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! :)