Saturday, October 31, 2009

Birthdays

Sometimes I say things I don't mean.
Other times I mean things I don't say.
I love the people in my life who accept me in spite of that.

Last week my sister said, "I'm approaching this cautiously, but would you like to do anything for your birthday?"

Somewhat confused, but trying to understand, I said, "Umm...maybe. I don't know."

She went on to say, "I know birthdays are not your favorite, but I thought I'd start warning you early, it's coming and you can celebrate it however you want to."

Apparently, last year I was a little angry about my birthday.
Apparently, last year I was whining about how people should buy people flowers on other days of the year, not just their birthdays. Little did I know that flowers, from my loving sister, were waiting for me in my room.
Gladly, she forgave me.
Gladly, time changes things.
Thank God.

I could be completely, horribly embarrassed about the ridiculous things I've said or believed. I could apologize for the rest of my life about everything I will probably do wrong. I appreciate and love the people in my life who are willing to say, "Yeah, sometimes you are ridiculous" or "That might not have been your smartest move." I want to always be willing to listen to the people who love me enough to say what no one else is brave enough to say, usually things like, "You could do better."

I don't feel attacked by her. She's good at putting things nicely so I don't feel like a complete idiot. I think she has learned how to deal with me though. I don't mean for this to be some sort of lost art or highly difficult skill, she's just had life-long experience, like 21 years and 360 days.

Bless her.

Alas, I'm turning 22 on November 4th. I went back and read my blogs around that time: whoa. Things change and I'm grateful. Sometimes I just wish I wasn't so dang public about it. But then, we'd all think we were the only crazy ones!

I do not have to hate birthdays. It is another day of the year. I'm not fond of all the attention, and I'd be the last one to throw a party, but honestly, the day won't kill me. I will get through this.

Birthdays can be a good time to reflect.
Birthdays can be a good time to say, "Oh yes I can, it's my birthday!"
Birthdays can be a good reminder for me, to let people know, on today and the other 364 days, how much I appreciate them.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Misison's Emphasis Week

After October 18-24, Campus Ministries may paint a completely different picture in your mind of what it means to volunteer. Mission’s Week will kick off with a display in the Dick Building lobby. We can’t tell you what it will look like: you’ll just have to wait and see. But an inside source says it will be “kickin’. Watch for signs and information about how to get involved.
What’s the difference between “mission” work and “volunteer” work? According to princteon.net, a missionary is “someone who attempts to convert others to a particular doctrine…a religious mission to a foreign country.” A volunteer is “a person who freely enlists for service…performs voluntary work.” Now if you were living in a hut somewhere, who would you want help from? Missionaries who may feel they’ve been sent to convert you? Or volunteers offering their help in any way you might need it? I’d take the volunteers over the missionaries any day.
So what’s the big deal? Why does it matter whether we call them “student missionaries” or an “international volunteers” considering they might do the same things anyway? The term matters because words matter. Words are powerful. If we throw words around as if they don’t mean anything, what do we have left to work with when we really need to communicate with each other? The words we choose to use can make an enormous difference.
“I choose to say ‘international volunteer’ instead of ‘student missionary,’” Tanya Cochran told me. “The word volunteer stresses service, whereas a missionary places emphasis on religion and evangelism.” She also explained that a volunteer might be more welcomed and protected in a country where evangelizing could be dangerous or even illegal.
No matter what comes to mind when you hear “missionary” or “volunteer” keep in mind, that they are doing great things.
While we are defining terms, a “mission” is “a special assignment that is given to a person or group.” What is this special assignment? That depends upon where the international volunteer, or IV, lands.
According to Kylie Schnell, a volunteer can land in Korea or Palau, Prague or Lincoln. “A lot of people who are not interested in overseas missions tend to block out Mission’s Emphasis Week, but we want to change that,” said Schnell. “There are so many opportunities to get involved right here in Lincoln and we want to highlight those too.”
Kylie Schnell and Heidi Lee are the student mission’s coordinators which means they do three main things. They plan Mission’s Emphasis Week, encourage international volunteers, and support those who have recently returned.
Since organizing Mission’s Emphasis Week is already underway, let’s take a look at the second part of their job, supporting the international volunteers who are already abroad. Every month Kylie and Heidi assemble packets to send to the volunteers. “We try to contact them and send things they actually need whether that is Q-tips or Taco Bell hot sauce.” You too can send notes or small gifts to your friends. Just stop my Campus Ministries for information. Kylie and Heidi answer questions and keep in contact with the volunteers to keep up-to-date on them and any needs they might have.
The island of Palau has become home to one such Union college volunteer, Brenda Beenken. So far her camera has been damaged, she’s experienced lots of “tourist stuff” as she puts it, and the rush and chaos of school has been quite an adjustment. Brenda writes, “I've been sitting right by Zuleika at chapel each week and physically put my hand on her head and rotate it to face forward anytime her attention shifts. She's probably my favorite! Her smile helps me through my bad days.” Between teaching PE, getting to know her students, and soaking up a brand new culture, Brenda’s staying plenty busy just living day to day.
Staying connected with volunteers such as Brenda is crucial, but equally important to Kylie and Heidi is to encourage and support the volunteers who have recently returned. Kylie and Heidi both served a year abroad in Kenya at Maxwell Academy during the 07-08 school year. They can draw on their own experiences to help and support returned IVs as they navigate their way back home, wherever that turns out to be.


(The Clocktower, October 2009)

Yoga or yoga-style? Reaching Further in Our Definition

The dimly-lit room accumulated people the closer the clock ticked to 5:45pm. Wednesday night yoga-style class seemed about to begin as I sat quietly on my mat at the Larson Lifestyle center. For the next hour Jessica Stolley, the instructor, a Union PA student, played uplifting music and led us through a series of stretches that tested our strength and flexibility. As I walked out I realized, that wasn’t yoga-style. That was yoga.
As part of the UCFIT student wellness program, Larson Lifestyle center has begun offering small group training, personal training, and “a class similar to yoga.” The green UCFIT signs dotting bulletin boards on campus illustrated four yoga postures next to their description of the “exercise/relaxation class.” According to Nancy Petta, program director of health and human performance, calling it “a class similar to yoga” would just be less controversial. What is yoga? When asked what the first thing that came to mind was when they heard the word “yoga” students said, “strength,” “flexibility,” “Buddha,” “dancing,” and even “yogurt.” According to Merriam-Webster dictionary, yoga is “a Hindu theistic philosophy teaching the suppression of all activity of body, mind, and will in order that the self may realize its distinction from them and attain liberation.” The second definition for yoga reads, “a system of exercises for attaining bodily or mental control and well-being.” Yoga came to America primarily during the 60’s. Forty years later the practice boasts 20 million followers -- more than triple the 6 million enthusiasts in 1994 (webmd.com).
After I took Union’s yoga class Stolley told me, “Yoga has its roots in the Hindu religions of India. Some classes are more religious and involve meditation. But today’s Euro-American style of yoga is more sports-like and fitness-minded.” Stolley teaches the class with this same fitness emphasis which fits well with Union college’s Seventh-day Adventist views. The Union college employee handbook lists yoga under “Unacceptable Philosophies/Practices.” Further on it reads, “The philosophy and practice of this institution prohibit employees from using "nontraditional" or occult methods of treatment and therapy. Prohibited practices include such holistic methods as yoga…” Malcolm Russell, the academic dean, said, “It is a laughable matter to call the yoga class at Larson anything but what it really is: yoga. The employee handbook was last updated in 1988 and the portion mentioning yoga as “unacceptable” will be left out when the new handbook comes out.”
There are many varieties of yoga classes. Vinyasa yoga is a series of postures that flow together and are connected with specific breathing techniques. Hatha yoga, one of the most common forms of yoga in America, can be a challenging endeavor strengthening both mind and body. Bikram yoga occurs in a sauna-styled room packed full of people which brings the temperature to over 100 degrees. This style of yoga creates heat which deepens and intensifies the stretches.
When asked about the controversy between yoga and Adventism, Amanda Shea, a student who has taken the class, explains, “I’ve never been told to hum or chant to Buddha. In the class we do exercises for strength and flexibility. I like it a lot. I’m going to keep going.”
If you’re up for a good challenge, Stolley teaches an invigorating class Monday and Wednesday nights at the Larson Lifestyle Center. The class lasts an hour and starts at 5:45pm. Go see for yourself.

(The Clocktower, October 2009)

Re-Vamping Volunteering

There must be more to life than term papers. If our existence revolves solely around deadlines, homework, and making the grade, I’m going to go out on a limb and say, “It’s not worth it.”
So what is worth it then? If I am going to be stuck in stuffy classrooms for 16 hours each week and stacked up to my neck in academia for the hopes of someday helping other people, what can I do to feel like I am making a difference now?
I’m glad you asked.
A volunteer is “a person who voluntarily offers himself or herself for a service or undertaking” (dictionary.com). While simply the phrase “volunteering” might make you think of can collecting in Pathfinders, there are a multitude of opportunities that span anywhere from tutoring refugees to coaching soccer.
A great place to start on your “helping others intervention” is Campus Ministries. Ever heard of SOS (something on Sabbath) or JOB ministries? Every week students raid the community with songs and encouragement, or able bodies and paintbrushes. You can even receive emails of upcoming opportunities. What could be easier? All you have to do is show up.
Try Googling “volunteer in Lincoln, NE.” The 294,000 hits might make you think twice about the needs in our own community. Did you know Lincoln rates among the top 15 sites for refugee relocation in the United States? People from Burma, Sudan, Afghanistan and many other countries live scattered throughout Lincoln. They need English tutors. Check out lincolnliteracy.org for details.
Do you like working with kids? How about kids ages 3-18 who are dealing with the loss of a parent? Charlie Brown’s Kids is an organization that meets twice a month and assists children working through grief. Look online or call (402) 483-1845.
Lincoln Parks and Recreation is always looking for willing people to Adopt-a-Trail, help coach team sports, or volunteer with city-wide events. Check out their website and click, “volunteer.”
Have you been to Indigo Bridge bookstore yet? Located right across the hall from Ivanna Cone, Indigo Bridge offers great reading, tasty teas and coffees, as well as a wealth of rewarding and literacy-minded volunteer opportunities.
Joan Hines, the volunteer coordinator at Indigo Bridge, told me, “Our mission is to serve Lincoln in furthering literacy and community. Indigo Bridge was opened with the hope that selling books would provide a means to reach out to the community by way of helping, funding, or promoting programs that teach and strengthen literacy and bring empowerment.”
Here are some great ways to get involved at Indigo Bridge:
-Story and activity time at People's City Mission
-Teaching preschool-type activities to Spanish-speaking children twice a week
-Becoming a book buddy with a child at Everett or McPhee Elementary once per week for 30-45 minutes
-Reading for a bilingual Spanish/English story time on Saturdays morning for 30 minutes
-Literacy-based afterschool clubs meeting once per week
-Volunteering for festivals or events which may provide crafts, games or storytelling
-Putting on a literacy-based camp during spring or fall break at McPhee Elementary
-Being a part of “Bridging Families with Books,” a monthly club that comes up with book titles and an activity. Each family gets a free book and pizza one night per month.
If any of these opportunities sound interesting or downright perfect for bringing you out of your academic bubble, check out their website, stop in, or give them a call at (402) 477-7770 and ask for Joan.
Service looks different depending what side of the globe you are on. In Africa, a hungry child on the side of the road obviously needs food. In war-torn Iraq, a lost teenager obviously needs an education. But what needs do we see in Lincoln? Americans as a whole have been brought up to persevere, be strong, and exude prosperity. We “look” like we have it all together, so the needs are more difficult to see. The point is, the needs are still there.
“A civilization flourishes when people plant trees under which they will never sit.” –Greek Proverb


(The Clocktower, 2009)

Healthcare: Getting to the bottom of death panels and socialism

Socialism? Death panels? Euthanization of senior citizens? Angry town hall meetings? Increased taxes? Force and coercion?
The smattering of headlines plaguing our newspapers and TV screens are enough to send anyone’s head spinning. With recent talks of health care reform, it’s easy to avoid the topic entirely because maybe your parents are still paying your bills. Whatever your reason is for not taking the time, consider that very soon you might have wished you were listening. The least you could do is read this article.
Nationalized or universal healthcare is “medical care for all citizens that would be paid for by the federal government and provided by doctors and hospitals regulated by the government. Coverage would include all eligible residents of a political region and often covers medical, dental and mental health care…Universal health care is implemented in all industrialized countries, with the exception of the United States. It is also provided in many developing countries” (usgovinfo.about.com).
It’s true; the United States remains one of the last countries to adopt a form of nationalized healthcare, besides Africa. According to the Associated Press, healthcare reform has been on the table since Theodore Roosevelt suggested it in 1912. Other presidents such as Eisenhower, Kennedy, and Lyndon B. Johnson pushed for it as well. If presidents have been encouraging health care reform for awhile now, what stands in their way?
Since the first announcement of a plan for healthcare reform, angry town hall meetings have sprung up in concerned communities across the country. Some republicans such as Tennessee governor hopeful Zach Wamp and conservative Republican Senator Jim DeMint declare that health care is a privilege for those Americans who can afford to pay for it, but not a right (msnbc.com).
Mike Mennard, a communications teacher, has his reservations about the government’s ability to spend money wisely. “When even the chair of the committee says it’s too complicated to understand, and a vast majority of senators haven’t read it, it is too complicated to work well.”
Gary Bollinger, Union financial VP, said, “I just think that the plans for health care reform are being pushed too hard and too fast without fair evaluation.”
The three core principles Barack Obama has suggested for health care reform are to reduce costs, guarantee choice, and ensure quality care for all (barackobama.com).
Dan Lynn, professor of music, supports the health care reform because it offers more choices than ever before.
“We are the only industrialized nation on earth that doesn’t provide a form of universal health care,” Chris Blake, professor of English, tells me. “Consider just a partial list of needed reforms: coverage for the uninsured, cost control, no preconditions, no denial of care, keeping care when you change jobs or get sick, equal treatment for women, exorbitant deductibles, and no lifetime caps.”
Union college registrar and native of Sweden, Osa Berg, told me about nationalized healthcare back in her home country. “The underlying principle of nationalized healthcare is equality. Every citizen has rights. It would be devastating if Americans rejected this plan.”
According to balancedpolitics.org, universal healthcare for all Americans would be a positive move because, “the number of uninsured citizens has grown to over 45 million…healthcare has become increasingly unaffordable” and “…patients with pre-exiting conditions can still get healthcare.”
On the other side, universal healthcare would be a negative move because, “universal healthcare will not be “free” we will pay for it with our tax dollars, there be longer waits for treatment, and government mandated programs may reduce doctor flexibility and lead to poor patient care.”
Keep in mind that anyone who claims to have a balanced view on politics doesn’t. Everyone has a bias. Everyone has an opinion. So who can you trust?
Making heads or tails out of the healthcare debate is not up to the Clock Tower, Rush Limbaugh, Michael Moore, or any other news reporter touting “the truth” about health care reform. When it comes down to it, at the end of the day, feel good about your decision to sort out the truth from the lies, as difficult as it may be sometimes. Talkt to people you know and respect. Consider how this will affect you and your community. Deciphering fact from fiction and sharing our thoughts remains one of the greatest rights Americans have: choice. Use it wisely.


(The Clocktower, September 2009)

Adjusting, Re-entering, Resuming Life

They have overtaken our campus. They’re back. They come back with stories to fill a book or two. They return with hearts in two different places, painfully far away. They come with new eyes.
Along with a smattering of new faces; transfers, freshman, and ESL students, come the student missionaries who took a year out of their lives to serve others.
Thirty students braved a new country, new people, and new experiences while we were all in school. They missed their families at Christmas, they celebrated birthdays alone, and they wondered uncountable times, Why am I doing here?
While we were building snow men, making late-night Taco Bell trips, playing intramurals, and dressing up for banquets, they weren’t. While we spent time with friends and family, they didn’t. While we kept up on the news, the latest celebrity gossip, and political news, they couldn’t. Now last year’s student missionaries return to Union college. Where have they been? What did they see? How are they different? These are all good questions. You should ask them.
When I returned as a student missionary from Cambodia, it was difficult to be back at Union. Life in the States continued full-force while I was overseas. My friends moved on. People tried to remember where I was, but had a hard time remembering. “Oh, you were in Africa, right?” No.
Landing back in the States was hard because it felt as if no one really cared where I had been or what I had been through. Everyone was content with their lives. They didn’t seem to care about life outside their little bubble, their Facebook page, or their social scene. I was frustrated. I spent a lot of time trying to figure out what had just happened and why no one cared.
Now that I am on the other side, I see: We can never know what happened to the SMs last year. There is no way that as a friend or an acquaintance of an ex-SM you can predict everything they’ll need from you. Try asking.
Good questions to ask an SM:
-How was _________(insert country)? Then sit there and listen. Don’t say, “Oh cool,” and walk away. They are used to people who want one word answers. Instead, surprise them and take an interest.
-What was the coolest thing that happened while you were gone?
-What was the hardest part about living overseas?
These are all good places to start. Essentially, reaching out to SMs can be summed this way: Take an interest.
Now for those of you who have just returned and are trying to find your place in a seemingly foreign place, take heart, hang in there. Reach out for other students who took a year off last year or have even traveled at all. You’ll find that you connect in more ways than you imagined. People who have been outside the U.S. just “get” what you’re going through. Swap stories. Gush. Spill. Whatever you need, just don’t disappear.
Have patience with the rest of us who are struggling to understand where you’ve been. It’s not that we don’t care, but we get comfortable. We do. It’s so easy to forget that there is a big world out there. We need you to remind us.
Yes, we need you. It’s a wonderful cycle really: travelers out, travelers in, students leave Union and they come back again. We learn, remember, stretch, and grow, together.

(The Clocktower, September 2009)

Get to Know Lincoln

There are few things better than getting paid to do things I already enjoy. Such as writing for The Clocktower, Union college's school newspaper. I actually look forward to doing my job.

For the benefit of my mom and a dear woman from church, I'll post a few articles I've written this year.

Get to Know Lincoln

Yes, you are a student at Union college. Yes, you might have never thought you’d end up in…Nebraska. You’ve heard all the jokes. But here’s the deal, there is hope. Sure, the entertainment may look different in the Midwest, but the great plains require a certain amount of creativity when it comes to having fun.

First of all, enjoyment is a state of mind. Lincoln is not a huge city. Lincoln is not a beach town. But Lincoln has plenty of offerings if you are willing to keep an open mind.

Let’s go for a tour. For the most part, the streets running east and west are lettered: A street, B street, and so on. Streets running north and south are numbered: 27th, 56th, etc. And the only street in Lincoln that runs diagonal, is called Normal, go figure.

For starters, walk across 48th street. You will find the Mill, a great study spot/coffee shop.

From here head down South street to 17th for some home made and locally owned eating, Grateful Bread. This place serves up a wide variety of vegetarian soups and yummy cheese scones.

Another fun and different food option in Lincoln is the Thai house, located on 27th street, north of Grateful Bread about 10 minutes. Don’t be misled. It may look run down and questionable on the outside, it is on the inside too, but the food is delicious. They can make any curry, soup, or entrĂ©e with meat or tofu, and their tom yam soup is spicy and delicious.

Now down to the historic Haymarket, a neat area of shops and restaurants. Any wise and traveled Unionite will tell you: You must go to Ivanna Cone. This place makes their own natural ice cream from scratch, plus, it’s located right near lots of other fun options.

For example in the very same building is fun place called, Paint Yourself Silly. They offer unfired pottery just waiting to be painted and decorated by none other than, yourself.

Across the hallway is Indigo Bridge, a funky and community-focused bookstore chock full of great reads and great drinks.

The Art walk takes place the first Friday of every month. On this evening many of the art galleries open their doors, live music drifts from coffee shops, and locals fill the streets.

While you’re downtown, head toward the University of Nebraska Lincoln, or UNL. This is a great place for entertainment. Between the Lied performing arts center and Mary Piepma Ross theater, UNL offers plenty of events and independent films to keep you busy.

Across town, Southpointe mall hosts a plethora of shops and restaurants. Here you can find Chipotle, Noodles & Company, Red Robin, Taco Bell, and Panera.

Before it gets chilly, head to the wide variety of parks that Lincoln has to offer. Pioneers park is 900 acres of trees, grass, and room to breathe.

Whatever you need, may it be some questionable, but tasty curry or just a place to relax with friends, Lincoln can be whatever you make it.


Tuesday, October 27, 2009

No Envy, No Fear

by Joshua Radin


some are reaching few are there
wandering from a heros chair
some are scared to fly so high
well this is how we have to try

have no envy and no fear
have no envy
no fear

brother brother we all see
your hiding out so painfully
see yourself come out to play
a lovers rain will wash away

your envy and your fear
so have no envy
no fear

when your sister turns to leave
only when shes most in need
take away the cause of pain
by showing her were all the same.

have no envy
no fear
have no envy
and no fear

every day we try to find
we search our hearts and our minds
the place we used to call our home
cant be found when were alone

so have no envy
no fear
have no envy
no fear

Monday, October 26, 2009

Yesterday I Cried

I read it and went, "Ooooo..." Must...post...on...blog.

Thanks for sharing Michael.


Yesterday I Cried

by Iyanla Vanzant

I came home, went straight to my room,
sat on the edge of my bed,
kicked off my shoes,
unhooked my bra,
and I had myself a good cry.

I’m telling you,
I cried until my nose was running all over
the silk blouse I got on sale.
I cried until my ears were hot.
I cried until my head was hurting so bad
that I could hardly see the pile of
soiled tissues lying on the floor at my feet.

I want you to understand,
I had myself a really good cry yesterday.

Yesterday, I cried,
for all the days that I was too busy,
or too tired,
or too mad to cry.

I cried for all the days, and all the ways,
and all the times I had dishonored,
disrespected, and
disconnected my Self from myself,
only to have it reflected back to me
in the ways others did to me
the same things I had already done to myself.

I cried for all the things I had given,
only to have them stolen;
for all the things I had asked for that
had yet to show up;
for all the things I had accomplished,
only to give them away,
to people in circumstances,
which left me feeling empty,
and battered and plain old used.

I cried because there really does
come a time when the only thing left
for you to do is cry. Yesterday, I cried.
I cried because little boys get
left by their daddies;
and little girls get forgotten by their mommies;
and daddies don’t know what to do, so they leave;
and mommies get left, so they get mad.

Yesterday, I cried.
I cried because I hurt.
I cried because I was hurt.
I cried because hurt has no place to go
except deeper into the pain that
caused it in the first place,
and when it gets there,
the hurt wakes you up.

I cried because it was too late.
I cried because it was time.

I cried because my soul knew that I didn’t know
that my soul knew everything I needed to know.

I cried a soulful cry yesterday,
and it felt so good.

It felt so very, very bad.

In the midst of my crying,
I felt my freedom coming,
Because Yesterday,
I cried with an agenda.

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Dear Future,

Dear Future,
I want you to tell me that the hardest part of my life is over. I've crossed the biggest hurdles, I've wept the most bitter of lonely tears, I've hurt the most unbearable pains and move on with the scars, but it's all downhill from here.
I want you to tell me that I'll be happy. I'll giggle through late-nights of sidesplitting laughter, I'll watch in wonder the world around, I'll experience deeply the joys of life, and soak up the rays of the sun through rose-colored glasses and with a glass of raspberry lemonade in hand, the best is yet to come.
I want you to tell me that no one I love will die, the wars will end, and I'll only cry tears of joy. The weather will always be 75 degrees and shade will always be nearby. I'll always have what I need and what I want, within reason. Nothing extravagant, but I'd always like to have good people around me, enough money to live on, and enough good sense to know that's enough.
Future, please tell me that cancer, Alzheimers, heart attacks, and illness will never harm the people I love. No car accidents, rape, divorce, fires, or tragedies please. I'm not fond of change, so if you could limit that please, or at least bring more people into my life who seem to handle it well and can teach me a thing or two about life.
I want you to tell me that we'll forever be in love and we'll always be happy. He'll never want to be with someone else, cheat, or leave me. I'll always be enough for him. I'll always feel as beautiful to him as I do right now, even with a few wrinkles added here and there. We'll always be on the same page and be that couple that people look at and say, "Wow, they are so in love."
I don't want you to tell me that life will necessarily be easy, I see pain's place. But I do want you to tell me that I'll be safe, I'll have justice, and in the end, the good guy will always win. Please.
Maybe I write because I feel unsure. Maybe I write because I fear "fear itself." Maybe the more I learn the more I realize I don't know anything at all. I'm scared.
I'm scared that the life I want won't turn out how I want it to at all. I'm scared that I can't control life and it won't suit my time line. I'm scared that I'll be hurt beyond repair or I'll hurt someone beyond repair. I'll get stuck in my head for the rest of my life and people will say, "Poor girl. Remember when she still had life left in her? Poor girl."
Dear future, please tell me that life won't always feel this unstable, that somewhere along the way I'll figure things out and life will make more sense to me. Please. I won't get down on my knees and beg. But if I did, would that change anything? Because, I mean, if you really wanted me to...No, no! I can't, but I'm just feeling, kind of, vulnerable.
Basically, I want you to tell me that there is hope and always will be.

Sincerely,

but not desperately....I mean, just...

with love,

no!

Ughh,

See ya around, I guess,

HB

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Dear World

Dear World,
Today in my women and minority writers class we discussed a book we are reading called, "Sapphira and the Slave Girl." Set in pre-Civil war the story is about a white slave owner, Sapphira, and her jealousy for a young, black slave, Nancy. Sapphira invites her nephew Martin to the plantation for an extended stay. She knew, because this was the time, that ruining Nancy would be having her nephew rape her.
That's bad enough, but the worst part is that she didn't have to ask him to, it was basically assumed. She invited him with the hopes that he would. That's often what white men did to black female slaves. It was normal. It was expected. Much of the book involves Nancy avoiding him, running from him, avoiding being left a lone with him, and seeking help and asylum from other people but being unable to get it because, who would help her?
I get that boys like girls. I get that boys are attracted to girls. What I don't understand is forcing sex on a woman. How would that even be enjoyable? Are men so desperate for sex that they'll take anything they can get? Is that what we've come to? What is it about that kind of pleasure that men become addicted and violent? I don't understand rape. I don't understand it, I hate it, and it makes me sick even thinking about it.
But I can't help it. I see men around me chasing women and I think, "Oh, he probably just wants to get her in bed." I see male violence on TV. I see women being submissive, fulfilling their duties as a "woman" and being abused. I see it in other countries where women wear veils and take a beating. I know that it happens everyday here too, just better disguised.
What is the core of a man? Is it a sex-hungry, violent man? Is it a sneaky rapist? Is it a steroid pumped, sex god? Is this just how guys are wired? Are they all bound to want sex as much as the next guy? Are the "bad" guys just indulging in porn and adultery because it's easier, while all the "good" guys are repressing what is also buried deep inside.
Is there a little bit of this in every guy? Is there something about the sensation of sex that one women could never fulfill? Are all guys cheaters? Are all guys bound to be addicted to porn the rest of their lives? Do all guys spend 20+ years in marriage only to get bored and find some young, sexy model who can keep them satisfied?
I don't like what I'm seeing around me. I don't like what I'm learning about relationships, marriage, sex, and beyond. It makes me feel like I should always be conscious of "his cheating ways" after all "boys will be boys" as if that's an excuse. That's just it. We half expect men to cheat. When women cheat, it's a disgrace. When Bill Clinton, Martin Luther King Jr, and John F. Kennedy cheat, we shrug. I mean, they did some good stuff, let's just overlook that part of history.
It makes me feel like no matter what I do, I'll never be good enough. It makes me feel hopeless. It makes me feel like I'll always wonder, "Does he wish I looked like her? Does he wish I acted more like her? Does he look at porn when I'm not around? Does he fantasize about other women?"
It makes me feel that in the already competitive battle I feel between myself and the women around me, I'm bound to lose. How could I compete with her?
I know I'm heated when I write a lot quickly. I'm not expecting you to answer all these questions, though I wish you could. I'm not mad at you, I'm frustrated and I don't know what to do.

HB

Monday, October 12, 2009

Condoning

We watched an outdated educational video in class tonight. Weird bangs, sweater vests, and large glasses graced the screen as 4th graders talked about their different kinds of families. The video was aimed affectively at middle schoolers and hoped to illustrate the wide variety of different families: single parent, different religions, different races, divorce, grandparents/guardians, adopted children, and gay parents.

He said: "This video should not be shown in the Adventist schools you'll teach in."

First problem, he assumes we are all going to teach in Adventist schools. Second problem...well...

I said: "This might seem a silly question, but why not?"

He said: "Ha. Because Adventists do not endorse homosexual behavior of course."

I said: "I realize that, but I still don't understand why it should not be shown in an Adventist school."

He said: "Adventists as a whole are homophobic and we would not want to cause a stir."

I said: "What is your opinion on it? Do you think this video should be shown in an Adventist school?"

He said: "Well, if I didn't believe it, I wouldn't have said it."

I said: "Okay."

He said: "As Adventists we shouldn't condone such behavior."

I said: "Should we also then stop teaching about war in our history textbooks since we also do not condone killing? Should we pretend evolution does not exist and leave it unmentioned because we don't want to 'condone' such behavior?"

Much back peddling and avoidance occurred at this point and I was left feeling again, unheard. It feels, as a whole, that Adventists in particular tend to just avoid subjects that are uncomfortable.

He said: "The Adventist church's stance on homosexuality is much like the millitary's: Don't ask, don't tell."

Do I really want to claim a church whose stance is: "Don't ask, don't tell." I realize it depends on which Adventist you ask, but this teacher's brand of religion I'd rather not ever taste.

At the end of class the girl sitting next to me looked straight at the ground, whispered, "Thank you," got up, and walked away.

Pretending hasn't gotten me anywhere.
Avoidance only makes things worse.
I've never been the passive-aggressive type and I have a difficult time understanding the motives of those who are.

Honesty and transparency have brought me here and I feel like it's a good place to be. If I spend the rest of my life blabbing to everyone everything that makes me weird, wrong, and broken, I think that would be totally worth it. Because as I've seen time and time again, the person sitting next to you might not have had the strength to say it outloud, but will be forever grateful that you did.

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Warning

Warning
By Jenny Joseph

"When I am an old woman I shall wear purple
With a red hat which doesn't go, and doesn't suit me.
And I shall spend my pension on brandy and summer gloves
And satin sandals, and say we've no money for butter.
I shall sit down on the pavement when I'm tired
And gobble up samples in shops and press alarm bells
And run my stick along the public railings
And make up for the sobriety of my youth.
I shall go out in my slippers in the rain
And pick flowers in other people's gardens
And learn to spit.

You can wear terrible shirts and grow more fat
And eat three pounds of sausages at a go
Or only bread and pickle for a week
And hoard pens and pencils and beermats and things in boxes.

But now we must have clothes that keep us dry
And pay our rent and not swear in the street
And set a good example for the children.
We must have friends to dinner and read the papers.

But maybe I ought to practice a little now?
So people who know me are not too shocked and surprised
When suddenly I am old, and start to wear purple."

This poem from my British/American literature class reminded me of a portion of reading from my Women and Minority writers class. We are reading Sapphira and the Slave Girl by Willa Cather. In the story Mrs. Blake goes to visit Mandy Ringer and describes her in this way:

"Now, Mandy Ringer had lived a hard life, goodness knew, but misfortune and drudgery had never broken her spirit. She was as thin as a grasshopper, and as lively as one. She had probably never spent a dull day. When she woke in the morning, she got into her calico dress in a flash and ran out to see what her garden had done overnight. Then she took a bucket and went to milk Sukey in the shed. Her son, though he was a cripple, would have done it for her, but in that country it was a custom for the women to do the milking. Mrs. Ringer wouldn't have trusted either of her two daughters to take care of Sukey. That little white-faced cow kept the log house going when everything else failed, and her calves brought in the only actual money the old woman ever saw.

"Mrs. Ringer was born interested. She got a great deal of entertainment out of the weather and the behaviour of the moon. Any chance bit of gossip that came fer way was a godsend. The rare sight of a strange face was a treat: a pedlar with a pack on his back, or a medicine-vendor come from across the Alleghenies with his little cart. Mrs. Ringer couldn't read or write, as she was frank to tell you, but the truth was she could read everything most important: the signs of the seasons, the meaning of the way the wood creatures behaved, and human faces. She once said to Mrs. Blake when they were talking things over: "It the Lord'll jist let me stay alive, mam, an' not put me down into a dirty hole, I kin bear anything."

"She had borne a good deal, certainly. Her son was a poor cripple, and both her daughters had been "fooled." That seldom occurred twice, even in the most shiftless households. Disgrace to the womenfold brought any family very low in that country. But Mandy Ringer couldn't stay crushed for long. She came up like a cork,--probably with no better excuse than that the sun came up. Her spirits bubbled intoe th light like a spring and spread among the cresses."

I realized and wrote recently about the fact that because I am the baby in the family, I've never had the joy/plague of dealing with younger siblings. I've not had much experience with kids. In a similar way, I realized, I haven't had much interraction with the elderly either. Sure, we sang songs at nursing homes and I have grandparents, but I didn't grow up with older people in the house or learn directly from them. Basically, I've been selfishly consumed with myself and my generation for most of my life.

My boyfriend Jeremy has a younger sister and close relations with his spunky grandmother whome he spent considerable time with growing up. My friend Rachael has two younger sisters and more contact with her grandma then I could ever claim. Other friends of mine talk about their grandparents like a sibling that they know well. I feel like I kind of missed out.

I'm developing my own theory on what it means to age, to progress, to get old. I'm sure this definition looks differently to everyone. But as Sierra and I decided last week, "We are going to be freaking awesome old ladies." We feel somewhat removed from the fun and silliness of what it means to be a college student. Maybe we think too much, maybe everyone else thinks too little. We haven't quite decided yet. But either way, we feel like we are having our midlife crisis's about 20 years early. We hope that somehow by becoming familiar with and battling the demons in our head early, we are possibly ahead of the game, or at least that's what we like to think to make ourselves feel better and less ancient and boring.


Warning to the 21st Century
By Heather Bohlender

"When I am old, I will wear sundresses and chunky jewelry
that you can only find at Goodwill.
I shall spend my retirement money on coffehouse chai lattes and good reads
and bohemian clothing and say we've no money for cable TV.
I will sit in the grass when I'm tired
and eat samples at Whole Foods market and pull fire alarms
and whistle whatever I like, wherever I like
and make up for a repressed, conservative childhood.
I'll go barefoot in the rain
and pick flowers in other people's gardens
and learn to dance hip-hop.

I might not answer the phone, or emails, or Facebook comments.
I won't keep up on the news and current events
and who's dating who
and who said what.
The computer may get dusty and people will say,
"We can never get a hold of you," to which I'll reply,
"Did you try stopping by my house or writing a letter?"

I can model ridiculous hair styles
and consider wrinkles a sign of a life well-laughed
I will only exercise by strolling through parks or playing Ultimate frisbee.
I can eat macaroni and cheese
or only peanut butter and jelly for a week
and hoard cosmetic samples from department stores
and kitchen gadgets that I have no use for.

But for now I have to dress in earth tones
and pay my bills and not say, "Hell" for fear that I'll end up there
and set a good example for womankind.
I should be social on weekends and get an education.

But what if I started now?
I wouldn't want to shock everyone once I get there.
When suddenly I am old, and the sundresses come out."

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Flannel

It struck me subtly, like a one-degree change in the weather. Hmm, I think it just got one-degree warmer. I was walking between the atrium and the dick building headed to my next class when I realized, Oh my gosh. I'm happy. Now this was not a "OhmygoshI'mhappyanditfeelslikeit'sbeenyears" kind of happy. No no. This was different. It didn't surprise me as if it had never occurred to me that I might be happy. Joy is not so much dependent upon the climate of my life as much my attitude towards it.

I'm a recovering perfectionist. Please don't take offense if you are a perfectionist. Perfection just isn't for me. Maybe it's working for you. Okey dokey. But I reached a point laying facedown on the tiled floor of my bedroom in Cambodia when I decided; perfection was not for me. The progress has been slow, and I'm up and down on this rollercoaster as much as anyone else, but I'm doing my balanced best.

Perfection told me I could not make mistakes, and well, I want the freedom to do so if I want.

Perfection told me I have to get straight A's, and now I'm learning to perform at a more comfortable level that is better for everyone.

Perfection told me I would never be good enough and I should always try harder. Now I'm seeing that I can only live by the standards I set for myself and constantly striving for more and more is no way to live.

This is not a story about having a better attitude, we all have our days. For me, the change has come more from taking deep breaths, from accepting my situation. This is not laziness. This is not giving up on the life I want or compromising what I believe. Happiness is finding me. Contentment settles in my bones like only hot chocolate can, when I remember that I can be whatever I want to be. I can make mistakes. I can hurt people. I can change my outlook. I can get a B. I can sign up for too much and achieve too little. I can eat PB & J until the day I die. I can nourish my body and soul. I look back and think, Whoa, what was I thinking? I can look forward and think, I'm scared. I can observe the present and realize, It's going to be all right.

Some of you may be more laid back then a lounge chair. I'm jealous of you. I'm learning from you. Believe me, I'm taking notes. Some of you may be thinking, Why is letting go so important to her? I wish I had the motivation. Well I've tried on a few things for size. I've tried on the motivated, dedicated, overworked, perfect, stressed, type A, bold, agressive personality, and I have to admit, it was a little itchy. Something always told me, It doesn't have to be this hard. Take a break. So I'm coming at this from the only reality I know. I've lived most of my life in extremes and black-and-whites. I don't want to become lazy, unmotivated, and partial either. I'm seeking balance.

Balance means forgiving myself when I miss a work-out.
Balance means moving on past a C (+!) on my A & P test.
Balance means not trying so hard to get her to like me, because, well, she might not, EVER.
Balance means listening to a friend when I have a dreadfully long to-do list ahead of me.
Balance means accepting the fact that learning guitar might not happen at this stage in my life.
Balance means not knowing the bulleted, mapped out plan for my life.
Balance means eating what my body needs and not what I think it should need.
Balance means being honest about my situation and accepting life as it is, right now.

All-in-all, I believe I am happier becoming a less-structured, less-organized, overworked, perfect version of myself. I'm seeking balance. It's not always comfortable. No basically, it's too loose, like your dads flannel button-up shirts, when you're thinking, This can't be right. But the benefit is; There's room to breathe and there's just something comforting about settling into a place that always feels like home.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Cabbage Patch

I'm not sure when it started. I can't pinpoint the exact time and place that I realized it for the first time. Maybe it's been blown out of proportion. Maybe I think too much. Let's just say, growing up I was never the first person, or the last person, people called on to babysit their kids. I think there was one time I can think of when a desperate neighbor called me to watch her two boys for a few hours, other than that? Nada.

I'm not sure if family counts. I think that's different. It's a convenience. It's a, "Well, she's family, what could she possibly screw up with our kids in a few hours?"

It's no so much the frequency at which I was asked to babysit, it's the fact of the matter that: I'm not a big fan of kids. Whoops.

Okay, okay. Let me clarify. This is does not mean I "hate" kids or even "strongly dislike" kids. I said, and I quote, that I am not a "big fan." Okay? Babies can be cute in their giggles and smiles and baby toes and innocence. Toddlers are adventurous and fearless. Sometimes 5 year-olds make me laugh from the silly questions they ask. I can appreciate kids so long as they are someone else's and at the end of the day they stay with that someone else.

I am the youngest child. I didn't grow up with younger siblings. I was the baby. That explains a lot, but further, I have three younger cousins who came along when I was 10 years-old. I loved, loved having younger kids in the family. I used to babysit my cousin Destaney. When she was a baby and needed a nap, I'd let her sleep, but then get bored and wake her up so she'd play with me. Soon after my cousin, Angie had two kids: Oriel and Cosette. These girls are rockstars. They're funny and sweet. I like these kids. Now they are 11, 8, and 4 years-old, but they are still pretty awesome.

I like some kids. Maybe I'm just picky.

"I didn't want to have kids either," my mom says.

My dad interjects, "Yes you did."

Most assuredly my mom repeats, "No, I didn't. It just happened." Halting for emphasis she looks me in the eyes and say, "You guys were not an accident. Having my own kids changed my mind."

Last week I went on a field trip for my children's literacy class. I don't love the class because I am secondary English and learning about picture books and illustrators seems a bit unapplicable. Either way I went to the Plum Creek Children's literacy festival last Friday with a van full of elementary education majors.

"Awwww, there so cute! Look at them holding hands," they gushed. And just like good elementary school teachers, "Ooopsy. That one just threw up. Race ya to get paper towels?"

Not kidding.

Spending a day with these girls ooo-ing and awww-ing over 2nd graders made me wonder, "Do I lack the mothering gene?"

I am not a tough, unloving, unkind person. I'm not made of steel. I'm not a suck-it-up-and-move-on sort of person. I can play. I can laugh. I can love. What's my deal?

Talking to Jeremy on the phone I considered, "I think some times I'm too logical for my own good, because often I rate my interest in kids based on how frustrating it is that I can't have a conversation with them!" Maybe I'm just frustrated that they aren't little adults, ya know? Maybe I'm not in love with kids because they are...well...kids.

I learned that this summer at camp. I couldn't put my finger on anything in particular about why working with youth was tough besides the fact that they were kids and of course they'd be immature, of course they'd have needs, of course they'd argue, of course they'd be difficult sometimes. They are kids. That's what they are supposed to be right now.

The same could be said about everyone else I interract with day to day: teachers, students, strangers. If my expectations are so high for what I think they should be, I'll always be disappointed. Just as I'd grant kids permission to be kids, I need to grant people permission to be people, just like others do for me.

On a scale of 1-10, 1 being, "No, no, never, never, uh uh uh!" and 10 being, "Yes, absolutely. I want to start my own cabbage patch," I'd say I'm anywhere from a 4-6, depending on the day and the proximity of children.

Friday, October 2, 2009

Coward

"I used to want to change the world," she tells me, "but right now I'm just trying to make it through the day."

This is not the first insightful, thought-provoking idea she has laid on me since we've been friends, one of many in fact. I'm learning a lot from her. It means so much for me to be able to say out loud, "I have an eating disorder. There." But it means even more to say, "I have an eating disorder," and hear someone respond with, "Me too."

I've been having a hard time breathing. Something in my chest weighs me down. My ribs struggle to expand enough to take in a deep, cleansing breath. I extend my spine, start to yawn, wait for it, wait for it, and it doesn't come. I can't seem to catch my breath.

We talked last week about what nerds we are for not having more friends, but I realized, I don't have more friends because I'm quite needy right now. I don't need someone to make jokes. I don't need someone to entertain me. I don't need someone to "hang out" with. This rules out what I see in many relationships in college. I need friends who can actually help me, listen, and help me heal. I'm tired and getting through the day is hard enough without acting like I want to talk about America's Next Top Model or who is sleeping with who at Union college. I just don't have the energy for it. I have too much to think about as it is.

Am I a broken record? I blog about the same things over and over again, in cycles: ate too much, got stuck in her head, contemplated vomiting, went running, felt horrible, got back on track, resumed life, learned something new and insightful and beautiful, felt confident, something changed, freaked out, ate too much, got stuck in her head...You get the idea.

There must be more to life, but I'm just not seeing it tonight.

I'm tired of being a coward.

I'm tired of responding to life's changes in destructive ways.
I'm tired of over-thinking and over-analyzing every aspect of life.
I'm tired of arguing with myself in my head.
I'm tired of battling this everyday.
I'm tired of feeling hunger and thinking, "But would anyone notice if I skipped lunch?"
I'm tired of feeling full and thinking, "Instead of handling this uncomfortable emotion (anger, loneliness, exhaustion, grief, guilt) I think I"ll just eat more food."
I'm tired of basing my self worth on how much I don't eat and how many calories I burn.

I go on auto-pilot to avoid thinking, to avoid feeling.
I go on auto-pilot to escape, to run away from dealing with life directly.
I go on auto-pilot because I'm a coward.

In a typical situation a normal person would encounter stress and anxiety, do their best to work through it, and move on. Me? I seem to overreact, disappear, think too much, comfort myself with food, hate myself for it, run/vomit, cry, and become depressed until I've earned the right to go on with life.

This isn't working.
I've been here before.
I've felt this before.
I've done this before.
I've binged before.
I've hated myself before.
I've talked about it before.
I've regretted this before.
I've moved on before, but still...
I am here again.

I would never let anyone down as much as I do myself.
I would never break promises as much as I do to myself.
I am the exception to everything I strive to be for other people.

I am the exception.