30 December 2010


Interesting coincidence: that's both my age today and (roughly) the number of days left to departure. Happy Birthday to me!

For today's post, we have some Dad-advice that I received about this time last year. Technically, it's all from Colin Powell, but came via my father and is all very, very Dad-advice-like in content.

I thought this post would be appropriate because this year, these kinds of injunctions actually mean something to me. I mean, sure, most of us hear this sort of thing from our parents our entire lives, starting at the age of reason if not earlier. (My personal favorite: "If everyone else jumped off a cliff, would you do it too?" This always seemed like an insufferably stupid question to me, as it overlooked a number of important factors - how high is the cliff? Is there special equipment involved? Are we, for example, base-jumping? ...That probably tells you about as much as you can stand about what kind of child I was.) But now I've gotten old enough, and made enough mistakes, to know what they're talking about. 

So. Here we go. (Thanks, Dad. :) 


The less you associate with some people, the more your life will improve.
Any time you tolerate mediocrity in others, it increases your mediocrity.
An important attribute in successful people is their impatience with negative thinking and negative acting people.
As you grow, your associates will change.
Some of your friends will not want you to go on.
They will want you to stay where they are.
Friends that don't help you climb will want you to crawl.
Your friends will stretch your vision or choke your dream. Those that don't increase you will eventually decrease you.
Never receive counsel from unproductive people.
Never discuss your problems with someone incapable of contributing to the solution, because those who never succeed themselves are always first to tell you how.
Not everyone has a right to speak into your life.
You are certain to get the worst of the bargain when you exchange ideas with the wrong person.

Don't follow anyone who's not going anywhere.
With some people you spend an evening: with others you invest it.
Be careful where you stop to inquire for directions along the road of life.
Wise is the person who fortifies his life with the right friendships.
A mirror reflects a man's face, but what he is really like is shown by the kind of friends he chooses.
The simple but true fact of life is that you become like those with whom you closely associate - for the good and the bad.
In Prosperity Our Friends Know Us. In Adversity We Know Our Friends.

This is applicable to family as well as friends.
Do love, appreciate and be thankful for your family, for they will always be your family no matter what.
Just know that they are human first and though they are family to you, they may be a friend to someone else and will fit somewhere in the criteria above.

Never make someone a priority when you are only an option for them.
If you are going to achieve excellence in big things, you develop the habit in little matters. 
Excellence is not an exception, it is a prevailing attitude.

29 December 2010

a gray day.

Today's post is one that I actually wrote some time ago and never got around to putting up. Thus, it refers, not to today, but to a day very much like today. My feelings are much the same.


The sky is closed today.

It dazzles the eyes, though, if you look at it straight; if there were any such thing as a bright gray, this would be it. I don’t like the feeling of walking about under a shut sky – it makes me feel restless, discontent, and I have to have people to talk to and work to engage in so as to distract myself from this imprisonment. Some people really love gray days like this. I wonder if they are the same people that prefer to have their doors closed and their private spaces close and cosy, the corners and borders of their world clearly defined, their belongings all around them and the messiness of intruders carefully regulated.

Don’t get me wrong – I like my space and solitude, need it even, in certain amounts and with a distinct regularity. But my favorite days are the wide-open blue and breezy ones, when nature fills your senses and screws up your productivity in a maddening, shameless way. Like love, or a lovely woman, she consumes your time and plans, giving them back to you full of energy, perhaps, but woefully without what you had planned for them.

25 December 2010

Christmas 2010

"For unto us a child is born, to us a son is given; and the government shall be upon his shoulder, and his name shall be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. Of the increase of his government and of peace there will be no end, on the throne of David and over his kingdom, to establish it and to uphold it with justice and with righteousness from this time forth and forevermore."

(Isaiah 9:6-7)

Merry Christmas, all.

23 December 2010

So. Much. Paperwork.

I am cleaning my room, reading Nathaniel Hawthorne and messing with my blog settings to avoid doing the paperwork.
Silly me; I thought it would be all done (or at least mostly done) by the time I got accepted to Kingston. Oh, no. Much more paperwork is required, once you're actually coming, than is needed just to let you try.

It's almost Christmas, dear readers, and although I'm not as much of a Scrooge as I was last year, it's still hard for me to really get into the spirit of things. This happens every year - everyone's eating cookies, watching TV specials, decorating and partying and giving to charity and I'm like, "Please leave me alone. It's cold and dark outside, and this means gloom."
Maybe part of it is that, even though the holiday is presented as sort of a happy parallel to Easter (or to Good Friday, really), I never can get over the fact that, picturesque as the Nativity scenes are, we are still remembering the birth of a God-child who was, firstly, committing the humblest, most sacrificial act imaginable by stepping down from God-ness (and the eternal companionship of the Trinity) to become a creature of breath and dust. Secondly, this child's only purpose in becoming was to die.
Did Mary actually get that, when the angel told her what was going to happen? Did it strike her, in its full weight, when He was born? Or did the knowledge sit somewhere deep inside her, mercifully muffled for thirty-three years, until her Son was tortured and hung out like so much carrion? When she faced Him then, was it the first time she had to swallow the fact that His entire life was lived for this moment?

I guess this is why Christmas isn't cute to me. Sometimes, though, it is peaceful. Thanks be to God.

17 December 2010

33 days.

Thirty-three days. A little over a month. And then, the adventure begins.
One month, to pack, plan, buy, clean, write, send, discuss, gather, fill out, arrange, check, double-check, and wait. How did this happen so fast? I'm hardly ready. Somehow this snuck up on me. There's so much to DO - and so many people to spend time with, to invest in, to get to know (and wish I'd gotten to know better) before I leave for five months.

January 21st, we arrive in London. Before that, there's a stopover in Copenhagen, after a departure from O'Hare International in Chicago, after a five-hour train ride from St. Louis to Chicago. Two days of travel, more or less. It's going to be exhausting, but exhilarating, and even more so if no luggage gets lost along the way (fingers crossed). I'll have to train myself to take at least a few pictures. I may have to buy myself a non-antiquated digital camera, and *then* train myself to take pictures...but we'll see what Christmas brings.

Dear Lord, I'm not ready. But here it comes anyway. It's funny how we pretend time goes in a straight line, when it's perfectly obvious for things like this that it's all balled up and stretched and crazy-tangled together. Most of all, I pray that I'll put this frankly priceless month to good use, and not take it for granted.

11 November 2010

I don't have epiphanies. Just mental housecleanings.

I read my bits of Acts and Philippians today…and I don’t know, somewhere between “be anxious for nothing” and “I count all things loss for Christ,” it hit me that if going to grad school for stage management, heck, if having a career in stage management isn’t going to or can’t be an act of love and worship for me – if it’s really all about late nights, too much caffeine, and sweating the small stuff…then why would I do it?

I’m not expressing myself well.

Anything that becomes too big and defining a part of one’s identity, save belonging to and with and in Christ, is going to become burdensome eventually. I have been there. Babysitter, best friend, stage manager – these are all good things, and I have abused them and suffered the consequences! I should know this by now. But maybe it took this semester to bring it home; maybe I needed this particular intersection of events to help me realize that stage management is not who I am, it is how I worship. Just like my relationships. Just like all my other work, anything I care about at all. When it tries to become more than that – when I start stressing about my Whole Future hanging on my abilities and all-inclusive drive in this area – we run into trouble.

What’s the verse? “I led her into dry places, where there is no water…and there I spoke tenderly to her.” Possibly Ezekiel. Or Song of Songs. Either way, I understand: God needs to take us into the desert for us to come out of our stupid blindness and finally turn to him, plugging ourselves in to his goodness and beauty and richness for all our needs, otherwise we are taken in by the excitement of other things, not realizing (we are very shortsighted) that everything must needs come back to him, and when we try to detach it and make it just our own, for our fulfillment in itself, it will wither and die.

Unless I have offered up my life as a sacrifice to be taken away, broken, killed and burnt first, it is of no use, to me or anyone else. I have to give it to Him in order for Him to entrust it to me, richer and better fed than before.

You may wonder what provoked this particular post. Well, it turns out that DePaul doesn’t actually offer stage management as a graduate study program. I was confused or misinformed somehow; they have it for undergraduate, but their graduate program is actually quite different. There was something about having all my rosy-starred expectations imploded in this way that made me stop and think, and realize how heavily I have been leaning on this future career to give me some fulfillment in life. And then, of course, we ran up against some basic assumptions and presumptions that I didn’t even know I had. Which train of thought has been none too pleasant, but is always good.

I’m still in love with Chicago, though. And I still want to work and live there; I’m still turning over ideas and theaters in my head. But now I’m thinking more seriously about what I’m expecting to get out of this, what I need to do for that meaning or fulfillment, and I’m wondering about ministry. I'm surprised I've never seriously thought about this before, actually - I think all the happiest, most content people I know have some area of ministry and/or sacrifice evident in their lives.

Sorry to leave you hanging at Michigan Avenue, by the way. In future, I will know to write my adventure-days all in one go, then post them in parts – otherwise they never get done at all. If anyone is really dying to know what else happened (doubtful), though, leave me a comment:) 

02 November 2010

a sampler

Today's To-Do:

-Costuming lab hours (gonna need that 'extra' credit)
-finish body block (picked out a vest design today. eep!)
-work on commercial garment (due in 2 weeks. Might want to cut out the fabric, like, yesterday.)
-Spanish homework
-overdue reading for WC class
-register for just-in-case spring classes
-Brecht handout
-more espresso
-work on Alice collages + paper (due in less than a week)
-figure out Hist & Lit paper
-Spanish vocabulary + grammar (everybody's dumb at something...right?)
-Hist & Lit reading
-work on (read: start) Hobbit portfolio, get a better handle on paper direction
-pick up library books
-go to work
-update blog?
11-1-10 (for about two more minutes…)

This whole consistency thing is harder than I thought it would be. Not because I don’t have things to say; I have tons of things still that I could talk about from the Chicago trip and everything. But justifying the time to sit down with this silly blog that nobody reads…well, I have lots of other things I could/should be doing. Like sleeping. I'm so tired, my eyes are practically closing themselves. But this blog is an agreement that I made with myself. And I’m trying to keep those better these days.

Saturday, then. Good grief; it seems like forever ago! But Saturday, I woke up around 830 without even setting an alarm, but cuddled back into bed for awhile, read my Bible, did a bit of journaling, as you can see at the end of my last post. Oh, those cats.

A bit later, though, Abi went over to her friend Alyssa’s apartment to make Swedish pancakes, and the rest of us followed a bit later. They were delicious, if a bit odd – a Swedish pancake is a bit like a crepe, and really simple, just flour and water and egg, I think. You fry them really thin, and then spread things on them, like jelly and peanut butter. I only had one, but it was delicious. Alyssa also had caramel and green apples, and a roomful of Swedish friends for us to meet. It was fun, and everyone was really nice and welcoming. Josh and I left comparatively soon, though, because we had a day of adventure before us!

Abi gave us directions back to the el, and away we went. (I forgot to mention the part where we decided where we were going – DePaul, then Columbia, then the Coach store (!!!), Navy Pier, and Gino’s East for dinner.) We took the brown line down to DePaul, and it was a pretty ride in daytime. I mean, not in the way you usually think of pretty scenery, with rolling vistas and such. Mostly it was the backs of houses and apartment patios. But on a bright, cool morning, in a new place with places to go and people to watch and all kinds of possibility to consider…it was really quite lovely.

So we got off and, after a quick and necessary Starbucks stop, made our way around DePaul. It being the weekend, there wasn’t much of anyone to talk to, but we got a feel for the campus and the neighborhood anyway, and their library and theatre buildings certainly beat the stuffing out of Truman’s.

After that, we took the brown line a little further down to Columbia College, which is on Michigan Avenue, which is apparently this Big Shopping Deal in Chicago. Columbia was quite inaccessible, being almost entirely closed and locked up on the weekends, but we visited the photography gallery and that was interesting. The theme was something to do with the issue of our Mexican border. Some of those pictures were really haunting. I can still remember the children's serious faces, and the empty look in some of their eyes. I remember, especially, the picture of the prostitute with her dress pulled up over her face. It was an unexpected interlude to our trip, but the kind that sticks with you, after.

By this point, we’d been visiting grad schools for half the afternoon, picking up pamphlets and asking questions and poking around – you know, school-visit stuff. It was time for a) food, and b) seeing a few sights.

Next time: up Michigan Avenue.

31 October 2010

playing catch-up

Happy Halloween! Or Reformation Day, or just Sunday, depending on your preference...

So, in between no real wi-fi on the train (they “technically” offer it, but when you come right down to it, it always depends on how close your towers are, which is a big variable on a moving train) and no time/energy to compile my notes until now, it looks like my Chicago-trip chronicles will come all in a lump entry or two here at the end. That’s OK. It’s Sunday morning, and I’ve got a little time before everyone else wakes up for church, but anything I don’t get to now, I’ll cover on the train.

10-29-10 (Friday)

Today’s the day. Josh is late.
Well, he’s not actually late. He’s just not as early as I am, and taking longer about being ready. I’m trying to be patient, though. It wouldn’t be good to start this trip sniping.

I’m kind of surprised at myself with how remarkably unstructured (comparatively) I’ve left this. I know when our trains are – and where Abi’s house is – and generally how to get places – but I’ve hardly thought of all the logistical breakdowns. Possibly because I knew I’d have 5 hours on the train to think, but still.
Right now, Chicago plans are a vagueness of travel, friend time, some-schools-somewhere visits, and a bit of sightseeing somewhere maybe. This should be an interesting test of me and Josh’s traveling-together cooperativeness. A dry run for England.

Anyway, trying to keep everything remembered for my blog. So. It’s early, cold and gray outside. I’m pretending not to see Josh, in his gray coat, walking up the front of Mo. I’ll finish writing this, and then look up and see him for real, all at once.
…And here we are in the La Plata train station, with ancient tile, slat wooden benches, soft-voiced Mennonites in the corner and a fascinating collection of toy trains behind the ‘Employees Only’ sign. There’s a family with three little kids, too; two elementary-age boys and a little girl in a pink coat, maybe three years old. Also a guy about our age, looks familiar, like he might be from Truman, or Kirksville at least.
Our train’s been delayed, so instead of 955 we’ll be leaving at 1130, maybe. A couple of people didn’t take this news too well, and left to get food and things like that. Josh and I got dropped off, though, so we’re stuck. It was a little after 9 when we got here. Brad allowed himself to be prevailed upon to drive us.

Not a whole lot else to say until the train gets here, really. Josh is reading LotR, as usual…will have to find some way to entertain myself.
When the train starts moving, it’s a weird, weightless feeling, almost exactly like the feeling you get right before fainting. We’re on the second (floor? Story?), so we’re so far away from the wheels that you can hardly feel them except on the bumpy parts. I like trains. They’d be a terrible choice if you really wanted to get anywhere fast,  but this way of seeing everything as you ride, people-watching, swaying and rolling like I’d imagine the deck of a ship…I like it.

Josh and I are in coach, of course, with the family of kids we waited with in the La Plata station. Behind us on the train are more and more coach cabins, mostly with sleeping people, last time I checked, and ahead of us are the lounge and dining cars. The first-class people are somewhere below us, as are the bathrooms and nothing else that I was able to poke my nose into while I was out exploring. The seats are a lot like the ones you get on airplanes, only with tons more legroom.

Let’s see…our train was about two hours late, so we didn’t leave La Plata until ten minutes after noon. We’ve been slow and stopped, it seems, rather often, and should arrive in Chicago between five and six, by my estimate. Probably could have driven faster than this. But we weren’t in this for speed.

Once we arrive in Union Station in Chicago, there’ll be an interesting adventure to find and get on the proper bus. We’re supposed to take the brown line, and I know which station to stop at, and obviously the bus stops at the Amtrak station, so in theory it’ll only be  a matter of finding the right terminal or whatever. Doesn’t change the fact that neither of us has been there before, though. Hopefully everything will be okay. I’m glad we didn’t try to plan anything to do this evening.

I’ll try and write more before bed, to update on how everything goes. Or maybe I’ll just fall into bed tonight (highly likely) and write in the morning.

Traveling-Work To-Dos for this Weekend:
-read The Caucasian Chalk Circle and have handout stuff worked out for my presentation in Hist & Lit Monday
-come up with a plan for Alice collages, plus some manner of outline for that paper
-Hobbit plans? Maybe?
-Let’s be realistic. I’ll be doing well to get that much done. Still need to come up with a list of smart questions to ask at the grad schools…

10-30-10 (Saturday)

An interesting scrap of thought, off the top of my brain when I woke up this morning: sometimes I can be very simpleminded about things. Like the issue of influence between friends – I feel awfully remedial about it, but I don’t really know how that works subtly, I only know how it works like a hammer or how it doesn’t work at all. I wish I could learn better. Seems like I’ve been realizing a lot, lately, about how little I understand, about interpersonal relationships.

Here at Abi’s house, she lives (as usual) in a happy jumble of community and service that I can (most of the time) only stand in awe of. After she picked me and Josh up from the el station, we met Emily, her high-school friend, and drove to her house in the suburbs (somewhere north of here…it was dark, mind you, but the area seemed very Ladue) for dinner. Her parents treated us all to takeout from P.F. Chang’s, which, especially considering how starved Josh and I were, was utterly fantastic. Then we watched the entirely ridiculous but nevertheless fun Prince of Persia, got back to Abi’s quite late, and went to bed.

We also met Tundai – whose name probably isn’t spelled like that – who just became an American citizen today. He’s asleep on the couch.

In other news, there are cats crying outside my window. Seriously. I have never heard that noise come out of a cat before; they sound like bratty children. And then every few minutes, it sounds like one of them attacks the other, and in the dry leaves, it’s terrifying.

Abi lent me her bed while I’m here. It is lovely and incredibly soft and warm, and when the sun comes through the long white curtains in the morning, I can pretend I’m one of those blissful people in the sleeping-aid commercials.

Agh. Stupid cats. Okay, time to move. Busy day today, just as soon as Josh and I figure out precisely what we’re doing. We talked about planning our school visits last night, but as tired as we were…yeah, that didn’t happen.

(That’s it for the notes I’ve already written down. Next should be the story of Saturday: DePaul, Columbia, Michigan Street, the beach, Navy Pier, deep-dish pizza, and why I love love love love love public transit. Until then!)

26 October 2010

after a year away...

So, this weekend is the big trip!

The Chicago trip, that is. Josh and I are taking the train up on Friday morning, and coming back Sunday afternoon. I have done embarrassingly little logistical planning for this weekend, but I have decided that it’ll be a good trial run for England in terms of getting poor Valentine back up to date.

Speaking of England, the last step (please oh please) of that application should be finished by tomorrow morning, when me and Josh’s passport pictures are in the mail and on their way to Montana State. After that, all that’s left to worry about is the money…as per usual.

In other news, junior year is trying to kill me. For some reason, college seems to think that just because I’ve been here for two years already, my classes should be harder. Psh.

Tonight’s itinerary:
-Alice in Wonderland sketches for JINS class
-Study Spanish vocabulary
-Hist & Lit online test
-England spreadsheet from Dad (must fill in the missing squares where there is no money. Heh.)
-McNair Program research? (Maybe, if I’m still awake.)

Thanks for reading, whoever you are.