Monday, March 30, 2009

Frederick Foodie

What goes with roast beef, turkey, mashed potatoes, pasta, fudge, Texas sheet cake, and watergate salad? How about an antacid? Maybe a nice 10-mile run? I've only been in Maryland since Friday night (it's now Monday evening), and I've already consumed a month's worth of fat and calories. Nanny definitely missed the memo about cholesterol, and I completely lack self-control whenever I'm in Frederick County. I think it's something in the air.

All this eating has gotten me to wondering about food and why we associate certain foods with home? Would family still be family if they didn't come bearing doughy sugar cookies? Today, Steve, Grammy, and I drove to Gettyburg, PA, to visit the Boyd's Bears Bear Country flagship store. (Pictures forthcoming in a future blog.) On the way there, we drove past Mountain Gate Family Restaurant, one of my favorite Maryland indulgences. Yet this time, I felt no inclination to exit the highway for its yummy, homecooked goodness. Maybe, it's because I always went to Mountain Gate with Granddaddy. Going without him seems a bit like sacriledge. I may go back one day, but for right now, the restaurant has lost its charm for me.

So tonight after Bear Country, we hit Outback instead. Not one of my favorite places to eat, but it made my grandmother happy, so that made it worthwhile. I thought that Steve and I would probably wear her out, but instead, we're the ones dragging tonight, and she's powering away the miles on her treadmill. Shame on our saggy, baggy, out-of-shape selves!

Back to the dining digression...last night was all about food and family. We had dinner at Nanny and Pap's with my uncle and aunt and my cousin, her husband, and her two little girls. We had the requisite amounts of chaos and catching up with a little turkey, gravy, and macaroni and cheese thrown in. After all, would it really be a Lantz family gathering without Nanny's culinary stylings? I think not.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Why Exaggerate When The Truth Is So Much Scarier?

Tomorrow is the last day of class before Spring Break. (Cue: Singing, dancing, and weeping openly.) I am so excited about the break, though I fear that the word "break" may be a trick. Sure I won' t be going to school for a whole week, but I will be driving to Frederick, Maryland for a week of visiting with family, and I do have MOUNDS of work to do during that time. Seriously. This is not hyperbole. I have piles of stuff stacked in our home office that all has to be done.

You remain unconvinced of my plight? Well, I have to read 21 Julia Mood Peterkin entries over Spring Break (or SB, as it shall be referred to henceforth.) Then there's the essay I need to rewrite and the 3 new essays I need to write for Creative Non-Fiction. (And let's not forget the 4 essays I need to critique.) That's one class's work. Then there's Domesticity. (Yes, that's a class.) I have major reading to do, plus research for my project and 2 journals to write. I need to do research for my Senior Seminar Careers project. And last (and certainly not least, well, maybe a little bit least), there's Buffy. We're up to Season 6, and I have episodes to watch, Buffy Blogs to write, and a presentation/discussion to prepare. Are you tired yet?

On the up and exciting side, I have turned in the final manuscript of the 2009 issue of Concept!!!! (Yes, I used exclamation points despite my training.) I think it looks really professional (the journal, not my exclamation points), and we are very, very proud of how it's turned out. Everyone has worked so hard, and I hope it's going to pay off in a wonderful journal.

So tomorrow is going to be a full day of housecleaning, laundry, packing, shopping, Buffy class, working in the writing center, and women's Bible study. I'm going to be too tired to go on vacation! Unfortunately, no one has told the cats yet that we are leaving. Maybe we can sneak out before they notice we are gone. Hobson gets very upset when we leave.

Despite insanity and severe bouts of overwhemedness (yes, I made up a word - it's a gift), I am still excited. Regardless of what craziness goes down in the next month and a half, I will be graduating on May 16th. I think I may look different once I'm a college graduate. You may not even recognize me if you see on the street. But then again, you probably will...I'll be woman walking around town in blue jeans, flip flops, and a mortarboard and tassle.

Saturday, March 21, 2009

Retail Therapy, or How To Succeed At Shopping Without Really Trying

Sometimes you see changes coming and you have time to prepare. Then there are those times when changes just start coming at you fast, and you just have to sit back and hold on. Apparently, this is one of those times. Graduation is approaching at lightning speed. (This has been the fastest semester in the history of academia.) I ordered my cap and gown this week, and I've been receiving all kinds of info regarding the events of graduation week. It does make it all seem a bit more real. This time two months from now, I'll be a college graduate. It seems like only yesterday (regardless of the cliche) that I was starting at Converse and working full time and wondering if I would ever be able to finish and graduate. Now, here I am. It's all a little surreal. Now, I just have to get through this semester. One more week until spring break, and I can hardly wait.

Of course, I've had four years to prepare for this. It's exciting, but it's the expected result of four years of college - graudation. If I only had graduation to contend with, things would be pretty tame. It isn't just graduation, though. Changes are everywhere. The other day a friend was talking about how things happen in clusters. That rule must include changes. In the past couple of months, I've gone from being an overachieving, overworked, overstressed, super-nerd, reclusive college student with no clear idea of life after graduation to a woman with friends, a life, and a plan. (I'm still an overachieving nerd. No change there.) I've been accepted to the MFA program at Converse, so life after college is going to be, well, more college. I'm so excited about grad school. Two years of hanging out with other writers. It doesn't get much better than that.

School isn't over yet, though, and it has been crazy. We finished the manuscript for Concept (our literary journal) on Thursday. It was such a relief to get it done. Another check mark on my crazy to do list. I also picked up the finalists for the Julia Mood Peterkin Award, and I get to read/judge them over Spring Break. Super fun! I'm going to be in a television commercial on Tuesday for Converse II. That should be interesting. They're going to film me doing my Writing Center/tutoring thing.
The biggest (and best) change in my life right now has been the addition of a new group of friends. Since our move to Holland Park Church of Christ, we've met some really amazing people. Our Sunday night Life Group includes three other young married couples who have taken us in as family. I am amazed daily by their openness and generosity of spirit. As someone who doesn't make friends easily, I have appreciated their patience with me and my innumerable quirks. For the first time in my life, I feel like I am making women friends with whom I can have a close, spiritual relationship. My goal for the future? Try not to mess it up.

Today, I went shopping with one of the girls from Life Group, Terra. She is a kindred spirit and crazy fun. I'm not sure that Mall of Georgia was ready for us. I swear we spent half an hour just looking at the jewelry at Macy's and another at the shoes. A woman after my own heart. It was positively the most normal thing I've done in years, and it felt really wonderful.

Monday, March 16, 2009

Tortellini, Tri-Bond, and the Leaning Tower of Birthday Cake

So another crazy weekend has come and gone. Last week was insane. I felt like I never stopped, and maybe that's good. If I had stopped, I probably would have collapsed. The list of things I needed to do just kept getting longer and longer and time shorter. On the upside, however, lots of really fun and exciting things happened.

On Tuesday, I went to the Elizabeth Cox reading at school. She was amazing! The story she read was wonderful, and she was so willing to answer questions. I bought two of her books, and she signed them both. I also got to hang out with one of my favorite people (who also happens to be named Sarah. Coincidence? I think not.) You just can't beat time with a friend combined with a Panera cinnamon scone.

Wednesday started with a dentist appointment. Fun, fun, fun. My face was numb for so long afterwards that I had to eat my Chick-Fil-A lunch with half my tongue completely dead and trying desperately not to bite anything important. Then it was on to the writing center followed by 2 1/2 hours of creative non-fiction.

Thursday was the most non-stop day ever. Ten o'clock class followed by a lunch break of gift shopping that took so long I had to hit the ubiquitous Chick-Fil-A, and I was still a few minutes late for my Concept meeting. The meeting ran long, and I had to run straight to Buffy class. After working in the writing center, I headed down to print off the Concept stories for the Lykes award contest. Converse printers and I never get along, so this took much longer than I had hoped. I had to drive straight home, run inside and grab my stuff for Bible study, and drive straight there just in time to sing "Happy Birthday to Terra" and then recite my memory verse that I had been practicing out loud in the car on the way there. (I'm out of breath just typing all this.) When I got home from Bible study I almost collapsed. What a day.

My weekend wasn't exactly restful either, but at least it was full of fun. A friend of mine refers to taking a "mental health day" from time to time. Well, let's just say I took a mental health weekend. Friday started with lunch with Terra and her parents at Soby's on the Side. (Have you ever heard of a red velvet cookie sandwich? Well, I have, and it's a beautiful thing.) That night, Sarah came over, and we had tacos and a Rock Band fest. Major fun. Sarah even made a video of our performance of "My Sharona." Let's just say it was inspired. Especially the part where Sarah realized the lyrics were somewhat colorful while she was singing them.

Saturday, we went to the Joe Beam marriage seminar at church. It was great, and he was very funny. Afterwards, Kayla and Daniel came over for dinner and games. The couples in our Life Group have been so open and friendly to us, and it was wonderful to be able to have them over and try to return the favor. So, we all bonded over tortellini and Tri-Bond. Good times.

Sunday night was Life Group at our house. We had a houseful of friends from church, and a garage full of smoke. We had volunteered to grill hamburgers, and the weather wasn't exactly cooperating, so we had to "grill out" in the garage. (Don't worry, we left the garage door open.) I also made a birthday cake to celebrate two Life Group birthdays. Unfortunately, the baking gods were once again not smiling on me. By the time we got around to the celebrating, my cake had started to split in half, the strawberries on top sliding down into the crevice. The good news is that I didn't have a meltdown. (Though my candles did. We had to sing an abbreviated version of the "Happy Birthday Song" before the candles completely ran down the sides of the cake.) We just ate my very deformed, but very tasty, cake. No one seemed to care that it didn't look like a magazine cover. They were too busy licking cream cheese frosting off their forks.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Word To Your Mother

One of the reasons I love creative writing is the continual process of revision. There is such freedom in knowing that you can begin badly. It's the great literary do-over. If I sit down to write and I can't seem to get started, I just give myself permission to write complete drivel. Often, after a few poorly written paragraphs are enough to get my juices flowing, and I start cranking out real words and passable sentences. Even if the result isn't pure poetry, at least it's something I can edit.

Unfortunately, life is not a creative writing project. A few rare exceptions aside, we don't get a lot of mulligans. Words that sounded okay in my head exit my mouth in a jumbled mess of embarrassment. I can't think and re-think every word before I say it. At the rate I edit, it would take days to say anything. Consequently, I spend a lot of time with my foot wedged firmly in my mouth.

Words are arguably the most powerful thing on earth, yet we throw them around with careless abandon. We don't take care about words' connotations, their etymology. A misplaced comma or pause can completely alter the meaning of a sentence. As Americans, we abuse our language to such a degree that it can become unrecognizable. I read a short story this week that actually said that a character came in out of the cold to "dethaw." So, they came in out of the cold to do the opposite of thaw? Freeze? HUH? Don't even get me started on the whole I-could-care-less/I-couldn't-care-less debate.

There are still those who care about words, however. (Some might say they care too much.) I had creative non-fiction workshop tonight, and I must say that those people care about word choice. Where else could you spend ten minutes discussing someone's use of the word counterintuitively? (I didn't make that up. It really happened.) Sure I wanted to induce vomitting in order to get out of the room, but you do have to admire their committment to the written word.

Outside the realm of creative writing nerds (yes, I'm including myself in that grouping), though, I have almost given up hope. The other night I watched the beginning of the film Idiocracy. In it, two people awake from cryogenic stasis to find themselves in a future world where the English language has been reduced to a muddled mix of slang, grunts, and grammatical abominations. Didn't seem too far off to me.

The upside to taking time to consider your words is that you are forced to take time to consider your words. As I said before, words are powerful. Even a well-meaning joke or comment can cut deeply if the hearer misunderstands. Slang can be misinterpreted. Look to the always clever and ever elegant Jane Austen as your conversational paragon. The ladies and gentlemen in her stories take such care with their words; even their jibes are wrapped in silk scarves of slippery language. How long must it have taken Austen to create and edit those exchanges? What a polite and urbane world she created.

So tomorrow when the goofy starts working its way up my throat toward my mouth, I'm going to stop, take a deep breath, and channel my inner Elizabeth Bennet. (Does that make Steve Mr. Darcy? Hmm.) With my verbal skills, I'll probably be something closer to Mr. Collins. Maybe I could just write everyone a nice letter.

Monday, March 9, 2009

Fun, Fellowship, and Fiji Water

This weekend was the Holland Park Church ladies' retreat at the Bonclarken Conference Center in Flat Rock, NC. There were about 70 of us women bunking together, four to a room, on Friday night. I knew only a handful of people going in, but left feeling connected to 70 beautiful Christian women.

If you know me, then you know I'm not a big group kind of girl, so, of course, there was anxiety attached to this event. While the ladies from my Thursday night Bible study and Sunday night Life Group were all going, I've still only known them for a couple of months, and here I was about to spend the weekend with them. When I met the Bible study ladies for the drive to Flat Rock, I just had to say a prayer and hop in the car.

The drive to NC was great, and once we got there things only got better. Many of the women had brought crockpots full of their favorite soups, and we had a dinner of every soup imaginable and giant chunks of French bread. I consider good food to be a good sign. Our speaker was Cheryl Cannon, and she was amazing. Though she claimed to be goofy and a little ADD, she led us seamlessly through funny stories and explications of Scripture. Her overarching message? God is enough.

That night, we played games. (Can you say, "organized chaos"?) After that, it was time for sleep (or at least attempted sleep.) Whoever thought that rubberized mattress covers were a good plan should be soundly beaten. Every time you shifted your weight (or breathed), the sheets slid on the mattress cover and made terrible noises. So I basically laid there intensely aware of every move I was trying not to make. Fun night. At least nobody snored.

The next day we had more fellowship, singing, and Bible study. We also got to take a walk across the grounds down to a beautiful little lake. Very scenic. Most importantly, though, I was so grateful for the friendship extended to me by so many women. I am including some pictures, though they don't do the fun justice!

So now it's back to the real world of mountains of school work and deadlines. I feel renewed and ready to face them (well, mostly, anyway.)

Thursday, March 5, 2009

The 3 R's: Reading, wRiting, and Rock Band

It's never boring at the Gray least, it hasn't been for a while. School, of course, remains a neverending blur of work and commitments. I am trying to balance classwork with Concept Literary Journal obligations and reading entries for the Julia Mood Peterkin contest and working in the Writing Center and applying to grad school and scholarships and trying to get some work submitted to journals. At least one thing is going right...drum roll, please...I found out last night that I was accepted to the MFA program at Converse! I was so excited. (Still am, actually.) Feels good to check one small thing off my very long list, well, that and having my FAFSA finally completed. (Thanks to Steve for that.)

If only school were the only thing keeping me busy. There's the everyday, daily stuff like cleaning the house, cooking meals, laundry, grocery shopping, and trying to see Steve occasionally. Then there's my church commitments. Starting next Sunday, we'll be hosting Life Group for a while. I'm actually looking forward to this, but it is another thing on thelist. On Thursday nights, I attend a women's Bible study. This means more homework, but it is so worth it. Once a week, I get to go spend a couple of hours with some truly amazing women. We not only study God's word, but we also get to love and support one another in a deeper way than simply seeing each other on Sunday mornings would allow. Sure, I'm usually exhausted from a full week by the time Thursdays roll around, but I wouldn't want to miss it for any extra rest time. It's such a wonderful time to recharge and pray for one another. Plus, the lady who leads has the most adorable little boy ever, and he is always entertaining.

This weekend will be a bit more challenging than usual (and that's saying something) since I am going to a women's retreat tomorrow (Friday). Our church is having a special women's weekend on Friday and Saturday in Flat Rock, NC. I'm really looking forward to the drive up with the girls and sharing hotel rooms (translation: one big slumber party). It does, however, mean less time to work on school stuff, but I'm just going to have to trust that God will help me get through my work despite my condensed schedule. I'm definitely going to take my camera, so I hope to have some pictures to post when I get back.

My exciting life doesn't end there, though. Steve, too, is having an eventful week, and by that I mean that the Stevie Ray Vaughn songs finally came out for Rock Band. I really wish I liked SRV since I know I'm going to be listening to Steve play his songs on the game over and over for quite some time. (He's playing them as type, in fact.) Ah, Rock Band...It really is a wonderful time to be alive, isn't it?

So that's my life right now. I've probably left something out (like my 1:30 am brownine baking or 2 am history assignment), but you get the general idea. No need to belabor the point. I think the name of my blog pretty much sums everything up right now.

On a completely unrelated note, if I don't graduate soon, I'm going to weigh six hundred pounds and be in desperate need of bypass surgery. I love Zaxby's as much as the next girl, but really, if I eat any more chicken and french fries, I'm going to rupture an artery! Why does fast food have to equal fried? I'm going to start having dreams where angry vegetables are chasing me down and beating me senseless with a cold, hard french fry.

Monday, March 2, 2009

America's Snow Playground

At moments like these, I like to quote the words of great men. This morning I look to the sage Admiral Ackbar when he said, "It's a trap!" A few weeks ago we were all walking around campus in t-shirts and flip flops and feeling very smug about the glorious warm weather...well, I say "we" loosely. I knew it wouldn't last. I tried to warn my friends when they said foolish things like, "Spring is here!" I mean, we live in the land of April ice storms and snowy spring surprises. Would it kill the weather man to just once give us a white Christmas instead of spring snow? (Look at my poor froggies below. They were freezing this morning. Plus everybody knows it's impossible to keep your instrument in tune in this kind of weather! And yes, that is snow on their poor, little noses.)

On the upside of all this winter wonderland business, it does slow everything down. Today, I was dreading having to drive to Spartanburg to continue my transcript drama (related to scholarship drama.) Of course, I live in South Carolina where everything shuts down if a flurry of snow is spotted within a 30 mile radius. With our current two-inch dusting, all the schools are shut down, so I'm at home doing what I wanted to do in the first place - reading JMP entries.

Poor Steve had to go to work today. (At least he got to sleep in.) I, on the other hand, am bundled up in the warm comfort of my living room. Alas, I have no pictures of me in the snow because that would require me going out in the cold, cold snow. Some of the pictures I even took through a window. A bit later, I may make myself some hot tea and soup (or at least get dressed.) I take it back. I LOVE this surprise snow and cold weather.