Surprises

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  1. Everything got done today. Granted, it was all due at midnight, and granted, it all got done at about 11:45, but it got done.
  2. Winter’s back.
  3. There was a red moon last night, and a lunar eclipse. That wasn’t really a surprise—I’d marked it in my calendar months ago—but that’s still a really cool thing.
  4. I got to eat all three meals today.
  5. And I might get to eat all three meals tomorrow.
  6. Despite many obstacles, I stayed cheerful today.
  7. I got to spend five minutes on my back with my feet propped up on the wall, staring at the ceiling of my dorm room. Right now it’s covered in bits of colorful paper with the attributes of God written on them. I was reminded to pray without ceasing, and I had a little five-minute worship session on the floor of my room. For results, see #6.
  8. I got great sleep last night.
  9. Tulsi tea actually tastes good.
  10. I got to have dinner with a friend. A dear friend from days gone by, who will probably always be one of my bests and a true sister. It was pretty awesome. 

Spring Rain

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Today offered the first warm spring rain.

Winter rains are wonderful, but mildly depressing. Winter rain soaks your bones—a wonderful sensation when you have the opportunity to walk into your living room after trudging through the rain, throw off your coat, get into pajamas and curl up with a blanket and a book. Something which almost never happens in winter—especially if you’re a student.

But spring rains—spring rains are another creature entirely. Spring rains invite you to take off your shoes and run your toes through the puddles on the pavement. Spring rains ask you to dance, and you do, if you refuse to be too dignified. Spring rains take the pollen away—at least for an hour or two. Spring rain doesn’t drive you inside, it calls you out. Thunderless, it beckons. Gently, it laughs.

The greatest tragedy of adulthood is that it douses the enjoyment of little things. As a child, your eyes are wide open, soaking in every detail of new things, old things, old things seen in new ways. Rain is cause for a celebration—a dance party in the puddles.

 For an adult, however, rain becomes a nuisance. It frizzes hair. It splotches clothing. It ruins shoes. We hide under umbrellas and walkways. Never would we turn our faces up to the rain, letting it wash over our tired faces. No—it might smear our mascara. It might slick our hair.

Perhaps we don’t forget little things. We just replace the little things of childhood with the little things of adulthood. Suddenly shoes have become more important than puddles.

Except for those of us who take off our shoes and dance through the puddles anyway. 

Transition

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I and my fellow graduates-to-be find ourselves in a frightening state of transition. Well, at least to me it’s frightening—perhaps I’m the only one.

It seems like everyone I talk to—those of a mentoring age—has fantastic ideas of what I should do with my life after graduation. One told me to go abroad and get a PhD and a ton of other degrees and come back to UU and teach. In fact, everyone I talk to thinks I should teach. I really have no inkling why they think this is a good idea.

I had other friends encourage me to get a grad degree in theater arts. That’s great folks. I’m flattered. I love theater, but theater is not my oxygen. And unless theater is the thing you live and breathe, you shouldn’t get a degree in it.

Why is no one advising me to write? I’ve spent four years trying to become the best writer possible, but so far only my mother and closest friends have told me to shoot for publication. Which I still want to do, by the way. With all my heart.

It seems like everyone wants me to do everything but become the one thing I’ve dreamed of being since I was ten: a writer. In conversation, I still feel like my peers and my mentors consider my dream to be nothing more than a tangential element of my life—a side job—and eccentric hobby. “What do you want to do?” “Write things.” “Yeah, but what do you really want to do?”

Thank goodness I’m not too easily swayed by people’s opinions.

The really frightening thing is…I’m leaving a chapter behind. It’s the last page of a really long chapter. Not to say I won’t be happy to graduate, but leaving undergrad behind means leaving Neverland. I’m Wendy, I know I have to leave and I know why—but that doesn’t make it any easier.

I decided when I was five that I never wanted to grow up, but time and biology say otherwise.

So what do I want to do? you ask.

What I want seems irrelevant. But the desire of my heart—and those who follow God know Who plants desires—is to travel wherever, give the Gospel wherever, and write. Write because I have to. Write because I can’t stop.

I’m getting there. A little closer every day.

Work the transitions. Even those are profitable. 

What Got Done: Things

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Novel concept, that things should get done on Saturdays. What do you know?

Recently, my saturdays have been full of things. Fun things. Spiritually profitable things. Social things. Odd things. But lots of things that involve driving to places and talking to people. Which are two things that, frankly, I’d rather not do much of on a Saturday. 

Depends on the company. 

But today, not so much. Today I got up and did homework and drank coffee. Then I ran an errand or two. Then I ate lunch, did more homework, sang for an hour and a half, went to work and put books on shelves. Then came back and did more homework. 

I’m much better prepared for the week than I’ve been in a while. Or at least better prepared for Monday. 

Fancy that. 

After a week of being oversocialized (read: 2,000 extra people on campus, all of which I had to be friendly towards), it was nice not to open my mouth for hours and hours. My batteries are fully recharged. And I am content. 

It’s the little things. 

“What is ‘This’?”

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This is not a rose

Blushing once in bloom,

In a moment red to brown

And cankered, root and stem.

 

Nor is this a flame

Burning bud and branch,

Consuming and consuming,

Producing only ash.

                                          

Yet this is not a stone

Indifferent to the wind

Or fanfare of sunrise or set,

Eroding into sand.

 

No. This is a tree—

Its core a growing green—

That weathers every winter

And blossoms every spring.

 

So

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In case you were wondering….

…which you probably weren’t, but still…

This has been a very, very stressful week. I’ve been going to bed late and getting up early every morning. And there are 2,000 guests on campus, four of which are sharing my shoebox  dorm room with me this week. 

Which is why the posts have been so short. 

That’s why. 

I’ve been writing so much that my wrists hurt, but not on the blog. I’m terribly sorry, but that’s just the way it will be until…tomorrow. Yes. Probably tomorrow. 

The List Returns

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  1. Today couldn’t possibly have been a better day.
  2. Friendship is, in fact, magic.
  3. Silas Lapham. What a guy.
  4. Apparently one can make a meal out of popcorn, if pressed.
  5. Six people should not have to sleep in the same tiny room together. There really ought to be laws against that kind of thing.
  6. There aren’t enough hours in the day to accomplish what needs to be accomplished in the next few days.
  7. Oranges.
  8. Joan of Arc was pretty stinkin’ awesome, if a bit oblivious. I mean, DuNoir couldn’t have been more obvious… 
  9. Walk barefoot.
  10. It’s spring. If nothing else, let’s enjoy that.

Quiet, and Other Things

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Hey, guys! I’m back!

Sort of. 

I’ve been typing for the last several hours, and I’m typed out. So tonight I’d like to share the first draft of a book review I’m writing for one of my (you guessed it) writing classes. Enjoy, luvs. 

 

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Introverts Unite! Individually

            Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking bySusan Cain. Random House, 2012. 333 pp.

            When asked to describe the ideal personality type, many would describe the typical go-getter: an easy conversationalist, an excellent networker, the most popular kid in class. For decades, culture has emulated outgoing people, painting introversion as eccentric at best and misanthropic at worst. From an early age, children are coached to “come out of their shells” and “get their heads out of the clouds,” especially if they prefer to spend time alone. American culture values highly sociable people, and those who are not are often told to “get out more.” Many believe that gregariousness leads to happiness and success, but quiet people inevitably fall by the wayside. These quiet people all too often feel as if their disposition prevents them from succeeding in life. Susan Cain’s book challenges this deeply-engrained cultural mindset.  

            Susan Cain is a lawyer-turned-author whose own “quiet” tendencies sparked her interest in the science of temperament. She was “her own first client” (15): a shy woman who thought she was worthless at negotiation because the dominant personalities at the table often bulldozed through her statements and opinions. But she discovered the power of asking gentle questions to dissolve a heated confrontation, allowing herself to rest confidently on the hours of careful research she had done alone. She turned the tide of a precarious situation not by “pounding the table” but by “sticking to her own gentle way of doing things” (9). She knew that introverts had their own quiet strength—a strength useful, even necessary, in a “loudmouth world” (9). She committed herself to researching the differences (and the strengths) of extroversion and introversion from a scientific and psychological perspective. The result was her book, Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking.

            Cain’s research proposes that introversion is not a behavioral weakness, despite popular opinion. She begins by outlining the history of what she calls the “Extrovert Ideal”: the idea that the only way to be well-adjusted and successful is to be gregarious. Her research carried her from a rock-concert-like conference led by “the king of self-help,” Tony Robbins, to Harvard Business School, where only the best networkers make the grade. She also travels to the center of New Evangelicalism, Saddleback Church in California, where extroverted behavior is deemed the best way to spread the “good news.” Cain spends a whole chapter discussing the negative aspects of “New Groupthink,” a corporate layout that demands coworkers spend more time collaborating than generating ideas individually. Elementary schools structure their classrooms to encourage ideal (extroverted) behavior with group activities and an emphasis on vocal participation. American culture accepts that extroverts are natural leaders, but Cain’s study of introverted leaders like Warren Buffet and Eleanor Roosevelt says otherwise.

            Cain also studies the biology behind introversion. Temperament, she concludes, is with us from birth. She cites studies of “highly sensitive” children’s reactions to stressful circumstances, examining them on both psychological and physiological levels. MRI scans reveal that people of different temperaments process information differently. Extroverts act on their first instinct, but introverts are more likely to think long before acting. Extroverts are lured by approval and acclaim, while introverts often gauge their success on a different scale. Cain suggests these differences are not merely a matter of disposition, but genetic and chemical differences between the temperaments. 

            The last part of the book discusses how extroverts and introverts should interact. Cain suggests communication methods that will help the two temperaments understand each other. She draws her examples from real-life circumstances in both casual and intimate relationships. She devotes an entire chapter to parents of introverts, instructing them how to best encourage an introverted child to explore his strengths at his own speed. Many adults’ negative perception of their introversion began during their childhoods, when they felt too odd or too quiet to fit in or make friends. Cain hopes parents can encourage a younger generation to become the best people they can be instead of asking them to conform to the “Extrovert Ideal.” 

The Beast, Part XVI

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Eli gulped. “He’s the what, now?”

“The king.” Ava beamed.

The door swung open, and a man entered the room. His shoulders filled the doorframe, and he had to duck to enter the room. Despite his imposing frame, his eyes glowed with kindness and joy.

“So this is the man I have to thank?” He pumped Eli’s hand, which seemed the size of a mouse in the King’s massive palm. “I am eternally indebted to you, Eli, shepherd, for the safe return of my daughter.”

“Well, she sort of returned herself.” Eli smiled weakly. “I didn’t do much in the way of bringing her back. She sort of brought me, as she may have told you.”

“But without you, I’d still be a Beast,” Ava interjected. “You’re the only one who had the courage to help me. Give yourself a little credit.”

“Ava told me of what you said to the Prince out in the fields,” the King continued, his face the picture of pleasure. “Never have I met a wiser, more perceptive man.”

“Nonsense,” Eli said. His face was beginning to radiate heat. “I just spoke the truth.”

“And you saved my daughter. Which, if you know her well, you’ll know takes some doing.” Ava and the King shared the same elusive twinkle in the corners of their deep green eyes. “I cannot allow such heroism to go unrewarded. Name your wishes, and I will grant them to the best of my power.”

Eli sat up and thought for a moment. “I should like all the sheep returned to my homeland. My countrymen’s livelihoods depend upon those sheep.”

“Done. And?” The King leaned forward, as if prepared to hang on Eli’s every word.

“I should like my parents to be comfortably settled for the rest of their lives—somewhere in this country, safe from the Prince, and somewhere pretty.”

“Again, done.” The King glanced at Ava. Eli looked at her, her bright eyes watching him anxiously. “Is there…anything else you might want?”

Anything else?” Ava asked. Eli had never heard a voice more hopeful.

Eli looked at his friend. There were still little bruises on her face, but they couldn’t tarnish the whiteness of her skin or dull the light in her eyes. She was every inch a Princess. He kicked himself for not having guessed it before. But he knew she was remarkable, whether she was the daughter of a king or not. If he was very lucky, he thought, she might call herself his Princess—one day.

“If you—if you don’t mind,” Eli said quietly, “I shouldn’t mind getting to know you better.” He smiled. “If that’s all right with—all concerned—‘specially you, er, your highness—I mean, your ladyship—”

“My name is Ava,” she replied, her smile a sunbeam. “And I wouldn’t mind at all.”

 

THE END

The Beast, Part XV

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“Who said they were being eaten?” Ava’s eyes held a mischievous glint.

“Well, what else might have happened to them?” Eli asked, bewildered.

Ava’s smile faded. “Ours is a country of weavers and garment makers. Your Prince was stealing the sheep from his people to give to my father as a peace offering—as if I could be bought with sheep. He stole from his people so that he could have his way with me.”

“The wretch,” Eli growled. “My family was starving—and we weren’t the only ones.” He sighed. “Your father must be a mighty man to need so much appeasing.”

“I should say he is,” Ava replied, her smile electric. “He’s the king.”

The Beast, Part XIV

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When Eli awoke, it took him several minutes to orient himself to his surroundings. The last thing he knew, he was lying in a field at the foot of a pompous Prince. But now it seemed he was in a bed, and the afternoon light was coming in a wide window, and there was a little bit of pressure on his foot.

With some effort (his head and neck were very sore), he strained forward to see Ava sitting at the foot of his bed, smiling at him. She was dressed in white woolen robes trimmed in snowy rabbit fur. Her hand was on his foot.

“Oh, good,” he groaned. “You’re all right. And you’re little again. I mean—littler than a beastie—”

Ava laughed. It was such a musical laugh. “Perhaps the Prince hit you harder than we thought.”

“What happened?”

“Well, while you were speaking,” she said, her green eyes cast downward, “Saying all those lovely things, I started turning back into a person. So when he hit you, there was little I could do to retaliate. Thankfully, father had gotten wind of my return, so he ran out with all of his men to meet me, and caught the Prince just as he was about to hit me.” She beamed at Eli. “The Prince is gone, now, never to return. And you and I are safe.”

“Oh, how lovely.” Eli said, slowly propping himself up on his elbows. “I suppose I’m exiled, then.”

“Most likely.” Ava replied. “I hope you don’t mind too much.”

“No, not at all.” His joyful expression faded as he remembered something very, very important. “But what about my—”

“Parents?” Ava finished. “My father has sent for them. They will be here tomorrow, with all their worldly goods.”

“They’ll travel light, then.” Eli could do nothing to conceal how much this news pleased him. “Your father must be a man of incredible means, then.”

“You might say that.” Ava smiled. In fact, she had not stopped smiling. There was a spark in her deep green eyes now that Eli couldn’t quite interpret.

Eli sat all the way up. His head was quite clear now. Now that his head was so clear, a question came into his mind that had occurred to him earlier but had slipped away after some interruption.

“Ava,” he asked, “if it wasn’t you that was eating the sheep, then what was?”

The Beast, Part XIII

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“YOU WILL NOT TOUCH HIM,” Ava bellowed. “OR ME, FOR THAT MATTER. RUN HOME, LITTLE WOLF, WITH YOUR TAIL BETWEEN YOUR LEGS. ALL YOUR MEN DID. WHY DON’T YOU FOLLOW THEM?”

“Avaline, come back with me,” the Prince said. “Lay aside this foolish anger. With me you will have all you ever need.” He smiled up at her.

Ava snarled and took a heavy step forward, the scythe-like claws coming dangerously close to the Prince, who stood with sword drawn. “LIAR.”

“Ava, Ava. Look at you. You’re a freak of nature.” His smile was one part pity and three parts condescension. “One little cut and you balloon into a monster. Ava, dearest, if you come home and marry me, I will even overlook your monstrous tendencies. No other man can promise you that.” More of that smile. “Come, change back, and let me see your pretty face.”

“If her pretty face is all you want to see,” Eli yelled down at the Prince from his vantage point, “then what makes you think you’re worthy of her?”

“Silence, boy, the grown-ups are talking.”

“No,” Eli cried, and slid down Ava’s mighty arm to stand nose-to-nose with the offending Prince. “No, I will not be silent. You only see her beauty, but I have seen much more. I know intelligence when I see it. Do you know how clever she is? No. Do you know how much she can endure? No. Do you know how bravely she faces death? No. Do you know the expression in her eyes when she hears a lovely bit of music? No.”

The Prince’s mouth hung open, gaping in astonishment. The sight encouraged Eli.

“In short, your majesty, you have no claim on this creature behind me, for you know nothing about how beautiful she really is. I saw how lovely she was before I knew she was a human—before I knew she was a girl—and I’m no hero. I’m just a shepherd,” Eli said, almost apologetically, “but by all I hold dear, I stand for this girl, this creature, that stands behind me, if only so she won’t have to stand alone against the likes of you.”

Without blinking, the Prince snapped his mouth shut and struck Eli on the side of the head. The field went black, and Eli did not see what happened next.

The Beast, Part XII

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There was a crackling from the forest’s edge and the rumble of frantic little goat hooves against the ground. Avaline and Eli whirled around to see men on horseback barreling from the woods, sabers and lances drawn and down. At their head, the handsome Prince, his eyes blazing with jealous rage.

“Run!” Ava cried, and Eli needed no encouragement. They sprinted down the field, the horses hot on their heels. Lances thudded into the earth around them. One grazed Ava’s shoulder, and she toppled to the ground.

Eli drove his heels into the ground, standing over her with his knife drawn. He made up his mind that he would not touch her. Never again. Not while he drew breath.

He found himself borne into the air, higher and higher. The horses below him reared and whinnied in fear, and all but the Prince ran from the sight of the thing that carried Eli on its shoulders. Ava was a Beast once more. And she was angry.