Saturday, December 31, 2011

He makes all things new.

Four years later, what happened to the girl who went to San Francisco? Who was buoyed by her idealism and her fervent conviction?

Three years later, what happened to beautiful crushed brokenness of Vermont's starry night? That was unrivaled in its message of humbleness and healing?

Two years later, what happened to the girl who felt so keenly? With a rending message, and cathartic conversations, and freely loving one to another?

One year later, what happened to those library conversations, so organic but profound? Which made light glimmer in a crowded and desolate landscape?

Who on earth am I? And where on earth am I going? (Most telling of all, why on earth am I asking?)

We are always changing but we stay the same. I can hardly stand it. 

I hope your new year bursting full and overflowing with His grace, true regeneration, and that eternal hope that spurs us on.

Sunday, December 25, 2011

Greetings from the dark annals of Christmas break

I hate break. I hate sitting on my hands while the guilt shatters over my head and rains down all around me, knowledge of all the things I should be doing with all this newfound spare time. I have an enormous to-do list, filled with ambiguous goals I have no hope of sticking to.

And the worst part is, most of it is catch-up, things I should have done before school started back in September, but couldn't do because I was working. Things like clean my room. Oh, it's a sight to behold! I have two boxes full of "junk" sitting next to my bed, things I meant to sort and take care of months ago.

You know what kind of stuff is in those boxes? Lots of random stuff. 

A pomegranate 7-Up can that Bryna wrote all over.

Assorted programs and ticket stubs from Luke's concerts.

My camcorder, one I have little use for since A Year of Questions ended, and the cable doesn't fit in anyone's computers anymore.

Paycheck stubs.

The former contents of my purse that got dumped in the boxes last time I needed to free up some room: I strongly suspect that's where my pocket screwdriver and favorite lipstick have gotten to.

Rebecca's book in hallowed print.

A stack of wonderful letters from wonderful people, gone almost entirely unanswered.

Oh friends, I have been so very negligent. I am so guilty, and my guilt overwhelms me. 

So much has happened in my little world, I feel so very different than I felt just last Christmas ago. And still, so much has happened in my family, and I'm so grateful I've been mostly close enough to see it unfold. But still worse, so much has happened in you and in your lives, and where I might have been kin in the knowning of the goings-ons, at least a supporter or an interceder or an encourager, I have been wholly absent. Too absorbed in my busyness and my meltdowns and my selfish needs. 

I am so limited. God, be infinite!

I hear there is grace for these things, but grace is not easy. I used to really hate Christmastime. I mean, I guess I didn't violently or vocally hate it, but I didn't really enjoy it very much. It made me feel sick to my stomach: all the waste, the excess, the indulgence. Blasted commercialism! Pathetic. It didn't seem fair that I was warm and happy and well-fed while others were shivering and miserable and hungry. This is an injustice year-round, but it's just so particularly heinous at Christmastime. And how could I celebrate a baby sent to this miserable earth to die? How is that a cause for joy? His coming brought the slaughter of numerous infant Hebrew boys and the wise men brought Him gifts fit for burial. This "tidings of comfort and joy" business always seemed so counter-intuitive to me.

And somewhere along the way I grew and learned and came to appreciate . . . hope. This is what we celebrate! In all the sorrow: a broken world necessitating God in flesh to humble Himself in crying, naked, vulnerable humanness . . . He came! God's promise rang true! A Messiah finally to save us all, hope for the conquer of sin and the death it breeds. Hope for abundant and eternal life. He came to live amongst us, to know the world as we knew it, to feel the pain as we felt it, to save us as one of us. His is a gift not just of salvation, but of the truest empathy, and does any hope speak more fully to the human soul? I've heard this truth my whole life; it's hard to speak in words that do it justice, but I see Christmas not in cynicism, but in hope.

That is to say, in grace, in forgiveness, in empathy I am armed. I have neglected people, that which is most important! But I can stand up under the guilt that convicts me, because hope is real and grace is coming.

Friday, December 16, 2011

That's just the way it is?

I watched When Harry Met Sally, probably because Katie told me to or something, and I remember thinking it was okay, but the central theme was a little to stressful for me to consider, so I told myself I'd revisit it at some much later date. Now that I'm older I feel (unjustifiably :P) it's like it's safer to talk about, or something. So it's time to tackle the age old question, one I've previously read about on a few of my friends blogs and now have a little opinion of my own to contribute. Yeah. 

Can boys and girls be friends?

Duh. I'm going to offer a tentative yes. 

I think of it this way: friendship teaches you how to interact with people. How to love people, how to resolve conflict with people, how to work well with people. And I think similarly, friendship with members of the opposite gender teaches you a lot about how to love, have conflict with, and work with people of that gender. Which is kind of something that's useful to know before going into marriage! 

I mean, as much as I am a proponent of treating people like people and not like gender identity scripts, the fact remains that there are some differences, especially when it comes to friendships and communicating. (What I'm about to regurgitate can be cited from Ronald Adler's interpersonal communication textbook Looking Out, Looking In.) Women are more relationally-oriented, whereas men are more action- and activity-oriented. With women, it's about what's said while men are into how much time has been spent. Women look for quality, men trend toward quantity. Women listen with "minimal encouragers" and are more likely to offer an empathetic response, whereas men generally listen more stoically and are more likely to offer advice and solutions. 

But don't let all this destroy the real similarities that exist! (My textbooks says, instead of men being from Mars and women being from Venus, it's more accurate to say men are from North Dakota and women are from South Dakota. So.) I mean, both men and women talk about the same amount per day. (But men talk more about sports, the news, and activities, while women talk more about relationships and other people! I digress . . .) Anyway, learning how to deal with these differences is an important skill whether you're going to get married or not, so why not take advantage of this convenient awesome thing that's friendship? Amirite?!

Okay. So that's about what my thought process was. But then, one of my coworkers showed me the video below at work this past week.

Well, I'm a girl. So apparently I just don't know anything. Thoughts?

But, okay, I think there's an important caveat here. The biggest difference between the people in that video and the people I know is faith. In Christian "culture", the emphasis on guarding your heart and brotherly/sisterly unity makes it a lot safer to interact on a platonic level, because theoretically all that stuff is less of a distraction. Jesus came to set relationships right, and maybe that also means unifying the genders. Yeah, that's right, I like to think Jesus makes it possible for girls and guys to be friends! I would argue that you see more successful, appropriately modeled platonic cross-gender friendships in the church than anywhere else. (Not proven, but it's a nice speculation, eh?) In a world with Jesus, rather than men and women always trying to domineer and manipulate each other, we are instead beginning to learn from each other.

(Hm, still too rosy-glassed?)

Do I think I have quality platonic relationships with boys because I'm naive, or because I actually do? Well, when all else fails, my default defense is that the exception proves the rule. (That's basically what I've applied to all of my abnormal world experiences ever.) I feel like this is one of those things where asking the question is more important than the answer, because it forces you to reflect on the way you behave. Are you honoring the friendships you have? Are you protecting yourself, and them? Loving people is so challenging, and multifaceted, and complicated. Doing it right is not easy! And so it's worth it to ask, "What am I doing here? What is this supposed to be? Is this okay?" Forcing yourself to reflect on your friendships is the first step to being a better friend. 

My mom was all, "You can be friends with boys. Until they get married. Or you do." And that sounds okay to me.

P.S. I really hate disclaimers, and being excessively meta, but I feel compelled to reassure my guy friends that I didn't put them under a microscope.  That's all.

Friday, December 9, 2011

"I close my eyes, I tell myself to breathe and be calm."

It feels so good to be chilling. These past two weeks have been among the most stressful of my life, and not just because of the disappointment my church has sustained. I have knots in my shoulders the size of golf balls. I have never felt so tightly wound as I have felt these past two weeks. On Thursday if you had've poked me I would have shattered, I was so tense. I walked a mile in a Type A personality's shoes, and I did not find them comfortable!

One of my problems is that I've been trying to create time. Make it appear out of thin air. I have staring contests with the clock, willing everything to work out and it just never does! I'm strung out between responsibilities, often needing to be in two places at once, and I'm beginning to realize how impossible that is. I am not transcendent! I am not an infinite being! So why am I trying to stretch time out or make like it doesn't limit me? I've been jamming puzzle pieces that clearly don't go together and it's like, "Is this girl even out of the pre-operational stage of cognitive development yet?!"

That was some psychology humor there for you. ;D

Speaking of psychology, my psychological development class is such a beautiful foil to my abnormal psychology class. The former features the dream professor, and the latter the professor of your nightmares. And I have a pathetic horror story to share! Thursday dawned a bright and bitingly cold morning, on which I got to sleep in until the ripe late hour of 7am, dressed sharply in a blazer and sun dress for my presentation later that day, and booked it to the library to print out my very last paper for this intolerable abnormal psych class. It was just past 9:30 when the tears started flowing, as I searched for a functioning computer in the lab and battled printer malfunctions at the library and phoned home to get the right file emailed to me. I was panicked at the thought that I would not be able to hand in my paper, because I cannot even explain the fear this professor breeds in me.

Late to class, I forced a smile on my face while I rushed to my classroom building, hoping and praying that the professor (in usual style) was also late. My stomach dropped when I saw her stalled by another student, chatting by the door. Missed it by THAT much! I sank into my seat with complete relief, stapled my paper, clipped it to my research, and plopped the packet on her desk . . . and then I realized. I did not have my other, previously graded paper. I had forgotten it at home. And she would not accept my paper without this other paper. There was no phoning my way out of this one!

Fortunately, she was in a good mood that morning and gave me the option of meeting her on the Providence campus and passing in my paper then. But because things never work out the way they're supposed to . . . 

I was in the car for an hour and a half! My wonderful, self-sacrificing, back-guarding parents agreed to meet me in Providence with my paper, my only challenge was getting there. I survived traffic, getting lost, my own dangerous driving risks, and tricky intersections. With a half hour to spare, I parked in the general area I though maybe the Providence campus was, and began wandering. For the record, considering I was wearing a sun dress, it was super cold. I was lost in a tangle of sketchy alleyways, completely disoriented, and my only salvation was phone-a-friend; Peter's navigational prowess saved my sanity! I arrived outside my professor's classroom with minutes to spare, and my mom passed off my paper with a hug. 

I walked into the room as I heard my professor saying, "And don't forget to pass back your first paper along with the one due today--" and I handed her mine without a word. Her eyes crinkled at me, "Thank you" was all she said. So then I left. Wandered around for a little while trying to find my way back to my parking spot. Got on the road en route to another uncomfortable church meeting and was reminded that growing is a process, that no one is perfect, that healing takes time. Ah, God be gracious to us.

Concurrent with my ongoing desire to grow into adulthood, I think Thursday taught me that I really need to be less of a pansy, I mean, really. And also, that stress is overrated. (But maybe, it's only going to get worse from here on out . . .) 

Bring on winter break!

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Beating a dead horse here

At my church we have this thing called a "connection card" that we use towards a trifold purpose of engaging visitors, signing up for church events, and responding to the sermon. One side covers strictly demographic sort of information: who are you, where do you live, which service did you go to, what age group are you in . . . and when they flashed the connection card graphic up on the screen during announcements today, I noticed something I never noticed before. [These INFPs and their fixation on irrelevant details.] The age group is divided by 20s, 30, 40s, 50s, and 60s plus. I officially fall into the first category. I am officially four decades away from sixty. A third of the way there! Even worse, I'm halfway to the big four-oh. These first twenty years of my life positively flew by, and it's only going to get faster from here. 

But you know what all of this means, yeah? The age group I don't fit in with anymore? The teenagers. Which is so weird! I've spent a large portion of my life identifying with the teenagers. It's all I really know how to be! But as we conclude our study of adolescence and move on to the section on emergent adulthood, my developmental psychology class is highlighting now more than ever the importance of embracing the responsibilities and industries that come with adulthood in order to, I don't know, be well-adjusted, or something. I'm kind of sort of not a kid anymore! So when I saw the connection card up there on the screen, all I could think of was 1 Corinthians 13:11. "When I was a child, I spoke and thought and reasoned as a child. But when I grew up, I put away childish things."


So I am thinking now what sorts of childish things I need to put away and what sort of adultish things I ought to embrace? . . . nothing is immediately coming to mind. And I blame this partly on our culture (as well as my Peter Pan complex), which has extended this growing up process to much longer than it used to be. The economy is demanding more skilled workers, which is demanding higher and higher levels of education that are keeping young adults in school longer. Entering the work force is not what it was, apprenticeships are the minority, and 20-somethings are living in their parents' basements a lot longer. So, I mean, in the financial independence area I'm a little stuck for now. Though I try and cover my expenses myself, I just don't have the dough, and I appreciate my parents' willingness to continue taking care of me for now. 

But financial independence is only one criterion for adulthood. I worry that I grow more immature with each passing month. What sorts of childish things do I need to put away? Staying up all night reading a riveting book? Watching TV when I should be studying? Dancing around in an undignified manner during trips to the supermarket? Ah, yes and no. I think I just need to have higher standards for myself. Like, okay, Caleb is getting so old, and I'm so proud of him, but I was telling him how he needs to start working hard in school. How he can't rely on his intelligence to coast through and indulge laziness. And it was stupid, because I didn't even realize when I was telling him this that I really ought to be telling it to myself. Life is hard and it requires hard work! Maybe putting away childish things also includes creating less childish standards. 

As an interesting aside, the Erikson stage for this developmental level is intimacy versus isolation, which means last week was relationship advice week. According to research by Sternberg, the success of a relationship is predicted not by what the other person actually thinks about you, but what you think they thing about you. Perception is reality! So you can tuck that tidbit of information away.

Guys. Growing up is hard to do! 

Saturday, November 19, 2011

The art of conversation

I'm really bad with old acquaintances. Like, horrifically rude. I always worry that people don't remember me, so instead of making things awkward and weird by treating them like a long-lost friend, playing "let's catch up", I ignore them. And pretend I don't know them so we can get reacquainted again. Because to be fair it's not like I knew them super well in the first place! Ah, but, predictably, this has a very inconsistent success rate. 

I was faced with this reality last night when I found out the class mentor for our service project today was a fellow homeschool graduate who had been involved with Teenpact around the same time as me. Though I was cheered by the prospect of having someone dependable to help with the service project, I also anticipated it would be an awkward "hey I know your face but who are you again?" reunion. 

It was. A little. 

We had to endure a 45 minute bus ride up to Providence, and then back again to campus, and once we exhausted the reintroductions, I hoped we could make do with looking out the window in comfortable silence. Because that's what practically strangers do, right? And we did, at intervals. But every so often, he would break my concentration on the passing landscape by asking me questions. 

They started out standard enough. What have you been up to these days? Work, school, fun? Future plans? What's your favorite time of year? As the ride grew longer the questions got more creative. What's the relationship between volunteerism and the Church? What three people from history (excluding the Bible and your family) would you choose as mentors and why? What do you consider to be the biggest atrocity and tragedy (besides Christlessness) in the world today? That last one was really hard, I told him it was too hard to answer, and he said that's because it says more about the person responding than it says about the state of the world. Hm. 

I guess that's what good conversation is. Asking thoughtful questions. 

I noticed he did this all day. All the students laughed among themselves over the relentless reminding they'd received from him about showing up for the project. From the moment he arrived on site he was engaging the students, asking them about their weekends and their plans for Thanksgiving. He approached the make-up students not part of his class, and chatted with them about their freshman year and why they were at URI. When we boarded the bus he talked to the bus driver about her job and her life and how her day had been. At the work site he asked pertinent questions of the coordinator, those questions that you're interested to know the answer to but you never think to ask. 

The thing is (and granted, I don't know him very well, but) he doesn't seem to be very extroverted. I suppose he's the quiet, studious type. Not super vivacious or chatty. Even in Teenpact he never said very much. Our bus conversation wasn't constant, it has its share of lulls and silences. When I asked his questions back at him, he seemed surprised and unprepared at the opportunity to answering them. I wonder if conversations with strangers aren't natural to him, and that fills me with admiration. 

I want to be like that! Caring more about engaging people than catering to what make me feel comfortable. People are always the most important thing. Not my selfishness, or insecurities, or irrational fear of awkward. Talk to people. Ask thoughtful questions. It shows that you care.

Don't ignore random old acquaintances. You might learn something about the art of conversation.

Friday, November 11, 2011

Defend the cause of the defenseless

I walked down the hill from my Spanish class already in poor spirits after fifty minutes of rumination on my utter lack of comprehension. (Lo siento, me duele la cabeza, como se dice "fail"?) I feel discouraged. I feel resentful that Spanish isn't easy for me, and I'm beginning to despair of ever mastering it. This is confirmed for me first thing in the morning every single Monday/Wednesday/Thursday. And will only get worse next semester! Anyway.

I saw the signs from a ways away, even though it was early and the display wasn't fully assembled. "WARNING: GRAPHIC PICTURES AHEAD" and "GENOCIDE IMAGES". In smaller letters at the bottom (I was wearing my glasses) I read, and in an instant I felt sick to my stomach. I didn't looked too closely as I passed the posters on my way to work, but the whole display was awash with red. Over the two days it was stationed outside of the student center, I never approached the demonstration, but I knew well enough what it said.

Each time I left the building for class and entered the building for work, I kept my ears open. Everyone was talking about it. Commentary littered my school friends' Facebook statuses. At work I buried my head in my hands as I listened to my coworkers' conversation in the back room—"I've never had one, but if I needed to, it would be my F***ING RIGHT!" Part of me was dying to speak up, and the rest of me felt crushed under my conviction, assured that I could not defend the defenseless while simultaneously speaking the truth in love.

How could I engage calmly, rationally, graciously on a issue of life and death? How could I "agree to disagree" on a matter of God-given rights? What was my witness to my coworkers supposed to look like?

In my public speaking class last semester, our professor read us the most healing goodwill statement on the topic of abortion that I'd ever heard. I cried in my seat when she read it because it was so thoughtful, so engendering, and so true . . . and I also cried because I knew where her alliance lay. I would have given anything to have that goodwill statement this past week, that perfect wording to address the hurt and the humanity.

I saved the coverage the whole demonstration received from our school newspaper: an op-ed from faculty denouncing the Center for Bioethical Reform, an article on the response protest assembled by the Womens Studies and pro-choice crowd, a sidebar on the importance of political engagement. Indeed, the faculty seem to be relieved that the students of my school are capable of caring about something, anything. 

Mostly people were incensed that "necessary misfortune" of abortion was being compared to the grossly complex magnitude of genocide. Is it a false comparison? I don't know. I don't really care about the demonstration, the graphic posters, the people pushing pamphlets. While a discussion on means is certainly important, this week I was preoccupied with the ends. Grieving, that abortion continues to be a reality. A justified reality! How, how do they speak in favor of it so boldly?

Forgive them, Father. And end this atrocity. 

Saturday, November 5, 2011

It's too late, my personality is already cemented!

It seems all my interesting thoughts come to me when I am incapacitated to express them: when I'm on either side of my hour commute, when I'm in the shower, when I'm drifting off to sleep. In an effort to preserve some of my particularly salient brainwaves, occasionally I wake up in the middle of the night and send random texts to my email in hopes that I'll attend to the thought in the morning. Which always seems like a great idea at the moment, but as it turns out, half-asleep Hayley is even less coherent than fully-functional Hayley.

 A particularly bizarre text I recently received reads "akinola and nkoyoyo", who are apparently archbishops in Nigeria and Uganda, respectively, but I'm not sure why I thought that was important to remind myself of. Another particularly cryptic message says only "kn prb", and since I am reasonably assured I wasn't thinking about hipster beer at the time, I can only assume I meant "knowledge problem", though the significance of that still alludes me. 

But a rarity ended up in my inbox this past week, a full phrase! This little gem says "New life goal: to stop overreacting."

I do have a lot of similar existing life goals, in fact, I have a super goofy list saved to my hard drive that's entitled "Hayley's Rules for Living", which is simultaneously pathetic and amusing. List toppers include, "Don't be emo" (credit Katie and Mallory's Closet Rules for Life), "Don't sleep in" (a biological impossibility), and "Get out of your comfort zone" (so much easier said than done!) One of my com studies professors says that the result of cognitive dissonance is that your beliefs change to match your actions, and these lists of semi-profound life mottos I've crafted for myself hopefully do a little to keep my character anchored. 

But back to not overreacting. Can I blame this on nurture for a second? I'm completely like my mom in this respect. She has this awesome trait where she can take anything apart and almost always fix it (not, unfortunately, a quality I have inherited) and this one time she took it upon herself to take the back off the TV set. She warned all us kids to stay away, saying she was likely to get electrocuted, and I remember burying my face in my hands so I wouldn't have to watch if my mother got fried in front of me. All of a sudden she gasps and yelps, and I start crying thinking she's literally toast.

Nope. She pinched her finger in the casing. 

I do this all the time to my coworkers at the computer store. I'll be in the middle of some menial task and I'll remember something I left undone: an important email, a time sensitive data transfer, an unsent fax. I always gasp at my mistake in horror and bolt from my task to fix the problem, leaving the techs around me thoroughly worried and confused. (Because when you work with thousands of dollars worth of parts and equipment and merchandise, the word "oops" is none too welcome!)

I don't just overreact at little mistakes, but also at little stressors. I'm more likely to have a meltdown over an obscure detail than a giant transgression. Come on, big things are so much easier to forgive! But with all those tiny annoyances, all it takes is the last straw. But is it necessary that I cry over a sexist joke? Is it crazy for me to reevaluate an acquaintance after some joking slander? Am I completely maladjusted for unpacking my sister's minute criticisms?

Well, I mean, that's on my list of rules for life, too. "Words are powerful." So I take the misuse of words seriously. (Which is so deeply hypocritical! Because I use words so carelessly myself! Arg! There's no winning.) I guess, my biggest pet peeve is when others speak for me. And, I really don't know if that's a good thing or not. I'm going to go with the latter if I'm staying true to this "stop overreacting" thing. We all misspeak. We say things we shouldn't say. We say things at the wrong time. We say things with the wrong tone. We say things with the wrong context. It happens; don't overreact. 

I tell myself I freak out over the little things so that I have no spasticity left for the big things. And maybe that's true; the few challenges I've faced have found me calm in the face of danger. But one of John Welsey's questions for self-reflection always sticks in my mind: "Have I exaggerated today?" It is it's own kind of deception, isn't it? Or, moral implications aside, it's annoying, right?!

Kind of like the abrupt, obnoxious end to this post.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

"Don't want to be a richer man"

I've had a forever battle against my hair. It started at a young age when my mom talked me into wearing it short, and forcing me to use talc powder, and then the animosity grew after I dyed and flat iron my poor hairs to death. My hair can't decide if it's straight or if it's curly, so instead it waffles at stringy and frizzy. There's really no winning. But I'm not writing this to complain! See, I made my peace with my hair somewhere around the time I stopped caring.

And I stopped caring because of this girl. (And yeah, this story is so much more interesting when you know which girl, but, you'll just have to figure it out.) 

Okay, wait, see. This is what happened. You know those people, the ones you want to hate because it seems like you're compared against them incessantly, but you just can't hate them because they're so awesome? That was this girl. We were in the same speech and debate league, and we were about the same age, and we competed in all the same categories, and had very similar rhetorical styles. Still, she was hilarious and well-dressed and charming, and you couldn't help but love her! We were never very close friends, but I was a fan. 

All her considerable skill and good qualities aside, however, what I couldn't get over was her hair. It always looked perfect! She appeared to have hair very similar to mine in that it was versatile; it could hold beautiful banana curls, or bow willingly to a straightener. I always wondered what kind of shampoo she used, because her hair always had a healthy, glossy shimmer to it, and at this point I still believed shampoos were magic and actually did what the labels said they did. (Advertising broke my heart. But that's another story for another time.)

At one tournament, the New England Speech Tournament, the year was 2007, it could have been 2008, I was walking down the hall and I stopped to chat with this girl and, I think another kid was there too, but I'm not sure who it was. Yeah, extraneous details. We were singing David Bowie's "Changes" and being silly, and then this girl turns to me and asks, "This is kind of a random question, but what kind of shampoo do you use? Your hair always looks so smooth."

Hahah, wait, what? 

I spent a few minutes laughing at the utter irony of this, and then we chatted a little more about our hair and how unmanageable it can be, and then we parted ways. But it was then that I realized the utter futility of driving myself nuts over my hair. No one cares! It's just hair. What I fuss over and battle with ends up looking normal, sometimes even good, to other people. And here was the worst discovery: my hair looks the same when I put a lot of work into it as it does when I don't. Oh, the humanity. So I don't care what my hair looks like anymore. Sort of. I occasionally make an effort to keep my hair from looking unkempt. Occasionally.

All this to say, we're learning about self-identity in my interpersonal communication class, and it's pretty interesting. That's all. I hope you're well. :)

Sunday, October 2, 2011

"This ain't the Heartbreak Hotel"

1) Song I've been listening to over and over since I walked in the door.

2) Some of the best sleep of my life has been at the Hathaways' home. I don't know if it's that mattress Lilly's always deferring, or if it's those worn jersey-knit sheets and heavenly feather pillows, or if it's the hilarious and heart-warming conversations that always precede sleep. Or is it the waking up to unbelievable quiet, with the faintest sound of mooing and quacking in the distance? The place is magical.

3) I'm struggling a lot in my abnormal psychology course, not because I haven't been studying (though truthfully, I have no time to study) but because I'm finding it incredibly difficult to believe that some of this stuff is real. Take dissociative fugue: you wake up somewhere else with a new name and a new life, and no memory of who you used to be. How does that even work?! It sounds like a cheesy sci-fi movie plot. (Indubitably it has been a cheesy sci-fi movie plot.)

But because of my abnormal psychology course, when I found out today that one of my friends is suffering from severe depression, I found that my reaction was terribly, horribly blasé. In my mind I scrolled through the DSM description, rattled off common treatments, imagined the symptoms. As my mind went off on a tangent about ECT, I forgot there was a person in front of me, burdened by how this was affecting the family. (I'm really sorry. And of course you know I'm praying.)

But that's what's so challenging about problems with the mind. The mind is not the body. You can't pin it down and slice it open and measure it endlessly. The mind is mysterious. And even though I'm learning to think about this stuff medicinally, the reality is that things like dissociative fugue and depression are frustratingly intangible. You think, "No problem, a little medication, a little therapy, good as new." But it's rarely that simple, because there's so much about the mind we don't (can't?) understand.

4) I returned the shoes, okay?

Sunday, September 25, 2011

How to think about marriage

So my pastor preached on Colossians 3:18 today. I sat in the first row rapt with confusion over those five simple words: "Wives, submit to your husbands." The message kind of stepped all over the last shreds of egalitarianism I was mulling over in my mind. What then, does this submission look like? . . . I guess I have a while to figure it out. 

It made me realize that I'm in that awkward phase of growing up when I don't know how to think about things. Like that kid who finds out Santa Claus isn't real, and needs to find a new way of thinking about Christmas. I'm that girl who's gotten one too many wedding invitations in the mail and is only just now realizing, "Wait, this is a thing?!"

You see, years of homeschool conferences and careful reading lists clearly spelled out how to think about marriage when I was younger. And it was so easy, too! The doctrine basically was, you're not old enough or mature enough to get married, so don't think about it. Don't think. So much freedom! So I militantly pushed it out of my mind, rolling my eyes at those way-ward girls who were constantly "in like" and sprayed their relationship status all over Facebook. (I spend a lot of time throwing flame-retardant on my judgmental streak.)

But I don't know. Then I got a little older. (I hear that happens to younger people.) My friends started getting married and "not thinking about it" is beginning to cease to be an option. Because even though marriage is still very much out there in the "someday", I'm moving closer towards a place where I ought to be cultivating myself into someone who will be worthy of marriage. And, that's kind of weird.

And the homeschool conferences don't really tell you what to do in this stage. 

On the one hand, I do want to get married. I feel all self-conscious admitting that in black and white, but, I do. On the other hand, it's more than just possible God is "calling" me to singleness. It makes me a little sad and a little terrified, but also very excited to think I could be facing the rest of my life depending not on a person but on God alone. But back to the one hand, it's definitely a little soon to be making these kinds of judgments all around! So maybe you see my thought-process here; I'm kind of caught in a loop.

Getting older just keeps getting more and more complicated. 

Thursday, September 22, 2011

I bought expensive shoes today

This has been a week of gross sleep deprivation. The weird thing is, it's not like I killed myself staying up late to get homework done. It was more like, I never got around to going to sleep. I do things that are bad for me without knowing why I did them.

This morning it all caught up with me. Even though my class isn't until 9:30, I got to campus at 8am to get some homework done, and as I sat outside my psychology classroom, I talked myself into cutting class. I don't know why. I like the class, like the material, like the professor, was on track with the reading . . . hm, no, wait, I remember. I think I wanted to avoid one of my friends who is also in the class. 

I just never know what to say to him. The professor is always late, so we usually have a good fifteen minutes to make conversation, and, I never have anything to say. Last semester we stayed up late into the wee hours talking about humanity and biology and the existence of God. Now it's a feeble "Hey, have you started your project? Me neither." Riveting. 

I think this ate up my mind this morning because I finally got to go to Intervarsity last night. Which always gets me thinking about my missional focus at my school. And how epically I'm failing at it. I'm failing with my friend from psychology class. And my mood worsened as I walked to work, where I am also failing. (I wonder if the new hires even know I'm a Christian.)

So I've made myself sick to my stomach, and I don't know why. Thinking about "my missional focus" stresses me out, so I don't think about it. I'm disturbed by how neatly I compartmentalize my testimony, and how my vigor for God's work has faded. But then, I don't do anything about it. And so, I'm troubled by how untroubled I am, and I feel helpless over how pathetic that is. 

Part of me is sensible and says, "You're overtired. You're not feeling well. You've worked yourself into a frenzy over an existential non-question, and you'll feel better in the morning." The other part of me is honest and says, "You've got to deal with this sometime. Stop procrastinating your liberation. It's so close, if you'd only take it."

They were Sperry topsiders, the shoes were. I'm such an old lady, I ordered them online. I'm probably going to return them when they arrive, that seems like the sensible thing to do. I guess I'm one of those people who spends money when they're upset. I think I felt guilty about skipping class. I should sleep. Hm.

Saturday, August 27, 2011

The dog days are over

In two days my summer officially ends. Work at the computer store will kick into overdrive (especially from losing a day to the hurricane) and after the weekend rush during which I will definitely want to stick my head in an oven, then school will start. And the insanity will heighten. (I'm a little bit over-committed. NBD.)

Still, I managed to jam some happiness into this busy summer. For posterity.

Two weeks in Dearborn! Where I ate Arabic food every day, went to an art museum for the first time, crossed a language barrier, and saw the light shatter darkness. A week at "libertarian camp"! Where I experienced my first ever college party, wandered the streets of Philadelphia, talked to strangers, and had my enthusiasm for free market ideals was revived.

I raced around Boston, and then around Providence. I went to my first ever Waterfire. I sat on a sailboat and experienced Gasby Days. I watched spectacular fireworks and braved apocalyptic subway conditions. I gave blood under the most bizarre of circumstances, in a successful demonstration of getting-together-ness. I saw two, three, four friends off to college, the quintessential experience, and I managed not to die of jealousy. I drove home in the middle of the night so frequently I went pro.

I made a different cookie every Friday I went to work. I learned how to (not) drive a golf ball. I had free frozen yogurt at 10pm in the pouring rain. I planned a photo scavenger hunt downtown. I had periodic movie nights with the best of friends, and chill Sunday afternoons with beautiful people. I explored Boston and aired the curtains of my mind with two boys who are teaching me so much. I had soul-cheering chats with girls I see so rarely. I saw the Breakers well-photographed.

I said good-bye to summer and "hello, hurricane" with my family this afternoon. With octopus ramen and wandering around in the drizzle. Tomorrow will be filled with back-to-school preparations, and then maybe I'll be able to come back up to breathe when the semester ends.

And I count all this fullness as the richest of blessings.

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Do they see Jesus in me?

Do you love Jesus? Do you? Do you really love Him? Then prove it.

Prove it not just by what you say, not just by who believers far-off think you are, not just by an image or perception. Prove it not just in that worship service, or on that missions trip, or at that conference. Don't just prove it when it's easy. Prove it not just in the checklist, not just in the clothes you where or the people you associate with, not just in the catalogue of the Christian image. Prove in a way that strikes cold and hard and true. Prove it sincerely.

Give evidence. Give testimony. (Be changed.)

Pray for your pastors. Encourage your brothers and sisters. Speak up for those who have no voice. Attend to the small stuff. Remember the forgotten. Practice faithfulness in every sphere of life. Sacrifice. Suffer. See past the sin to the sinner's beautiful soul. Be long-suffering, patient in God's ways and God's plan. Love the Church, love the lost, love your enemies.

Love Jesus through the power He gives in loving us.

You know what these skeptics say, these people who think we're crazy, who think we're so painfully naive. They say that there is no proof that Jesus was Lord and Savior. (Does he really change anyone?)

Prove them wrong. Prove them wrong by how you speak and act and love. And when you fail? For the hypocrite who comes home and for the haughty who are humbled, there is forever grace, that we may love Him still more.

Simply to the Cross I cling.

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

This isn't about law school at all.

When it comes out to people I know very well that I have plans to go to law school, maybe even become an immigration lawyer, the look on their faces cuts like a dull, heavy knife. Their expressions inadvertently say what I'm thinking:

"Really?" That mild surprise. "I suppose I can see it." The half-shrug, both permissive and dismissive. "Little bit of a delusion of grandeur, isn't it, though?" A condescending nod. "Nice idea, but it'll never happen." Mouth set in a noncommittal smile.

It's fair, what they think, all of it's fair. Me? Law? Immigration? I don't know enough, care enough, work enough to possibly make it. I am spinning a future for myself in the theoretics, and it will never makes its way down into reality, partly because the world doesn't work like that and partly because I'm not enough.

I always bite off more than I can chew.

It's like that getting into college all over again! I'll pour myself into a goal too big for my abilities, and when it doesn't work out, I'll wipe the egg off my face and move into something more manageable, more Hayley-sized, and dabble away at that until the next insurmountable goal comes along. I think too big and too small, at the same time!

And the only rest for my listless and wearying soul is that eventually I will be the person I was meant to be. Who does what they're supposed to do. Who doesn't struggle in doubt and indecision, but walks forward in faith.

Sunday, August 7, 2011

I feel twelve years old in the very best way

This weekend has been glorious. I've never looked forward to a weekend so much! And in memorandum of my final day of the weekend tomorrow (Rhode Island, in all its tackiness, is the only state that still observes . . . VJ Day. Yeah. Awkward.) here are the three things I would like to do.

1. I would like to make stuffed French toast. Actually, I would like to eat stuffed French toast. I suggested that for her sixteenth birthday, Maggie have a little party at a tea garden, and I reminded myself of my aunt's engagement party some years back, when I had stuffed French toast for the first (and last) time and didn't finish the whole thing because it was so rich, and I'd like to recreate that experience.

(Virginia Woolf has very little on me by way of syntax.)

2. I would also like to make it through the stack of library books I've been blowing through. See, okay. I've been in quite a desertland in my literary explorations, haven't sat and read in such a long time, but, oh, and I can't believe I'm saying this, but Harry Potter brought me out of it.

This is how it happened. I got pre-showing tickets to the last movie, and on impulse I went, just so I could say I saw the most talked-about movie of the year two nights before everyone else. (Because I have great strength of character, and all.) Never seen any of the other movies, never picked up one of the books, a veritable Hogwarts tabula rasa! Funny enough though, when I wasn't whispering to the people on either side of me, "Who's that? What's going on? Why--" I was actually quite enjoying the movie. The final straw was when my neighbor brought over the first movie the following night, and at its conclusion I was essentially hooked.

On my longish ride to Pennsylvania I listened to The Sorcerer's Stone on tape, and the following week I worked through The Chamber of Secrets. I'm finishing up Prisoners of Azkaban now, and, I almost look forward to driving long distances now, because it means another dose of this bizarre fantasy land. That's what I love about reading. That's what I've missed. And it's a pity it took something like the Harry Potter franchise to get me back into it!

But that's the great part, right? Since I only have the tapes, not the books, I've had to fill my thirst of stories when I'm not in the car. I've breezed through three books these past few days, ah, it's just like old times! Not just fiction either, not just twoddle reading, but also some thick tomes giving me advice on my future, and some witty essays on Winnie the Pooh and the dignity of normal, everyday language. I'm branching out in my old age!

Of course, this will all come to an end with this month and the start of school, as I'm certain I will be working when I'm not sleeping (sleeping?! I meant studying, I can sleep when I'm dead), but I'm hopeful I can ride this rejuvenation straight through till December, where I can resume my booklist where I left off.

Oh, oh, continuing with my list of sundry things. 3. I want to cuddle with my brother. Because today, finally, and oh how I've been waiting for this day . . . ! Today, my brother smells good. There is indeed hope in this world!

I totally get Rebecca Black. I love the weekend.

Friday, August 5, 2011

The place where dreams come true

I feel like such a shmuck every time I mention I've been to Disney World. I mean, it's so quintessential American, the epitome of indulgent entertainment consumerism, rife with an elevated pricetag and overly entitled patrons. It's practically a symbol of everything that's ridiculous about Western prosperity, while simultaneously acting as a powerful actor in American media. Bleck. Not hipster-halal at all. No sir.

But, oh! While it certainly our family's most expensive vacation ever, it was truly worth every penny. I kind of feel like Disney is the Apple of the theme park business; their customer service cannot be topped, and their innovative approach to their industry makes them champs at what they do. I look back at the experience with such fond memories, a small part of me even pines to visit again. I love what I desperately want to hate, because deep down, even though I know it's so evil, I also know it's so awesome.

And you know me: categorically opposed to any entertainment outlets that are not at least in part educational. (I'm going to make a great mom, you know.)

The very best part of it all was really the anticipation. We had a promotional video that we watched over and over. We compared it from the ancient one we still had from when my parents went before we children existed. We checked guidebooks out from the library and strategized about when we would see what. Would we book it to Space Mountain first thing through the gates, or would we hit up Adventureland? The guidebooks told us we'd be walking an average of twelve miles a day, so we started "training" by walking around all the neighborhoods each night. I even did a "practice packing" the night our parents told us we were going, which was hilarious because the trip was six months away! My family was so hardcore about the whole thing. I think we planned for every detail, which is a rarity for our family trips to this day.

We had decided to fly down, and this was Big News because it was our first time on an airplane ever. I didn't really know enough about flying to be terrified, though I remember having butterflies in my stomach, but in level-headed rationality I steeled myself against the novelty. I folded my hands tightly in my lap as we ascended, chewing madly on a piece of Juicy Fruit, until we surfaced above the clouds. I guess the flight was three hours, but I didn't even notice because I looked out the window the whole time, spellbound by the clouds that looked like a carpet. The whole experience was so smooth that I was caught completely unaware the next time I flew, which was in a thunderstorm. And yes there was lots of turbulence, and yes I cried. But anyway.

Once we landed we got on a bus, a Disney shuttle or something, and we drove for a looooong time. Despite passing the outlines of various resorts and parks on the horizon, I was entirely discombobulated by the time we reached our hotel, which was Disney's All-Start Movie Value Resort. Or something. All I know is there were giant statues of the 101 Dalmations. We girls got our own room that adjoined the room my parents and Cal were staying in, and being on our own meant . . . watching the Disney channel until midnight every night. [/cable deprived.] Eddy's Million Dollar Cook-Off? Still my favorite Disney channel original movie!

We had carefully crafted the order we would visit the parks in, and naturally we started with EPCOT, because it looked somewhat educational and would be a docile introduction. We geeked out over the new Test Track ride, which we rode twenty times in a row because there was no line. (We went in late September, the "off-season" and it was glorious. Who would go at any other time?!) A lot of the science stuff was tempered with constant warnings from our parents: "Of course, guys, dinosaurs lived at the same time as people," and "The complexity of the human genome is a credit to our Creator and not haphazard evolution." I'm not dogging this, I'm awfully glad my parents were so faithful, but it's funny in retrospect how I looked at things through double-lenses, a perpetual cognitive dissonance when it came to the modern interpretation of science. Also, the rose garden was fantastic, particularly by the light of fireworks.

That night we went to a buffet-style dinner with "character dining" and I ate a lot of corn chowder, because I had never had it before, and I thought it was just delicious, and I felt ill the rest of the night. Which is maybe why I came to dislike character dining, but generally it's awkward to have silent people in giant costumes coming up to you and pantomiming actions intended to be adorable. Sarah and I thought we were too old for such things, and Maggie and Cal were basically frightened, and it was generally, just, yeah, awkward.

The next park we visited was MGM, which I had anticipated would be my favorite but ended up being my least favorite. The eerie shadow of The Tower of Terror loomed everywhere you went in the park, and it was the very first ride we rode. Which is in itself a story. Maggie had a meltdown in the holding room after the lights went out and she grabbed a stranger's hand. Cal was tall enough to ride but too small to appreciate the fun, and hence refused to ride anything remotely unsettling the rest of the trip, not even the Bear in the Big Blue House show. Sarah and I emerged from The Tower crying. (The drop was fun, but I had nightmares about the accompanying storyline the rest of the week.) Dad had to ride it by himself, and the post-ride photo showed him apologizing profusely to the gentleman sitting next to him, whose arm Dad had grabbed on the way down. Mom thought it was fun, but couldn't convince anyone to go near it again.

Our benevolent parents had also set aside another treat for us: a day spent at Blizzard Beach, one of Disney's water parks. We had never been to a water park (and so for future visits to Water Country the bar had been set impossibly high) and we went out of our minds with the thrill of it all. We almost drowned. Repeatedly. And were totally okay with that. They also squeezed in a timeshare pitch, landing us a free supper at one of the resorts. We were treated like royalty (you know, before the pitch :P) and it was totally crazy town! It turns out Disney gets lots more posh than our value hotel, which even in my memory was preeetty nice.

It makes me sad that I can't remember more about the trip, just snippets here and there. Getting the high score for our batch in the Buzz Lightyear ride. (You know, after we convinced Cal to ride it.) Watching Beauty and the Beast while sipping grape juice in the AAA lounge. Playing in the fountains in EPCOT and sampling Norwegian pastries. Hide-and-seek on Tom Sawyer's island. Sarah and I getting separated from our parents after the fifth time around on Splash Mountain. Laughing at the automatronics that had been cutting edge in their time. The friendly squirrel outside of the Star Wars ride. Oh!-- standing outside of each 3D movie with a sheepish look on my face, praying that no one would try and abduct me. Babysitting Maggie and Cal in a giftshop while enduring the cross-examination of a clerk who wanted to know where our parents were and why my brother kept trying to play with the bouncy balls. Turning beet red in my seat as Cal screamed bloody murder at each attempt to enter a faintly dimmed ride. Sitting on the display porch outside of the Haunted Mansion with Cal, nodding at passersby who looked perplexedly at us. Lots of happy fun times, but I remember the interactions (dramatic, controversial, and otherwise) with my family the best.

Yeah, there were a lot of meltdowns. I think we each had several apiece. Sarah's bathing suit got lost in the laundered towels. Maggie was easily downtrodden by the heat and humidity and hunger and walking. I freaked out when we didn't stop to look at an exhibit I had really wanted to see. Cal was a quaking ball of fright after the Tower of Terror incident. And my parents are . . . my parents. All of us getting ill on the Body Wars ride. Annnd, the classic "The Making of Me" exhibit featuring Bob Saget. Definitely some bad attitudes associated with sitting through that one, for obvious reasons. But we were a family! Even though I remember a lot of the things that went wrong, I remember how funny or exciting those events were, any in many ways, those parts were the best parts.

It's funny. My parents decided to make the trip shortly after my dad's brush with death (oh, he's been silver-haired ever since!) in an effort to make the most of our time together as a family, and, maybe to indulge because they were always so frugal. I think that's one thing that made it so special, we'd never done anything like that before. We've been a bit more spoiled since, but Disney is still a hallowed memory, that once-in-a-life time family vacation, one I'll hopefully always remember.

Yeah. I still feel like a schmuck. (Seeing as how I managed to talk so much about it all this time!) But it was fun. Sue me!

Monday, July 25, 2011

And that whole naming their sons after themselves thing!

We went to a baby shower today. Those always send my brain to crazy places. In between sticking to the chairs from the humidity, and missing the badminton birdie by yards, I thought about the names all my little cousins have been amassing. Interesting, trendy names. Not sure how I feel about that.

Even though it's boundlessly embarrassing, I have to share this because I'm so tickled by the idea. Obviously if I have a girl, her name is going to be Marianne Amagi (the French allegory of liberty and the Sumerian character for freedom from enslavement, respectively -- see what I did there?), and her nickname is going to be Maggie. This is pretty exciting, because I'm terrible with girls names, they are so cripplingly tied to vogue. But now my sister can never say I never loved her!

For a boy, ah, this is much harder, because there are so many interesting names for boys. I will definitely settle on the name Walter, of course, partly for my daddy and partly as homage to Anne Shirley's dearly beloved son. (Leagues better than the name Gilbert, at least. Ugh. Gill. Bert. Just terrible.) Perhaps Laurie, too. Part a nod to the most adorable literary character of all time, part an acknowledgment of that special lady who impacted my formative years. Ah, but still, too many options.

(I don't know, are you allowed to name your son after a woman? Would your mom be offended if someone named their little boy after her? With dudes it's an ego trip, but with ladies, I don't know.)

My kids are not going to be allowed to work out the percentages of their heritage. They are Americans! This 7% Irish and 20% English and 0.2% Native American business is rubbish. My parents' genealogy is traced out, but my kids will not have access to it until they promise to not get into these "how many ethnicities can I lay claim to" contests. Then, and only then, will I brag to them how we descended from a Huran princess. Yeah, Bruce Colburn wrote a song about "my" people.

All this is totally futile, of course. That's the awesome and terrible thing about kids: they're never all yours, you have to share them with the other person who contributes the other half of their DNA. Someone who won't insist on having a say with his own children isn't worth having anyway, I suppose.

My cousin was married a few years ago, I remember his wedding well, and just as clearly I remember his wife's baby shower. Their second child is already a year old, and it's so funny to see them standing all together, my cousin and his wife looking decidedly middle aged. So comfortable. Remember when he was just fresh from college? Remember when she was new to the family functions and we wondered if she'd last? Just look at them. Time rolls right on by.

Ugh, what is the rest of my life going to be like?! I feel sick to my stomach over it all. My only coping mechanism is to just not think about it, but the execution of this strategy is abysmally difficult. That's all I've got, really. I continue to get older without quite knowing how to age well.

Oh, but you silly girl, get over yourself! You're nearly twenty. Not forty-two. (Relief sets in.)

Monday, July 18, 2011

Connecting the dots

So as part of a crazy random happenstance last week, I found myself in a stranger's living room, having a conversation with another stranger, and of all things the things strangers usually make small talk on, well, we ended up talking about, yeah, Islam. And you know what, apparently everyone except me knows what a stronghold Islam is! I feel late to the party, and not fashionably so.

But anyway.

In the course of the conversation, the articulated gentleman made some remark in response to my comment about how Islam is all-inclusive: a sociological, religious, economic, and judicial ideology. What he said was, "Obviously, Christianity is the same way, except it's of the light."

And I didn't say anything at the time, partly because I was already the controversial one in the room, since I was wearing shorts, sporting black nail polish, and decked in a t-shirt with words across the front . . . but when he said that a part of me went "Wait, what?"

I don't know. I was never aware that Christianity was an all-encompassing system. Partly because I've grown up hearing that Jesus wasn't a white middle class Republican, and that His kingdom is in our hearts, not in our society. So, blame it on how I was raised.

But his comment's stuck like a Philip Glass song in my mind. Especially now that I'm at this libertarian camp, being taught how to think about social choice and institutions and markets and equality and Wal-Mart. I can't help but wonder how Jesus fits into it all. According to one of the lecturers, he doesn't.

Josiah asked me once how I could be a Christian and a libertarian at the same time. He argued that libertarian thinking exalts man has the highest authority and the arbiter of his own life, prima facie two ideas that are decidedly in conflict with living under Jesus's lordship. My response to him was muddled and undeveloped at the time, but basically what I told him is this: I love freedom, and it's the liberty He gave me that wooed me to Christ. We were created to be free! I wouldn't go as far to say that practicing libertarianism as a form of government is biblical, but, due to its basis in natural law I would definitely say that libertarianism supports many, many biblical principles. And there are few systems of government that understand the depravity of human nature like libertarianism does.

But then, I don't really know what to do with all that Old Testament stuff.

As a sidenote, I love when skeptics throw down about how crazy town some parts in the Old Testament are. Part of me wants to start gushing about covenants and symbolism and God's justice and holiness and righteousness, and the other part of me is like, "Well, yeah, when you put it like that it does sound weird." I don't want my coworkers to think I'm making light of my faith, and that it's something I practice in spite of the bits that "don't make sense", but I also wanto demonstrate that it's not about what they think it's about. How do you tell someone politely that they just don't get it at all? I have this problem literally every day at work. I have to stop myself from rolling my eyes and muttering just that, "You don't get it at all."

Not that I 100% get "it" either, but, you know what I mean.

So I can't help but wonder to what extent the political condition of our state, our nation, our world is actually even relevant to the plans God has. While I'm assured he's definitely sovereign over the decisions of rulers, and I'm confident we're supposed to care about governments and the decisions they make, I still can't help but wonder at the relationship between Jesus and governments. Politics are everything to some people, but I feel like politics are kind of irrelevant to His kingdom coming. Like they're just one small piece of the puzzle, not even a corner piece or anything, kind of just a random piece that you work around.

I don't know. It's easy for me to say, safe and well-fed in my ivory tower.

I want to live rightly. And I don't want my libertarian leavings to be a stumbling block in my pursuit of Jesus. I don't want to be romanced by economic models and philosophical definitions, and I don't want to devote myself to a cause that will distract me from the ultimate call on my heart. Which, actually, is the greatest thing about this seminar: prime opportunities to explain why I'm a libertarian. Jesus freed me.

Sunday, July 17, 2011

I feel like I'm at summer camp.

So I'm in Bryn Mawr. Yay! When I arrived yesterday, a serious case of campus envy set in; there's a fireplace in my dorm room. I mean, enough said! There are giant chess sets all over campus, as well as brightly colored patio furniture, and brilliant stonework everywhere. It's much smaller than my school, and has such a homey feel to it, with potted plants and bulletin boards everywhere, just quintessential college dorm life. Also, since it's an all women's school, I can't help but speculate that the campus both smells better and is less trashed, like, no dents in the walls and things. Though the pool table is admittedly a mess, cos, when have you ever met a woman who was adequate at pool?!

The weather is a challenge. It's hot outside, probably because it's July, but the classrooms are terribly cold, so a lot of the students are walking around in sweaters, which is a hilarious sight to behold.

The food is all right. Better than I expected, or at least, better than it is at my school! Still, I was not impressed with breakfast. Or the "fruit juice" that is actually florescent sugar water. And while they score points in the french fries and packaged ice cream novelties department, the vegetable side of things leaves a little to be desired. But no need to get nit-picky.

The material . . . I'm in heaven. This morning one of the speakers threw down about Wal-Mart, and he was an economist, so he had numbers and data to support what he was saying. [The interesting thing about him, too, was that in the 45 minutes that he spoke he threw down no less than four Bible verses, and three comments on the sinful nature of man. According to his Twitter feed he reads Jon Acuff. I think we have a winner.] So yeah, Wal-mart does bully suppliers and does destroy jobs, but it's also responsible for 5% of the US's GDP, so, that's serious buying power. And the average American saves $177 a year from Wal-Mart. On a cost/benefit analysis, there's more good than bad in Wal-Mart's power index. So that was really, really interesting!

That's the other thing. We've heard four speakers thus far; two philosopher historians and two economists. Ordinarily not the most riveting of subjects, but somehow IHS managed to get the most dynamic and interesting speakers around. I'm not glazing over when the talk wanders into discussion of the rational expectations theory and the Chicago school . . . partly because I'm struggling to keep up with what exactly these things even are, but also because the lecturers are skilled at staying simple while going deep.

It's a good balance, too, of the history of classical liberal ideas, of the economics behind classical liberalism, of the politics of libertarianism, of the philosophy motivating classical liberal thought. Well-rounded, the lecturers are. Which is excellent, because that had been one of my worries coming in, that my libertarian training hadn't been well-rounded and I was going to be lost the whole time. But the speakers manage to break everything down in such a way that it's simple enough to follow, but you still have to work to understand.

What I also really like is how they've set up the question and answer part of each lecture. When the speaker concludes, they send us off into discussion groups for twenty minutes, where we draft our questions. Which is good because we get to share our reactions to the talk, as well as flesh out some of the things touched upon, and figure out what we want clarified. And because the questions are written out, they're most concise and easy to answer than in an oral Q&A session. You get to see all the questions the other groups came up with, and the questions stay on the wall for the whole week.

Socially, the anxiety still ripples over me from time to time. It's nice that the Cobbs and Schuyler are here, but I'm worried that I'm leaning too much on former acquaintances and not striking out on my own enough. Of course, I analyze here too much anyway, finding myself measuring people and their reactions to situations and what they do and where they sit and what they say and who they talk to. Mostly everyone here is super fascinating: if they're not international students, then they're anarchists or radicals in some vein, or hyper-intellectuals, or hipsters in full ironic pretension.

I'm slowly being wooed to go join the Free State movement in New Hampshire. I also fleetingly considered investing in Bitcoin. [You know, so I can securely purchase all my illicit substances. NBD.]

Yeah. First impressions. I hate how self-indulgently diary-ish this is. Oh well!

Saturday, July 16, 2011

Build, Break

I messed up at work today.

The store had scarcely been open for half an hour when the phone rang and the caller ID flashed "BOOKSTORE AR OFFICE". I knew it was accounting on the other end, probably calling for the manager, and I answered chipperly enough. But boy was I off!

"Hayley? Can you come see me for a bit?"

I rushed down the hall, but still didn't feel anxious, partly because the accounting woman is so kind and partly because I couldn't imagine a worst-case scenario. And so, I was surprised in a bad way when she held up a few sheets of paper and began quizzing me.

When she finished her explanation, my anxiety dissipated, it was only a check I had rung out wrong, and while it was indeed a terrible mistake, it could be corrected easily enough.

That is, corrected easily enough if I didn't make the problem worse before I made it better. And you know me . . . !

I scrolled through our records to figure out why I had rung the check through the register for less than it had been posted for. It was puzzling when the record referenced on the check itself revealed no payment information at all. Very strange. I searched by the customer's name, and when the record flashed on the screen my stomach turned cold.

I had posted the check to the wrong order. The order had been build. The order had been shipped. The wrong computer had been sent out. In short, I had created an even bigger problem that a few hundred dollar surplus in the store account.

I swallowed and shuffled into the back room, endlessly thankful that the manager had taken the day off, and unsure of whom to direct my discover to. "I made a big mistake--" I announced to the room. The purchasing manager looked up slowly. "Well, what'd you do?"

"I billed and built the wrong computer. It already got shipped out."

The Apple tech shrugged from in front of his laptop. "So we'll send the kid a return label and build him the right computer. He can just send the wrong one back. It's not a big deal. Problem solved."

I sighed miserably, not knowing how to make a return label and not imbued with confidence in my ability to make this solution happen. What if the customer was mad? What if he didn't want to send the other computer back? We'd have to wipe it when it arrived, anyway, and reorder the registry to make sure all the serial numbers matched the right people . . . I really had created a bit of a mess. Further, I turned back to the original problem: correcting the surplus created by under-ringing the check. Mindlessly I rang out the correct order, following the accountant's instructions, writing little notes and reconciling all the records. I skipped down the hall back to her office.

"You've figured it out then?" -- "I think so, I just wanted to check with you that I've done it right?" -- "Oh, I'm sure that . . ." -- "Well, I rang out the whole order . . ." And she made a face. Of course, in retrospect, what I did makes no mathematical sense, and most of my conscious mind knew this as I went through the motions, but the part of my brain that was on autopilot was too afraid to consider that there might be a flaw in my process.

I was sent back to the store with more explicit instructions, and I sheepishly pulled the Apple tech from his morning tasks. "Um, can you do a post-void?" He didn't even ask any questions, knowing I'd messed something up, and left with his register manager functions I finally balanced accounts on our end. (Which, I'm still not certain I did correctly, but I was too afraid to ask. I'll find out tomorrow, I suppose!)

I left a voicemail with the unfortunate customer, and wrote him up a nice letter to accompany the computer and the return label, explaining the situation. I built a computer and with the help of the Apple tech got it registered properly, and I even convinced the guy in charge of shipping to make sure it got sent out that very day. I sat down in relief when the situation had wrapped itself up, and the Apple tech walked by with a stack of the day's mail.

"More checks for you! I have every confidence you'll ring them out properly this time." When I groaned he smiled and patted me on the back. "You know I'm just teasing you," he grinned.

And so I feel very much like Anne Shirley: "I may make mistakes, oh, of course, but I never make the same mistake twice, that's what's good about me!"

Friday, July 8, 2011

Just thinking outloud, that's all.

I'm not good with my hands. That is to say, my fingers aren't quick, my motions are generally clumsy, and I can't coordinate my arms to save my life. I'm not really crafty. Like, I'm not good at needlepoint and I'm awful at fixing children's toys. I was breaking down cardboard today and it took me two minutes to collapse one box while my boss totaled six. I played keyboard accompaniment at our last worship sesh and it was a trainwreck. I can type, but my brain switches the order of the letters and numbers a lot, so I usually sacrifice speed for accuracy. You know, I'm not good with my hands.

I'm not super athletic either. I played soccer last week and three times I kicked past the ball. I can't shoot baskets. I can't throw a spiral. I can't field a ground ball. I've never been skiing, but I probably wouldn't be very good at that, either. My friend is teaching me to longboard and I keep wiping out all over the place. We went to the gun range today, and despite five years of training, I missed half my targets. I can't even remember the last time I went for a run! My lack of hand-eye coordination limits my ability to pick up most team sports without intense disciplined training, and I mentally have trouble wrapping my mind around the notion of repetitive, cemented technique. Fading and prompting? I need monster doses.

I'm also not terribly sharp. One of my potentially most embarrassing moments was playing Scrabble in the Mullaneys' kitchen, like, I don't know, this is partly my skewed self-perception that few like I ought to have been good at that game, but I could only think of three-letter words, and, there aren't words for the relief I felt when that game ended. It's the same story with most reasoning-heavy games, specially spacial ones. Tetris? Forget it. I'm just not sharp at connecting the dots, whether that's mapping information my boss gives me or connecting letters to form words in Scrabble, it seems that my brain's processing power stalls frequently from lack of theoretical RAM or something, and the gears in my mind are constantly grinding.

So, what I'm leading up to in light of all of this is, you know those people, those people you just have endless pity for because they just aren't competent? Like, they try really hard, and they give a good effort, but they just don't get the results normal people do. I kind of relate to those people. Like Ramona Quimby. No matter what she did and how well-intentioned she was, she could never do anything right. And sometimes she made a bigger mess than the problem she was trying to fix. I get that. And I know a few people like that. I feel bad for them; sometimes I feel bad for me, because it's just so much harder to go through the motions of what other people appear to do effortlessly, and the weigh of their/my incompetence is embarrassing or guilt-inducing.

I'm thinking about this because I read that novel, Nineteen Minutes, and I kept thinking about how Peter wouldn't have been picked on or an outcast if he had been a competent person. Instead he stuck out because he was sensitive and effeminate and just not really useful at anything. And so he became a victim. A murderous victim who shot up an entire school, but still, a victim nevertheless. Which, sidenote, is another reason while utilitarianism is so poisonous when it comes to human beings: when a person's humanity is measured by their usefulness, you get a person that is decidedly detrimental to society, people like Dylan Klebold and Eric Harris. Well, I mean, humanistically speaking, anyway. Jesus covered this territory before any secular ideology did, but there it is.

So why does God make some people more competent than others? You understand what I mean by competent, of course? Useful? Good at general things? Thinking, doing, acting? There are only a handful of people out there who are good at everything (I have difficulty loving those people sometimes!) but there are a few standards of performance for the rest of us normal people, and if you don't meet those standard, you're incompetent. You know: clumsy, careless, an idiot. Incompetent. Sorry to keep repeating myself on this definition. I just think it's so interesting that such a thing exists, but I just don't know quite how to put it into words . . . is there a term for what I mean already? There probably is, it's probably jotted down in the depths of my psychology notes, something from the self-efficacy chapter. Oh! And that's the worst, right, this sort of incompetence paired with high self-efficacy? Awkward for everyone.

Anyway. Why are some people more competent than others? We all have our special giftings; I'm not referring to that. But maybe they're one and the same? Perhaps some people are gifted with every day coping mechanisms, equipped to be generally useful? And those that are more specifically gifted in other areas, they lack this ability to be general useful and competent? Peter was skilled at computer coding and designing video games; perhaps what he lacked in social sensitivity and athletic ability he made up for us technologial aptitude? I don't know, the more I mull this over the more I wonder if this dichotomy is only in my head and not in real life. I'm just trying to sort out what about all human beings is the same and what about us is different.

This is where I stop.

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Because this is what young adults do, right?

So now that my two week introduction to Muslim outreach has come to a close, I find myself looking toward the next big thing on the docket for my summer. In two weeks I'm headed on a solo roadtrip to Bryn Marr University for one of the Institute for Humane Studies' summer seminars. Kind of a weird story. Not sure how I ended up on the guest list. But I'm not about to pass up a free week of libertarian indoctrination, no sir!

Anyway. This trip is freaking me out for several reasons.

1) I'm 100% shocked my parents are letting me make the drive! In my own car! All by myself! I thought for sure they would insist on me flying, or taking the train, or carpooling with someone, but no, they readily consented. Is this the Twilight Zone?! Or is this what it feels like to be almost twenty and treated somewhat like a young adult? Even though the route is a straight line, and one I've traveled many times as my mother's copilot, there's still the anticipation of the what ifs. As in, what if my car breaks down? [A distinct possibility!] What if I get an accident? [Not outside the realm of possibility either!] My head is swimming with visions of rest stops and toll booths. I'm excited. Bring it on.

2) Despite my careful grooming in libertarianism by TeenPact and the Foundation for Economic Education and the countless books Mr. Rehmke and Mr. Luke have passed along to me, I still feel woefully ignorant on the topic at large. The survey we had to fill out sought to reveal the knowledge base of the attendants, and I found myself answering "I don't know" too often for the health of my pride. The knowledge problem, spontaneous order, John Rawls' philosophy . . . two words for you guys: woeful. ignorance. Part of me says that I have two weeks to cram libertarian political history and theory into my head so I can be prepared, and the other part of me says, "Forget that, just show up and see what you get out of it." Maybe a balance of the two is the best.

3) To make matters worse, the Facebook group is lit up with names of woefully intelligent individuals. People who have studied economics, political philosophy, sociology, neuroscience. People who are coming from Argentina, German, Switzerland, Turkey, England. Not to mention the gobs of people coming from Washington, DC. Movers and shakers, go-getters, these people are. Even if I can get over how intimidating everyone is, I still face my typical idiosyncrasies when it comes to meeting new people. And even though a few of the Cobbs will be there, there's still a knot in my stomach when I think about how much I hate these week-long affairs. What's the point of making friends with someone you'll never see again, anyway?! I can't spent a week in silence, my psyche just can't handle it!

On the other hand, there are plenty of things to be happy about. Roadtrip to PA! A week out of work! Learning about libertarianism, and hopefully making some connections! Opportunities to talk about why I'm a libertarian! Read: Jesus, yo. For each anxiety, my sick masochistic side is thinking, "Oh yes, this is going to be so character-building!" Worst comes to worst, I'll pack that massive tome Witness and make a dent in my reading list. Solitude makes for efficient reading.

Ugh. Can I just be thirty years old already?

Sunday, July 3, 2011

Dearborn Recap

The really funny thing is, I got into an argument over the internet with some kid on this very topic. He posted a link to an article about Muslims who threw rocks at elderly Jewish men attending prayers. He added a small remark identifying the violence latent in one of the top world religions. And I in all my foolish could not stand by and let an opportunity for argument be lost! I told him that the Qur'an says that Christians, Jews, and Muslims are cousins in faith. That Islam was a religion of peace. That radicals and extremists are not representative of the religion holistically. I snubbed his findings and essentially called him a liar.

And when I said I, I felt like I had the authority to say it with accuracy. That's the ridiculous part. I thought because I had read a lot of the Qur'an and completed an intro to Islam course and was all packed to spend a two-week immersion amongst Yemeni Muslims, that in light of all this, I was qualified to make an assessment of his assertion.

That's what I get for letting myself get all puffed up with an empty superiority!

When I arrived in Dearborn, all of this came crashing down. Was it the bars on the windows and the locks on the doors of all the Muslim homes we passed, homes where wives were caged all day while their husbands were at work? Was it the documentaries about the three jihads and the ground zero mega-mosque and the child brides and the wife stonings and the terrorism training camps and the birth rates and the fear communities? Was it the talk on Shari'ah law (supreme over all laws) and taquiyya (doctrine of deception) and abrogation (what comes after erases what comes before) and jihad (holy struggle) and tribal intimidation? Was it the countless stories of spiritual warfare, of naive conversion? Or was it when my heart started fluttering faster than I'd ever felt, as the imam lost his temper and condemned our Christian intolerance, wrapping up with an "I'm sorry" and "just kidding!"

I sat in the cushioned half desks of the women's ESL classrooms and thought to myself: everyone has to know. Everyone ought to know.

Hearing the stories of spiritual warfare sent chills to the very pit of my stomach. Every night before falling asleep I rolled over on to my side, and breathed deeply, able to dispel the fear because of the intercession from people back home. On every side we were protected: spiritually, physically, emotionally. I sat on the floor in the front of the mosque listening to three little girls whom I'd grown to love, listening to them sing "We are Muslims" to the tune of Frere Jacques. Fear washed over me, thinking of their expert brainwashing, the poisonous lies flowing from the imam's mouth as he encouraged the children in their Islamic studies. Our host explained the glass box of Islam: no matter how nominally you practiced, as a Muslim you must believe the Qur'an. And it teaches some scary things . . .

There were innumerable blessings on every turn. We were just a short-term missions team, with little to no opportunity to form relationships ourselves, only with the focus of supporting the work of our hosts. And yet, our night at the park left us with dozens of new friends. The next night at the BBQ they came back. An Egyptian woman invited us to her house. An ESL student took my hands in hers and murmured "I love you." Our host beamed with approval as the ladies drew with henna on our skin, and as we played worship songs for their entertainment. Never have I met women so warm and friendly, so desperate for relationships, so thirsty for a sympathetic ear.

Western culture at large has it so backwards, you know? Islam is an innocuous religion, but Muslims are weirdos to be feared. Who'd've thought it was the other way around? That Islam is the very darkest and pervasive stronghold, and that Muslims are precious people in dire need of freedom. I know, I know. Duh. But there's something so precious about learning it first-hand, in feeling how difficult the cultivation, but also tasting how sweet the fruit. And so in two weeks I progressed: from naive to angry, from angry to heart-broken, from heart-broken to hopeful. In Christ is the victory. Amen!

If you don't yet know what to do with your life, get ESL certified. The barred door into the Muslim community all of a sudden cracks open just a little bit . . .