Fasting from Facebook

Ash Wednesday is this week, and the day marks the first day of Lent for 2010. Last year, I celebrated Lent with an established community–we supported each other, encouraged each other, and had the best celebration I’ve ever had on Easter Sunday. For Lent last year, I gave up caffeine for the 40 day period, and the experience was really good. I was more focused and less dependent on caffeine to get me through the day. But more than just the physical fasting, I strove to give myself and my desires over to Christ, particularly the overwhelming desire that I have, as most single females to do, to be in a relationship. Those 40 days were a struggle. I never realized how much time I spend letting my mind wander…imagining how conversations could have gone differently, overanalyzing text messages and phone calls, asking “what if” questions that end up destroying my mindset. At the end of the Lent season, my heart had been transformed.

This is not to say that all is perfect. I still struggle often with those same issues. However, I’ve noticed a marked difference in the way that I perceive relationships. Less angst. More waiting. More hope.

This year, I’m approaching Lent in a slightly different way. The emotional fasting, if you will, will be the same. Can I surrender every aspect of my life to Christ? Can I surrender control? Can I spend my time in ways that reflect Christ’s glory? And can I encourage others in this same journey?

But the physical fasting will be different. I honestly don’t want to give up caffeine again. I know part of it is fear, but my life is so much more hectic now, and caffeine is often the best stimulant I have to get me through those superlong days. However, I will be giving up two things that are quite important to me: Facebook and Twitter.

I anticipate several outcomes of this. First, more time. For homework, for friends, for Jesus. ๐Ÿ™‚ Second, I expect that I’ll need to find alternate ways of communicating with people, of seeking community. The Twitter updates that are sent to my phone are often the way I keep up with friends who don’t live in my apartment, and that’s not good enough. Those updates will be turned off, and I’m deleting the Twitter number from my phone until after Easter. Facebook is even worse–I know so much about my friends’ lives because it pops up on a computer screen, not because I’ve talked to them. For 40 days, it will be a challenge to seek community. [Note: I will be checking in on Sundays. But just once for Facebook, and I don’t plan on checking Twitter at all.] Third, I expect to blog and journal more. I use Twitter as a virtual scrapbook of things that happen in my life. If I go 40 days without sending a tweet, I’ll need a record of all that.

That’s my goal for the next seven weeks. If you need me, comment on my blog. Email me. Call me. Or–shocker–come see me! We’ll communicate the way the old folks do! ๐Ÿ™‚

Gnomes in the Snow

I took advantage of the snowfall to build a gnome-sized snowman and pose my ten garden gnomes in the yard. Fun!

Aren’t they delightful fellows?

My snowman has no eyes. Kinda creepy.

Gnomes like snow, apparently.

Reflection on a Snowy Afternoon

It’s snowing outside, and it’s beautiful. Generally, I loathe winter, but the temperature is only just below freezing, so I can tolerate being outside for short periods of time, and it’s pure snow. No ice or sleet or freezing rain. Just soft, beautiful, feathery snow. This is the kind of snowfall I can enjoy.

When I left work, the snow had begun to fall slowly. Driving home through the falling snow was wonderful, except I kept getting distracted watching the snow instead of the road. No worries. I made it home safely. ๐Ÿ™‚

When I got home, I changed into warmer clothes and took off the recycling. While I unloaded cardboard and plastic into the bins, snow covered by purple coat and my braid and my car, and I realized it was beginning to stick. I then took the opportunity to stop by the Silver Chair just to browse books. There’s something about a snowy afternoon that makes me want to slow down and just relax. I had nothing important to do and nowhere I needed to be, so I spent about 45 minutes drinking coffee and browsing. I found quite a few treasures, as well. I bought a beautiful copy of Representative Men, a collection of essays by Emerson. I picked up and put down probably a dozen more books. I need to make time to shop there more often.

When I pulled into my driveway, my neighbors from apartment 39 were outside in the parking lot. Five-year-old Xander asked me to play, so we threw snowballs at each other while I chatted with his grandmother Angela. I stood outside in the falling snow for ten or fifteen minutes chatting with them. It’s lovely to start building community while the snow is falling around us. ๐Ÿ™‚

Now, I’m sitting in my apartment, next to a lit Christmas tree decorated with snowflake ornaments. I enjoyed a cup of coffee and a bowl of chili, and I plan on doing nothing important this evening. Harvin just walked in, having cancelled her trip home. Maybe we’ll watch a movie or I’ll read a good book.

Perhaps snow days aren’t so bad after all.

A Most Lamentable Tragedy

Yesterday, a guy asked for my number.

Now, before you get excited, you should realize that this occurrence isn’t as uncommon as you might think. Granted, I don’t have a boyfriend and have never been on a date, but I have my share of admirers. They compliment me, seek me out, occasionally proclaim undying devotion, and offer gifts ranging from chocolate (sugar-free, of course) to flowers to dinner. One even offered to name his firstborn after me. All these guys are really after one thing, though: my prowess with a pen.

My editing skills, grammar knowledge, and sheer awesomeness seem to draw far more male admirers than female admirers. I know students who will refuse to visit anyone else in the writing center (a practice which I do not encourage). Granted, several of these guys have become genuine friends, and I never mind when they show up with their papers and stay for an hour. Others, however, are just frustrating in their devotion…or clinginess.

I suppose it’s a hazard of my job that I tend to get semi-hit on by teenagers looking to improve their English grades. I’ve become a pro at rebuffing their requests to help them edit their papers at times other than when I’m in the writing center (“Can I get our number in case I have a question later?” or “What if I need you, and you’re not in the writing center?”–yeah, I get those questions). It’s a shame that the only guys who’ve been asking for my number lately are about 6 years too young for me–and annoying. ๐Ÿ™‚

The First Day of School

I got a call around 4:50 last Thursday from my admissions counselor at Gardner-Webb, asking if I was coming to class that evening.

“Have I been accepted?” I asked.

Yep. Sure had. The committee had approved my application just that afternoon, three days after classes started.

I registered the next morning for a World Lit class specializing in Caribbean Women’s Writing. I’m behind because I missed the first night of class, but my professor (who is also my advisor) told me not to worry about catching up. She’s been incredibly wonderful, and I’ve communicated with her many times now on the phone and in email trying to figure out what class to take and such.

I’m heading to Gardner-Webb tonight for my first class. It’s a long drive (aobut 50 miles from G-W to my apartment), but at least I only have to make the trip once a week. I’m already intimidated by the syllabus, but in a good way. We have three major projects: a 7-10 page lit review, a 15-20 page final project on a novel not covered in class, and a 5-7 page theory/definition paper on Caribbean writing. That’s a major step up from Converse, where my biggest projectย was an 8 page research paper with a 20-entry annotated bibliography. This is real grad school. Thank God I did this kind of work at NGU. ๐Ÿ™‚

I’m excited, but a little anxious. The perfectionist in me is a little antsy at the reading load (lots of novels plus extra essays each week) and the projects. Also, G-W is apparently on the 8 point grading scale (where a 93-100 is an A), so what would qualify as an A (at NGU)ย or an A- (at Converse) would be a solid B. I don’t like B’s.

But…I’m excited by the reading list. I’m excited that I’m enrolled at a new school (in another state, even!). I’m excited by the challenge.

Also, I’m excited about my notebook. Last night, I covered an ordinary composition notebook with fun scrapbook paper and pictures from islands in the Caribbean. It’s pretty much awesome. My classmates will be jealous, and they’ll all want to be friends with me. I’m sure.

At any rate, I’ll find out tonight! Yay for the first day of school!

Home for the Holidays

Last night, I arrived back in Greer after a week at my parent’s house, which is the longest amount of time I’d spent there in two years. This was one of the best Christmas breaks I can remember. It was restful, simple, and productive…everything I needed an extended break from my life to be.

Thanksgiving break was difficult, and in retrospect, I think that’s because I had planned so many activities into five days that I had no time to rest. I was still in the continuously frenzied, caffeinated mindset from this insane semester of working, teaching, and attending school, that I didn’t know how to slow down and just appreciate my few days off.

This time was different. First of all, the planned trip to Pennsylvania and New York fell apart less than 24 hours before we were supposed to leave, thanks to a freak storm front that moved across the east, dumping tons of snow on I-81, our route from the South to Pennsylvania. I spent those five days in Greer, shopping with Harvin, crocheting, watching The West Wing, baking, and thoroughly cleaning my room. It was as close to stress-free as I’ve been in months. Then I headed home for Christmas.

Highlights of my break:

1) The food. My family is a big fan of breakfast, so we either went out for breakfast or cooked delicious quiche and cinnamon rolls at home. Also, for Christmas Eve, my parents, brother, and I had Beaufort Stew and scallops. Delicious!

2) Christmas morning. The first gift I opened was the Director’s Cut of Watchmen that my brother bought for me. The DVD case is a Rorschach mask. It was seriously awesome. He did a great job. But the best part about Christmas morning was what I’d been looking forward to for months. My brother bought my dad a really awesome leather fire helmet, which is quite expensive. Berry bought himself one a few months ago, and he and Dad in all their conversations have talked about the benefits of having a leather helmet for a long time. Dad had no idea Berry was getting him one. It was something Dad had always wanted but never would have bought for himself. He cried when he opened the box. Then he wore the helmet around the house and sometimes just sat and looked at it. Berry wins big for best Christmas present ever. Buying gifts is the way my brother shows his love, and it pretty much made my dad’s year, I think.

3) My mom bought me the new Monopoly Deal card game for Christmas. On Saturday, Mom and I sat down and played for an hour or so. Then after dinner, my dad joined in, and the three of us played that game and Uno for three hours. We haven’t played games together like that since I was very young. It was a lot of fun.

4) My dad has recently taken up model railroading again. It was a hobby he really enjoyed for years before I was born, up through the time when we moved eleven years ago. For years, he’s talked about doing it again, but only when my brother moved out and Dad found a viable space to set up a layout did he dig out his old supplies. In the past few weeks, he’s built a platform around my brother’s old room, laid down foam and track to start the layout, and started putting together buildings. I’m super excited he has a hobby at home now. Every time I called him, until recently, if he was at home, he was sitting down watching TV. Now, he’s up, moving around, spending hours in the train room, or the “mancave,” as I’ve dubbed it. It’s good to see that my dad isn’t wasting time so much. He seems younger and more lighthearted now.

5) My parents are often planners who rarely follow through with plans. A year or so ago, they bought this huge steel shelving unit to put in our utility/laundry room. The intent was to give my mom a place to neatly organize all of her crafting and VBS supplies (she was the county association’s director for years and has tons of decorating and planning materials). Unfortunately, the nook where the shelving unit was to go was stacked with old boxes that have been in the corner since we moved in 11 years ago. Sunday and Monday, my parents and I thoroughly cleaned the entire room, getting rid of a ton of dust, dirt, and needless items, sorting through all the boxes, constructing the shelving unit, and organizing supplies into plastic bins. The result is that I sneezed a lot, we threw away huge bags of trash, and the room looks great. I have every intention of going home as often as possible and encouraging my mom to throw away stuff and organize. It felt really great to help my mom out.

Reading this post makes it seem like I had a super-busy week, but it was really quite peaceful and relaxed. I finished crocheting one scarf, crocheted a full one, and got a great start on a third scarf, all while watching The Big Bang Theory (a Christmas gift from my parents) and The Mentalist (my brother’s gift to Mom), so that was delightful. And I enjoyed being around our two cats, two dogs, and seven adorable, playful puppies. In fact, my apartment with its three residents seems a little strange now, having been around more animals than people over the last week. Maybe I should go buy another fish. A New Year’s gift to myself. Hmmm…I think I might do that today.

In other news, today is my two-year anniversary of being diabetic. I’m having much more fun today that I was two years ago.

Also, on Saturday, adventure will be had. Ticcoa, Harvin, Jessie, and I are heading to Savannah to see the childhood home of Flannery O’Connor, and maybe go to Fort Pulaski and Tybee Island (yay lighthouses!). It’s going to be awesome. Expect an exuberant post next week.

HAPPY NEW YEAR!

Get excited.

A list of things that I’m super excited about right now:

1) I applied to the M.A. in English program at Gardner-Webb University…to start in January (hopefully, with Coa!). It seems like such a sudden change, but I’ve known for months now that the M.A.T. program isn’t right for me. I don’t want to teach high school, and the student teaching and certification progress to do that would be a waste of my time and energy. With the M.A., I can take just English classes (yay!), write a thesis, begin teaching full-time at the college level (hopefully!), and eventually decide where and in what concentration to get my Ph.D. I applied to G-W last week, and I’m working on getting the rest of my documentation in. Then, I’ll work on financial aid. With the peace I feel about this decision, I’ll be shocked if everything doesn’t work out perfectly.

2) Next week is Thanksgiving Break! It’s going to be wonderful to have a few days off from work and school. I’m going to Sullivan’s Island with Chris on Wednesday (and eating at Poe’s Tavern!); Thursday is Thanksgiving Day with my family; Friday, my family is going shopping in Charleston; and Sunday is a surprise for my mom (that you’ll all hear about soon)!

3) On Tuesday, I got my tickets to see Switchfoot at the Orange Peel on December 4! They’ll be playing the entire Hello Hurricane album from start to finish, plus some “old favorites” and “a few surprises”! YAY!

4) The end of the semester fast approaches. I’m finishing up final projects, grading my students’ final essays, and looking to Dec. 7 with mixed feelings. I’ll give my last final exam that day and take my last final exam at Converse. On that day, I’ll officially finish my first semester of teaching college English, which has been marvelous and challenging, and I’ll also officially end my academic career at Converse after a year and a half. I’ll definitely miss my very first students, and I’ll also probably miss the people and experiences I’ve had at Converse. But, alas, life continues on.

5) This morning, Michele, Harvin, and I had a discussion about Christmas. Right now, we’re planning a little trip. We’ll all drive up to Pennsylvania the weekend before Christmas, stay a few days, take a day-trip into New York City, and then we’ll leave Michele up there for Christmas with her family while we drive back home in time to get back to our families for Christmas. It looks like I’ll be heading back up north for the second time this year! I’ll see new states, and I’ll be in NYC at Christmastime! It’s gonna be amazing, and I hope we can make it work.

So there we are. Changes, adventures, life. ๐Ÿ™‚