2006

If you call your sister...

...and she says, "I really can't talk right now; I'm in the middle of a liver transplant. Is it urgent?"
Just say no and hang up, people. Just say no, and hang up.

Thursday, December 07, 2006

"Opine" is the verb form of the word "opinion" (at least according to my dad)

So I recently got offended because I misunderstood something that one of my friends was saying. I asked a clarifying question and got over both the misunderstanding AND the being offended. :) Here's what happened:
What I thought my friend said: Anyone who doesn't agree with her political stance and opinions is gutless and an idiot. (I'm paraphrasing; she would never dream of being that harsh.)

What my friend meant: It's not interesting to talk to people who don't know where they stand on certain key issues or who don't have opinions on important things.
But even after the misunderstanding was resolved, the whole thing threw me, to quote Richard Gere in Runaway Bride, "into at least 15 minutes of serious reflection." I thought, "Do I have opinions about things?" (No comment from you, Jer.)

So I decided to find out by, of course!, making a list. And you, lucky reader, are about to see today's version of that list. As you read this, please keep in mind that I am NOT stating here what my strong feelings about these topics ARE; I am just listing things about which I HAVE strong feelings, one way or the other. If you want to know where I stand on these issues, email me or post a comment and I'll consider devoting a post to a given topic. :)

So here you go - I have strong feelings about:
  • mens facial hair (that was for you, Josh)
  • electric blankets
  • appropriate usage of cell phones
  • how meetings should be conducted
  • pornography
  • reading
  • speaking other languages
  • world travel
  • teaching in general
  • language teaching
  • project management
  • the right of other people to have an opinion different from mine
  • loyalty - to family, spouse, friends, country, God, religion, employer, profession, ideals (not necessarily in that order)
  • chocolate
  • raw vegetables
  • how a graduate program should be approached
  • the position a toilet seat and lid should be in when the user of said toilet exits the room
  • germs
  • narrow-mindedness
  • my family
  • how men should and should not treat women
  • journal keeping
  • God
  • my bro-in-law's pies
  • reusing and recycling of paper
  • the "Twizzlers versus Red Vines" question
I'm sure there are more, but this was a good enough list for me to discover that, YES, I opine.

Phew.

I also discovered in this process that there are other things that I feel neutral about. Stay tuned, maybe I'll list them in a future post. People will surely be interested to read a list entitled, "Things I couldn't care less about."

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

...and sometimes it's even BETTER than you first thought!!

I just went to the link to the program that my aunt is going to France with, and...

!!!
The TOTAL cost of the program is $2800!!!!!!!
That means I only have to save $1400!!!!

Holy cow! I am SOOOO excited!!!

Sometimes prayers are answered before they are even uttered

So I went to France last summer. And I'm planning to go next summer. And I am saving my money so I CAN go next summer. :) But this morning I was thinking, "Maybe I should NOT go back to the same place in France. Maybe I should even go to a DIFFERENT French-speaking country or figure out some way to increase my knowledge and understanding of French-speaking cultures."
AND THEN!!

I logged into my email account and read the following email from my aunt, who teaches French at a university in the eastern US (names and some other info have been changed to protect, well, ME) :
Hey, Very Important Question: would you be interested in coming on a study abroad with me, summer 2007, as my (unpaid) assistant? [ The university] would pay about half the cost ($2800) for three weeks in France - two in Paris, one in [another region] - maybe a little more. The dates are depart June 25 and return July 15. I have 12 students signed up and have been given permission to take along an assistant.

Let me know if you would be at all interested. I wish they would pay all of it for you, but I have created a bare-bones budget to save the students money and the result is there isn't much padding to pay for the leaders. The $2800 covers airfare, TGV, room & board, metro passes, museum passes, trains in [that other region]. Does not cover 3 Paris dinners or any lunches, or personal expenses on free days, etc.

I would LOVE to have you with me! You are The Best.
!!!! Can you EVEN believe it?!?! It's PERFECT!! I was recently offered a new job, that will be part time and last through the summer, and I told them I wouldn't do it unless they would guarantee me time off (2 weeks minimum) to go to France, and we discussed that that might need to be at the beginning of the summer rather than the end...and this is 3 weeks, and I'll get to do TOURING, and see a region that I've been to but don't know SUPER well, and go to ALL the cool places in PARIS...AND get to know my aunt better. :) :)

It's going to cost quite a bit more than I was planning on having saved, but if Heavenly Father can so nicely line up
  1. a job that will let me go AND
  2. the opportunity to go,
I feel reasonably sure that He can help me line up

3. the finances to make the trip possible. :) :)

So, needless to say, I'm emailing her to tell her that YES! I want in, and I'll be making plans shortly to make sure that I have accumulated that sum of money in time, but kids, I'M GOIN' TO FRANCE!!

Friday, December 01, 2006

This is me until I'm done...

OK, maybe just the last three squares. Or maybe just the last one and forget about even TRYING to sleep.

Seriously, tho, my chair forbade me from having ANY kind of a social life or anything-other-than-thesis-life until I finish. And it is SO CLOSE to being done that I can TASTE it!

And it tastes like...

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

In which I contemplate the more serious and significant things in life

We also got our first snow the other day, which brought this question to mind, inspired, as you might imagine, by my current profession:
Who prays harder for snow days, students or teachers?
And also:
Have I officially and terminally ruined the area rug that my parents got me as part of a "new bedroom" Christmas present when I was a teenager in NY by leaving it thrown over the back fence for the last month, ever since I came home from trick-or-treating with my nieces and nephews on Halloween to find an inch of water on my bathroom floor and half the carpet in my bedroom, the half with said area rug covering it, totally submersed in water?
Discuss.

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

New Year's in California, anyone??

So two of my very best friends are getting married - not to each other :) , one day and several hundred miles apart. I'll be spending basically two straight days in the car, but I WILL be there. Wouldn't miss it!

I received the wedding invitation for one of them yesterday, and stared at the picture for a long time. And, yes, I am cheesy, but the song that was running through my head was, "Fairy tales can come true, it can happen to you" - but I wasn't thinking about me - I was thinking about the girl in the picture, my dear friend. It's been more than 2 years since she met the guy she is now engaged to, and she was impressed with him and liked him more and more as she got to know him, but he wasn't interested, for whatever reason, until just recently, even though they were SUCH good friends for so long. And when they started dating and then got engaged, it was like a miracle - she liked him for SO LONG before this FINALLY happened! And she is a FANTASTIC girl - he's a lucky guy, it just took him a while to figure it out. :)

So I just looked at the smile on her face - she looked like a little girl on Christmas morning - SO stinkin' happy! And I am happy for her, and I wonder if SHE has to pinch herself, daily :) , that this is really, finally, happening with this guy.

And the selfish side of me, which sometimes takes over :) , realizes that I'll miss her A LOT when they get married - he lives in the northwest, many hours away, and they'll live there. And I hope and trust that I will be that happy someday with the man I'll eventually marry, and I look at the smile on her face and am THRILLED for her. Fairy tales can come true, and sometimes they happen to the people who MOST deserve it.

Monday, November 20, 2006

Tuesday, October 03, 2006

Not sure I know what a "weekend" is.

So this weekend was crazy busy. I went to my parents' house to watch General Conference, and literally HALF of my backseat was FULL of work materials - 2 laptops, a big file box, a little set of file folders, a stack of baskets with junior high French homework to grade, and my school bag with books and materials to plan more lessons.

And none of it left the car all weekend.

erg

And please don't get me wrong - Conference was GREAT! Playing gospel bingo with the niece and nephews was...fun. ;) Being with the family was fantastic! But it was just busy.

And then yesterday I realized that, no, really, I'm sick. So I called in sick to a meeting at the junior high and a class observation at the university and basically sat on my couch all day. And it's too bad that life goes on, even when we are sick. I mean, I can't get a note from my mom saying, "Please excuse Mademoiselle from having to teach today. She was too sick yesterday to prepare lessons." Uh, no, it doesn't work that way. And even if I were to call in sick, I would still have to prepare the lessons for the sub.

All of which means that last night, when the drainage from my nose kept turning on and off like unto a faucet, I was up until 2am preparing for school today.

See, isn't that what weekends are supposed to be for?? Aren't they supposed to be a time to sit on your couch in your pjs and catch up on life and breathe a little and maybe do laundry, or grocery shopping or something else around the house? Well, I did that yesterday, ladies and gents, and I am glad that I did, but I am still sick, and I still need to catch up, and I'm getting tired of having every weekend s'dang FULL! I need time to breathe and absorb the fact that what I am doing IS my life, and I just don't have time for it! I think I have just gotten spoiled over the last few years of having so much of my schedule under my control, and being able to pretty much do what I wanted when I wanted. And now I have 7th graders expecting me to teach them French every other day. :)

So maybe just consider this the 2-yr-old-attitude rant of a 30-year-old woman. :) I'll get over it. :)

And now I will pack up and go to my other job.

Thursday, September 28, 2006

I GOT PAID TODAY!!!

...and really, no I mean REALLY, that is enough news for a whole dang post. It has been way, way, way too long, people.

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

Holy crow!!

...I just realized that it has been a while since I posted, and it's not that I don't have things to say ;) but that I've been crazy-busy and unfortunately, blogging has been one thing that has dropped down on the priority list. Blogging and sleeping. Oh, and eating three meals a day. <whine>And I had been doing SO WELL at eating three healthy meals a day since I got back from France! </whine> Just gotta start again.

But, see, life goes in cycles, and I am caught in one where I don't sleep enough. But only every other night. See, I teach part-time at the junior high, which in my case means that I teach every other day. So on days like today, I get to school at 7:45am-ish, already tired and stressed from staying up too late prepping for today, and not sure if the lesson plans will work. I teach three classes (two of which are combined French 1 and French 2 - oh joy oh rapture), and then after school I go back through the lesson plans for today to update them according to what I actually did and didn't do, print and file them, clean off my whiteboards and chalkboard (I have three and LOVE it!), maybe grade some papers, and then, usually, go home. I feel like I don't have to plan my next day of lesson plans today, I mean, I'm SO tired, and after all, I have all day tomorrow, right? Well, right, except for that whole "my other job" thing. So tomorrow I'll be SO tired from today that I'll sleep in tomorrow, NOT go to my other (flexible hours) job as early as I should, and end up wasting most of the day, and finding myself at 10 o'clock at night with three lessons to plan! So then I'll stay up too late to plan them, and head to school the next day, already tired and stressed, resolving to NOT WAIT UNTIL LATE THE NIGHT BEFORE I TEACH TO PLAN MY LESSONS.

And that is pretty much my life. Except that the "other job" that I mentioned has been getting started again the last two weeks after the summer off, which means that I really DO need to get there and get things done, so the whole "sleeping in every other day" thing has GOT to end.

sigh.

And I think, "Man, I need a SECOND to breathe!" And then I have a second, and instead of planning for what I need to do that day, sleeping, or eating a healthy meal, I open a book, and several hours later I have finished it and am again kicking myself for wasting time. It would feel better, I think, if the book was substantial, but short stories by L.M. Montgomery?! PLEASE!!

So the upshot of it is that I spend about half my time so panicked that I think I am not going to survive that day, and the other half of my time wondering what I am so stressed about.

And the thesis sits on my hard drive, untouched.

sigh.

But on the upside I just figured out how to save a couple hundred dollars on health insurance this year (no this is NOT a Geico commercial), and I got to see some of my nieces and nephews TWICE this weekend, and as I was leaving on Sunday my seven-year-old namesake niece said to me plaintively, with her cheek pressed against mine, "When are we going to see each other again?"

And people, it just doesn't get much cuter than that.

Wednesday, September 06, 2006

Alone is a lonely place to be

Heavenly Father answers prayers! And here is how I know:

So I'm single, and usually I can deal with that ok. :) But last night I went to the apartment of one of my dear, dear girl friends, to hear about her weekend. See, this boy that she has liked for two years flew in from out of state to spend the three-day weekend with her, and FINALLY, after two years of close, close friendship, initiated a dating relationship with her. :) :) :) So last night I got the dirt on the weekend, and rejoiced with her. Good times. :)

And then on the way home in my car I started to feel really lonely. See, for the last year I have had three main confidants, two male and one female. And within the last month or so, culminating with last night, all three of them got, shall we say, "attached." So even though I am happy for all three of these dear people - and I really am happy for them!! - it was a little hard last night to feel like one, two, three, bam, bam, bam, and I have lost all my geographically close people-you-go-to-when-you-can't-go-to-anyone-else- because-they-know-you-and-STILL-love-you. 'Cause when you're a girl, and your guy friends get attached, things have to change between you. And then this girl friend got attached, and I felt really alone. And I prayed and asked Heavenly Father for support.

And then today, just now, the friend that I talked to last night called, and told me that she was really glad to have been able to tell me about her great weekend and new boyfriend :) and that I was one of the people she had REALLY wanted to tell about it, and she expressed to me how much she values our friendship, and just basically reassured me that she wants us to continue to be really, really good friends. And even though as I write that it sounds so cliche, I trust her and I believe her and it was sincere, and I needed it and I cried. And after I hung up I realized that that was an answer to my prayer. And I cried again.

Monday, August 28, 2006

"I'm not dead yet!"

Brownie points if you know what movie that line is from, and DOUBLE brownie points to those who can tell me what animal is being struck against a wall in the background when that line is being said.

...but here is what has been going on in the last two weeks:

  • I started my first French-teaching job ever, at a junior high.
  • My sister got married on Friday.

And I think that is enough to 'splain my absence from the blogging world during that time period. :)

So now I am prepping for tomorrow's classes and gathering names of people who have offered to help me move this weekend. Good times, good times.

It's kind of crazy to have started as a "real teacher." I have been studying, talking about, reading about, and teaching about language teaching for the past, oh, six or seven years, but to be actually DOING it is a little different. I know, shocker. :) It's funny - I know and have so many different theories about how to prepare lessons for language teaching, and yet here I am, struggling to come up with what I'll do tomorrow. My mom, who also taught French, says that you "pay your dues" your first year or two, and then it gets REALLY fun after that. I don't think she means that the first year will be completely DEVOID of fun ("zero fun, sir"), but as I am designing my curriculum, and establishing my patterns and my style, this year will be a lot of work. Ready, set, GO!

Thursday, August 10, 2006

Thursday afternoon

So I got an email and then a phone call today, and, while the two were not connected to each other, the combination nevertheless sent me into tears and deep "life contemplation" mode. And I am currently trying to compose a blog post about it, but it may just end up in my journal rather than on the internet, depending on how personal it gets. (I really like DYM's lingerie analogy about how much to share on a blog.) (Especially the part where she invokes the power of Greyskull.) (But I digress.)

And at the risk of posting something that could be read as really dramatic and cause my friends to overreact and call me in a panic to make sure I am not DYING (oh no, wait, that's what I did to Josh ;) ), I have a good friend, who has been an emotional outlet and strength and a "wow it's been a while since I had a friend that close and it's really nice" to me, that I feel like I need to stop depending on so much. No, that's not quite right. It's that I feel like it needs to be that we are not so close, and that we don't get closer. I've felt that since the last part of my time in France, and it makes me sad, and it hurts a bit. And the other night I had another friend over for dinner, and while talking about HER life, and about a friend that I had several years ago, I suddenly had the thought that now comforts me about this other friend. It was one of those "you realize something is true and right AS you hear it being said...by you" moments. So here it is. Get ready, it's profound. :)
Just because you are not as close to someone now as you once were doesn't cancel out all the good that they did for you.
And it sounds so simple, and it is, but thinking about the hole that this friend will leave that will somehow need to be filled in other ways and by other people, it is very comforting to me right now. People change us, friendships change us, but sometimes we only need them for a while, and then we can hold on to the lessons that we learned through and with and because of them, and let the person go so that we, and they, can grow and move on. Not that we were holding them back, per se, but just that the time is not "now" anymore. And the value is in what we learned, and what we took, and what we gave, and how it changed us.

And now this does sound really dramatic, and no, no one died, and I am fine, but I have just been thinking a lot, and, as one of my friends in France said, "Don't reflect on things too much. Reflecting too much creates distances between people." But in this case, I think it is ok.

Wednesday, August 09, 2006

I ate a dessert called "Death By Chocolate," but it only made me stronger.

And now you too can make this cake! You can even make it four times in a two-week time period, if you want to be like me.

Death By Chocolate Cake

Ingredients:
1 cake mix for Devil's Food cake chocolate cake
1 bag of milk chocolate chips
1 box of Cook 'N Serve chocolate pudding

Directions:
1. Make the pudding as directed on the box. (This requires 3 cups of milk and about 15 minutes.)
2. Mix the hot pudding with the cake mix powder.
3. Put the mixture in a pan (after having greased the bottom of the pan).
4. Sprinkle* the milk chocolate chips all over the cake.
5. Bake according to the directions on the cake box. (For me and my 9x13 pan, that means 35ish minutes at 350.)

And don't wimp out and get semi-sweet chocolate chips or instant pudding, people. Just follow the directions.

P.S. It's really yummy.

P.P.S. I feel morally obligated to tell you that the title of this post is not original to me. So you can stop thinking that I am really clever now.

* Do NOT attempt this if you left the bag of milk chocolate chips in your car for several hours, or even one hour, in 95 degree weather. It's, uh, hard to "sprinkle" a cake with one big ol' chocolate chip. So just go buy another bag for the cake, and dispose of the first bag as you, ahem, see fit.

Thursday, August 03, 2006

The joys of today

Things that made me really happy today:

Thing #1: Lauren learned how to hyperlink!

Thing #2: The following conversation with my sister, recently returned from 11 months in China and recently (as in, 2 hours ago) reunited with her fiance who, you may have guessed, was NOT in China with her (neither of which has anything to do with the following conversation, except that since she is now in the same country as me we can have these types of conversations, or really, any conversations at all!):

Her: babble babble joy joy about the fiance being back

Me (NOT as bitter as this sounds, in fact, not really bitter at all, since I am also extremely fond of her fiance and am also very happy for both of them that they are back in the same continent, state, and town): Ok, go take your test now.

Her: Ok, can I just tell you one more thing?

Me: Sure.

Her: BOB THE BUILDER! CAN HE FIX IT? BOB THE BUILDER! YES HE CAN!

Monday, July 31, 2006

The trip home, in more ways than one

One week ago today I was picnicking and hiking in the Pyrenees, and today I am trying to convince myself that even though I have been back for five days it really is ok if I spend "one more day" in recovery mode ( i.e., reading a book) before I plunge full-speed and full-force back into my "normal" life again.

During the entire month that I was in France I thought, and told everyone, that I was coming back to the States on Wednesday the 26th of July. Because of the time change, I would leave in the morning of that day and arrive home in the evening of that same day. And since we get a half-day off from work right before we leave, I was planning on doing lots of things Tuesday afternoon - taking a MILLION pictures of friends, doing some shopping, collecting messages to bring home to a friend in the States who knows people where I was in France, etc. So Monday, which is a day off for us where I worked in France, after the morning of shopping for the picnic in the Pyrenees and before the afternoon picnic in the Pyrenees, I checked my flight plans...only to discover that I was leaving TUESDAY morning, not WEDNESDAY morning!

Mild panic ensued, but I DID go for the hike in the Pyrenees anyway, and also, with the help of my great friends, DID manage to get the major things done that I needed to so that I could make it to the train station in time for my 6am train on Tuesday.

But it was weird, you know? To think I had one more whole day, to think that I didn't have to say my good-byes yet, and then to discover that I didn't have that day and so had to say some good-byes earlier than I had thought and wouldn't even have the chance to say some of the good-byes that I wanted to say.

So I made it to Boston, but the flight from Paris had taken off so late that I missed my connecting flight. They put me on the NEXT flight out of Boston, but the computer wouldn't print the boarding pass, and even when the airline person FINALLY got a flight coupon printed out, and called the boarding gate to let them know that I DID have a valid ticket and WAS on my way, the security people wouldn't let me through without a boarding pass; the flight coupon wasn't enough. Even though they would have let me on the plane had I made it to the gate because the lady had called them to let them know I was coming, security said that I "couldn't" get on the plane without the ACTUAL boarding pass, so they sent me BACK to the desk to try AGAIN to get that printed, and while I was standing there they paged me for the flight because it was ready to take off...

erg erg

So I stayed at the Hilton. And slept in a big clean bed with a PILLOW. :) :) And took a shower WITHOUT having to wait in line, and WITHOUT my flipflops on, in a shower that was big enough to move in and in which I could control the water temperature. :) And ate salad and rolls and jumbo shrimp for dinner in the hotel restaurant and FROZE from the air conditioning. Two weeks of 100+ degree weather does weird things to your body. :) And realized that I would have rather been back in France, even with the summer heat, eating French bread and a homemade salad with my friends.

And when my body woke me up at 3 the next morning, even though I didn't have to get up until 4:30 to catch my flight, I realized that my jumbled half-awake thoughts were in French and I was glad of it, but also wondered, sadly, how long that would last, now that I was back in the States. I am glad to be back, but part of me misses the adventure, and the new friends, and the CONSTANT LEARNING that I was immersed in - of language, of culture, of geography, of politics, of human nature, of myself.

I realized with a shock, part way through my dinner in the hotel restaurant in Boston, that I had communicated effortlessly with the restaurant and hotel staff. I had forgotten how EASY it can be to speak, and listen. My French is good, don't get me wrong, but since I was TRYING so hard to improve my language skills during the month that I was in France, I listened really carefully when people spoke to me, and concentrated on the words they used and how they said what they said and how I should respond. Years ago I passed the point of having translate things in my head from English to French before I say them, but I am not to the point of being able to say, effortlessly, anything that I want to in French. There were times, during this last month in France, when I felt limited by my French, or lack thereof. A few times it was wanting to better serve the clients in the place where I worked, but mostly it was when I was wanting, so badly, to know my friends better, and to be able to share more with them of who I was, but feeling limited by my vocabulary and my inability to discuss the abstract things that make us who we are. So I had WORKED to learn and to express myself more and more clearly, and it was WORK.

And now, in this hotel in Boston, I had listened and spoken without giving it a second thought, or even a first thought, for that matter, without concentrating on catching meaning, without planning in advance how I might need to respond to a possible question. So NOW I see the difference, and NOW I want that ease - in French. That just means next summer I'll have to stay longer. :)

Sunday, July 16, 2006

So I'm not a kid anymore, they tell me.

So I'm 30, right? But I work and go to school at a university, so my peers are all college students, and younger than me, but we get along fine and have a good time and it's not a big deal. And I consider myself a "college student."

But I'm here in France, and I live in the dorms with the short-term youth volunteers, since I am a short-term volunteer myself, and all these kids that I live and work and eat and hang out with are younger than me (most are 18-23), and I'm used to that...but THEY are not. I have had a couple of the kids be REALLY surprised at my age (and then they tell me that they would have guessed that I was 21, or 25 :) ), and one of the men who lives here longterm asked me if I felt "isolated" by living up with all the kids. Uh, no, hadn't really thought of it like that. All my friends at home are the ages of the youth volunteers, so it's not a big deal to me.

But the fact that it is surprising to others that being with people so much younger than me is normal for me has caused me to reflect a LOT on who I am, and what has made me and is currently making me who I am, and why I do the things I do, and what makes us "adult." I'm with Lauren on the whole "sure that someday I'll turn into this insta-boring adult" thing, and yet the other day, because of some things that happened here, and the comments of a couple of good friends here, I thought, "have I already passed that point??" and I felt a bit panicked. And I just now remembered a comment that Josh made the week I turned 30 - I made some comment about 30 being old and boring, and he said that I wasn't but if I got that way before Friday night (the night of my big ol' party), he'd let me know. Uh, actually, please don't. I don't think I want to know.

I want to hold onto the things that make me young and that make people here think that I'm 21 or 25 :) but at the same time, it's OK if I don't want to stay up all night partying with the other kids.

Or is it? I have been thinking about WHY I do things and don't do other things - the "culture" that I am in here is SOOOOOOOoooooOOOoOo different from what I am used to!! Last night I was out with some friends, and I made a comment about not being totally comfortable where we were, and one friend said that it's just that it's different from what I'm used to. Um, yes, that is true, but is that the only reason I wasn't comfortable? And do I WANT to be comfortable in circumstances that are SO different from what I would CHOOSE for my life? I know that often FEAR keeps us from doing new things (back to that whole "getting out of the comfort zone" thing), but when is it "fear of things that I am not used to" and when is it "a good decision that I have chosen to make in my life"?

It's a pretty interesting train of thought for me, and I hope that I am different when I get back and that it's a good "I understand myself better and am more comfortable in my own skin than I was before I came here" type of different. And I hope that I remember (and record!) all these trains of thought so that I can continue to reflect on this and grow rather than just reverting back to the comfort zone that I left three weeks ago.

Saturday, July 08, 2006

Weekend, blessed weekend. And also, dirt.

So I am tired. And I am sick to my stomach and have been all day long. Yuck. And I have not touched my thesis in 4 or 5 days, and I am supposed to be working on it regularly. erg

BUT!! I have clean clothes drying on the line, and we are done with work for the day, and for the week, and tomorrow is Sunday and I get to go to church, and the next day is Monday and we don't work. :) :) :) :)

It's really interesting to me the things that we can force our bodies and minds to do. For example: As I mentioned, I am sick. I feel like I have spent about half the day running back and forth to the bathroom. (Don't worry, that's all the detail you are going to get. :) ) But I also worked la caisse, the cash register, from 10am to 6pm (with a break from 12 to 1:45), which means that I was on my feet that whole time, moving, interacting with customers, carrying things, taking money and trying REALLY hard to understand if people said anything to me besides "here's my money" - almost non-stop. But I did it. :) I didn't die. :) But any time there was a pause in the stream of customers and I slowly and stiffly sat down for a second, I thought, "OH. MY. GOSH. I can't believe I feel this gross" and I would decide if I should run to the bathroom right then or if I could wait. But then the next customer would approach, and I would be on my feet again, ready to go.

And yet, even after doing that all day long, and finding that I had the strength to go on (that sounds SO dramatic!! good grief - it was just the cash register at a thrift store!), I have pretty much NO desire to do anything remotely active tonight. All I want to do is read my book and sleep. And not be sick. But all day I was able to manage. Huh.

Plus, let's talk about dirt for a second. I, uh, am a little bit of a fanatic when it comes being clean, and especially about washing my hands, especially after, say, using the bathroom. (Yes, I have a sister who is a doctor, and that might have something to do with it, but I prefer to think that if what it takes to get into heaven is clean hands and a pure heart I just like to be half-way there pretty much all the time.) Here, tho, they don't have the sink, or the soap (when there is any), in the same room as the toilet itself, and in the case of where I work, the sink with the soap is totally across the parking lot from the toilet. And you walk past the window to the boss' office to get from one to the other. So with all those times that I went back and forth today, I was really afraid that the boss was going to come out and ask me to explain to him, in French, of course!, exactly WHY I had to wash my hands 9 million times today. And really, I don't think he would want the details any more than you do.

Ok, but it's not just that! I am dirty - pretty much all the time. I lift boxes of books, handle money, carry piles of used clothing all day. And those are the CLEAN days, when I am not destroying furniture! And it's humid here, so I pretty much feel moist and dirty and smelly all the time. It's, uh, great. And you who know me even a little in real life know that I am the girl who always folds her towel the same way so she won't get dust on the side where she dries her face. (Go ahead and laugh. I'll still be here when you get back.) So, uh, it's an adjustment.

BUT - interestingly enough, not as much of an adjustment as I had thought. (See also: the things we can force ourselves to do.) So I am dirty. And there have been days when I have not washed my face at all, where I have slept in my clothes and then woken up the next morning, put on more deoderant, and gone on with my day, in those same clothes. I will NOT, however, CHOOSE to do that when I get home. I just don't allow myself to think about it, and somehow, it is okay, filthy-hand-towels-in-the-office and no-more-hand-soap-in-the-dorm-bathrooms notwithstanding.

Ok, now I'm shuddering with grossiosity. Enuf. I'm gonna go drag my sorry sick dirty self to dinner, and then, as soon as possible, bed.

Blog out.

Tuesday, July 04, 2006

The "things" that define us

So here's the thing I realized yesterday, and today - I miss being around people that I TRUST, people who really KNOW me and who I trust. It is fun to get to know all these people, and it is an interesting study in human nature :) , but I miss the security of people that I trust.

But I also think that it is not bad to get out of my comfort zone. And let me tell you, lots of stuff here IS. The work is not that big of a deal anymore, and the French is getting better and better, but it is the whole "friends" thing that is throwing me for a loop a bit. It is interesting to try to figure out how to trust people and who to trust. I am a fairly trusting person, and I want to believe the best of everyone, but it is a bit weird when people do things that are EXACTLY against the rules of the community that is feeding them and putting a roof over their heads. I don't get it!

So there are things that are helping me get to know myself better, but also things where I think, "This is NOT me! How did I get into this, and how can I get out of it?!" It's kinda weird.

I feel very disconnected from everything that is familiar to me, and that is kind of scary. I guess I need to figure out who I am when the "things" I am used to - good friends, family, clean clothes ;) - are NOT around. I guess I never thought I would say that - we don't typically think of friends and family as "things," and I would like to think that I am secure enough in my self-image and all that to be okay, but I DO always say that relationships with people are very important to me. Too important, perhaps? I mean, REALLY, how much do we define ourselves by what we are around?

And here's the other thing. This is a very transcient society. We get new youth volunteers almost every day, and some go home every now and then. I have only been here for ONE WEEK, and already the group is REALLY different. And so we adapt. We move our clothes of the spare bed, and make room. And some of us become friends, and some of us don't. And life goes on, and you're only "the new one" for a day at most, and often only a few minutes.

I'm not sure what my conclusion is to all of this. I need to be MORE secure in who I am, that I think I have learned. And I have a CHOICE as to who I become. And THAT is AWESOME.

Saturday, July 01, 2006

I sort the soda cans.

And let me tell you, it can get pretty gross. There was a rotten, fuzz-covered cigarette butt on one of them. Or maybe it was a cocoon or web of some insect. But really, either way - YUCK! :)

So I am in France! Woohoo!! :) I am working and living at a place where people can donate their old stuff, and we sort it and get it ready to sell. And if it is not sellable (is that a word? I don't speak English OR French very well right now, apparently), then we get rid of it. And that is where I come in. :)

We get to choose which part of the company we work in, and for the last three days, I have been working in the metal shop. It's fun - we destroy stuff! No, really. They bring us stuff that can't be sold, for whatever reason, and we dismantle it, putting the wood parts in the (HUGE) fire pit, where a fire is burning all day long, separating out different kinds of metals for recycling, and throwing out the rest. So today I tore apart a futon-couch thing, a knick-knack shelf thing from the 70's, and a baby stroller, among other things. And the other day, I sorted soda cans. See, you probably didn't know this, but some are made of different metals from others. So I went through two bags of cans, testing them with a magnet so I would know which ones to throw into which recycling pile. Good times. :)

And there are people here from all over the world. Yesterday we had a bunch of new volunteers arrive - a guy from North Ireland (HP fans? it's Oliver Wood's accent - oh my gosh, I LOVE it! and I have to be careful to pay attention to WHAT he says, not just HOW he says it ;) ), 4 girls from Poland, and 5 girls from Korea. And in the metal shop I work with a Frenchman, a Romanian, and a Swede.

And a 19-year-old Frenchman is in love with me. :) He's a little cutie, and his flirting really makes me laugh. He kept coming back to the metal shop, just to say hi and tease me about being a beautiful American, and the Romanian said to me, in front of the French guy, "He only comes here because you are here. Before you were here, he never came here." And the French guy totally took it and agreed that I was why he was coming there, and he made a funny little comment about how he and I should be together, because, he said, "American women are beautiful, and French men are handsome." And I laughed and teased him right back, and after he left I translated the conversation for my Swedish friend who was there working, since his French isn't good enough for him to follow conversations. And he said, "It's not true that ALL American women are beautiful," and I said, "Not ALL Frenchmen are good-looking, either," and he said, "No, you have to go to Sweden for that."

And I about fell over laughing. It was A.W.S.O.M.E. And he said it with such a straight face! Way to go, Fredrick!

Anyway, so things are good. And fun. And good for my beautiful American ego. ;) And I am making lots of friends, and having some deep conversations, and some conversations about French grammar and some about English grammar, and I am also doing some deep thinking, some of which I just may share with you, after I get it all settled in my head and heart.

But now, I am going to go take pictures of some real, live French people watching their team play in the World Cup. Allez les bleus!

Sunday, June 25, 2006

Sneaking around

Ok, so I am leaving for France on Monday at 1pm, and it's Saturday at midnight, and I have had a busy day. Even though I have only been up for 12 hours. Whatever.

I made a HUGE list this morning of all the things I needed / wanted to do before leaving for France, and I really have gotten most of them done. That is a good feeling. Of course, that one task, you know, the one that reads a little something like this:

  1. Send complete draft of thesis to committee
Yeah, that one - it's not done. And, let's be honest, I AM disappointed about that. That means that I will REALLY be teaching myself this next month in France that I CAN work all day long and then in the evenings, too. And while that will be good preparation for this next year of teaching at two different institutions, I was really hoping to NOT have to work quite so hard in France. But alas.

OK, but let's look on the bright side - I did get TONS done today.

And now that we've got that out of the way, let's look on the not-so-bright side. Meaning the "sometimes I am not so bright" side.

So I have this GREAT aunt and uncle and big ol' family of cousins who live in town and who don't mind if I do laundry at their house and who don't mind if I know where the spare key is. :) And yesterday my aunt and cousins were talking about my cousins spending time at their grandparents' house over the next two days while both parents are out of town (my aunt left this morning and my uncle gets back tomorrow night), so when I realized tonight that I needed to do one more load of laundry before the France trip I thought

nice, good, kind generous family that loves me + no one home right now + spare key = available washer and dryer = HOORAY!!
So I went on over. And then on the way over I thought, "Wait, why would my cousins be sleeping at their grandparents' house? They are old enough to be home without their parents."

So imagine me, at 11ish at night, desperate to do laundry, pulling into the driveway of a totally dark house where I think, but I am not sure, that there are four kids sleeping. And imagine me sneaking around in the garage, using the little tiny flashlight on my keychain to search for the spare key, and imagine me HOPING that I don't wake them up as it takes me THREE TRIES to get the door unlocked. And imagine me sneaking around this dark house, NOT turning on any lights so that I won't wake them up. I know this house pretty well, so not turning on lights was not that big of a deal, I mean, I know where the furniture and the stairs and the laundry room are, right? Well, ok, except that I forgot that they rearranged some furniture (read: stuck it all in the laundry room) because they were getting the carpet cleaned. So I got safely to the laundry room, and then turned on the light - and then realized that yes, I WAS going to have to climb over all that stuff, carrying my laundry basket. But, hey, I'd made it this far, and I needed to get the laundry done.

So imagine me shleping my laundry over and around all the furniture that would fit in the laundry room, starting the load washing, shleping myself back over and around all that furniture, sneaking back through the dark house, sneaking back through the garage by the light of my tiny flashlight to put the spare key back, and sneaking back to my car.

OK, now imagine me doing all that sneaking with the back of me, from my waist to the top of my calves, TOTALLY SOAKING WET.

'Cause those automatic sprinklers in the front lawn? Yeah, they move.

And I feel like there is what my boss would call "one of life's little lessons" in all of this. And for those of you who missed it, here it is:
All you people who sneak into your relatives' houses in the middle of the night to do laundry, or really for ANY reason, and you notice the sprinklers on in the front yard, BE WARNED. Just because they weren't close enough to get you wet when you opened the car door to get out doesn't mean that they won't, 10 seconds later, be close enough to SOAK YOU TO THE SKIN as you get your laundry, or anything else, out of the back seat.
So there you have it. I finished out the night feeling like a genius. A not-so-bright, not-so-dry, genius. I wonder how you say that in French? I think I'll just head on over there and find out...

Wednesday, June 21, 2006

One Arabic speaker, please!

Ok, so I just reread Lisa's email, in the process of responding to it, and she made a comment about how the Lord really looks out for us.

Case in point:

I have, as I'm sure you can imagine, LOTS to do before I leave for France on Monday. So I have put in more hours at work this week than in previous weeks (which is good for the bank account but not for the thesis), finishing up some projects for my boss, who is also in France, but whom I will not see while I am in France. One of these projects involved aligning Arabic and English subtitles for a movie. I, uh, don't speak Arabic, so this has been, shall we say, fun?, for me to do. :) Today, as the penultimate step to this being DONE, I needed an Arabic speaker to proofread a couple of subtitles for me. I went to an office where there are usually a couple of Arabic speakers - both gone. I went to another building, where there are offices for more Arabic speakers. All gone.

So I walked up and down a few hallways, hoping to find someone who spoke Arabic. No dice. And it was during this process that I thought, "Heavenly Father, please help me to find an Arabic speaker." I just felt like this has been such a PROCESS, and I really wanted to be done with it today so that I could move on to other things tomorrow, and all I needed was ONE PERSON who spoke Arabic. I mean, c'mon, is that too much to ask? :)

Anyway, this is becoming a much longer story than it was in real life, because in real life it was really simple, and subtle. I couldn't find an Arabic speaker, and was leaving the building, and then! There, waiting for the elevator, was this guy named Steve (not Steve, unfortunately, or fortunately, I guess, since he speaks Spanish but not, I think, Arabic), who used to work in an office that we've done work with, and who also used to be the roommate of a friend of mine, and I said, "YOU speak Arabic!" and he said, "no," and I turned to walk away, and he said, "...I am studying Arabic." And I was like, "None of that false modesty with me, dude, I need your skillz!" and I got in the elevator with him and he checked what I needed checked in the Arabic text on the way up the elevator and down the hall. And he DID find an error that needed fixing, and I got it fixed, and voilĂ ! Prayer answered, problem solved!

(Note how I slipped that French word right in there. This is how Reese Witherspoon got into Harvard Law, and this is how I got a job teaching French. Take note, people.)

And as I was leaving the building, after Steve proofread the Arabic for me, I felt a gentle nudging reminder that Heavenly Father had just answered my quick, simple, seemingly unimportant prayer. I asked for an Arabic speaker and I found one. It really was that easy. And even though I have kind of made light of it here a little bit, it was a neat moment for me when I recognized that answer to prayer. It made me feel like He is just waiting for us to include Him in our lives, decisions, and tasks, waiting for us to ask so that He can pour out help for us. I mean, really, that was so easy! I think that we are the limiting factor when it comes to how much He is a part of our lives. It made me think. And it also made me say "thank you," which is another thing that I think I neglect in my life.

Tuesday, June 20, 2006

Why I think blogs are fun

My dear friend Lisa just sent me an email, telling me that she had recently updated herself on my life by reading my blog, and added, on the end of her email, "Enjoy your week and remember to eat more than sweet rolls and otter pops."

:) I LOVE it!!

I mean, I would never think to tell anyone that all I was eating was sweet rolls and otter pops, but...now you all know! And see? Isn't that fun?!

Ok, maybe it's just me, but, uh, I thought that was a really fun comment. And this blog is, after all, all about me. So there.

Thanks, Lisa! Love you, too! :)

Saturday, June 17, 2006

World of Warcraft and the Princess Bride

So the other day a friend of mine told me that his roommate, another friend of mine, has been staying up really late to play a certain video game. So the next time I talked to this friend, I teased him about staying up late to play, and he got a little bugged. Apparently lots of people had been teasing him lately about that, and he'd about had enough.

And during our conversation he said, "When people bug me about it it just makes me want to do it more," and that reminded me of the show "The Fantasticks," and the song in there about "We did it 'cause they said no." Or something teenagey-rebelious like that.

And it made me think about how often we do things that we KNOW are not in our own best interest and that we KNOW won't make us happier, or healthier. Take me, for example: 'K so I added this thing on my sidebar about what books I am reading and have just finished reading, and you'll notice that The Princess Bride is on the "just finished this" list. Great book! But the point is that even if I had had the "currently reading" list up before today, The Princess Bride would never have been on that list. Here's what happened...

I put the movie of The Princess Bride in on Thursday night because I needed to format my appendixes, and that is not an activity that requires actual brain power, so I thought putting in a movie would keep me sitting in one place to do it, and if I put in a movie that I have seen literally 9 million times and can quote large sections of then I wouldn't actually have to watch it, and so I would get lots of appendix-formatting done.

This worked reasonably well.

But then I felt the need, after watching this great movie, to, yes, you guessed it, read the book. That night. Until I literally passed out at 2am. And then finished reading it in about 15 minutes after my shower on Friday. (And no, I am NOT going to tell you what time that was on Friday. I would like to maintain some semblance of self-respect.)

But the point is that earlier this week I was so stressed out I thought I was not going to survive. And I still have all those things to do, so I fight hard to keep myself from completely freaking out from stress...and then I stay up REALLY late and sleep in REALLY late so that I can read the book of the movie that I just watched, and which I was only watching as an aid to getting some work done.

Genius.

And I know that if I read my scriptures first thing in the morning then I will feel better and have a more productive day, and yet I don't always do that. And I have been told that eating sugar weakens your immune system and since I am sick that is currently the equivalent of "kicking my immune system while it's down" and yet I am going to have one of Jenn's homemade cinnamon rolls for lunch. And I know that getting exercise will help me to deal with my stress better than will reading Calvin and Hobbes and eating Otterpops. And yet...

It's funny, because sometimes when I am around a child who is whining to try to get what he or she wants, I think, "Someday that child will grow up and realize that that is not the way to get what he or she wants. The way to get that would be to ask nicely and calmly" or whatever. But you know what? it applies to me to. Someday I will grow up and realize that if I really do want to feel physically good every day then I will go to bed early, and eat three healthy meals, and exercise...yada yada yada, I know, I know, I know.

So I have resolved to try harder to do what I know I should do, not "should do" in the sense of obligation, necessarily, but to do what I know will help me feel healthy and be happy and feel good about myself. We'll see how it goes. I think it's called "self-discipline."

Wednesday, June 14, 2006

OK, so after all that...

...touring of my school and yay-i'm-a-real-French-teacher and this-is-for-real stuff, nothing makes you feel QUITE so much like a college student as eating mac 'n' cheese out of a tupperware container while walking across campus after spending all afternoon in the library and knowing you're going BACK to the thesis for a couple more hours after this class.

After this class and this healthy, well-balanced dinner, I mean.

Uh, this is for real, people

So this morning I went back to my school and met with the principal again. Funny that it was a week ago yesterday that I went there for my interview, and today I went as an employee. WAH-HA-HA!!

And found out that since school starts 23 August and my sister's wedding is 25 August, and that is only the third day of school, I will have to write a letter to the superintendent in order to miss school to go to her wedding.

Great.

The crazy part is that I only teach every other day, and so I have all day THURSDAY off, but Friday, the day of the wedding, I teach all day. Hmph.

But I saw my classroom! And the media center! And the faculty workroom! And I got the phone number of the French teacher who just left, whose spot I am taking, and I thought of all these things I want to ask her. And I want to ask everyone that I know who has EVER taught in the public schools about classroom set up, and decorations, and classroom management, and the first day of class, and what to have a sub do with my students on the third day of school, and on and on and on...and then I thought, "You know, Margaret, you can do all the research and interviewing and opinion-gathering and analysis you want, but when it comes down to it, YOU will be the one in the classroom and YOU will be the one who will have to make it all work."

And that's a big deal! It's a big deal in a good, yippee-I'm-a-real-French-teacher way, and it's a big deal in a scary, but-no-really-what-if-I-totally-flop way. I have done so much studying about, and talking about, and teaching about, and observing of language teaching for the last, oh, 7 years, that it will be really interesting to get into a classroom myself and, uh, see how it all turns out. I have lots of ideas of how I want to do things, and I know I'll change things every time I teach, and I know I'll survive :) , but this is going to be different from anything I've ever done before. And really, I'm excited!

And let's keep it that way for just a leeetle longer, please. And mayhap this feeling of excitement will carry me through after the total panic sets in.

Tuesday, June 13, 2006

Stress

So I mailed off the package today to get my passport renewed by a company that says they'll do it in 72 hours. Phew! Then I called my mom and asked her to pray for my passport. She told me that I don't need to worry - these companies do this all the time and they will get my passport to me on time. :) Ok, as my dad would say, "find something else to stress about."

Oh, except that it's "find something else to feel guilty about" that my dad says. Whatever. :)

But there is still the question of when will I defend my thesis around my trip to France and my new job starting and one of my committee members potentially being possibly TOO detail oriented, and how will I afford / fit it into my schedule to go to LA with Ron and Chad and Josh to go to Disneyland for my first time EVER and to see Wicked and how will I live with myself if I don't go with them and how will I live with myself if I do??

And I complained and unloaded all my stresses to Josh, and he said, "What can you do today?" Nothing like a little realism to take all the air out of an i'm-feeling-too-stressed-to-breathe moment. :)

Focus on what I can do about it TODAY. Then tomorrow, think about tomorrow.

Breathe in, breathe out.

I can do that.

Monday, June 12, 2006

I may be an IDIOT, but at least I am employed

Yeah, so the last few days have been very eventful in my life. Some good things, some...perhaps blessings in disguise? :)

So while I was out of town helping my sis and her family move, I got some help from a FANTASTIC cousin of mine to get some electronic job application stuff turned in to a few school districts. It became apparent that her help would be necessary after I had the following conversation with a woman at the education placement office at the university:

Me: So I just wanted to make sure that the letter of recommendation that I turned in last week got posted to my file.

Her: Yes, it has been posted.

Me: Great! Well, I'd like to have my placement file sent to these two districts.

Her: You need to make that request online.

Me: I'm out of town, helping my sister and her family move, and we packed up the computer so we don't have an internet connection, and I can't really leave in the middle of packing and clearing to drive around town looking for an internet connection. Can I please make the request through you?

Her: Uh, no. You have to make the request online.

Me: Thanks for your help.

So then I called this cousin, who not only has an internet connection in her home, but whose husband is currently applying for teaching jobs, and who herself was a teacher for a year, so she is VERY familiar with the workings of this particular office AND with the teaching job application process.

And she rescued me. She got the rest of the info that I needed, and got it all sent off, and called the next day to verify that all the information had arrived where it was supposed to, and I was, and am, VERY grateful for her help.

And that was maybe Monday or Tuesday, two weeks ago. So I arrived back at my home on Saturday, June 3, and checked my email for the first time in more than a week, AND! from WEDNESDAY there was an email from one of the school districts, saying that they wanted to interview me for the position!! And it had been sitting in my inbox for THREE DAYS and I had not known it and so had not called back to schedule it and say how interested I was in the position! So I went into Modified Stationary Panic, which, for those of you who are NOT McManus readers, means that I ran like a mad woman IN PLACE instead of careening into walls in my panicked run, and then decided that I couldn't do anything about it except call the school first thing Monday morning, apologize, explain, and hope they still wanted to interview me.

So I did, and they did. So we set up an interview for Tuesday morning, and then I called my good friend Heather, who was not available at the time, and then another good friend, who is teaching French in Texas, and grilled her for more than an hour about what to expect in this interview. (It was for a part time French teaching position at a junior high. I guess I never said that.) And I am SO glad I did! The interview went well, and the principal said he'd be making a decision in the next week and a half, and that there might be a second round of interviews. So I prepared myself to wait.

But I also prepared myself to check up on the other teaching jobs I had applied for, not wanting, as they say, to put all my eggs in one basket. So in the next few days I found out that the other teaching jobs that I had applied for had all been filled. eek. And I FINALLY found a website with links to ALL the school districts in the state, and went to ALL of them, and found only ONE other position teaching French, but they wanted English, too, and I'm not certified to teach English. eek.

So if I didn't get this job...I would have to literally dig up more work at the university (I was planning to do part time at a school and part time at the university anyway - that's what I really WANTED to do, but finding MORE work would involve me "selling" myself to another department), or keep checking for French jobs in these other districts NOT close to where I live and HOPE and PRAY that something came up. And then I got a call from a professor whose department at the university was considering hiring me (that was my main back up if I didn't get a teaching job), and he said it didn't look like they were going to hire me. So...eek.

And then! Friday I got a call from the principal, and he offered me the job!!

YAYAYAYAYAY!

And I was SO relieved - I will have an income this next year! That sounds dumb, maybe, but it was a real worry. (Actually, it doesn't sound dumb. Not having an income is a real worry.) AND since it is a part time position I will get to keep doing work at the university that I LOVE, so I am REALLY happy about it! :) :)

So here comes the "I am an idiot" part of the title of today's post.

I'm going to France in two weeks. That is not what makes me an idiot. :)

I have been planning this trip for about a year, but didn't know, because of the thesis, etc., EXACTLY when I would go. So with the progress that I have made and my chair's trip to Europe, I have recently settled on the dates of my trip. And starting looking for plane tickets. Well, folks, it's peak tourist season in France, and tickets are QUITE a bit more expensive than I was hoping for. But after checking around for a couple of days and getting a sense of the price range, I called the university travel office, and had them look. They can sometimes get better deals, and it's WAY easier for them to check things like the day before and the day after to look for cheaper deals than it is for me.

So after 40 minutes on the phone, we found my tickets. This was last Friday. And we put them on hold until Monday, today, just so I could have a couple of days to digest that I was spending this much money and to make sure it felt ok.

And it did, so I called and purchased the tickets this morning. :) :) I am actually-factually going to France two weeks from today.

And then - I realized that my passport expired in May.

Oh no, I am not kidding. I only wish I was.

So I Googled "passport renewals fast" and found a plethora of companies that will GUARANTEE that you will have your passport before your travel date, and tomorrow I will get all that taken care of, but GOOD GRIEF! It's not like I haven't known for A YEAR that I was going to France this summer. It's not like I really have money to just THROW AROUND on this. I mean, I had a big chunk from a job last summer that I had set aside for this, but I didn't want to use all of it on MY STUPIDITY!!

So that's been my last week or so. Oh, plus the mild panic that I had this morning when I called the district to schedule my contract signing and found out that the next one is the afternoon of the Friday before the Monday that I go to France, and I thought I had to have that done before I could get my keys to my school and take the tour and find out what textbook I'll be using and what other materials are already in the school for French. See, I want this trip to France to be really productive as far as gathering materials to use in my classroom, and so I wanted to know what the school already has and thought that I couldn't do that until AFTER I signed the contract. But the university travel agent guy said that to push my flight back to Tuesday would raise the price $500, so I called the principal and explained, and he said we don't have to wait until after the contract signing to do all that stuff, so I'll be going in on Wednesday. Phew! :)

So I'll be getting a new passport, which will cost me a pretty penny, but I AM going to France, and I DO have a job, and I WILL graduate, and from where I sit, even after all this hoopla, life is looking pretty good! :)

Saturday, June 03, 2006

Back to life, back to reality

So I just got back to my little town (and to the internet :) ) after being gone for a week and a half to help my sister and her husband and their four kids move. It was a good week, for a lot of reasons. It's always good to spend time with the fam, ya know :) , and I am THRILLED that they are now only 40 minutes away from me, and I am glad that my life schedule is flexible enough that I could go and help.

And, I won't lie, it was good to be away from the thesis for a bit. Maybe that was my 7th-inning stretch (or is it 5th-inning stretch? whatever) so that I can make the final effort to get this thing done. Tuesday night, the night that my sister and bro-in-law's friends were going to show up at 6 to load the moving van, my 7-yr-old niece and I were sitting out on the front porch a little after 5, and after a couple of days of crazy-paced packing and cleaning, it was a little...odd?...to be sitting so quietly. So I explained to her the phrase "the calm before the storm," saying that things were going to get REALLY crazy at the house starting at 6, and so it was nice to have these few minutes of quiet before all the craziness started, but that we knew that it was not a calm that was going to last. And, being 7 :) , she asked me a bunch of questions about weather, and WHY it's calm before the storm, and I realized that with an intelligent, inquisitive child, I should really think before I speak. :)

So I kind of feel, about this last week and a half, the way I felt about that few minutes before the moving crew arrived. The calm won't last. I have TONS to do. My chair leaves for Europe this week, and I have lots of editing to do before he leaves. And we need to figure out paperwork, and scheduling, and committee members availability, etc., so that I can really be DONE with this thesis thing before school starts in the fall. Because this fall, people, I'm giving up the status of "university student," at least for a while. And it's going to be GREAT!! :) :)

Thursday, May 25, 2006

Inspiration

You people inspire me. You internets, you who really do share your really personal struggles and trials and thoughts. I want to be more like you.

(And I was going to link to your posts, you people who inspire me to be more open, and then I decided not to, because then I would feel like " hey, I'm NOT totally personal with the whole internet world, but these people, in these posts, ARE! So while I remain safe and protected in my little self-protective cocoon, come check out their tender, personal, vulnerable moments!," and, uh, I didn't want to do that. But in a "thank you for inspiring me" kind of way, I want to say, you know who you are. coughcoughlaurencoughcoughnantiemegcoughcough)


I've been working to overcome fear, and part of that is fear of who I really am, or am not. I know that I am not perfect, but while it is easy to say that, it is a LOT harder to look at the specific things about me that aren't perfect. I want to fix them, and yet I have to see them, really SEE them, in order to do so. And that is sometimes painful.

Today, for example, I got mad at one of my dear friends and co-workers. Really mad. Like I wanted to ... well, we'll just leave that unsaid. ;)

But it really bothered me that I was so annoyed. What is it about me, and about him, and about the way that we communicate, that makes me SO MAD sometimes? 'Cause the thing is (Alysha - be proud) - I know it isn't just his fault. I know it's at least partially me. So I need to get down inside myself and figure out what it is that gets all bugged by him, and then change it, or forgive myself, or him, or whatever, and make it so that he doesn't avoid me out of fear that I'll freak out whenever he expresses his opinion.

ooh, dang self-analysis.

Wednesday, May 24, 2006

Sometimes answers to prayers...

...come in the shape of a busted laptop.

My future brother-in-law's busted laptop, that is. See, here's the story.

I have this laptop. Well, it isn't mine, it belongs to the university, but as the manager of the lab where I work I have been the primary user of this machine for the past 5.5 years. And since I have been using it for the past 5.5 years, and since I am graduating :) :) :) and being replaced as manager of the lab, the laptop is being retired at the end of the summer and replaced with a new one. (Why we couldn't get a new laptop while I was still working, so I could enjoy it, after suffering with this one, is the topic for another post. Which I may never write, but nonetheless, a topic for another post... ;) )

So when the power cord started shorting out, I knew there was no way that we were going to spend the money to get a new one, not for a 6-year-old machine that is being retired in 2 months. So I limped along with it. (I had to fiddle with the cord until it connected and then prop it there so it wouldn't move, 'cause if it did - no power. And, uh, the battery, being the second or third one we have purchased for this machine over the years, lasts about 15 minutes, and see above where I said we're not putting any more money into this machine.) So this worked for about a week, and then two days ago - no dice. Couldn't get the power cord to give the machine any juice at all. LAME. Especially since I am leaving tomorrow night to take an 18-hour train ride to CA to help my sis and her family move. I was counting on being able to WORK on that train ride, but, no power cord + no battery juice = no work = LAME. And = STRESS. I have TONS to do, and was counting on those 18 hours.

So for the last two days I have been calling every office on campus that I could think of, trying to find out if ANYONE had a laptop like this so that I could borrow the cord, either just for this trip to CA or for the rest of the summer.

No dice.

So then I went on ebay and found a few possibilities, but still - what about this trip this week? None of the options on ebay would have been available WHEN I needed it, which was NOW.

So last night I considered sending out a mass email to everyone I know, saying, "Does anyone have, or know of someone who has, this particular laptop so that I could use the power cord?" I mean, please, people, surely in all this wide wide world of my college town there is SOMEONE with a power cord that I could use.

And sure enough, my sister's fiance. And even WITHOUT sending out that mass email. Behold the gChat of today:

Chris: hey, I got this rad shirt from China
me: from amy?
Chris: It says "United horses: we should get acquainted"
yes.
me: whoa.
that's, uh, awesome?
Chris: yeah.
it's in this gothic medieval english font, too, which makes it even more bizarre.
me: a.w.e.s.o.m.e.
Chris: y.e.s.
(Edited to add: Check out my "whoa" pun about the horse shirt that I didn't notice until after I copied that conversation here and posted it. I am soooo funny!)

Oh wait, wrong piece. :) Here it is, with slight edits (yes, I am OCD and have to mention when I edit things):

me: really?!
are you not using your laptop at all?
Chris: yeah. no, it's pretty much dead.
me: is it a latitude c600?
me: is the plug square?
are you in your office?
is it with you?
Chris: yeah, I think it's square.
it's upstairs
me: can I come right now and check it out?
Chris: yeah.
fo' shizzle.


And so, ladies and gentlemen, a happy ending. :) And on a serious note, it really is amazing to me how Heavenly Father sometimes gives us things, little eensy-weensy things, like a power cord from an unexpected source, just to remind us that, no, really, HE is in charge.

I love that.

Friday, May 19, 2006

I think I am in shock.

Please note the date of this post.

Please note the date of my previous post.

Please note that I have just sent chapter five to my chair.

Please note that while I recognize that there is still a whole section of chapter five, all the time and money discussion, that still needs data to back it up, I need some serious guidance from my chair to know what to include there because of some special circumstances, so I felt like I could send it on to him without that section complete.

Please note that I am now writing the fifth of five one-sentence paragraphs and that I am only doing that because while one-sentence paragraphs are fine in blogs, they are not fine in theses.

Nor are sentence fragments.

Please note that this is not my thesis.

I think I'll go have a party.

Thursday, May 18, 2006

Can I get a "woot woot" ... please...?

I just sent off chapter four to my chair. That's chapter four out of five. That sounds SOoOOooOOO close to being done. But as I spent more time today than I think it should have taken to check up on a few APA formatting things, I got nervous for all the work it will take to get the whole dang thing into perfect APA format. So far I have been so focused on getting the content written that I didn't spend too much time checking formatting things.

So there is a light at the end of the tunnel, but is it a bonfire fueled with copies of the APA manual? I can only hope...

Wednesday, May 17, 2006

Thesis update ('cause that's all that's goin' on these days)

So having successfully recovered from the blind date stand-up fiasco (wow, that makes it sound WAY more dramatic than it actually was! Hey look, traumatic events DO happen in my life!...wait, what?!), I was having dinner at my parents' house on Sunday, my mom having arrived home on Saturday from the visit to my new niece!!, and my phone rang.

And oh yes, it was Blind Date Boy. I will spare you the play-by-play, but basically, he lost the piece of paper with my number and address, and so couldn't call me and tell me he didn't know where I was. And he got a new job and is moving an hour FURTHER away from my town this week. So we probably won't ever go out. Whatever. Or, as Lauren put it:

Lauren: "I lost your number. AND I'm moving away."
rock.

Yeah, pretty much. To which my response was:

me: if only he'd ever MET me, THEN I could take it personally. :)

Moving on...

The thesis is going REALLY well! Thanks to a pep talk / counseling session from Jeremy last night, I broke through the chapter 4 "wall" that I've been beating on for the last four days or so. Yippee!! I still need to fix a few things, and write an intro to the chapter, but...SOO close to being done with it! And then I just have to write the rest of chapter 5, and do revisions of all the chapters, and defend, and do revisions, and publish, and then I'm DONE! :) And yes, that does seem like a lot of work still, and it IS a lot of work still, but I can't even DESCRIBE how good it feels to be even this close!

I have realized recently that the good feeling is NOT that I am working on my thesis. The good feeling is PROGRESSION. The purpose of my life is NOT to finish this dang thesis, THAT is not why I feel so much better when I work on it. The purpose of life is to PROGRESS. And I have NOT been doing so the last I-refuse-to-admit-how-many months - I was allowing my thesis-writing, or lack thereof, to be exact, to hold me back, to "damn," or "dam," my forward progress. But, as with ch 4 last night, I have broken through that "wall" and can now move forward. And right now, moving forward means getting the thesis done. Here I go!

Saturday, May 13, 2006

In which I get stood up

So I think I am getting stood up by my blind date. Right now. As we speak. Er, as I type. And it's an interesting feeling. Yes, I've been looking forward to this since the guy called me a week and a half ago. (I mean, I teased him about his school and he teased me right back about mine, what's not to look forward to?! :) ) Yes, I planned - and refrained from planning - other things in my day around this. Yes, I dressed cute. Yes, I curled my hair. (I know, we're talking MAJOR sacrifices here, people. ;) )

But ya know - whatever. I was ten minutes late getting home - maybe he gave up on me and thought I stood him up. Maybe he got lost - my house is like the Isla de muerta - impossible to find unless you have been here before. Maybe he decided that anyone who would talk trash on the phone about the rivalry between our universities was not worth taking out. Maybe he decided he couldn't take out someone from my school. :) Whatever. It's ok. So even tho I was nervous and feeling stupid, I decided to act like a normal person would act if a friend didn't show up. I called him 30 minutes after he was supposed to be here, he didn't answer, I left a message.

"Hey, this is Margaret, we had talked about doing something tonight, but I got home ten minutes late and was relieved that I hadn't missed you, but am now afraid that I did...call me if you have a minute."

And yes, I feel a little stupid. But I look good, and I'll go find some fun, and if he calls and has a legit excuse, then we'll see what goes down.

End of Margaret's therapy session. :)

And blog out.

Friday, May 12, 2006

Pained brain, new 'do

So I wanted to post this last night, but sometimes, blogger is retarded. So when you read this, pretend it was posted last night, because that is when I wrote it. OK? Moving on.

So my brain hurts. I am writing chapter four, outlining what I did to evaluate my materials, describing the feedback I got from my evaluators, and detailing the changes that I have made because of the feedback I received. And it's making my brain hurt. I forgot how much harder writing is than editing. I have been editing ch 2 for so long that I forgot that it really takes much more time and effort to create something in the first place than it does to fix what you have already churned out and received feedback on. I'm sure there are really deep implications and meaningful analogies to be drawn from that, but I am too tired to think of them.

But, uh, I have a new 'do. I got my hair cut and colored today. I got about 6 inches cut off, and layers put in, and LOTS of color change. It feels very drastic to me, but I like it, tho I think it will take me a while before I don't double-take whenever I see my reflection. And yes, the double-take is 'cause I look s'dang good :) but also because I forget that it's so short and then I see my reflection and I remember again.

Anyway, here's the hair. These are 2 before pictures, from the Cinco de mayo party, and two after pictures, taken, uh, yesterday. You like?

Thursday, May 11, 2006

Good feeling NOT gone, Dorie! (or does Marlin say that? Dang, get your Nemo quotes RIGHT, girl!)

So I am just ending day 3 of the new "no, really, I'm working on my thesis now, thank you very much" push...


Quick "time out" to say that it was just 12:34 am, which so SO COOL, because it's 1-2-3-4 in a row, and that's just cool. And ... "time in."

..and it's still going well! YAY! Neither Tuesday or Wednesday was quite as productive as Monday, but hey! all three days were productive, and I feel GREAT about that!

And I talked to my dad tonight, and in telling him about the progress on the thesis I said that I have not clocked a lot of hours at work this week because I've been spending so much time on my thesis. The conversation went, you guessed it, a little something like this:

Me: I haven't clocked a lot of hours at work this week because I've been spending so much time on my thesis. (sound familiar? yeah, that's cause I just wrote it above. go check it out. But that's really what I said, so it goes here too. Deal.) I need to figure out how to balance that.

Dad: Well, the thesis takes priority.

Me: Well, I have to work so that I can, ya know, EAT.

Dad, quickly: Oh, we can help you with that.

Me: A moment of grateful silence in which I consider if, at age 30, having supported myself financially for the last 5+ years, I would accept money from my parents.

Dad: Yeah, just let us know and we'll come over and help you eat.

...

Uh, that's great, Dad. Thanks so much.

And then we both totally bust up laughing on the phone, and over the sound of my own laugh, which, for those of you who don't know me in real life, is, shall we say, LOUD, I hear my dad saying, "oh dad, you are sooo funny!" And I just have to agree, cause, hey, I'M laughing.

Tuesday, May 09, 2006

The satisfaction of a job well-done

I just sent a new draft of my chapter 2 to my chair. And there was much rejoicing. SERIOUSLY!! :) :) :) :) :) :) :) :)

And to celebrate, I will eat a piece of Death by Chocolate cake (which will only make me stronger!), read a talk from my brand-new-purchased-and-spiral-bound General Conference Ensign, and go to bed. :)

But, GOSH! it sure feels good to feel good about what I got done today. It's been a while...

Saturday, May 06, 2006

I'm an aunt! Well...again. Or still. But anyway - YAY!!!

SHE'S HERE! SHE'S HERE!!

Heidi was born yesterday at 12:05pm. She weighs 8 lbs something, and is 20 1/2 inches long, and has hair!! and when I talked to her 5-yr-old big brother he said, "She had a poopy AND a wet diaper and Daddy had to change it!" and when I talked to her 7-yr-old big sister she said, "We're in the middle of a movie."

And my sister who is in China emailed the following:

I hear she's just a little smaller than I was when I was born... so, dainty, but powerful; substantial, but not cumbersome; assertive, but not overpowering...
Welcome to the family, little one!

Friday, May 05, 2006

Friday afternoon

So apparently I've had a bit of blogger's block. And I'm a perfectionist. So I have thought of a million funny, philosophical, personal, random, insightful, or otherwise, ya know, significant things to write about, but have not been willing to take the time to write out "The Perfect Post" on any of them, and so have written nothing at all. And I'm bored of that. This blog is about me, and I am not perfect, so everything I write doesn't have to be the exactly perfect. And I am realizing that a desire to do something "exactly right" and "without any mistakes in it" sometimes keeps me from doing anything at all.

Cases in point:
  1. Thesis writing
  2. Dating
  3. Budgeting
  4. Doing family history research
  5. Cutting my hair
  6. Scheduling maintenance for my car
  7. Scrapbooking
  8. Cooking
OK, I think I'm a little frightened of how long that list got in about 5 seconds. I really was just going to put the top two. Moving on...

Last Sunday I had dinner with a missionary friend whom I have not seen in probably six years. We were serving in the same region at the end of my mission, and after I went home she wrote me a letter that I have reflected on again and again. I must have written to her about how hard it is to return home after missionary service and try to balance who you were before the mission to who you are now, returning to "normal" life but not regressing spiritually. She was serving at the time right near the Grand Canyon, and wrote a beautiful analogy about how the things that we do and become in our lives are different layers of who we are, like the layers in the Grand Canyon. Adding a new layer does not destroy what was there before, and does not make that now maybe partially hidden layer any less a part of us. That concept has been a comfort to me I don't know how many times. We are in the process of becoming something magnificent, but we should not ignore the "magnificent" that we are right now.

And there I go again, deleting several attempts to develop that idea further.

It's just that if I wait to live life, to be me, to do great things, to do ANYTHING!, until I have figured out exactly how to do it, then I won't ever do anything. A letter I got from another dear friend at the beginning of my mission said, in response to me saying that I didn't know how to be a missionary, "I've got news for you - you ARE a missionary. So however you do things, THAT'S how a missionary does it!" So every once in a while I take a deep breath and get ready to... and then remind myself that I am not preparing to jump into life, I am in it. ("I am the Brute Squad.")

Weird.

Thursday, April 27, 2006

Change

So I was driving to campus this morning, like I do every day, and I saw a girl loading her stuff into her car, apparently moving out of her apartment, and it looked like her mom was there helping her, and I thought, "Oh yeah! It's graduation day!" And my life isn't any different today than any other day.

Last night I went out to dinner with some friends, and one of them had just finished all her schoolwork and is graduating today, and a couple of others were done with finals and so were much more relaxed than they have been of late ;) and were reacting to the feeling of being "done." And my life wasn't any different than any other day.

Spring term starts on Monday, and there will be TONS fewer people on campus, in the cafeteria, in the parking lots. People will be playing in the parks, and getting off work earlier, and having scads of free time, like they only dreamed about during the semester. And my life...

You get the idea.

It's time for a change, people. It's time for my life to change, based on the season. For the past five years I have been working on campus, and since I don't go home for summers, nothing changes for me when it hits summer time, except that I want to spend more time outside. I, uh, work. Every day. The same amount of time each week, all year round. And I take a class or I don't take a class, and I, of course, work on my thesis. :P

Well, I'm done with all that. I'm done with the thesis hanging over my head. I'm done with not having real "breaks" from school over the summer because I was only taking one class during the semester anyway. I'm done with being mildly annoyed at the "seasonal" students and feeling "holier than" them because I am here all year round and how dare they leave all summer and then come back and clog up campus when it's fall again?!

Uh, you're not SUPPOSED to be at college all year round for year after year after year. College is supposed to be a seasonal thing. At church on Sunday a girl gave a talk in which she referenced a house in Phoenix that Frank Lloyd Wright built with this concept called "compress and release." The idea is that you come into an entryway, and it is a very small space, and so you aren't comfortable there, and you naturally move through it into a bigger, more open space. I can't remember exactly the point the girl was making on Sunday, but I do remember what I thought. I thought, "That's my thesis!" This whole thesis-writing thing is the "compress" - and it is supposed to feel uncomfortable so that I will move on and out of this stage onto the next thing.

And, boy, am I ready for that! But that does mean that I need to "compress" a little more. I need to do the "final lap" or the "home stretch" or whatever you want to call it, but I really need to buckle down and GET THIS THING DONE.

I was talking to a friend last night about a big decision that another friend is trying to make, and again, a connection between this other decision and my thesis (what's this about "everything reminds you of something in your discipline"? how about "everything reminds you of your thesis"?!) came to mind, and it was this: It's not going to get done until I do it. I know - DUH! But really! When it comes to things like finals week, there is this big glaring deadline, and you can feel like, "for better or for worse, by next Wednesday at 6 I'll be DONE." And then you take whatever grade you get and move on with life. Well, it's a little different with a thesis. If it's not good enough, I can't just take the grade and move on - I have to revise. And revise. And revise. Just ask Jeremy. So it's a little different.

And it hit me last week that I can make schedule after schedule, and get pep talk after pep talk from my great dad and my great boss / chair and my great friends, and they can tell me that I CAN do it and that it WILL be good and that I AM the most brilliant person they've ever met (and then I can tell them that they ARE delusional ;) ), but when it comes down to it, with myself and this other friend - the thesis / the big decision, it won't write / make itself. If I don't put the effort in, on a regular basis for a good long time, then I will continue to envy those who DO get to move on with life while I spend yet another year cursing the those "seasonal" college students who clog campus.

No thank you!