School


So I was talking to Ilse this weekend (so good to see her, btw) about life, the universe, and everything. One of the topics we got on to was my plans for the future. I’d always assumed that I would do both my BA and MA here at UD, then go off somewhere else (possibly Boston) for my Ph.D., and then teach wherever I could get hired. It’s a good plan, but Ilse challenged me to think about other possibilities. I’ve been growing and changing a lot in the last few years, and I love my life here, but sometimes I feel a little, well, cramped. Ilse thinks the answer to this is to go live somewhere else, get my MA somewhere besides UD. I’ve been thinking a little about this, and the idea intrigues me. But… where would I go? There are so many possibilities for an MA, unlike the extremely few for a Ph.D. They’re all so tempting! Anyway, this has prompted me to create the very first ever Official Just For The Halibut Poll, a special feature where you, my dear readers, can tell me what you think I should do with my life! Enjoy…

Quizzes by Quibblo.com

So last week I started to get sick. I thought that for once I’d be good and go see the doctor right away. Usually I try to ignore it, push through, pretend that it’s just worse than usual allergies. Sometimes that works, at least for a little while. Then it backfires in a big way, I get so sick I pretty much collapse, and I have to drag myself to my Hero Doctor who makes me better. So I took a shortcut. I went to see my doctor right away, who diagnosed a sinus infection. He put me on antibiotics and decongestants. And for a while it worked.

Then it didn’t. Monday afternoon I started feeling awful. I figured it was just post-Lindy Exchange exhaustion, but that didn’t explain the sore throat that got worse and worse as the day continued. And then there were the headaches, the excess mucous, all those lovely things that shouldn’t be happening when you’re already on antibiotics. It was a little scary. Tuesday I pretty much didn’t get out of bed, and was so out of I didn’t really notice.

On Wednesday I went to the doctor again. He prescribed sulfa drugs to boost the antibiotics (which was very retro of him – Trey: “If they try to bleed you, call me.”) and even more varieties of decongestants. I came home and slept until it was time to go get my parents’ van and take the swing kids out to dancing. I taught Swing I, danced maybe a grand total of three dances, went home early, and pretty much fell over into bed. Yesterday morning I got up and felt almost normal. Well, the fact that I actually got up was pretty cool. I made tea, got dressed, and then, like a cell phone battery suddenly giving out, I was done. I was sitting on the couch about to put on my socks when I hit the wall. I just sat there for something like five minutes, my socks draped on my leg, looking at the carpet and thinking about how warm my feet would be if I ever got up the energy to put my socks on. Yeah. I took Liv to school, came home, collapsed on the couch and slept until four o’clock.

The good news is that I really am starting to get better. Yesterday evening I went to a meeting I needed to attend, and made it through basically in one piece. It used up everything I had at the time, so I wasn’t able to stay and hang out afterwards. But after a couple of hours on the couch (and after watching the first two Veronica Mars episodes with Liv, courtesy of Justin, who gave me the boxed set at the meeting) I felt well enough to actually (gasp!) do some homework. Today so far I’ve been able to make it to both class and work. Tomorrow is scheduled to be a pretty full day. We’ll see how this goes…

The good news is that when I looked out my window this morning I saw teeny tiny little new sprouts all over my vegetable patch! I planted a lot of stuff just before Easter, but it was so far past the germination dates on the seed packets that I had given up hope. I was even making plans for when I would reseed the garden patch. And then today – green! Hurrah!

I hate writer’s block.  Especially when it seems to be selective writer’s block, only specifically blocking the one thing I really, really, really need to be working on right now.  And I was on such a roll this morning before I had to stop to go to my first class.  Why can’t I get back there now?  Arrrgh!

So I’m blogging.  Because that helps with writer’s block, right?  Right?  Well, at least it’s an attempt.  It’s better than reading Veronica Mars recaps on Television Without Pity.  Not that I’m, you know, doing that at the moment or anything.  Though it would be research for when Justin trades me his DVDs of the first two Veronica Mars seasons for the Heroes Season One DVDs I just finished.  (I still like Sylar the best, except for perhaps Mr. Muggles.  Is this wrong?)

Ok, moving on… I had a good Easter break.  I dug the vegetable garden and planted sweet peas and lilies of the valley.  Hopefully the seeds haven’t frozen in the ground by now, what with all the random snowflakes flying around, but they’re cold-weather plants, so I think they can take it.  I think.  It was one of the happiest times of the last couple months digging out in the garden under the wide, open sky.  I forget, during those months when I don’t have access to the ground, how much being outside helping things grow fills me up inside.  I don’t know how people could live in urban concrete jungles with no access to growing things.  I couldn’t do it.  I think part of me would die inside.

The Easter Vigil was fun.  I wore my new peep-toe shoes (Liv: “Peep!  Peep!”), and got to sit next to Eric, who is one of my favorite relatives ever.  (No, really, ever.)  We can’t sit next to each other in church too often.  We find the same offbeat things utterly hilarious, and can’t help pointing them out to one another.  It makes for a very distracting sort of Mass.  The Easter Vigil always starts with the lighting of the new fire, followed by the candlelight procession into the church.  After the Easter proclamation, everyone blows out their candles and sits down to listen to the Bible readings.  There are a lot of them since this is the Easter Vigil.  Eric was fidgeting with his candle during the readings, peeling layers of wax off of it, then breaking it into segments and folding it into a figure 8 which then got reinserted into the paper cuff that’s supposed to catch the wax.  This meant that when the time came to relight the candles later in the Vigil, his candle had two ends we could light.  So we did, giggling silently as we watched them burn down extra quickly.  Then I had to recite him the oh, so apropos Edna St. Vincent Millay poem (“My candle burns at both ends,/ It will not last the night./ But ah, my foes, and oh, my friends,/ It gives a lovely light.”)  That was pretty funny too.

The other fun thing was that I took Liv home with me for Easter dinner.  I love watching her hang out with my family, especially the guys in my family.  The thing is that she’s really, really beautiful.  However, she doesn’t see her own beauty, particularly since she pays little to no attention to her looks whatsoever.  In her book, her blond sister is the beautiful one in the family, and Liv is the tomboy that nobody looks at twice.  Plus, she grew up rough-housing with two little brothers, so she doesn’t quite understand how the same behavior that’s really annoying in an older sister could be, well, really encouraging in a cute young woman sortof your own age.  It’s a kind of innocence.  Mikey is still young enough that they can play together without worries (plus he’s the one she trusts enough to carry her from my car into the house), but it was interesting watching Larry, my oldest brother.  He had just gotten his hair buzzed really short, so she had to rub it (she rubs her little brothers heads when they’ve just gotten a buzz cut).  It was awesome watching his brain melt and dribble out of his skull right there in my aunt’s living room.

And the other good part about Easter?  I got to talk to Joe.  When I was getting ready to leave my aunt’s house I saw that I’d missed a couple of calls, one from Ella, and one from a number I didn’t recognize.  I didn’t really think it was him, but part of me hoped (I’ve been missing him a lot, and it had been over a month since I got his last letter).  So I listened to my messages right then and there.  One of them was from him, telling me that he’s in New Orleans and giving me a number where I’ll be able to contact him from now until May.  Do you know how long it’s been since I had a phone number I could dial and connect with Joe any old time I wanted?  Years.  I mean, first he was in Afghanistan, then world traveling, then sharing a phone with the whole Jesuit novitiate.  It’s been a long time.  I got myself and Liv home as quickly as I could, went directly up to my room and called 14.  We talked a long time, the first time I think we’ve been able to talk ourselves out since he left town a year ago.  Then last night I called him again, just because I could. 

Now I’m trying to finish up school projects, clean the house to make a good impression of the potential roommate who might come visiting this weekend while I’m gone, and getting ready to leave for Boston.  Yup, friends, it’s time for the Boston Tea Party!  I’ve been waiting for this since I came home from my first Tea Party last year.  I’m so excited and nervous and stressed thinking of all the things that have to happen between now and when I fly out of Columbus on Thursday.  Thank goodness this year I have a room in the actual hotel, and if all goes well I’ll actually make it out for Thursday night instead of missing my flight like last year.  I’m also registered to compete in the West Coast Newcomers Jack & Jill.  Also, John Lindo owes me two dances.

Eeek!  Just thinking about it makes me nervous.  Breathe, Bernadette, breathe.  Ok.  I’m going to take another stab at that paper writing, and if that doesn’t work, I’m doing laundry.

Jenn just messaged me that K-Mart is selling roses for cheap!   Maybe I’ll have my rose garden after all!

Today I saw a drowned worm on the sidewalk, the first of the year.  I think that might be an even more powerful harbinger of spring than the warm weather we had for a few days, or the tiny green leafbuds on the tree outside my bedroom window, or even the small, red growths on the rose bush that signify leaves and blooms in the future.  I think this is my favorite time of year, even if the contrary weather is currently making things bleak and gray.  Hints and promises are all over the place, like the small green spikes of flowering bulbs, and the beginnings of new growth on my thyme plants.

Also, all the yarn scraps left over from the pom-poms on Liv’s Hat of Awesomeness (more about that later) which I scattered on my windowsill yesterday have disappeared.  I hope that the birds have taken them for nesting material, not that they’ve simply blown away.  Our backyard is very bird-heavy these days.  It’s been fun identifying them.  We have a nesting pair of cardinals – the lady is so funny looking in her deep red brown feathers with that bright orange beak.  There are also finches, both plain and rosy, (I’m kind of excited about them, because I read that they’re one of the few birds aggressive enough to chase off the ever-present sparrows) and chickadees.  The chickadees were the most difficult to identify.  It took me a while to get a good look at them.  For a while I had convinced myself that the black and white bird that kept showing up on the suet feeder was a kind of woodpecker.  Then I saw a picture of chickadees in the bird feeder catalog and immediately recognized the birds in my backyard.  Now every time I hear them sing it makes me smile.

Something else that makes me smile is my Swing Club kids.  They’ve started coming out to more of the local swing events, which has been delightful.  There’s a lot of them, so I’ve been borrowing my parents’ van to chauffeur them around.  On Saturday I took them out to the monthly dance.  They were a huge hit with the regular swing people.  They’re so young and excited and, well, innocent.  (Mark: “They’re like swing dancers before Original Sin.”)  I enjoy watching them.  They’re not the best dancers by a long shot – there are almost universal frame problems, footwork issues, etc. – but they’re learning and growing at such a pace!  Plus, they’re just so cute!  They’re very sick of that adjective, and I don’t blame them, but it fits so exactly there’s simply no other word to use.  Several of them will be taking the Balboa workshop this month, more than will fit in my car, so I’m borrowing the van every Wednesday to take them.  I can’t wait!


I have been dieing to post this for weeks. 😀 This is a rehearsal video of the routine my university’s swing club took to the Swing Smackdown this weekend.  This is the first we’ve had a swing club since the old one died out too long ago to mention. The members are almost all Freshman, and as cute as a barrel full of puppies. Really, there is no end to the cute. Every one of them just started dancing in September, but when they heard about the competition, they decided that they had to get a team together to participate. Most of these kids had never danced anywhere but the room where this video is taken, kids who had never seen a real jam circle, who had no idea what they were up against. But they didn’t care. They wanted to do something cool, make a splash, a debut that people would talk about. I think they succeeded.

Trey and Anna choreographed and coached. I helped where I could, and acted as Team Mom. The kids worked their little butts off. They had official rehearsals two nights a week, and kept calling additional practices on their own time. They amazed and impressed me so many times over the last couple of months I just started expecting to be amazed and impressed. Plus, they were so freakin’ cute! They were so fresh and enthusiastic and happy while they worked. It was wonderful.

The best part of all was watching individual dancers blossom. My favorite was Melanie, the little girl in the grey tank top and cream colored sweats on the left side. When she started dancing last semester, she was the kind of dancer you would watch and sigh, but not from pleasure. She was jerky, awkward, and couldn’t seem to hear the beat. Then she signed up for the competition team. She worked so hard, and so seriously at the beginning, concentrating so intensely it almost made your head hurt to watch. Then came the night they learned the hip hop section, with the pimp walk and the booty drop. Oh, the giggles and blushes! It took some effort to make the girls get over their embarrassment. Finally, some of them started to get into it, and then they really got into it. Little Melanie was one of the ones who was suddenly workin’ it like there was no tomorrow. They performed the section, and we all clapped and cheered. I hollered out, “And the Bernadette Award for Most Improved Booty Drop goes to Little Melanie, back in the corner! You go, girl!” She flushed all over with pleasure, and from then on, there was a joy and a confidence in her dancing that made her one of the top dancers in the routine. When it came time to pick the couples to represent the team in the Spotlight Dances, we picked her.

But it gets better. After it was announced that she and Jordan would represent the team in the Spotlight, I went over to her as people were packing up. “You’re doing great,” I told her, “but there’s one more thing I want you to think about when you dance. When you get out there on the floor, hold your head up. You are a freaking queen. Remember that. There is nothing down on the floor that interests you. You are a queen, and you hold your head up.” She seemed to understand, so I left it at that. At the beginning of the dance Saturday night, she grabbed my hand and pulled me aside. “Bernadette,” she said, “I did it! I don’t look at the floor anymore when I dance! I did it!” She was so starry-eyed and excited and beautiful. I beamed at her. “I’m so proud of you. You’re going to be wonderful.”

I can’t say how thrilled and proud my kids made me this weekend. They didn’t place anywhere in the competition, but then, we didn’t expect them to. The teams they competed against were made up of the teachers of the workshops they took that afternoon. If the final judges results were published, I think they would rank at the bottom. But that wasn’t what they came to do. They came to establish themselves, to make people to stand up and take notice that there were some new kids in town, and that the new kids were pretty cool. They did that, and they were utterly, unintentionally cute while doing so.

My kids, they’re adorable.

You can tell you’re starting to recover from your ravaging bout with sinusitis when you start almost forgetting to take your antibiotics.  You can tell you still have a ways to go when what used to be normal activities leave you exhausted.  Sigh.  Yesterday and this morning I did what would have been a normal schedule for me back in the day.  Class, work, pit stop home for dinner, Ash Wednesday Mass, another pit stop to pick up some things I’d forgotten, dancing, home, sleep, wake up, classes.  My day is far from done (I have another class in about an hour, then an appointment, and then my Catholic young adult group in the evening), but right now I mostly want to crawl back into bed and call it done.  Still, this is progress!  A week ago I wouldn’t have made it to half those classes, or dancing, or Mass.  So we’re doing better here.

Lisa is currently still in Nairobi, hopefully making arrangements to come home in the next couple of days.  There are so many conflicting reports about whether things are getting better or getting worse, it’s been hard for her to decide whether she should come home or just wait things out so she can finish her teaching stint.  The US Embassy had a town hall meeting a few days ago for US citizens and their families, where they were sounding fairly upbeat, not at all encouraging people to leave.  So it’s been hard to know what to do.  However, recently the opposition leaders were threatening more rallies, which really means more rioting.  This stupidity irritated Lisa so much that at that point she had decided to leave as soon as possible.  Most of our communication with her is through text messages (phone calls are so exorbitantly expensive that they have to be carefully rationed, but we found out that Judy’s cell service plan lets her send texts to Kenya for $.25), so it’s a little hard to know what she’s thinking.  Personally, I want Lisa to come home.  She may not be in any danger at the moment, but the situation is completely unstable, and it doesn’t look likely to settle down any time soon.  Everything could change at any time.  Within half an hour a place that was perfectly safe could become a war zone.  I don’t want my sister to be caught in the middle of something like that.  Plus, the sad truth is that as a young, white, blond American woman traveling alone overseas, she is uniquely vulnerable.  So, yeah, I want her home. Now.

On the up side, the gardening catalogs have been coming in for a little while now.  I’ve taken to doodling garden plans and ideas on my scrap paper during class instead of taking notes.  I used to write letters instead of taking notes, but now it’s mostly drawing gardens.  When I get a little time and access to a scanner, I want to scan them in to show you guys.  I think the one of my proposed small rose garden for back by the garage is especially lovely.  Liv and I went to the garden center to buy seeds a few days ago.  She got peppers, tomatoes, and green beans for her buckets on the back deck.  I got asters, sunflowers, cosmos, and money plant for the flower garden, and carrots, radishes, zucchini, and lettuce mix for a small vegetable garden.  Plus I also got sweet peas to grow up over the deck railing.  I wish it were March already so I could start planting things!

And now back to my Regularly Scheduled Life…

Really, that’s what going back to school has felt like for me. I was telling someone a couple of months ago that this past year has felt like I was stuck in a time warp. I did things, went places, learned stuff, but always some part of me was stuck back in the kitchen where I used to live, listening to Shelly use the word “metastes.” She couldn’t say tumors then. Not yet. So much changed this year, but part of me was still there, standing between the stove top and the door to the laundry room, watching her sitting in the chair at the end of the counter. I don’t completely remember the words she said, but I’ll never forget seeing the marks of tears on her face. That was what made me realize this wasn’t some kind of sick joke, that she really meant what she was saying. Shelly had been one of the toughest women I’d ever known. If she was crying, then the world quite possibly might be about to end. In a certain sense, it was.

Then Shelly died, and the time warp snapped. It was completely disorienting. It didn’t help that, since it was Christmas break, I didn’t even have a regular routine of classes and work to rely on. Seriously, there were some days when I couldn’t have told you what day of the week it was.

This week school started again. I never knew having a schedule of classes could feel so good. It’s been like snapping gratefully back into place. There can be so much security in knowing that this is what you’re going to be doing this week, and next week, and the week after that. Don’t worry – before long I’ll be back to my adventure-craving ways, but for now, this is what I need.

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