Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Shameless Story Stealing

Writers are a nefarious breed. Always pausing and looking vaguely off into the distance with minds who knows where and fingers flying over the keyboard writing who knows what. They’re always watching, always scheming about what their next words will be. Writers are indeed a nefarious breed:

A nefarious breed with a fatal weakness for a good story.

They are drawn in by them, like the smell of home-cooking after a long day. When they walk in the front door, brushing off the snow and the chill, and get that first whiff of struggle, character development, and denouement, Pavlov’s dogs had a better chance of holding back their saliva after they heard the dinner bell.

On that note (get it?!) here are the story tidbits I gathered (re: stole) this week.

Ben’s conversation with the Kenyan “official” wielding an AK-47 ended with him capitulating.
“Fine! Your system is corrupt and it stinks! Take your money and let us go.”
An American woman got into the elevator and was closely followed by four Japanese men. They began to speak about her in their native language. Quickly their language became degrading, sexualizing the woman. Before their florr, one of the men turned to her and—in English—spoke kindly.
“You don’t understand Japanese, do you?”
She looked him in the eye and responded in steely, fluent Japanese.
“Every word.”
And she left.
            The slide was huge—you could probably have fifteen kids lined up on the ladder up to the top—and in the summer it could burn your buttcheeks off, the metal was so hot. We got twenty minutes for recess and then Mrs. Mattausch blew the whistle. Of course, the kids at the top could slide down, and the rest of us got into line. Well, Anna Hiddenger slid down and ran around and slid down again.
            Her bravery was short-lived.
            Mrs. Mattausch had seen.
Sometimes, said Pooh, the smallest things take up the most room in your heart.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Polar Bear Proud

Freshman year was the worst. I stood barefoot on the freezing ice and snow for well over a half hour, waiting for my turn to plunge into the icy depths of Calvin College’s Seminary Pond. With fingers gradually turning 
white, I raised my left hand and placed my right above my heart, reciting the sacred pledge:

We promise to leap into the Sem Pond,
Surrendering ourselves to the icy waters,
And embracing our falleness as creatures.

And when the waters cover our entire body
And our feet are mired in muck,
We will be given the grace
To emerge from the depths
As lifelong members of the Cold Knight Club.

Having attained our reward,
We will serve our fellow humanity
Knowing that we have gone
Where few dare to tread.
All for one,
one for all.

Now, four years later, I have attained my reward: my golden towel. And yes, it feels as good as I knew it would. Or maybe it just felt good to not have to wait in line this time around—fourth-year jumpers get priority—and to have the feeling return to my toes within minutes afterward emerging from the icy depths, rather than a quarter of an hour later.

Do I feel bad for the poor youngsters that had to wait their thirty minutes this year? Not really. And not just because it wasn’t nearly as cold this year and because of a policy change, no one waits on the ice for more than a couple minutes anymore.

The way I figure it, there ought to be some perks for being a senior, perched precariously on the terrifying edge of graduation. Freshman still have that beautiful gift of “all the time in the world” to figure out their major and their career and their hang-ups. They can afford thirty degrees for a half hour.

And since no one’s offering me any more time to figure things out, I’ll settle for a golden towel and priority jumping status.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Life's Desserts

Sometimes when I’m getting ready to go to school I try to see how many different colors I can wear in my outfit. The rules are as follows (“Nothing is only a game. Whatever you play, you must play it properly. There are rules.” – Juliet Marillier):

        1.      Each item of clothing may count as no more than two colors.
        2.      If an item of clothing won’t be seen (socks, hair clips, unmentionables), it doesn’t count.
        3.      Makeup doesn’t count.
        4.      Stitching doesn’t count.
        5.      I must be able to apply deodorant after all articles have been put on.
        6.      I must be able to move after all the articles have been put on.
        7.      The outfit must be contiguous in spirit.

And this is just one of many games I like to play. Two of my favorites are: Who Will Break First and Take the Trash Out? (I always win—best game ever) and Just How Many Cookies Can I Eat in One Sitting without Getting Sick? (classic.)

***Warning: nerd quote approaching

A Terry Goodkind character named Zedd—the Gandalf of the Sword of Truth series—says, “Leading a simple life fosters the urge for occasional flamboyance.” If I remember correctly, he was wearing a large, and very flamboyant, hat at the time. I like to think that living a reasonable life fosters a similar urge to be quirky, and I believe we should all be intentional about enjoying our God-given quirks.

 Life is already big and interesting and epic. It’s the little games we play that give it pizzazz (see? I could have said “flavor” there and we’d all be bored). So if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to play How Much Snot Can You Expel in a Single Noseblow? (a lot)

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Happy List Item #29

The First Day of School

Plenty of people love the end of a long, boring summer and the termination of a terrible summer job, or simply love seeing old friends again. But that's not why the first day of school makes me improbably happy. I love the first day of school because it's school.

A new subject, a new teacher, a new classroom. Of course, you don’t yet know where that classroom is, so there’s this Urban Amerigo Vespucci feeling as you prowl the corridors looking for room 124? Mrs. Baker? Realy? I always thought this was a bathroom...

And then once you sit down in Mrs. Baker’s class, you get to find out who else is in it with you—which not-quite-friends you’ll be able to rely on for notes or a piece of gum after lunch. Then you meet Mrs. Baker. Is she a hard-ass? or funny? or just adorably devoted to her subject matter? (“Geometry is fascinating, kids! Just wait until we talk about proofs!”)

Then she hands you the syllabus, and you recognize a few of the topics ("Ah, I've been wondering what all the hype of the Palestinian-Israeli conflict was about..." or "Perfect; I meant to read Stephen Crane this summer and never got around to it..."). Even the research projects give you this shivery sort of happy expectation. You don’t really have to take notes because the first half of the period was taken up with “going over the syllabus.” (i.e. sizing up the class) And before you know it, you’re on your way, not minding the first homework assignment, usually something introductory.

Hands down (or raised, if you're one of those people on the first day), one of the best days of the year.