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Adopting in Ashburn

What began in France moved to Washington, DC and then the suburbs. Let the adventures in Ashburn continue.

Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Apparently Not

I feel like our country was founded on the separation of church and state. In so many ways, the founders did basically everything in their power to keep the government from influencing religion and vice versa. With all of the noise against school vouchers (state sponsored religion because funding goes to parochial schools), the pledge of allegiance (since we reference God), and city hall having to place out decorations for about 70 December holidays, you would think people would have the separation of church and state in their little pea brains.

Apparently not.

Tonight in class I watched a PBS segment on how some churches in Ohio were possibly being investigated by the IRS for breaking their non-profit status by supporting a political candidate (which is, by the way, illegal). And all I could think (even though I was supposed to be thinking about the theories involved in mobilizing voters) was about how sad it was. How terribly, terribly sad it was.

I couldn't believe that the megachurches they were referencing, some of which have 10,000 congregants on a single Sunday, could preach politics. And I don't mean I disbelieve they were capable. I'm just shocked that people stayed.

We so often talk about "cognitive misers" in class; these people who take every shortcut available to get to their goal, trying their darndest, it seems, to not actually have to learn anything and arrive at an answer. Basically, they don't use their brains, or waste their time thinking about things they can get easy answers to someplace else. I can see how these people exist, but I weep that they constitute about 70% of the public. (I really do.)

And even though I can settle the idea in my head that so many people just don't care enough to learn ... then I think about framing. [This is a bunch of communication school jargon, I know, but stick with me here, my point is coming.] These people are getting their agenda set by the church. By preachers who are using the pulpit as a ground to recruit those who have similar political ideologies. The message is framed on moral grounds: God and the Bible speak out against homosexuals, abortion is wrong because it is taking a life - there are commandments against that ... etc. But that isn't the worst part.

The worst part is, that the people keep coming back. They have no pre-existing frame in their head, no ulterior message that says: STOP. We live in the United States of America. We live in a country where we are free from religious and political oppression (supposedly). We treasure the Bill of Rights, freedom of speech, freedom to bear arms, freedom to basically do whatever our little hearts desire without tumbling into anarchy. We live in a place with the separation of church and state. But these people don't know or remember that. Or they are just too lazy to care.

I can't believe that they tolerate it. That they don't mind the blatant disregard for the country they live in, the country's government that they are being encouraged to vote for is being violated. Oh, I am quite upset. I wanted to talk about it, but I know everyone else wanted to leave class. I wanted to talk about it, but I was pretty sure that I would get the, "people are cognitive misers and you can't do anything about it" speech. I hate that speech (and I don't believe in hating).

Please tell me there are other people out there who believe there is a separation. Please tell me that other people are motivated enough to get out there and help our poor, helpless, miserly compatriots understand that religion endorsing the government or the government endorsing religion are the SAME THING. It is equally detrimental to our society as a whole. Our country will suffer from this.

I know some may say, but at least they are getting out the vote. And I am all for politically activated citizens. I am all for church-going citizens. I think if they are both we are in a fantastic place. But the relation needs to be coincidental. It shouldn't be influenced by the clergy, or the preachers, or the teachers. Politics is independent from faith and education.

This is why the 60's brought so much change to the table, with Kennedy as a Catholic. Where are all the Republicans who feared the influence of the church on government policy now? *Sigh*

I can't help but get worked up about this. I guess I am just too optimistic for the real world. I feel like the idealized society should be much closer to real society than it is. I want to do something about it. I know I'll have to get a greater grasp on reality before then - at least be able to stomach it, if all this horribleness about people just not caring is true. But one day, I am going to make a positive difference, something the Constitutional framers could be proud of. I don't know how, I don't know when (exactly), but 2020 is looking significantly closer all the time.

Other eventfullness will be posted later. My politcal-religious rant is now ended. I'm going to have some ice cream. Love always, ~Heather

Monday, October 30, 2006

Sleep On It

Can I just tell you how stupid I feel? After all this ridiculous angst and acting out and not focusing, all I needed was to get some freaking sleep. Now, after an actual full night of rest I feel as normal as ever.

Verdict: Don't make phone calls until you have sufficiently rested. In other words, sleep on it.

Summary of events: A marvelous weekend, starting Thursday with the carving party, picked up on Friday by the ghost tour with Kira and Meryl and then board games. Saturday, also considerably marvelous with good conversations, football, friends, and arguably the best time I've ever had while watching West Wing. Sunday rounded out the fun with finding my own detour, not-scary movies, and realizing that I am blessed with an amazing roommate who honestly took care of me through an exhaustion driven spell of ridiculousness.

And like a child, my exhaustion prevented me from falling asleep. But I finally conked off, woke up, babysat my landlord's daughter and took her on a walk through the woods (Capitol City Crescent Trail) and came to the stunning conclusion that I probably need more than 7 hours of sleep in three days to be rational. I am a freaking genius.

I'm registered for classes, my apartment will be clean in less than an hour, and then I am going to dive into the phone survey and reading for tomorrow. What a fabulous fall day! I hope you are having as smiley a time as I am! Love always, ~Heather

Sunday, October 29, 2006

Speaking through Quotes

I'm writing a press release on a speech Sandra Day O'Connor gave a few weeks back. About 80% of her speech was quoting others to make her point. In that spirit, the Quote of the Day spoke to me...

"Success is getting what you want. Happiness is wanting what you get." ~ Dale Carnegie

Based on recent circumstances, I hope I can be happy with what I get even if it isn't what I want.

And in response to a comment made by a friend at the pumpkin carving party:

Although the hopes are dashed I feel that what I got instead will be better in the end.

Malcolm Forbes said, "Failure is success if we learn from it."

I'm learning all the time. And even if I fail a thousand times, as Edison once said, "I'll have discovered a thousand ways that don't work." I haven't failed a thousand times yet (though it sometimes feels that way). I am blessed to have failed many, many times. And if Forbes is correct, than I am successful many times over.

On the same theme, Theodore Roosevelt said, "It is hard to fail, but it is worse never to have tried to succeed." No explanation necessary, I agree entirely. (Thanks to Dave for that quote.)

I'll end with Herman Melville. He said, "We cannot live only for ourselves. A thousand fibers connect us with our fellow men." It's true. But sometimes we have to do things for ourselves so that we can maintain the strength of the other connections. I don't believe in cutting one thing off in favor of another. But I have to take care of myself, or I will never be able to take care of others.

Love always, ~Heather

Day of Rest

All the bracketted stuff is from the original entry. The other stuff is new or more complete ...
[Abbreviated daytime entry to be filled in after my nap.]

It is Sunday, the day of rest. Luckily I have Daylight Saving Time to aid me in this endeavor.

Friday night I went on a ghost tour of Lafayette Park in front of the White House. The stories were much more history than spooky, and our tour guide didn't seem to even believe her own stories. Since it was raining, I got quite wet and cold. But it was still a bunch of fun. I met two really nice undergrads from AU who I hung out with the majority of the evening. They were kind enough to take this picture of me in front of the White House.

Speaking of the mansion, our tour guide inadvertently caused a security concern that got the flood lights turned on and sent a guard from across Pennsylvania Avenue over. Apparently, if you are standing on the ledge and our umbrella briefly crosses the plane of the top of the fence some serious alarms go off! It was fun. Or funny. And secure, which is good.

When I got home I got directly into some warm pajamas and curled up with my Strategic homework. Then a friend came over and we talked and played board games. My Yahtzee skills are severely lacking, as it turns out.

Saturday, exhausted from a late night of games and since it was still raining, I skipped the Baltimore conference and stayed in bed. I did phone catch-up, talking to Mom and Caroline for about an hour each. I also managed some research homework and started my national telephone survey.

In between I watched ESPN GameDay and the Florida/Georgia game. Then I went to Gaurav's for dinner and the game. The seminary is really rather nice - differently structured than I thought though. After what can only be described as an incredibly disappointing loss, I went out to a bar with the guys, where the live band left much to be desired. Luckily the company was entertaining - particularly teaching Gaurav and Jeff sign language.

After all that, I went over to Jeff's to watch some West Wing. One should never underestimate one's ability to stay awake on four hours of sleep the night before when faced with an entertaining option (such as the dramatic sixth season opening of West Wing). But as Jeff put it (I was sleepy, so the quote could be wrong here), "[staying up into the morning] is one of those things that makes life worth living." Yeah, I am pretty sure I messed that up, but it was something like that.

Again, I got very little sleep (though the sleep I got was deep, comforting, and golden after such a busy evening). Church this morning was good. The soloist during the meditation hymn went into a southern baptist/broadway like tenor descant that made me smile for three straight minutes. I came home, took a little time with the Washington Post, did more homework and had lunch.

Things they should tell you the day before: which roads will be shut down all over DC so that when the two routes you know how to take to get from point A to point B are shut down for the Marine Corps Marathon that you don't wind up driving in circles on random blocks until you can refind Massachusetts and get home! (I did not mess up in Dupont Circle this time though, which is a first.)

[Now it is nap time. I have earned it. When I get up, I will reset the clock in my room, write my press release, and finish the reading for two of my classes before making calzones for dinner and calling people randomly from the phonebook so I can get my survey done and in the computer before Wednesday. More and pictures later. Love always, ~Heather]

Exciting random event of the day: A guy from Minnesota called me back because he missed my call when I called for the national phone survey yesterday. He said he felt "privledged" he was the one person from Minnesota I chose (randomly). Unfortunately, he wasn't Catholic, so I had to terminate the survey. It was kind of sad, because he was the first person to agree to take it! (Dana thought he sounded cute when she answered the phone, which I just think is funny. Do you think people can sound how they look?)

And the calzones came out okay. So I'm resting now. I've had 1. Not enough sleep, 2. a busy day, 3. an emotionally exhausting day. I will partake of the mindless entertainment beginning now. Love always, ~Heather

I currently do not have a plan B. Plan 1 is looking good though. Plan is kind of a weird looking word ... I told you I needed mindless entertainment ... my brains are oozing out my ears or something...

Thursday, October 26, 2006

Carving & Chat

En francais desous...

Tonight was wonderful. We had a carving party at the apartment after class. (Class was good too - which it often is since I am such a tremedously large nerd.) At first I was a little nervous about people not showing up, but in the end four pumpkins were carved and Patrick, Christine, Caroline, and Dave came by ... which just made it good.







After the carving was done, my landlords lent us candles and we ordered pizza while our newly carved jack o' lanterns were glowing by the fireplace.


We had a really good chat and I really felt comfortable with ... well everything. It was nice to have a real conversation about issues and not have to back down or have the other person back away. It was such a relief in a way too, to know that I am finally making friends here. That or lots of people enjoy slicing up gourds. Maybe a little bit of both?


I'm going to toast the seeds tomorrow and bring them in to class next week for anyone who so desires. Yum yum. Tonight I am going to do a little more homework and then sleep because I want to get most of my homework done in the AM before I get to babysit, meet up with an old friend, go on an historical tour, perhaps stop in to a costume party, and then hopefully hang out and watch a movie. And stop by the post office and bank. And probably school. Right, I should make a list.

You have things to do too, I'm sure. Talk to you later. Love always, ~Heather

Ce soir on a coupe nos citrouilles comme les visages. Je ne souviens pas si vous faites le meme chose chez vous. Ici, c'est un tradition familial. Donc, sans famille tout pres, j'ai invite mes amis chez moi. C'etait rigolo et calmant. On a discute beaucoup ... j'adore mes nouveaux amis. C'est mieux de faire les conversations avec les autres qui ont les memes interets de vous (je trouve).

Salut, salut et joyeux fete de Tousaint et Halloween (dans quelques jours). Vous me manque beaucoup. Je cherche toujours les autres gens qui parle en francais. Hier, un assistant (pour les programmes infomatiques) qui viens de Nice a enseigne notre classe. Apres on a discute un petit peu. C'etait vraiment super. D'accord, mes reves m'appelle. Gros gros bisous, ~Heather

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

Scriptovisual

Scriptovisual is an interesting word I learned while doing all that homework I've been talking about. It basically means a document you can read and look at the pictures at the same time. Using that as a prompt, the following is a photo rendition of all the things I haven't taken a ton of time to talk to you about. Here are the captions and pictures:

High school homecoming and hanging out with Jen: The best part of the trip, aside from Jen of course, was seeing this brick placed in the sidewalk in the courtyard where I used to eat lunch.

(It was great to see many of my friends there too ... I have pictures of a bunch of your bricks for you if you are interested (J.B., J.H., D.M., TJ, basically everyone from CF Select ...)

I went to the pumpkin patch with grad friends and Dana and had my first caramel apple ever!


Interesting quotes of the day:

"Is there a goat at the top of that staircase?" -Rachel

"My eyes filled with tears, I must've had ten beers ..." - Bluegrass singer


Dana enjoyed the potato sack hill-slide. I did too. It was definitely funny to see all of us grown girls catapulting ourselves down between the children!



Our pumpkin (and my shoe) on the hayride. Dana and I wandered around looking for pumpkins and both started walking towards the exact same one at the exact same time.
It was 26lbs of orange destiny.



There was also the pumpkin canon, which seriously shot pumpkins across a field at a target. So cool.



And of course, as promised, the backsides of Erin, Dana, and Rachel looking at the corn maze we snuck out the side of.





Guarav and Tom came over Saturday evening and watched Pirates of the Caribbean with me. It was nice to hang out with them - and we should be connecting to watch the Gamecocks take on the Volunteers next weekend. This time we'll be catching up at the seminary though, which is pretty exciting, since I haven't been there before!

I left them in the guys in the apartment to run to the airport. The drive to Dulles from my house is simply simple. I was ecstatic. Which reminds me, that I owe VDOT a huge thank you for finally fixing the 170B exit from northbound 95. I didn't have to take any extremely long ramps or make hairpin turns on an overpass. Ah, the glories of the mixing bowl unmixing!

Marco came to visit the states for the next two weeks. We wandered around the city a bit (he has the pictures from that). We had dinner in Chinatown with Jeff (sooo good). Then we popped into the Plaza (L'Enfant) to "borrow" a hotel restroom before circling Capitol Hill and getting lost behind Union Station.

I was beginning to despise 'home' because it is followed by 'work'. I felt so bad that basically all I could do for Marco's visit was to stick my nose in a book or type. But I did manage a photoshoot of him between articles!

We had a bunch of long talks, we toured AU, shopped around Dupont Circle, and basically caught up. He did, I kid you not, RUN to Krispy Kreme before we had dinner at the california Pizza Kitchen. (He has vetoed that picture though, becacuse it does not fit with his new "look." I was shocked to find my friend being trendy. Luckily for scrubby me, the inside is what matters most!)

And that about sums up the past little while. Today I cleaned data and laundry, finished 7 (literal) years of global warming articles, made stew and biscuits, and had five happy things happen.

1. Possible ticket (and trip!) to the USC vs. Florida game in Gainesville with my family.

2. Learned SPSS (a type of Excel on steroids for social science research - so exciting. This is way better than ArcGIS).

3. Discovered I will have to actually administer my phone survey to people using random dialing. This is frightening (since my survey is a little controversial being about Catholicism and all) and thrilling simultaneously!

4. Got to speak French with the doctoral student from Nice who taught the SPSS class.

5. Received exciting email messages and got to catch up on blogging while When Harry Met Sally played in the background.

What a wonderful series of days! Check out Marco's blog ("A German" on the side panel) for some other night time city pictures. All in all, that ridiculously long annotated bibliography ruled my life and I still managed to kick back a bunch. I am incredibly blessed.

All this excitement is wearing me out! Sleeping seems my remedy. Love always, ~Heather

Record

I think it is some sort of record that I haven't blogged in so long. Unfortunately I am too tired to be of any descriptive use. Issac Asimov once said, "I am not a speed reader. I am a speed understander." Sadly, my lack of speed reading led to an extrordinarily long weekend. So I don't forget, and as a teaser ...

High school homecoming
Hanging out with Jen
Driving through northern Virginia
Pumpkin patch with grad friends
First caramel apple ever
Homework out the wazoo
Pirates with G and Tom
Marco visiting
Church
More homework
School vouchers
Chinatown with Marco and Jeff
Wandering around the city
"Borrowing" a hotel restroom
Getting lost behind Union Station
I'm beginning to despise 'home' because it is followed by 'work'
Long talks
Touring AU
Dupont Circle
Krispy Kreme
Pizza
Stupid annotated bibliography
Goodbyes
Finished project!
GLC Meeting
Classes and homework
Catching up with Dana and all my TiVo-ed shows
*Sigh*
Catching up with you.

Love always, ~Heather

Thursday, October 19, 2006

Project Party

Tonight we had our first official party in the apartment. It was in honor of the season 3 finale of Project Runway. Dana had a bunch of friends over and three people from American came too. It was quite exciting.

Details:
  • 11 people comfortably squished into camp chairs and on sofas watching (and commenting) on the show.
  • Lots of snacks and wine, courtesy of our fabulous guests.
  • Way too much leftover chocolate chip banana cake.
  • Alot of glasses to wash. Alot. Thank goodness we had champagne flutes to make up for our distinct lack of wine glasses.
Thank you to everyone who came. For those who couldn't make it (ah, studying) or just weren't too interested in the fashion thing, perhaps you'll hear from us about a Halloween night get-together ....

Good luck on the midterm tomorrow friends. I don't think we'll need it, but just in case. A little studying before sleep. A bunch of studying before class. Love always, ~Heather

P.S. - I want to comment that I thought the finale was two weeks ago when I originally planned the party, so I had no idea it was the night before a midterm. Additionally, I have gotten the day of the week wrong twice this week. I think that my brain is reaching such extreme saturation levels the basics are leaking out. Catch them if you can. Hugs, ~Heather

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

Poetry

I wanted to write a poem about the incredibly long (and super productive) day I had. I wrote two and they were both pretty awful. I'm going to stick to it though, maybe I'll come up with something later. Poetry seems to be a moody thing for me. Anyway, I don't want to disappoint you after all that build-up, so here is a poem I wrote a really long time ago ...

Where does the sidewalk end?

What would you say if someone asked you where the sidewalk ended?

A grown-up would say:
"Down the road
around the bend
across the lane
and through the field
to right in front of
the great white church
that's where the sidewalk ends."

But if you asked me, a child of course,
my reply would be
quite simple and short:
"The sidewalk ends where I can't draw
with chalk anymore."

Monday, October 16, 2006

Ow

I have recently discovered that my right shoulder (i.e. serving arm) is not functioning. It doesn't like hitting or serving. In fact, it hurt so badly, I couldn't play with it except to pass and set. Now, under advice from Caroline (who is exceptionally qualified), I am using alot of ice in a bag to make it feel different. I wouldn't jump to better right yet, since now I keep having mini-spasms in my arm and the whole thing feels tight and crampy (whereas before it only hurt to hit things). Here's hoping this is actually progress.

The thing is, it was the first time I have gone and done something and not felt guilty I wasn't studying. What a marvelous feeling (even if my shoulder aches).

I won't go on and on, life today was simple. Wake up. Study. Eat something. Study. Entertain myself with part of a stupid movie while eating something. Study. Wash dishes, cook and eat dinner. Volleyball. Printing out more articles to study. AmWord (school feature magazine) section meeting (I'm a contributing writer). Email check. Studio 60 with ice pack while eating ice cream. Blogging. Bed.

Oh yeah, and it looks like tomorrow, I'll be studying. If anyone has any bright ideas about school vouchers (I'm writing a position paper), let me know.

A ma famille - merci merci pour le petit message. Vous me manque quelquechose incroyable. Je fais mes etudes tout le temps. Je lis, j'ecris, et je lis encore. Ce soir j'ai joue un peu de volley et maintenant mon epaule fait mal (c'est pas grave). Alors, mes yeux sont fatigue et moi aussi. J'espere que tout va bein avec vous les bisous a tout le monde!

Love always, ~Heather

Sunday, October 15, 2006

If My Life Were a Movie

If ... my life were a movie, it would be called Studying.

I had a fairly studious Sunday, digging into my annotated bibliography (professor says I am on the right track!), reading for Writing, and outlining 100 pages of a book for a study group on Tuesday.

Dana and I went to church this morning and then came home for a bit. We went down to the Mall this afternoon to study. The weather was wonderful. We had to move the blanket like four times to stay in the sunlight, because I wasn't smart enough to move us completely to the other side the first time (as the sun went down the shadows made us pretty cold). We stopped by Bill's place so she could feed his chinchilla and then we came home. It was fun and productive. And we didn't get lost or make a wrong turn.

That is more than we can say for the guy who delivered our chicken wings tonight. Dana had a craving, so we ordered in. Unfortunately our driver was about as slack as they come. I gave him as explicit of instructions as you can give, and he missed our place - like three times. I know our little cul de sac isn't the easiest to locate, but if I am on the phone with you and say, okay, it is the next turn, and you still miss it, you should reconsider being a delivery guy.

Now it is a little early, but I might go to sleep. Sounds strange, but I think I need to. My head is anywhere but on my studies. The proverbial "they" say you only retain about 60-70% of what you read. Tonight I would have to read everything about five times to get even close to that amount of retention. I am feeling a little poetical though, so using movie quotes I think I am going to attempt to clear my head (then maybe I can study a little more before bed!).

The Story of My Current Mindset (In movie quotes)

"It's a 37-hour day. Give it a few months, you'll get used to it, or you'll have a psychotic episode." (MIB) "There's real danger: losing your mind." (What Dreams May Come) "Carpe Diem. Seize the day ... Make your lives extraordinary." (Dead Poet's Society) "Anyone ever tell you too much persistence can make you kind of stupid?" (What Dreams May Come)

What are you doing here? I thought you were studying? "Really? I am just a figment of your imagination." (MIB) "When are you going to stop acting like a child?" ... "I am a child!" (Hook) "Well, nobody's perfect." (Some Like it Hot)

Then I went outside to study. "So, it's sort of social, demented and sad, but social. Right?" (The Breakfast Club) No, not really. "Then how am I ever supposed to meet anybody?" (Back to the Future) Someday your prince will come.

"The truth is Helen of Troy." (The Truth About Cats and Dogs) “I don’t give a damn.” (Gone with the Wind) "I'm going to make him an offer he can't refuse." (The Godfather) "You're trying to seduce me. Aren't you?" (The Graduate) "Sex happens to be the one subject I can speak about ... with absolutely no authority whatsoever." (A Chorus Line) "I think this is the beginning of a beautiful friendship." (Casablanca) "Listen to me, mister. You're my knight in shining armor. And don't you forget it." (On Golden Pond) “Inconceivable.” (The Princess Bride)

Time for bed. Love always, ~Heather

Saturday, October 14, 2006

Studious Saturday

Saturday night for a studious girl in DC.

  • Chicken Helper Cheesy Enchilada. Sort of good.
  • Two binders and a book with a highlighter and blue pen on the couch.
  • A #2 yellow pencil stuck through a dishelved bun.
  • The prospects of watching All the President's Men.
  • A 3x5 card To-Do list with 16 items on it, none of which are crossed off, though many are in progress.

Saturday afternoon wasn't too much different, but at least I got to sit outside in the park and read. Woodacres Park had girls soccer matches going on, lots of sunny, grassy patches, and a wonderful old tree to lean up against.

I sometimes wonder if talking about something makes it more true. It certainly makes it more present. Dilligently going back to work now with a little hope and hopefully enough energy to get through a few of the list items before bed. Anyone want to find a nice outdoor place to study with me tomorrow? Love always, ~Heather

Substitute Soccer Mom

As I sit here now with my hair in a towel, I can hear the two children screaming upstairs. Usually this would annoy me. It is significantly less irritating though knowing that I don't have to respond today.

[Photo: Le petit Martin apres le voyage en Luxembourg, fevrier 2006. Martin, on the way home from Luxembourg last February.]

Yesterday I took care of my landlord's children. It was kind of like last week's comic stip, Baby Blues, where the dad comes home and says "at least you don't have to commute." I ran around all day! First it was FunFit, a gymboree type activity at the community center. Except I've never been there, and I got lost. Not really lost so much as I thought I went too far and really I was one street away. So we missed the little-little class and went to a slightly older one, where Maya was not exactly comprehending. Because we went to the later class, we missed Shabot Sing! at Eli's school. Eli was there, Maya and I missed it. But I had to pick him up afterwards and then it was on to the park.

We had a fabulous picnic there. Almost no drama. Then it was time for soccer practice. Except I didn't have a ball, because it was in his mom's car. So we inadvertently borrowed from a friend of his. Maya and I just goofed around and he went running off to kick soccer balls at cones. When it was time to go home, they were both pretty tired. They typically fall asleep in the car, so I needed to change them before the car, so they wouldn't be in yucky pants the whole time. There was no bathroom at the park. (This is bizarre since it is a huge park with LOTS of equipment and fields for little kids.)

Okay, so I changed one on a towel on a picnic table and the other standing up (super feat!) outside the passenger side door to my car. Eli threw a tantrum and then fell asleep almost instantly in the car. Dana helped me transfer them, and then I got as much baby stuff out of my car as possible before heading to school. There are not enough "thank-yous" for Dana covering for me.

I spent about 3 hours with Dr. Nisbet working on the article categorization. I have the unique and wonderful experience of reading about a decade's worth of articles on global warming before next Saturday. But at least I know what the research is going to be used for now. So that went as well as it can, since I either am too critical, put my foot in my mouth, or argue with him basically everytime I see him. Our only spat was over the value of popularization and how it should be done. I am going to find evidence to support my point before I bring it up again. But it went well.

I chatted with Mom, drove home, ate leftovers, and pondered my life while lying on the kitchen floor (had to be there). Dana is going to be writing an interesting novel in November I think some of you might like. I'll let you know when I have more info.

I called some friends and did some homework and talked to Mom and Dad. At the end of that I was feeling beyond emotionally drained. I dug into my homework, looking for solace, but knowing that it was going to be hard to concentrate. Then a friend called me back and I went down to his place for a while to hang out and get my mind off things.

We chatted, folded his laundry (voluntarily), drank too much water (I did anyway), and played chess (I had a horrible strategy and lost) and backgammon (I had a decent strategy and lost by two). By the end of the night (much later than it should have been since he had to get up for work this morning), I felt amazingly better. It was good to talk about the problems I was having, but not necessarily need to dwell on them. We got to talk about a bunch of other things, which gave me more time to process without having my emotions flip around. I'm really lucky to have a friend that is willing to let me ramble like that.

I drove home and would have crashed except there was a weird "spider cricket" under my bed. These things are bizarre because the hop like crickets and climb walls and stuff like spiders. I killed the (poor) thing and then scraped it out from under the bed. It is not, as it turns out, a cricket or a spider. It is an insect with multiple body sections, eyes on its body frame, and six legs. I'm going to have to look it up. Obviously, now that it was almost 3 a.m., I was not going to investigate fully.

**I want to note here how soccer moms really have alot on their plates. Driving kids around all day, giving up most of your lunch because the kids like yours better than theirs, finally getting them to sleep only to run off because you have other work to do ... I was too drained to even make myself dinner (leftovers are a heavenly thing). Call whatever soccer moms you know today and say "kudos." They totally deserve it. And, if you are considering becoming a soccer mom but aren't really sure it is for you, borrow some kids for a day. It will be the best birth control you've ever had. This is not to say it isn't rewarding, because it truly is. But it can take everything out of you. Thank you Mom for being our softball mom.**

Dana's alarm woke me this morning (not a super bad thing). We caught up on all the previous days events and she headed out to a Georgetown football game. (American is in the same conference and undefeated, baby - since the advent of the school!) Showered up and already having read a little, I'm going to fix myself some brunch and then spend my day working on my annotated bibligography and the other 9 items on my homework list.

It is looking lik a beautiful sunny day though, so hopefully I'll be able to head outside and do some of this. I'm hungry and ready to get out of my bathrobe now, so I'll talk to you later. Have a fun Saturday! Love always, ~Heather

Thursday, October 12, 2006

MastersCoaster

I want to tell you about all the things that have been going on but I can't. I'm too excited. The easiest way to express myself is through metaphor. Tonight I will explain to you the dynamics of the MastersCoaster.

The roller coaster of graduate school is pretty hard to ride. There is the getting in line, finding out you are qualified to ride and then strapping yourself in. You've walked past a million signs warning you of the risks, and yet you kept going. Multiple times in this process you thought to yourself, "Is this really a good idea?"

The ride starts, cranking you up this slope that seems like it may not have a top. But you were accepted and you've paid all this money so you can't really get off now. About 20 feet from the top, when the drop-off seems too horrendous for you to bear, your stomach drops out - but not in the good way. You want to get off. Usually, so does the kid behind you who keeps threatening to hurl.

But you don't. Because the truth is, once you're on, you're on (unless the ride breaks down - but let's leave that out of the equation for the moment). As scared as you are to go down the big hill, as soon as gravity kicks in, you're there. The thrill of the ride completely takes over. For some people it takes until the second hill. Or the third. But by the time you've gotten off, most people would agree that it was worth it.

Don't forget all the loop-de-loops and spinning. The wind is rushing so fast; your life seemingly going a million miles a minute. And some people are screaming for the fun of it, and some really are terrified. You can have all of those emotions at the same time. It is real on a roller coaster. The MastersCoaster is no exception.

So that is how I am feeling right now. I am hanging on to the bar in front of me with white knuckles one moment, and flying along laughing the next. At the next turn, I have no idea what is going to happen. But now that I'm on, I can't really get off. I don't want to get off. Because the thrill is too exciting. It draws me in. The same way the screams of excitement brought me to the ride and convinced me to jump on.

Right now the MastersCoaster and I are having a good time. The ride seems not only worth the time and investment, but the emotional and physical riggors too. Tomorrow might be a different story. But that's for tomorrow. Tonight, I am going to sit back and enjoy the ride.

Love always, ~Heather

Monday, October 09, 2006

No Adventure

Long story short: no adventures today.

I bet you're getting tired of reading about what is either a lament of my woeful life as a student or the happy tales of someone enjoying being a student. There are so few adventures here on this adventure blog.

I started blogging over a year ago, and I think the adventure status has decreased since I returned to the states. I am going to get out more. I have to. Today the farthest trip I took was walking to the mailbox. Oh, and I drove to the grocery store.

This leads me to flashback to some of the more exciting things that happened awhile ago that I never told you about. I went to the National Book Festival on the Mall. It was pretty cool to listen to interviews and speeches by authors while browsing displays and tents. The funniest guy was the author of Marley and Me - a tale of a man and his outrageously misbehaving dog.

The coolest thing out there was definitely the Magic School Bus. The real one. OKay, I know it isn't real, but it was a real bus! I would have checked out the interior, but the line of kids was a little long. The Target dog was there, and you could take a picture with him on one of those huge chairs from the commercials (they sponsored the event). There were also a slew of characters from children's television shows.

The most educational tent I went to was sponsored by the Library of Congress. I heard a man talk about General Patton during WWII. Patton was an avid photographer and took pictures of everything from landscapes to soldiers to victims of the Holocaust. Patton's photo collections were "hidden" in the Library of Congress for years, and have recently been sorted through and turned into a book. Some of his pictures of castles and landmarks were for more than posterity. He used the pictures to decide where enemies may have hidden snipers and guns that could pick off his soldiers.

One of the interesting tidbits revealed was how photography saved his (and part of his squad's) life. He was walking towards a field and stopped to take a shot. His squad appropriately halted behind him. As he took the picture, gunfire rang out and peppered across the field not ten feet in front of him. If he hadn't stopped to take the picture, he would have been shot to death right there. (And since he helped turn the tide at the Battle of the Bulge, I'm certainly glad he stopped!)


More history ... today is Columbus Day. Many of you had off from school or work; I know my postal service member did. Anyway, many know about the 1492 journey with the Pinta, the Nina, and the Santa Maria (and that fourth ship that turned back or something?). But did you know that the second trip had 17 ships. It's true, 3 regulars and 14 caravels. Both the Nina and the Pinta were caravels.

Unfortunately for me, I did not have a true adventure today. I read my homework, cleaned the apartment, replenished the refridgerator and freezer, and corrected some papers. But instead of wallowing in the sadness that accompanies missing out on a fabulously gorgeous day because of school work, I am going to revel in the fact that today is a day labelled especially for an adventurer.

I'm really glad Christopher Columbus set sail in 1492. And again in 1493. I'm glad I live in the capitol of the place he helped to found. I'm writing about my lack of adventures because he was brave enough to set out on his. So, thanks Chris. I'm dedicating this one to you. Love always, ~Heather

Sunday, October 08, 2006

Never Give Up

"Never give in and never give up."
Hubert H. Humphrey

Last night I sat down at my computer and I ranted - truly ranted - an entire blog. I was so angry. I don't know who I was angry or upset with, maybe myself. But after that I was setting my alarm so I could go to bed. The radio came on, as it often does when I slide the bar over. The song said, "Don't give up." All I had done was write about ... awfulness, and the song said "don't give up."

Then today's quote of the day. I believed it last night, but I believe it more now. Those messages came direct to me, exactly when I needed them. You don't have to believe me, and most of you probably won't, but God was looking out for me just then. He wanted me to know that it was okay. And then it was. I don't tihnk it would be fair to not share the good word when I had a chance. I'm not the evangelical kind really, but I thought you should know.

The truth is, there have been alot of discouraging things happening in the past week. Problems at school, problems with people, problems with grades. I think I just let it all get to me.

Then tonight I finally got to use a little of the things I've been learning in school. My sister had to write a survey and I got to help her. Bonus points because it was on global warming and I have read basically every article from 2004- September 2006 that had that term in it (from the Washington Post and NYTimes, but still over 300 articles). I talked to my Dad and had a real conversation about newspapers and investigative reporting. Every phone call I had tonight did something magic for me. The horrible anxiety I felt this week subsided alot.

Last night I watched a film, Proof. It was converted from the play, and it was incredible. It was certainly encouraging, if nothing else. I am no longer a big math geek (just a little one who can't really master calculus), but there was something in the character that stuck out to me.

The important thing to remember is to never give up. I don't think you should just make lemonade with the lemons - throw the citrus back if you can. It doesn't always work out that easily though. It is important to not lose your drive, your motivation, your spirit. That internal feeling - your soul speaking to you - you can't suppress it. It is what makes you so different and wonderful. Life is going to keep pelting you with things like it was a dodgeball match with bowling balls. Don't let it get you down. You're bigger than that. Much bigger. You might walk away with some serious bruises (still on the bowling ball metaphor) but it is worth it if you get to keep being you.

versus



I guess I was feeling inspirational after all that. Just a little more proof that life really is "happily after all." Love always, ~Heather

Saturday, October 07, 2006

Football Wrap-up

The Gamecocks beat Kentucky in a rather messy win. Best play of the game:
The quarterback, handing it off to the running back, who pitched it to the wide receiver who threw it into the end zone to the quarterback for a touchdown. Gotta love it.

More things to love:
Arkansas beat Auburn
Florida beat LSU
Tennessee beat Georgia (AMAZING game. Highest scoring in TN/GA history)

Can't help but fall in love with that SEC action. I bummed around feeling ill today. Managed to do citation cards for seven articles and read/skimmed a good number too. Read 2 chapters in Truth to Tell and am going to wrap-up a little bit of Anatomy of Buzz before bed. I am also going to try and watch Proof, which I borrowed from my landlords (very cool people). It is already 11:30 though, so I better get on that. Lots of homework tomorrow. I'm ready for that - and a little sunshine. Love always, ~Heather

Comfort Day

I had a weird day. The school jacked me around and I barely got any homework done (possibly none, really). But it was terrific. My aunt helped make the anxious feeling go away a little. I am making plans to visit Philadelphia. I went to temple for the first time ever. I got along really well with my landlords. I watched Thank you for Smoking with some people from my program and then sat around and talked for a few hours.

Tomorrow I am going to do something. I don't know what, but something. Probably a slew of homework - because you always should get it done before Sunday when possible. And I am going to try and visit at least one cool place from my guide book.

I think I just needed a day off. Today was a good day. And Katie made some great carrot muffins.

Love always, ~Heather

Friday, October 06, 2006

Ungrown-up


Once upon a time there was a little girl. She didn't really live in childhood bliss long, but it wasn't anyone's fault. All by herself she turned into an overly mature "person," everybody said so. She never really fit in to any crowd. "Don't worry," the grown-ups told her. "When you get older, people won't treat you like this. They'll be mature too and you'll see, you'll fit in just fine."

Well, just like how they told you you HAD to learn to write in cursive because they required it in middle school (and they didn't), they told her a lie. They promised that people would grow up. They would change and mature. They promised.

And life has a funny way of turning out. People don't change that much. They change, sure. But those adults forgot to figure in that the little girl might grow up too. Maybe she didn't, and the people around her just aren't finished becoming adults yet. Maybe she just isn't patient enough.

I know I'm not.

Every school level I talked myself into thinking that it would get better the older I got. When I got to college, I figured it was all the drinking and sex going around that made people so stupid. They weren't mature yet. The real world would help them. When I was in France, I rationed it was miscommunication or cultural differences. Maybe I was right, but it doesn't really seem that way.

(This is not to say I don't have fabulous friends all over the world who are magnificent, wonderful, completely mature people. I do, and I am blessed to know them.)

What's funny is, is that for all my self-imposed maturity, I am pretty immature. I want things I can't have. I cry about stupid stuff (yes, I cry. You knew that.) I wish on stars and sleep with a teddy bear (get over it, he's cute). Occassionally, I throw temper-tantrums. And I definitely talk too much.

Tonight I wanted to be a listener though. I wanted to be grown-up. I so rarely do. I insist upon being called a girl because ... well, I have no good reason. And so I wanted to be a listener and nobody wanted to talk. I spent so many nights as a mom to others and wanted a night to vent myself. Tonight all I wanted was to be someone else's support. And when there was no one to be found, I did what that little girl did. I retreated to a world of books.

Some of my homework books are actually fun to read, so I just grabbed one and plowed into it. It's how I got this way, reading. I would read incessantly as a child. My parents would send me outside, my teachers insist I stop reading while walking around. Is it possible to read too much?

I don't know where this is going really. In my loneliness to be a listener I am making myself speak. I've been anxious about nothing for two, three days now. I keep hoping this feeling will go away so I can get back out in the world and enjoy other people.

But everytime I walk out there ... into the world ... those ungrown-up people are waiting for me. It's so scary, it's discouraging. And I bet they see me the same way. What if maturity doesn't have a "happily after all"?

Pensively yours, ~Heather

Wednesday, October 04, 2006

Calling all (Non) Catholics

For my research class I have to put together a survey. I chose the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops as my client and their "problem" was trying to determine:
  • What factors contribute to activity among Catholics.
  • What factors contribute to inactivity among Catholics .
  • What changes could be employed to increase activity among inactive Catholics.
I need to come up with 25-30 questions that will really cover the bases and provide the most information for my client. The proposed plan had focus groups discussing the issue - but time is limited and the assignment is a questionnaire.

Because I have only one mind, I am limited in perspective. Lots of experiences and lots of minds make for better survey questions (and better surey results!). Any suggestions you might have on what types of questions I should include, specific content areas, or even your responses to the above statements will help to improve my survey.

I thank you in advance for helping me out. And if you aren't Catholic, your input is just as valid - you either have your own religion you could relate the question to, or you have no religion and could perhaps explain what keeps you away from church. To a regular church-goer, this is excellent information.

Who knows, maybe in the end I can send this off to the right people and "get some butts in the seats" (Whoopi Goldberg in Sister Act). Probably not. But a good grade and a nice forum discussion never hurt anyone. Thanks again. Love always, ~Heather

Tuesday, October 03, 2006

Eureka!

The light bulb above my head lit up in the car tonight. I finally figured it out.

All semester I have been trying to figure out why I didn't understand this project in Theory class and what is going on. I had another conversation with my professor after class tonight and that is what clarified it.

My idea of what the project encompases was correct. It is enough work to be a dissertation. But he doesn't expect me to be able to do it. Not just me, any of us. He doesn't think we are capable, nor should we be capable of this large literature review. Bullshoot.

The last time someone told me this (in the US) it was Dr. Sederberg. He said I couldn't do my thesis. It was too much to write, direct, produce, teach a university class ... but we did it. It wasn't the best thing ever, but we did it. In France, they said something similar. They expected so little of me it blew them away when I was working at 50% capacity.

I know it is going to be a long shot - a real long shot - to finish this project the way it really is supposed to be, but I'm going to do it. I know I shouldn't push myself so hard, but I refuse to be a "cognitive miser." I won't be just like everyone else. I will not let low expectations effect the results of my work.

I am more than capable of writing a literature review. Sure I've never done it before. Yes, it is in social science, a field I feel varying levels of disdain for because their research methods are bogus. And of course I already have an immense amount of reading on my plate. But I am me. And what would I be if I wasn't an over-achiever?

Love always, ~Heather

Monday, October 02, 2006

Venting


Sometimes you just need to open the window and let in fresh air. And sometimes you just have to let it out.

I got a B- on a paper. Considering that the program basically asks you to leave if you get a C, this is the equivalent of almost failing. Super.

Same paper, I was chastized, I kid you not, for including helpful graphics. But no problem, I can leave them in when I rewrite it. (Rewrite does not improve the grade.)

I got a 1 of 2 on my brief. I didn't define the concept the way I was supposed to - even though I appropriately identified and explained an applicable situation - I didn't write a specific definition. But no fears (slight sarcasm), I can rewrite it.

I worked on something that has now left me with three choices. Two make me a bad person and the third could stress me out emotionally. Choice A is between doing something moral and doing nothing. Choice B is using my talents for the destruction of another person's reputation. Choice C is trying again, along a similar path to the one I've already used, hoping for a different result (remember the definition of insanity). Bad person or sad person? I'm not liking these options.

I put my foot in my mouth with the professor I was having trouble with. I thought we had things worked out and my stupid, huge foot - in an incredibly flexible yoga-like fashion - managed to get in my over-sized, hard to close mouth. Depending on how it sounded to him, it could have almost been an insult. It wasn't supposed to be, I was really saying something bad about myself, but I just couldn't get it out. Go me.

And I may have to get a chicken pox vaccination. Not because I could get chicken pox - I've already had them. But 20 years later my private, elitist, academic record-holding school has decided to play by a different set of rules. Hopefully my pediatrician will be able to find the record of my visit, IF my mother brought me in (which isn't overly likely since she worked in a hospital for a while and my sister had had them 2 weeks before me). Here's hoping they like looking through old microfiche.

All in all, today wasn't superb. I was frighteningly productive for all the drama. Oh, and I even called the police when a bus came by flashing the "SOS, CALL POLICE" in the place of the next stop. My life is insanely bizarre.

I guess my hiatus is over, but considering all the work I have to do and the rewriting I should get started on, I think the catch-up will be a few days in coming.

I am lucky I know I am blessed. Otherwise, on days like today, I might think I was cursed. Closing the existential window and opening the real one. Loveya, ~Heather

Sunday, October 01, 2006

Hiatus

Consider my exhaustion driven blogging hiatus an opportunity to catch up on all the posts you can't read because I write too much for your busy schedule. I think my busy schedule is catching up with me. Surely there will be more later. Love ya,
~Heather B_________, E.S.N

Challenge: The person, besides Erin, who can correctly guess the meaning of the acronym gets real live snail mail (snail not included).

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