Monday, December 22, 2008


Here I am, back at home. I've eaten good food, done silly things with my family, gotten together with friends, gone to my old church, petted my animals, taken a walk in my woods . . . basically, things almost feel back to normal--normal meaning the way it was before I left. Something doesn't feel quite right, though, and that's because I have a new normal now: Houghton. I miss it, and I miss my friends there. Now I have two places and sets of people that I'm attached to, and being at/with one means I'm not at/with the other. In a way it's sad that I'm growing to love a place other than home, but it's good in a way too, as it shows I'm really comfortable at Houghton. Anyway, overall I am definitely glad to be back, and I know I'll miss home and my family when I leave. For now I'm going to enjoy the time I have here with them.

Merry Christmas, everyone!

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Christmas party

Last Saturday Jaela, Alexa, Liz and I organized a cookie-baking/Nativity Story watching party. We made and decorated sugar cookies, which was a lot of fun since I've been missing making cookies with my family. Then everyone assembled in the fireside lounge (which is a big room in the basement of Gillette with lots of comfy couches and a fireplace) and we watched The Nativity Story, which is a great movie. If you haven't seen it, I highly recommend it. It makes the Christmas story so real.

Doing fun things like this makes me sad that I'll be leaving Houghton tomorrow. I don't feel ready for the semester to be over! Well, I'm glad that I'll be done with classes and the school aspect, but I'm not ready to leave campus and my friends, especially the ones I won't see for a long time because I'll be in London next semester. This time, going home is going to be bittersweet.


It's finals week here at Houghton. I had one on Saturday and two today. One tomorrow and I'm done! They haven't been bad at all; none were cumulative, and the major portion of Bib lit (on Saturday) was a take-home exam. At the actual exam time we were supposed to have to write all the books of the Bible in order with correct spelling and then write an essay on different Biblical genres, for which we could bring in a page of notes. I got there and wrote the books of the Bible, and was prepared to write the essay next when Dr. Friebel made an announcement. "The essay is optional. If you want to write it and try to boost your grade, you can, but you don't have to. And if you have a 94 or above I'm not going to let you write it, because you can't improve your grade any more." How wonderful that was--a professor telling me not to write the exam essay! That was definitely my easiest class, and the one I did the best in.

This morning I had my American Lit final. I'd been a little worried about it, because on the last test I didn't do that well. But this time the questions were a lot easier, and I think my essay was pretty solid. This afternoon I had Psych, which wasn't bad, although I couldn't remember what the Premack principle was. Other than that it was fine. Tomorrow there's Lifetime Wellness, which we're allowed to use our notes for. So that one should be no problem. I feel so fortunate compared to the people who have actual finals or a lot of finals or papers and projects. My "finals" have treated me very well.

Sunday, December 7, 2008

A vist to the Spanish church? Not quite . . .

Jaela had convinced me to go to the Spanish church in Rochester (about an hour away) with her and Alexa and the Spanish club this morning. When I got up at 7:30, I was surprised to see that several inches of snow had fallen overnight. Outside it was very pretty, but freezing. We met the Spanish club people at the campus center and then dispersed into the three cars that were going. Jaela, Alexa and I were in the lead car. We were driving down a back road about fifteen minutes away from Houghton, getting close to the highway, when suddenly the car started to fishtail, and the girl driving lost control. We ended up spun completely around on the opposite side of the road, stopped by the deeper snow there.

It wasn't even scary while it was happening; Jaela and Alexa also felt no panic, just a realization--"Oh, we're spinning." And it was over so fast I never had time to get scared. But then we saw the next car coming, and it was way scarier watching them; they were sliding too, just like us, and it was obvious the driver had no control over the car. They hit a guardrail on the left side, swerved back onto the road, and ended up crashing into a mailbox. Everyone was okay, but the front bumper of the car was messed up.

Fortunately the people in the third car saw us and stopped before they hit the slippery area. Someone went to tell the people in the house about their mailbox, and they came out to make sure we were okay and give us some advice--don't drive to Rochester today. The third car went back to Houghton, and pretty soon my car did too. But the other car was stuck and was going to have to be towed. That situation ended up being kind of complicated, because the girl who had been driving that car wasn't the owner, and she had to call the owner and tried to get everything sorted out. The owner wasn't sure if she had insurance for other drivers or not, and then they were having phone trouble . . . I don't know how all that got resolved, because we left before there was any conclusion to it.

Anyway, no one was hurt, but that certainly wasn't how I expected to spend my Sunday morning.


I finally got to work at the climbing wall last week--but it was a rather disappointing experience. Only two people came and climbed, and both just bouldered (which is when you climb without ropes and don't go very high), so there wasn't much for me to do. Basically, I got paid to sit and do my homework. Hopefully next year I can get a real job there!

Thanksgiving break . . .

. . . was wonderful! It was great to go home after three months' absence and see my family, pets, and friends. I enjoyed living in a house again and eating good food, and not having to do schoolwork.

I played lots of games with my family, went shopping with my sisters, went climbing at the Milton Rock Gym with friends, and went to my old church. I didn't want to leave! But soon I'll be back again; I can't believe I've only got a week of classes left, then finals, and then . . . my first semester of college will be over! It's gone by so fast . . .

Monday, November 24, 2008

Gillette Thanksgiving

Tomorrow Thanksgiving break starts. I can't wait! To see my family and pets again, to actually be home, not to have classes or homework . . . it's going to be wonderful.

Yesterday Gillette (my dorm) had Thanksgiving dinner, cooked by the RAs. It was delicious, especially after eating cafeteria food for so long! And in a few days I'll get to have another Thanksgiving dinner, this one with my family. :)

Mmm . . . I especially liked having real mashed potatoes!

Tuesday, November 18, 2008


It snowed here Sunday night, our first semi-big snow. The campus is beautiful, but it's freezing out there! That hasn't kept me from having fun in the snow, though; on Sunday, after an inch of snow had accumulated, Jaela, Alexa and I went out in and threw snowballs at each other and then ran around shaking snow off the trees and onto ourselves. When we were covered we stumbled into Gillette (our dorm) and collapsed on the floor, gasping about the terrible blizzard and how we were lucky to make it back alive. Silly, but fun.

The next day after my classes were over I felt an intense longing to do something outside; the snow was making me think of my siblings and how we always went out sledding and had snowball fights. So I found a friend, and we made a snow penguin, which was originally supposed to be a snowman but ended up looking like a bird. When we finished my gloves were soaked, my hands numb, but I was happy.

Here's a link to more pictures:

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

The release of the Lanthorn

I really should be sleeping right now, but I'm too excited to go to bed without posting the news--one of my poems was published in the Lanthorn! It was released at a coffeehouse tonight, and during set up one of my friends noticed the books, opened one, and saw my name. Ever since I submitted I had been wondering whether anything of mine would be included or not, and finally founding out that something was made me so happy. Then, wanting to read something but not knowing what, another friend asked if she could read my poem. She did, and she did a great job. Here it is for all of you to read:

Lament for an Empty Ames
Oh, Lewisburg Ames, I remember the days
when you were full of merchandise;
when you supplied me with the things I needed.
And I remember how your parking lot was full of cars
and inside the customers shopped
never suspecting that your doors would soon be closed
and that everything you were selling would disappear.

When you announced that you were shutting down
I remember my family coming to you
and searching through the maze of your gutted innards
for roller blades.
I don’t remember if we found them or not
but I do remember the emptiness that filled you.
And at a sister store, in a different town
(she was closing too — you all were)
I remember how we looked for shoes
and all we could find was an ugly pair of leftovers.

Now, Ames, the letters of your name have been removed
leaving only their outlines;
a reminder of what you once were.
Your parking lot stretches large and empty, and you sit
your respect and dignity stripped away, like those letters
while up the road, only a mile or so
resides a Wal-Mart supercenter
well-fed and prosperous.

It's very encouraging having it published, even if it is in a very small publication. And one of the editors-in-chief told me how much she liked it; she even mentioned it in the introduction to the book. So maybe I really can write.

The focus shouldn't be on just me, though--there's lots of other great poetry and artwork included in the Lanthorn. And the coffeehouse was fun too; I enjoyed hearing people read their own work and that of others, and it was nice to just relax and hang out with my friends. :)

Saturday, November 8, 2008


Last month I received a packet of submissions to The Lanthorn, which I read and graded on a scale of 1-5 (except without 3--giving a neutral grade isn't helpful for deciding what's in and what's not). Then we met and discussed what grades we gave and why and tried to argue each other into changing our opinions. I missed most of that, though, because I had to leave to go to a surprise birthday party for Jaela, which another friend and I set up. That was fun, although Jaela left after cake and a few games of Dutch Blitz because she had to call her boyfriend. ;)

A few weeks later we were given a packet of faculty submissions (for a separate book) to grade, which was daunting at first. But when I stopped thinking about the people who wrote them (they didn't have the names on them, but I knew it could be one of my professor's poems I was reading) and focused on the works themselves, it was easier. On Tuesday we had a brief meeting about that. Sometime later this month The Lanthorn will be published.
Last Sunday my floor (3rd Main of Gillette Hall) went shopping for Operation Christmas Child (, which our whole dorm is doing with a goal of 100 boxes. We're having a packing party next Saturday, a week from today.
I finally made it to the climbing wall again, only my second time since I've been here. I enjoyed climbing again, and I'm going to try to go more often. Unfortunately, I still haven't worked at all . . .
This weekend Houghton is having their annual bus trip for prospective students, and two of my friends are coming up and are going to stay with Jaela and I! That's pretty exciting, since I haven't seen them/you (if you guys are reading this) for over two months.
Overall things are going well here; I've been doing plenty of fun stuff with my friends while still keeping up with schoolwork (I got over 100% on two tests, thanks to extra credit). :) I miss my family, though, and am looking forward to Thanksgiving break in less than three weeks!

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Houghton Halloween

My family has never celebrated Halloween (I've never gone trick-or-treating), so I was surprised that Houghton had several Halloween events. I didn't think there was anything wrong with that, but having come from a background of not having anything to do with the holiday, I hadn't expected a Christian college to celebrate it.

There was a costume party the night before. At first Jaela and I weren't going to dress up, but then we saw that Alexa, our sinkmate (who's also on the soccer team with Jaela) had found an outfit, so we decided we would too. Jaela remembered her overalls and became a hobo, and she lent me her soccer clothes because I didn't have anything else.

They had a haunted house set up in one corner of the dining hall--black curtains hung around a maze of tables and chairs that hid people who jumped out and you and grabbed your ankles as you walked by. I thought it was funny, but Jaela got scared. ;)

On Halloween kids from the area came to the dorms to trick-or-treat. They were all really cute; I enjoyed seeing their costumes and handing out candy to them since we never get any trick-or-treaters at my house.

Anyway, it was good, innocent fun--Halloween Houghton-style.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

One Art

Last week, our writers' group read poems that we liked. This was one we studied for AP English last year; I didn't understand it at first, but after several readings and through writing about it I realized what she was talking about and actually ended up liking it a lot.

One Art
By Elizabeth Bishop

The art of losing isn't hard to master;

so many things seem filled with the intent
to be lost that their loss is no disaster.

Lose something every day. Accept the fluster

of lost door keys, the hour badly spent.
The art of losing isn't hard to master.

Then practice losing farther, losing faster:

places, and names, and where it was you meant
to travel. None of these will bring disaster.

I lost my mother's watch. And look! my last, or

next-to-last, of three loved houses went.
The art of losing isn't hard to master.

I lost two cities, lovely ones. And, vaster,

some realms I owned, two rivers, a continent.
I miss them, but it wasn't a disaster.

— Even losing you (the joking voice, a gesture

I love) I shan't have lied. It's evident
the art of losing's not too hard to master
though it may look like (Write it!) like disaster.

Saturday, October 25, 2008

Simplicity Initiative phase two

The second part of the Simplicity Initiative is a consumer fast. Quoting the sheet they handed out, "We want to say to the Lord together, 'Lord, you are more important to me than the things I consume.' We set these things aside in order to worship more fully and think of others before ourselves specifically during the advent season."

We will:
1. Not purchase anything unnecessary, excepting things that are used for spending time with others (going to a concert with a friend, gettting together for coffee)
2. Take time to consider where we should really be directing our resources and pay special attention to giving to others (not just monetarily)
3. Refrain from time spent shopping or looking for items to purchase
4. Think creatively and give meaningfully this Christmas; buying presents is okay, but giving of your time or making something yourself would be better

Already I've struggled with this; I wanted to get something for myself at the coffee shop, but how could I spend 3 dollars on a drink when I could have tea back at the dorm without spending any money? I'm not sure what I'll do about Christmas presents--the only crafty thing I do is hemp necklaces, and not all my friends would wear them, and I've already given them to family members. I still have several months to come up with something, though.

Anyway, I think this is a really good idea, and I'm going to stick with it as much as possible!

Sunday, October 19, 2008

October Break

Over October break (Wednesday-Sunday) I went to Hills Creek State Park with my family and stayed in a yurt, which, according to Wikipedia, is "a portable, felt-covered, wood lattice-framed dwelling structure used by nomads in the steppes of Central Asia." And for some reason, they have two of them at Hills Creek.

They're heated, but since the walls are so thin, they didn't stay very warm. But despite being constantly cold, I loved being there with my family. We canoed, walked, rode bikes, played Scrabble, ate good food, sat around and read . . . ahhh, how relaxing it was not to have to even think about school or homework!

Now I'm back. It felt strange returning to Houghton, I miss my family, and I'm not looking forward to class tomorrow. In a way, though, it is nice to be here. I'm with my friends, I don't have to walk outside to get to a bathroom or sink (the yurts didn't have running water), and it's warm. The latter alone is enough to make me happy to be at Houghton. :)

Monday, October 13, 2008

Another essay--The Milton Rock Gym

This is essay 2 for my advanced comp. class; we had to write about a person or a place, and I chose the rock gym where I used to work. If you take the time to read it, please let me know any ideas you have for revision--my second draft is due on Wednesday. Thanks!

The Milton Rock Gym

When I walked in that first day I had no idea what I was doing. The Milton Rock Gym was under construction at the time, and the noise of an electric saw grated on my ears. High up to my left a man stood on a ladder leaning against the wall. “Hi,” I called, and he looked down at me. “Do you know where Sharon is?”

“She’s in the cave,” he answered, pointing further into the gym, through a small arch. I thanked him and stepped forward, careful to avoid piles of rock holds and tools. There was the cave, a recess in the bottom of the wall to my right. As I approached, Sharon crawled out, holding a wet paintbrush. She was shorter than me and stocky, not what I had expected a professional climber to look like.

“You must be Tabitha,” she said, and I nodded. “I’m Sharon. Nice to meet you.” After setting down the paintbrush she proceeded to show me around the gym. Only a few walls had holds; the rest were covered with small holes where the rocks would be fastened. In the front were the top-roping walls, stretching up thirty-five feet to the ceiling, which contained two skylights. The back half of the gym was for bouldering, climbing on lower walls without ropes. All around was clutter, boxes, boards, and cords. In the back room I met Jac, Sharon’s husband and co-owner of the gym. Their Chihuahua, Louie, sniffed and barked at me, darting away when I bent down to pet him.

I filled out an application and was basically hired that day. In the weeks that followed I came in for training with my fellow employees and learned how to belay, how to tie different kinds of knots, and how to take down and put up holds. A few months later the gym opened to the public. Now styrofoam covered the floor of the climbing area, several inches thick, with a layer of bright blue padding on top. Chalk dust was sprinkled about, in piles in some spots. Rock holds sprouted from every wall, all different sizes and shapes, from bright pink ones with deep pockets to tiny toe holds made from real rocks. In the top-roping area the ropes trailed down from high above, figure eight knots tied and ready.

Sharon stood behind the counter, manning the cash register, inputting customer information into the computer, and handing out harnesses and shoes. She was matter-of-fact, blunt, strict, but never unkind. Jac was easy-going, casual, often smiling. His job was walking the floor, making sure everyone was safe, stopping to give a word of advice when someone was struggling. Sometimes even the starting move of a bouldering route eluded me, but I could always turn to Jac for help. Wearing his sandals, he would show me how it was done, and then stand back and watch me attempt it, giving encouragement when I fell, congratulating me when I made it.

One of the first regular patrons I met was Chloe. At eleven or twelve and just a little over four feet tall, she could climb routes that I couldn’t. I often used “I’m too short” as a reason why I didn’t make it to the top, but I never heard Chloe complain about her height. If she didn’t make it the first time, she tried again, sometimes working on a route for days, weeks, until at last she got it.

Peg was seventy-nine when she first started coming to the gym. Her grandson had gotten her interested in climbing, and she had decided that for her eightieth birthday, which was in a few months, she was going to climb a wall. Several times a week she came in to practice, and soon she was going up the 28-foot with no problem. On her birthday newspaper reporters came in, and her climb made the front page of the local paper.

Most of the people my age who climbed there were better than me, the guys by default because they were taller and stronger, and the girls because they came in every day, while I didn’t have the time. Since they were more advanced than I was, I didn’t hang out with them much, but we’d still say hi to each other, and I could always turn to them for help.

There are as many different climbing styles as there are different types of people. Guys new to the sport muscle their way up the wall, relying on the strength of their arms. Taller people take huge steps, skipping half the holds. Experienced climbers move with ease and grace, every turn of their body as natural as if they’re taking a stroll. I loved to just sit and watch them.

On a rainy day the gym is full of people, from beginners just learning to belay to lead-climbers—meaning that their rope isn’t attached at the top of the wall; they have to bring it up with them and clip in to carabiners as they climb. One guy stands on his head in the bouldering area, stretching his feet up to reach the holds on the dome that descends from the ceiling. A group of kids watches in awe as he does a sit-up while hanging upside down, grabbing a hold on the dome with his fingers and let his feet slide out. When he’s done the kids swarm around the dome, stacking mats underneath so they can reach it.

The kids are there for a birthday party, and I’m their belayer. A young boy asks to go up on the ropes, and after I clip him in he flies up the wall as if he’s racing. As soon as I let him down, he asks, “Can I do it again?” But now it’s his sister’s turn, and as I make sure her harness is tight enough, she stares up at the wall with trepidation. “You ready?” I ask, and she nods, just barely. She reaches out a hand, grabs a hold with trembling fingers. Her other hand goes on, then her feet. Turning, she looks at me, her eyes wide. “You’re doing great,” I tell her. “Keep going. I’ve got you.”

Sometimes the scared little girl continues to climb, taking her time but eventually making it to the top, and ends up loving it. Other times she gets two feet off the ground and starts crying. Even then she can occasionally still be convinced to go higher, whether by me, a parent, or Sharon. But sometimes she just has to come down, even when her father is insisting she stay up there. Has he forgotten what it’s like to be in a strange place, doing something new, and feeling afraid?

Even now, when I’ve climbed nearly every wall in the building, I can still get nervous when I’m thirty feet up in the air, trusting my life to the rope and my belayer. Sweat breaks out on my hands continually, and I keep having to stop and smother them in chalk from my chalk bag. In an awkward position, straining my body, my leg begins to shake uncontrollably, but I press on, moving up one hold at a time. The belayer cheers me on, calling, “You’ve got this.” My hand slips off a small hold, and I reach up again, clamping my fingers onto the edge. Above my head I can see the finish, marked by two pieces of tape—all the way to the top tape marks the way, showing me what holds I can use. Each route is labeled with its difficulty level, from 5.6 being the easiest in the gym to 5.12 being for experts only. 5.10 is the highest I’ve ever done, and it wasn’t easy.

I step up one final time, raise my right hand, and grab the last hold. An official finish requires both hands, but if I let go with my left I’ll fall, so I decide I’ve done enough. After I sit back in my harness, my feet against the wall and my full weight on the rope, the belayer lowers me to the floor. I’m exhausted, my arms and fingers aching, but it was worth it. When you make it to the top, or even just make it farther than you did last time, it always is.

When I get home I notice the smell: a mixture of sweat, chalk dust, and grime. I inhale deeply, for with that smell comes memories of triumphs, and the people who helped me achieve them. I now know so much more than I did when I walked into the gym that first day, but there’s always more to learn. Fortunately the Milton Rock Gym is full of good teachers. “Building stronger bodies, minds, and community,” proclaims MRG’s website, and that’s exactly what it does.

Sunday, October 5, 2008


Oh dear, it's been a whole week since I last posted. I have a good excuse though . . . two, actually: I've been busy, and nothing really post-worthy has happened. There are a few small things you might be interested in hearing about, though.

1. I got an A- on my sleep essay. My teacher had a lot of good things to say about it and just a few suggestions for changes. Now I know I can do well in that class.

2. I got 100% on my Bib lit test. Now I know my study methods work well, and that class should be easy.

3. I had an American lit exam on Wednesday. There were some fill-in-the-blank questions, a short-answer question, and a long essay question. I hate having to sit down and write an essay and hand it in with no chance to think over and revise it. But the prof had given us the topics beforehand (we had a choice of 5), so at least I was able to get a good idea of what I wanted to write about before actually writing it. I think it went okay; I haven't gotten that test back yet, so I'll have to see. The essay could have been better, but it wasn't awful.

4. This past weekend was homecoming and Houghton's 125th anniversary celebration. There were no classes on Friday -- it was wonderful. Yesterday there was a parade, then a festival on the quad complete with food, games, and a ferris wheel. The highlight of the weekend was SPOT (don't ask me what it means), a twice-a-year talent show that originated in the 70s. The acts were incredibly funny; they have ones from past years on youtube, and I'm sure this year's will be posted soon if you're interested in watching any. The bad part is, it went till 1:15 -- AM. It was supposed to start at 10 (last night), but they didn't even let us into the chapel, where it was held, till 10:30. And then it still didn't start for a while. Since I got up for church this morning (a special service at the chapel) I'm exhausted now. And Jaela and I are going to hiking soon. Just what I need.

5. Last night was our second writers' group meeting, and although there were only four of us there (because of all the homecoming/anniversary stuff), it was still fun. There are so many brilliant, creative people here.

My mind has gone blank, so I'll end this random, haphazard post. Thanks for reading.

Sunday, September 28, 2008

The Houghton Inklings

I'm sure most of you know who the Inklings were, but in case you don't, they were an informal group including J.R.R. Tolkien and C.S Lewis who met and discussed their writing. (If you want to know more, look it up on Wikipedia. That's what I did.) So, as you've figured out from the title of this post, some friends and I are starting something like that here at Houghton. It began after a friend and I had had multiple conversations about writing, and the other day he said, "Wouldn't it be cool to start a group like the Inklings here?" I was all for the idea, so we recruited a few people, some writing/English majors and others who just like writing, and tonight we had our first meeting in the campus coffee shop.

It was amazing. Seven other people who like writing as much as I do . . . that basically says it all. Since it was the first time, we went around and said what kind of writing we each like to do, and then talked about what kind of things we want to do during our meeting times. For next week we decided we would all write on the same topic, using whatever format we want: poetry, fiction, non-fiction, whatever. Our topic is impossible goals, specifically, if a goal is good but you know you won't be able to achieve it, do you work toward it anyway, and if so why? -- something along those lines. And next week we will read our writings to each other and discuss them. Other times we might have people bring in past writing that they'd like to share or want input on, or we might have book discussions some weeks; just basically whatever we feel like. I'm really excited about it already. Now I just have to come up with an idea of what to write for next time . . . and actually write it.

(By the way, we're not actually calling ourselves the Houghton Inklings; right now we don't have a name, but, since we're all writers, I'm sure someone will come up with something.)

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Lost in the woods

I only have one class on Wednesdays, at 10 AM, so after lunch I had a whole afternoon free. After studying outside for a few hours (we've been having beautiful weather here), I put away my textbooks and headed out to Houghton's hiking trails for a long walk. There's a ropes course up there, as well as a pavilion and some camping shelters, but as you go further in it's all trees. There are many paths that cross and intersect, and I was a little worried about being able to find my way back, but not enough that I stopped exploring and stuck to the main trail. I was a little confused when I started hearing cars, though, and even more so when I saw houses up ahead. The path ended at a road; I don't know which road or where exactly it was, but there was a sign at the edge of the woods saying it was college property, which was a relief since it meant I hadn't wandered too far.

So I turned around and went back, on a different trail since I find going to a place and returning the same way boring, and eventually found myself exiting the woods into a large field -- a soccer field, it turned out, not too far from where I'd started. So I never actually did get lost, which I was grateful for. Except for the constant feeling that I might be lost, it was a relaxing time of being alone, getting off campus, and taking about a hundred pictures -- a portion of which you can see here:

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

My first test

Today I had my first college exam ever, in the class Biblical Literature. Since it was my first one, I was a bit nervous. I had been studying, and I went to the review session the night before, and read over my notes again right before class, but I was afraid I would forget the definition of canon or the six genres of the Old Testament. When I actually began the test, though, it went surprisingly smoothly. I managed to remember everything, even the answers to questions that weren't on the review sheet the professor had given us. So I think I did pretty well. It's definitely a relief to have it over with! But I think there's a psych exam next week . . .

Saturday, September 20, 2008

Trash pick up day!

Today was FYI service day, so all the freshmen went off to different places with their FYI groups to do volunteer projects of various kinds. It's a tradition for the London and the East Meets West (the other honors program) groups to go together to Buffalo to clean up the area near a river there, so that's what we did. I got up at 6:30, which was somewhat painful, especially on a Saturday, but since we had to meet at 7:20 it was necessary (I'm slow in the morning). The departure time was supposedly 7:30, but we didn't end up leaving until 8:15, for what reason I have no idea. After an hour and a half ride on a bumpy school bus, during which I did manage to sleep a little, we arrived at the headquarters. There we had to fill out waivers and were given free t-shirts, as well as food.

After that it was back on the buses and on to our true destination. The area was actually quite pretty, despite all the garbage. We got our bags and then went to work, without gloves, unfortunately, since no one had thought to take any from the base. There were all sorts of nasty trash around, but a few interesting things too, such as a Chevy bumper one guy found and a TV sitting almost in the river. It wasn't even smashed or broken at all, surprisingly. If you look at the pictures from the link I'll post at the end, you can see some of the things that were fished out of the stream.

An hour later, trash bags stuffed full, we returned to the buses. Originally we had planned to go back to the base to eat lunch, but to save time we ate it there. Because of that the only way to cleanse our hands was through hand sanitizer, which was better than nothing, but I would have liked to do a real wash before eating. Anyway, we were soon heading back; I managed to get a good amount of studying done, but that was the only good thing about the long ride. Once in the dorm, I scrubbed my hands and then took a shower. Ahh, it felt good to be clean.

Despite the few annoyances, it was a fun day; I enjoyed hanging out with the London people and helping make the world a little cleaner. Here's a link to photos:

Thursday, September 18, 2008

The Lanthorn

Pronounced "lantern", the Lanthorn is Houghton's literary magazine. I went to a staff meeting on Tuesday night, where we made posters to let people know they can submit poetry, prose, and artwork. The first issue of this year will be published in November, and they plan to print two more after that. To be on staff you just have to come to all the meetings and help with the annual coffeehouse, which will also be in November. Staff members will help choose which pieces are included and work on editing (as far as I know; we didn't talk much about what our actual duties will be). Anyway, poster making was fun at least -- we cut up old magazines and used the pictures and advertisements.

Re-reading this post, I realize it's sloppy and disjointed, but I don't feel like rewriting it and don't want to take the time either; it's not that I'm lazy, but I have some more studying to do and then I really need to get to bed. Good night!

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Church wall paper meeting

No, this post isn't about choosing how to decorate the walls of a church. The title refers to four different things -- the church fair yesterday, my training at the climbing wall last night, the essay I wrote, and the London meeting this morning.
First, the church fair. There must have been about 20 churches there, and it's hard to tell much about a church just from seeing a display and a brochure or even talking to someone. So my upcoming Sundays will be spent visiting the ones that I thought might be a good fit for me, and of course I'll be praying about it too.
Climbing wall training went pretty well; I'm almost glad I won't be a regular worker, though, because of everything to remember and be responsible for. Besides belaying and just keeping an eye on things, I'll also teach people how to belay (which I've had experience doing with my siblings). Then there's opening and closing the wall, which requires a key to unlock the cave and the ropes (I'll take pictures sometime so you can see what I mean). I also had to learn a new way of belaying, because they do things a little differently, making the way I learned not as safe. Everything might be a little confusing at first, but I think it will be fun.

I stayed afterward to climb for a little while, which was when I really realized how limited their wall is compared to MRG. There wasn't room on the wall for everyone who came to be climbing at the same time, and there are only four or five ropes, compared to MRG's 12 or so. Still, I am glad that Houghton has a wall at all.
Last night my advanced comp. teacher e-mailed me to ask if we could workshop my essay (the sleep one) in class tomorrow. I was really nervous about it, but I agreed, so today I had to read it out loud to the whole class and then listen to their comments. Surprisingly they were mostly positive; people said how funny it was and what a great voice I had. So that went much better than I thought it would. The version I read in class was a second draft, a little better than the one I posted on here. If you're interested in reading it let me know, but I won't post it on here because it's not a lot different from the original.
Last but not least, we had a meeting this morning about the London program. The most important thing I found out were the dates of my break: March 25-27, which is Wednesday to Friday, so it's not as short as it seems because I'll have the weekend too. A few other random facts/dates (which might only be interesting or relevant to my parents): Families who come to visit can actually stay in the building where we'll all be living, the Highbury Centre. At the end of the Fall semester I'll have to completely move out of my room and then completely move back into a different room for May term, which starts May 12. The program ends April 20, so there are about three weeks in between; I'll probably plan to travel for two or so of them.

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Sunday = church and the sabbath

Today I went with Laura, my FYI leader (First-Year Introduction -- it's a class all freshmen have to take; we're split into small groups with upperclassmen as leaders) to her church. It's a Mennonite church, like my church at home, but it's quite different. For one thing, it's in the afternoon. Today they met outside someone's house, although they do have a building where they usually meet. We all (under 50 people) sat in a circle around a fire, and whoever wanted to could call out a song, provided it was in the blue hymnals we all had, and the two guitarists would play it and we would all sing. It was an interesting way of doing worship, letting the congregation choose the music.

After that there was not a sermon, as you would expect -- they don't even have a pastor, but rather there's a man who directs things, who I believe is a professor here. Anyway, we broke up into small groups and discussed forgiveness, specifically the movie series they had been watching on forgiveness, which meant I didn't always know what they were talking about. After that we sang one last song, and then we ate dinner; it was their monthly potluck. It was nice to eat homecooked food instead of cafeteria stuff.

So it was quite different, but I did like it. Houghton's church fair is tomorrow, so I'll look around there and see what other churches I'd like to visit.
Today was also my first attempt at keeping the sabbath. It was so nice to have a day with no homework. I slept in really late, made yogurt-bran muffins with Laura for the potluck (the muffins sound really weird, but they were actually quite good), and went for a short bike ride. And am now doing computer stuff, obviously. So it was a good day.

Friday, September 12, 2008

Guess What?!

I actually did get a job at the climbing wall!! Only as a sub, meaning I'll fill in when the regular workers can't make it, but still, that's better than nothing, so I'm excited. Tonight they're having a wall-stripping party, meaning they'll take down all the holds and then completely redo the wall. And on Monday they'll be open for people to climb! Yay!

Thursday, September 11, 2008

The Simplicity Initiative

The Simplicity Initiative is a program here at Houghton that whoever wants to can participate in. I missed the beginning of the meeting they had tonight, but my basic understanding of the point of it is, as the name implies, to simplify our lives. There will be four areas of focus throughout the year, each emphasized for about six weeks. The first one is the concept of the sabbath -- making Sunday a day of rest. The list of guidelines for doing this is as follows:

1. Worship with a local church body on Sunday.
2. Spend time in prayer and Scripture reading.
3. Rest (however you thoughtfully define it).
4. Have a meal with those you would consider your community.
5. Refrain from homework and typical chores (cleaning, laundry, etc.)
6. Get 7 hours of sleep each night and go to bed no later than 12am.

It's not required that we stick to this; these are just suggestions. I intend to try to follow them as much as I can, though. Can you guess which will be the hardest for me? ;) Besides going to bed before midnight, I'm already stuggling with the idea of doing no homework on Sundays; it just doesn't feel right. However, I do think it is a good idea, and I am going to do my best.

Anyway, I just thought this was interesting. You'll be hearing more about how it's going on Sunday.

On Sleep (the essay that I agonized over)

On Sleep

I love to sleep. Every morning when I wake up, I wish I could close my eyes again and return to that state of peace and restfulness. Some afternoons I can’t keep myself awake, so I take a nap. Even then, it never feels like enough. I am addicted to sleep.

And I don’t know whether that’s a good or a bad thing. Of course I need sleep; everyone does. But does my perceived need for it go too far? Should I really value it so much as to spend two hours of my afternoon on it, hours that I could have been studying or writing this essay? Is sleeping a waste of my time? When I think about it, it seems like a crime to spend the whole night unconscious. I could accomplish so much more if those hours were available for me to use.

Besides, sleep isn’t always the blessing it seems to be. I have experienced some of my most terrifying moments while sleeping, in the form of nightmares. In one a wolf attacked me; in another, I actually died (although I was somehow resurrected the next day). But how can something that’s supposed to be good for me cause me the fear and anxiety that these dreams did?

Naps also pose a problem. Today I nearly missed dinner because I took one, and I felt disoriented and confused for a long time afterward. Although I had only slept for a few hours, it felt like a whole night had passed, making it seem like it was Thursday instead of Wednesday. Also when I woke up my head felt thick and cloudy, and my movements were slow and awkward. I was almost worse off after the nap than I had been before it.

And then there are mornings. When I get up I feel miserable, maybe like a drug addict in withdrawal. I want to remain asleep, spend all my time sleeping, in fact – because, like drugs, sleep makes me feel good. While I’m sleeping, at least. Then I am blissfully unaware of everything; when I wake up, however, I am rudely thrust back into the real world of responsibilities, deadlines, and problems.

Sleep, then, is an escape. When I’m sleeping, I don’t remember that I have an essay due or that I haven’t done the reading for a class. Is that why I find it so addicting? Because it lets me get away, in a sense, from my life? I have to admit that that’s partly true. Without sleep I would never get a break from the pressure and anxiety I experience every day, and I think that break is necessary to my survival.

Still, I don’t like the feeling that I am a slave to sleep, and sometimes I think that maybe it would be better to avoid it altogether. But that’s impossible, of course. No matter how long I put it off, no matter how late I stay up, if I want to stay alive, sleep is inevitable.

So obviously not sleeping isn’t a choice. Sleeping less, then? It’s not a pleasant prospect. Even when I’m getting eight hours a night I always feel like I need more. I wish I could do it all at once, maybe sleep for a year or two, and then forego it the rest of my life. Unfortunately, it doesn’t work that way.

Maybe, then, I should change how I view sleep. I would never say I love food, except when I’m exceedingly hungry. Food is necessary, so I eat, but there are many other things I would rather be doing. I think sleep, however, is wonderful, and many times it is the thing that I would prefer to be doing. If I were to stop glorifying it, perhaps it would lose its hold on me.

How do I do that, though? Even now I’m getting tired, starting to slow down, and longing for the time when I can go to bed. I can’t function as well because my body needs rest.

It appears I’m stuck, then. An addict can be weaned off drugs, but I can never give up sleep. At least, not in this life. In heaven, the Bible says, we won’t need to sleep anymore. Sometimes I feel a little disappointed when I read that, but ultimately I think it’s a good thing. Being asleep is often used as a metaphor for being blind or oblivious to something, while waking up means coming to a realization. Although it’s not always pleasant, both in the literal and figurative senses, in the end it is better that way. After all, what’s the point of sleeping if you’re never awake to enjoy the benefits? Sleeping is valuable precisely because it allows you to be awake and alert during the day; the only time you can be aware of the good it has done you is when you are not doing it.

So I will continue to sleep, but now when I am awake, instead of longing for the time when I can sleep again, I will be grateful for my past sleep. And when my alarm goes off tomorrow morning, I will remind myself that the very point of sleeping is to wake up.

I welcome comments and suggestions, as my second draft is due next week. :)

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Random stuff . . .

First, I have heard nothing about the climbing wall job, so I'm guessing I that means I was not hired. If I wasn't so tired I would probably be disappointed. But I'll apply again next year, and for now I'll look into getting a job at the writing center.

Also, I wanted to post a few pictures of my room. Some of you have already seen these on Facebook, but for those of you who haven't, here they are. It's normally a bit messier than this.

One more thing -- I'm turning in my first essay for my writing class tomorrow, and I don't think it turned out very well, so if you want to pray about that, I would be quite thankful.

Monday, September 8, 2008

The rock wall meeting

Somehow I completely forgot about this when I posted earlier, but now that I have finished my psych reading I can tell you all about the meeting I went to for people who want to get jobs at the climbing wall. First -- there were a lot of people there, more than I expected anyway, about 20. And they have 8 jobs available. So out of 20 people, 12 will not get jobs. As if that wasn't bad enough, the rock wall coordinator said that they typically hire upperclassmen. Making my prospects even grimmer, he also stated that experience isn't necessary; he and the other rock wall in-charge people can easily teach belaying, knot-tying, etc.

So with being a freshman working against me, and my experience of being an employee at the Milton Rock Gym for a year not working for me, I have to admit that I am not at all certain that I will receive this job. *Sigh* . . . it did sound fun. But anyway, you never know; the guy said they'll e-mail the chosen ones within two days. So I'll just have to wait and see.

The perils of perfectionism

I have a short writing assignment due tomorrow for my Narrative and Personal Essay class, and although I thought I was finished with it, now that I read it over again I wonder if it's good enough. So I revise it a bit, but still feel that it could be improved . . . so when do I stop revising and decide that it's good enough? I guess that's something that I'll have to learn as I continue to gradually adjust to college life.

Another tricky thing is the reading; I've had trouble just figuring out when some of it is due. Different professors require different things -- one said we should have the reading done by the time of the exam, not necessarily before each class, while another makes us sign "reading reports" certifying that we have done the assigned reading. And while some of it is enjoyable and interesting, it still takes up a lot of time, causing me, a perfectionist, to feel extreme pressure to get it done.

Why am I on here blogging, then? Well, besides the fact that my younger sister (I won't mention any names) asked me to post something new, sometimes, I just need a break. Right after I finish this, though, I will print out my writing assignment (after one final read-over) and then sit down with my psychology book, and do nothing else until I've finished the necessary reading. My perfectionist brain will not allow me to do otherwise.

Saturday, September 6, 2008

My first dance

So, how was the dance? Surprisingly, it was fun. I don't like dressing up often, but once in a while it is nice to wear a pretty dress and look beautiful, and Jaela even helped me straighten my hair.

This is the first year Houghton has allowed dancing (I believe), so I wasn't sure what to expect. Of course, I'd never been to a dance before, so I wasn't sure what to expect anyway. When we got there a dance caller was teaching everyone how to do old-fashioned, Pride and Prejudice style dances. Jaela and her boyfriend, who came to visit for the day, went off to dance, and I watched the dancers, which was interesting and also funny at times because people often made small mistakes.

Eventually I wandered over to get some punch, and I ran into a few people I knew and talked to some of them. Technically it was a masquerade dance, and since I didn't have a mask I made one at the mask-your-own-mask table. (Don't be disappointed that I'm not wearing it in the picture; it was a white plastic mask with three fake feathers glued onto it. Nothing at all impressive.) Then things got a little boring and I was considering going back to the dorm when, unexpectedly, a guy I didn't know asked me to dance.

It was a little nerve-wracking, but since I'd always thought that kind of dancing looked like fun, I agreed. The first dance was a promenade, basically walking around in a big circle, so that was nice and easy to start with. The next one was more complicated, but eventually I started to get the hang of it, although since no one quite knew that they were doing it was a little sloppy. After what seemed like quite a long time, the dance ended, my partner thanked me for dancing with him, and I gratefully went outside into the cool air, still breathing a bit heavily.

So yes, I definitely enjoyed it; learning to dance was confusing but fun. If only I got to do it as often as Jane Austen's characters -- then I might actually get good at it. ;)

Hi everyone . . .

I started this blog because it got a little tiring saying the same thing in ten different e-mails to ten different people, so now I can write stuff once where everyone can see it. I still welcome e-mails and I will still reply, but general stuff, like "How was the dance?" which whoever knows about it will ask me, will be posted here. Enjoy! :)