Tag Archives: culture

Wishes

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Everyone has wondered what on earth they’d do with a million dollars or a bottomless bank account. In fact, it’s one of the most common getting-to-know-you kind of questions. We all want to be financially secure. Few are brave enough to live without money on purpose, as some have, and most of us know what it means to have to stretch a dollar.

When we’re kids, the answer is easy and usually selfish. All the candy in the world. Buying the world so you could boss people around. Your own theme park. More generous kids would spend on a trip for their family or medical treatments for ailing grandparents.

You get older, and your dreams mellow. You want your dream car, then to put the rest in savings. You’d pay for college and a starter home. You’d pour it into a dream wedding or a startup company of your own invention. In all honesty, these dreams are the unlimited candy dreams grown a little stale.

I think of my own journey with this question. When I was small, I wanted a castle and a horse and a pet tiger. I got a little older and realized it would be smarter to buy a small house and invest the rest. I got older still and realized that I needed to give 10% of what I had back to God, so I set that amount aside in my head and played with the rest, wondering what dreams I could concoct that wouldn’t come out too greedy.

I had an encounter outside a Walmart today. There’s this corner of the parking lot right next to an exit into a side road where homeless people hang out with their signs and their battered backpacks. It’s always men with scraggled beards and sad expressions whose cardboard signs may or may not be telling the truth.

My parents taught me to be generous. Generous, but with a guarded mind. Most homeless people have legitimately met with hard circumstances and need enough to get back on their feet. Some are out for drug money. It’s not a fifty-fifty split between the two groups, but it’s hard to tell the sheep from the goats. I want to help in any way I can, but I don’t want to enable anyone, either. I usually run to a store to buy them some granola bars and a big bottle of water.

This time, there was a healthy looking man standing on the corner holding a bright green sign. The usual “homeless and jobless, please help” was followed by “I have a wife and kids.” Normally my inner skeptic would rear her bespectacled head at this claim, but not this time. I looked again, and saw that his wife and kids were with him. On the street corner. Tired. Sad. Confused.

Suddenly I knew exactly what I would do with all the money in the world.

All I could give him was five dollars and a prayer. He thanked me in a heavily accented version of English, and I couldn’t help but think he had brought his family here in the hopes of giving them a better, safer life, and everything had caved in on him. Far away from family that could take them in, far away from any familiar face. No community, no friends, nothing. Just himself, his wife, his children, and a lime green poster board.

There is not difference whatsoever between me and that man. None whatsoever. I can’t hope to explain why I have all my needs met and he has nothing. I’ve done nothing to deserve the things I have, and I’m ashamed of myself for not running back into that Walmart and buying them bags full of food or getting them a hotel room or something. Anything more than five lousy dollars.

Families should be able to spend Saturdays playing together at a park, not needing to beg on street corners.

If I were handed all the money I can imagine, I’d see no point in keeping it. I’ve got what I need. More than what I need. But there are so many people who don’t.

Who Will Buy

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Christmas shopping. Such a delightful activity. There’s decorations in every shop window, Christmas music filtering down from the mall speakers, and lots and lots of discounts.

I shop maybe three times a year. Once in the spring to get fall clothes on clearance, once in the summer to pick up odd hippie clothing and a few Christmas gifts, and once a few days before Christmas. The Christmas shopping experience is always the most intense. I’m buying for other people then, not for me, which makes me think twice as hard. I know what I like, but figuring out what other people will like is both extremely fun and extremely nerve-wracking.

That process is not what I’m here to talk about today, however. I’m going to talk about advertising.

Walking around a mall is exhausting. Number one, there are tons of grumpy people everywhere. Not just people–being around people is exhausting enough, speaking as an introvert–but grumpy people.

Number two, the advertising. The advertising is exhausting. Online and elsewhere. A thousand larger-than-life images of photoshopped men and women, ersatz stock photo families, shiny gadgets and gizmos, story-tall displays of whatnots and whozits.

All of these posters and displays say the same thing: buy this, or you won’t be happy, healthy, successful, beautiful, desirable, lovable, whole…

Online, it’s even worse. Take a few moments to scroll through the health and beauty page(s) of any online news source. A thousand glistening, digitally altered images show you “perfect” skin, “perfect” eyebrows, “perfect” eyelashes, “perfect” everything–perfection that can be yours if you buy this product, watch this tutorial, purchase this brush, invest in this brand.

Not like the site was paid off to write those kinds of reviews in the first place. Not at all.

The greatest irony of American culture–or any culture, really–is its insistence that we’re all good enough just the way we are while simultaneously insisting the opposite.

Advertisements of an aggressive nature operate similarly to the TLC show What Not to Wear. In this show, concerned family members of someone who dresses according to her (or occasionally his) personal taste and comfort enlist the help of two expensively-dressed and overpaid snobs to tell their loved one that their life is a mess because he or she doesn’t dress according to current fashions. These “consultants” convince this previously happy person that he/she is in fact unhappy and ugly and take the person on a shopping trip to buy her things that will make her feel pretty and happy again. They also change her hair and how she does her makeup to make her look acceptable to their standards of beauty. At the end of the show, there’s a “big reveal” party to show all the person’s loved ones the glorious results of a simple wardrobe change. Everyone cries. The recipient of the makeover is crying because the emotional journey of discovering her new, conformed self is over. Her family cries because their loved one is finally “normal” and “pretty.” The consultants cry because…well, pretty sure they keep onions in their blazer pockets for such occasions. I cry because I don’t like shows that take advantage of people, and I could have spent the last thirty minutes of my life a little more wisely.

Some advertisements do the same thing as this show, or try to. Before I encounter the add, I’m content–with my face, with my hair, with my wardrobe, with my figure. The advertisement, however, presents me with an Ideal. The advertisement makes it obvious that I don’t measure up to this Ideal, and I’m suddenly tempted to feel inadequate. Why can’t I look like that? But the advertisement assures me that with the purchase of the product it presents, I can be returned to my previously content state and live happily ever after. At least until I run out of or wear out the thing and need to buy it again.

Advertisements create the problem they promise to solve.

Now, lest I trigger any knee-jerk reactions, I realize that not all advertisements are like the aforementioned. Most advertisements (store displays, etc.) give you polite reminders like “Hey, that thing you already like or genuinely need? It’s on sale this week! Just thought you’d like to know” or “This thing here might solve a problem you already know about, but you can take it or leave it, no biggie!” This kind of product promotion supports both consumer and producer.

But a lot of advertisements–and ladies, let’s be real, you know what I’m talking about–say “You’re clearly inadequate. But if you buy this thing, you will become adequate.”

I understand why companies advertise the way they do. People get degrees in advertising. It’s a science. The science of selling things. Despite my concerns about how things are advertised, I am grateful that people buy things, because every time an item is bought, someone somewhere gets paid and can feed himself or his family, pay the rent, pay the heating bill. That’s important. That’s very, very important. People gotta eat.

However, a day of shopping at the mall, the typical hive of more aggressive advertising tactics, leaves me mentally exhausted. All day long my subconscious has been grappling with image after image of what I should look like and be compared to what I do look like and am. I buy several items and my mother (the best shopping buddy ever) buys several as well. A few items she bought are early Christmas presents for me.

And I put them on and looked in the mirror. Yes, they make me feel pretty. And look pretty. I am deeply grateful for them. But, as my mother assured me today and assures me daily, I was pretty before I even knew those items existed. And I’d still be as pretty without them. Things, after all, are things, and they can’t fill a hole. They can’t make a person. The clothes do not, in fact, make the man.

The thing is, I am in possession of something no money can buy. I have a deeper contentment than any trinket or bauble could ever bring me. I’ve been given other goals besides looking like the fictional people in the catalogs or having what they have.

Christmas time is more than “a time for paying bills without money,” but “a good time: a kind, forgiving, charitable, pleasant time: the only time I know of, in the long calendar of the year, when men and women seem by one consent to open up their shut-up hearts freely, and to think of people below them as if they really were fellow-passengers to the grave, and not another race of creatures bound on other journeys.”

Contentment oughtn’t to rely on the procuring or possession of things. Not at all. Contentment, properly planted, finds its roots in heaven and grows downward. Then the heart is free to buy (or sell) for the benefit of others, with the knowledge that the best gifts are yet to come.

The Girl Manual

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Yes, there’s a Girl Manual. It’s a book that teaches girls how to be girls and keep at it through womanhood. Yes, I’ve read it.

Most of it, that is.

I skipped a few chapters. I paid close attention to the chapter on male-female interaction (which, despite my highlighting and dog-earing,did me little good). I read the chapter on emotional independence (even though I didn’t heed it much until late college). I frequently revisit the chapter on how to be a good daughter. I devoured the chapter on how to be an intelligent female (no matter what popular culture tells you you must be). I carefully marked all the sections on God’s view of women (a deeper love than most would imagine) and remind myself of those daily.

I skipped the chapter on cosmetology.

Sometimes, when I visit friends’ homes, I’ll enter the restroom to be confronted by a room of mysteries. Straighteners. Curlers. Tweezers. Powders. Creams. Minerals. Waxes. Lacquers. Highlighters. Lowlighters. Buffers. Trimmers. Sprays. Thousands of bottles and little tiny boxes for smearing and polishing and coloring and glueing and changing.

Most girls take delight in all of the above, own all of the above, and know how to use all of the above. I’m not trying to demean those ladies in any way. To each her own.

I’m just saying that I’ve never really understood what the fuss is all about. Is it to impress the men? Most girls would say “yes,” but most men (at least the ones I’ve asked) say they prefer an unpainted face to a painted one. So we’re trying to impress…each other?

Having struggled with persistent acne for over a year now (and some have struggled with it from adolescence onward), I can understand the desire to cover, to alter, to balance, to change. That I understand, perhaps now more than ever.

Most women believe they are ugly. That is why the cosmetology chapter exists.

(And most of us aren’t. Culture tells us we’re ugly and we need to change. That’s another post for another day.)

And even though most of the cosmetology chapter doesn’t make much sense to me, there is one part I wish I could master:

I wish I knew how to do cool things with my hair. I have a lot of it (it hasn’t been cut in a year), and it sort of hangs around my head in a quasi-wavy mane. It’s great, but it gets in may face, and putting it up rips the hair by my scalp and gives me wispy bangs. Pulling it back sometimes does the same. So usually I either let it hang, push it back with a headband, or so a side braid.

I dearly wish I could figure out how to do something with a little more variety. Something that doesn’t involve waking up at 5:30 to apply hot curlers (which I don’t have) or hairspray (which I don’t have) or a billion bobby pins (actually, I have about a billion of those, so there’s a start).

Maybe dreads….

One Day

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One day they will open up your books

and wonder what you were waiting for

 

They will read into your self contradicting sentences

And write out volumes of dusty literary criticism

 

They will look for patterns in your poetry

And catalogue your plosives, fricatives, dentals, bilabials, glottals.

 

They will search your diaries for imaginary passions

And friendships that went deeper than you claimed

 

They will invent exotic histories of your life

And label what must have been your diseases. 

 

They will forget that you were a person

Who made wishes on her candles every birthday. 

Oil City

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I haven’t washed my face in three days.

No, I’m not stranded in the wilderness. And no, it’s not do to some slovenly habit I picked up from my travels. And no, I don’t look disheveled—I looked quite tidy today, thank you. I’ve just chosen not to wash my face.

You see, I’d really like my skin to clear up.

Before you decide to point out the apparent flaw in my reasoning, allow me to explain. Once upon a time, I had clear skin. Then second puberty kicked in right before I turned twenty one (no one ever warns you about second puberty) and my face was a mine field. My conventional face wash no longer worked, and I felt pretty disgusting about how I looked.

I know that the typical solution is to hide the problem with makeup. But I’m not typical. I have never worn makeup, nor do I plan to. Not that my face couldn’t use a little help, especially these days. My reasons for choosing not to wear have evolved over the years, but that’s another post for another day. The simple explanation is that I don’t wear makeup because I don’t want to.

So I changed face soaps. When that didn’t work, I tried stronger face creams that my dermatologist gave me. Those sort of worked— most of the bumps went away, but the oil spill didn’t, and I still felt disgusting. I was getting welts on my face and neck now. The mild acne had crossed the line from embarrassing to painful.

Librarian hippie that I am, I started researching alternative, natural skin care. I tried all kinds of things. I started with “all natural” bottled face washes from Walmart (read labels, folks), but eventually tried washing my face with honey, egg whites, oils, whatever I read about that might help. I had mixed success. But I still didn’t look the way I did over a year ago. I missed that face.

It’s occurred to me over these past several months that worrying about my skin is probably 80% of the problem. The more I was willing to see problems with my face, the more problems I saw.

So I let it go. My skin’s still a mess, but I don’t care as much, which is pretty freeing.

I stumbled upon a skin care solution called “The Caveman Method.” Many people have had incredible success by trying this strange trick. It’s weird and brave and radical, but the science behind it is so interesting that I’m willing to give it a go.

Ladies, listen to this: don’t do anything to your face and watch what happens. Forget the special washes and the creams and the concealers and blotting sheets. Don’t even let water touch you face. Do nothing for a month, and your skin might heal itself.

I’m going to back up and explain.

Our skin produces a fine protective coating of sebum and sweat called the acid mantle. This acid mantle protects our skin from invading toxins and bacteria. As children, our acid mantles have a pH of 7, but during puberty the number drops to 5.5. We start getting blemishes at this point, and conventional wisdom says to start scrubbing our faces with whatever product promises the best results. But the scrubbing destroys the mantle, and the added chemicals don’t give it a chance to rebuild itself. Scrubbing destroys our skin’s best defense system. So we break out even more. So we buy more products. So we scrub more. So we break out more still. The cosmetics industry has us pegged, dudes.

But stopping all attempts at cleaning—even using water—allows your skin to heal at its own pace. Our skin regenerates every 30 days. Let your skin rest for 30 days, and it builds a layer of dead skin cells that protects your skin while it heals itself underneath. After 30 days, this mask flakes off. Go another month to see what happens. Go back to splashing your face with water after this point.

Take care of your diet. Exercise. Go live. Don’t think about your face. Don’t worry about what people think about your face. Other people have bigger problems on their plate than your skin problems. Let it all go and see what happens.

So I’m letting it go to see what happens.

Which is why I haven’t washed my face in three days.

 

 

 

The People of Walmart

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School ended later than usual this year. The late hour forced the entire Rambler family into last-minute shopping mode, which did nothing to heal the nervous twitch over my left eye.

Somehow I ended up at Walmart, people watching while waiting two hours for my one-hour photo pickup.

I have never seen so many Santa hats being worn by women who mistake leggings for pants. So many beards that could be mistaken for living things. So many deliberately hideous Christmas sweaters. So. Many. Pajamas.

Normally I’ve found that shopping at Walmart is a pleasant experience. I walk in, I find the aisle where my desired purchase is located, then I proceed to one of the two open checkout lines and buy said item. Christmas, however, seems to bring out the crazies. The normal amount of wailing children is multiplied by ten (and as a result the number of children I want to have decreases to -10). The amount of yelling adults increases by twenty, which really makes me not want to be an adult anymore. And the happiest looking person in the place was probably me and the guy out front manning the Salvation Army bucket.

Suddenly I realized why shopping at the last minute is a really, really bad idea. Especially someone with stress-related health issues. Like me.

I tried to turn myself into an island of calm in a sea of calamity. I smiled. A lot. At people. I made eye contact, which was probably dangerous business. I whistled. I tried to be as imperturbable as possible, since everyone around me seemed very likely to be easily perturbed.

I noticed I got friendlier service when I was friendlier. I noticed I was happier and less stressed out when I made an effort to not be angered. It took an effort. It took a huge effort, and a lot of deep breaths. But I made it through the day without misrepresenting the One who started Christmas.

That’s the greatest irony of  last-minute shopping. One, last-minute shopping doesn’t always result in the most thoughtful gifts. God had the advent of Christ planned before that plan was even necessary. Two, people get angry when they can’t get what they want when they want it. Christ was born into poverty, and had to wait about thirty years before the climax of His ministry arrived. He has to wait even longer for people to decide they need redemption. Three, we—and here I mean Christians—lose our tempers and our testimonies in the name of…Christmas. The irony is too much for me to handle.

I kept my cool this time. I don’t always. In fact, I rarely do. But around Christmas, I have to smile. I smile because I can’t help it. I smile because I’d rather say “Merry Christmas” than shout at someone for being in my way.

Now, if I can just keep that mentality all year long. 

Entropy

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Once a semester, we clean.

More than once a semester, actually. Don’t worry. We empty the trash and clean the sink and vacuum the floor when it starts to feel gritty.

But once a semester the dorm powers-that-be in form us that an intense cleaning is in order.

We take a Saturday and we clean from top to bottom, in the corners and crevices. We wash the curtains, dust every exposed surface, and wash out the trash cans with dish soap.

It’s amazing what a good cleaning can do. You don’t realize how stuffy the room was until all the clutter is cleared and the room is aired out and everything sparkles. The rooms smells fresher than it did when you moved in.

And then, in a matter of days, the clutter begins to build again. A book here, a pair of shoes left out there, some clothes slung over the closet door and left there for a while.

We are creatures of habit. We do not improve without effort—left to our own devices, we slide back to previous habits. Thanks to the second law of thermodynamics and human nature, this room will never stay clean.

But at least it’s clean right now. 

The Things We Do for Internet Connection

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No, this will not be a diatribe. At least not much of one.

The statement “we live in such a connected, electronics-dependent age” is not original to me, so I won’t repeat it here…except I just did. Oops.

It’s true, isn’t it? We get so used to being able to text, to check the news online, to email people, to see the weather forecast, to listen to music, that the minute we don’t have the connection to provide these services, we feel justified in getting downright angry – or at least to go to extremes to get that connection again.

My phone service is very poor. There are spots in our house where messages fail to send and phone calls are dropped. I have no signal in either of my places of work, even though my colleagues with other phone services get signal just fine. Normally I have to resort to moving to a window or standing on a chair to get a text to send. I’ve adapted, and my friends have gotten used to me randomly standing on chairs.

The internet connection at Undisclosed University is notoriously very, very bad. Signal will cut out for no reason. The only place I know where the connectivity is worse is a hotel in Croatia – which was understandable, since the town was in the middle of the boondocks in a rebuilding nation.

But today the campus network has been congested all day, only allowing certain sites through the filter. Guess which site couldn’t get through? Yup. Poor WordPress. Knowing how well campus network issues resolve themselves, I decided I’d have better luck blogging at the crowded local Starbucks than on campus. So here I am, sipping coffee, listening to some washed-up beatnik crooning to the accompaniment of a ukulele and bongos, and trying to write.

This is an illustration. Everybody has their reasons for needing—or thinking they need—the internet. Some people: Facebook. Others, needing to submit homework online. Others, to write that email to the loved one far away. Others, to write that column that’ll feed them for the next day. Others, to Skype home. Me, to blog. We’re a connected generation – you to me, me to you – and there’s nothing outside of some apocalyptic event that will change that. The Internet – this great web of interconnectivity – is a tool for good or evil. Like any tool, we’ll be held accountable for how we use it. One day God will ask what I did for Him with this blog, and I’ll have to answer.

If I’m willing to go out of my way for internet connection, I must make a greater priority of going out of my way for more important things – like people, or standing up for the truth, or giving people the Gospel.  That thought may not be well connected to the rest of the post, but the thought is there. If I’m willing to go to extremes for creature comforts, but not for the things of God – then I need to rethink some things. 

This is the Day

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What day is it, exactly?

I’m not the only one asking this question. Other students are, as well. As more and more of us stay up later and later into the night (and earlier into the dawn), the lines between days are blurring.

Is it Monday or Tuesday? Or Wednesday?

The most important question, some may argue, is why isn’t it Friday?

Time slips through our fingers. I didn’t think I’d be able to survive today when I woke up at 5:30 this morning, but I did. I blinked, and this very difficult day was over. What did I accomplish? Better yet, what did I accomplish that will last for eternity?

Did I build someone else up?

Did I control my rising frustration with life and/or the medical system?

Did I remember to pray for someone else, instead of just my own needs?

Did I tell God “thank you” at least once?

Did I make people a priority over my schedule?

Did I let go of my prejudices today, and see the people I had hidden behind them?

Did I choose to be joyful?

The days are blurring by. None of us really knows what day it is. Nor can we tell the significance of a day until it’s over.

This is the day the Lord has made. I will rejoice and be glad in it. I’ve been given that gift. And every day is a chance to give back. 

Let Them Eat Cake

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If you are having a bad day, allow me to remind you that it is autumn. Hopefully you will feel better. Unless you hate autumn, in which case I’m sorry that you have led such a joyless existence.

Autumn means autumn desserts.

Autumn desserts are a Rambler family mainstay. We wait all year for an excuse to use up our hoarded cans of pumpkin and for all the many ways to dress a cup of sliced apples. Autumn means the house always smells of cinnamon and brown sugar.

Autumn also means we get a bit chunky. But that’s okay—sweaters were made for hiding love handles.

Today we indulged in our first autumnal dessert of the season. My honored mother made apple cake. Apple cake is the food of the gods. The inhabitants of Olympus lean down from their celestial chaise lounges for a whiff of the heavenly aromas wafting from my mother’s kitchen when she makes this stuff. Who would have thought that such lowly ingredients as sugar, butter, flour, and humble apples could combine so divinely? Every bite is a bite of autumn, with all its spice and simplicity and crispness. I will not divulge how many slices I consumed today—nor how many wedges were cut to “even up the edges” of the cake as it lay in its pan.

Yes. Autumn makes me rhapsodize about cake. Don’t judge—with how much eagerness did you drive out to fetch your first pumpkin spice latte from Starbucks? Yes. Yes, that’s what I thought.

Open Letter to the Kind of Heart

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Dear Kind People,

 

It’s good to know there are more of you in this world than I am sometimes inclined to think. Some days I read the headlines and wonder if you exist at all.

It’s not that there are necessarily hoards of unkind people out there. I mean, everyone is unkind at some point in their lives. We marvel at those who never say an unkind word. I know I tend more towards unkindness than kindness, which may be part of why I’m so surprised that people can really be nice to each other.

No, unkindness is not so much the problem as indifference. We grow indifferent to the struggles of others. After all, everybody fights something. Everybody faces difficulty. Some people face difficulty that isn’t nearly as extreme as our own, and there are still more who struggle with nightmarish circumstances we could never imagine living with. So we succumb to indifference; powerless to relieve the pain of others, we instead choose to do nothing at all.

Except, of course,you kind people. Or should I say those of you who choose to be kind. For kindness, like love, is a choice. Kindness is the fruit of love, so those who choose to love their neighbors choose to be kind as well.

Thank you, kind people, for making that choice. May I choose to love as you do.

 

Much appreciation,

Risabella Rambler

The Last First Monday

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Mondays should be outlawed. Can I get an “Amen”?

The Monday stigma might be universal. If things are going terribly, “Monday” is the word that serves as the one-word explanation for why the printer won’t work, or traffic is heavy, or the coffee is cold, or you sleep through your alarm. Extreme cases: the dog dies, or the brakes fail, or war is declared in some region of the world.

Starting a week is rough no matter who you are, be you dog or foreign diplomat.

But what’s even worse than a Monday is a First Monday.

Here at UU, we all count it a blessing that classes began on a Wednesday, allowing us to ease into the roiling hot tub of the semester. We had a few days to brace ourselves for the First Monday. Somehow it’s easier when you can see it coming.

Surely there are also first Mondays for those of us who aren’t students: First Monday at a new job; First Monday as a member of the PTA; First Monday of carpool.

The trouble with non-school-related First Mondays is that there’s no end in sight. There will be Monday after Monday after Monday, all fraught with disastrous possibilities, until you retire. IF you retire.

But today was a joyous sort of Monday, because the black magic of the First Monday of the school year was turned on its head just by attaching one little word:

“Last.”

Yes, friends, for many of us soon-to be graduated Undisclosed University seniors, today was the Last First Monday of our college careers.

If that didn’t put a smile on our weary faces, little else will.

A joyous Tuesday to you all, when you get there. 

New Zealandish

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There are few accents more interesting than the New Zealand accent. It’s not quite Australian, as any Kiwi will tell you. Nor is it British—it lacks the uppercrustiness. It’s not cockney, either, though it’s equally earthy. It is an anomaly among accents—at least to me, who has lived among southerners her whole life long, and thinks anything other than a drawl is exotic.

My roommate is from New Zealand. In other words, I get to listen to my favorite accent all year. Not only that, but she’s an awesome human being, and a fellow hippie. She’s the one who shared her pilates video with me the other day.

I told her tonight that my goal for the end of the year is to be able to successfully mimic her accent. This implies that I will be repeating her sentences and phrases quite a bit, and I assured her that this would not be mockery, but rather the sincerest form of flattery. She said that was all right with her.

I have begun with the word “yeah.”

Americans say “yeah” in a million different ways, but the most common is the one with a good long “a” sound in the middle, rhyming with “can” and “man.” It sounds a bit like a crow calling for help. The New Zealand “yeah” has a short “e” sound, like “get” and “bend.” It’s more of a “yeh” than a “yeah.”

You’d think that would be easy to imitate. Surprisingly, it isn’t. I’ve tried it several times, but only one try warranted a “that sounds right!”

So far I can’t even get “yeah.” But I keep telling myself, hey, baby steps. Rome wasn’t built in a day, nor can New Zealandish be mastered in a week.

If anything, I’ll at least be able to say “yeah” by the end of the year.

They always told me to set realistic goals.

The Fine Art of Not Panicking

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It is a very easy thing to tell freshmen from seniors.

To be more accurate (and more fair), it’s probably safer to say that it’s easier to tell the freshmen from sophomores, juniors, and seniors.

They’re fairly simple to spot: on campus, just look around for the people who are already panicking after only two days of classes.

Their panic is understandable. They know next to nothing, at this point, about how difficult college really is. In their minds, every teacher is determined to flunk them, every class will determine whether or not they’ll be employable later in life, and every deadline is a death sentence.

What they don’t know is that everything settles into its natural academic balance sooner than they think, as long as they apply themselves, stay diligent, and don’t panic.

The rest of us know a little better by now. We look back on freshman year and smile a little wistfully, remembering how comparatively simple everything was back then. Yes, it was scary having so few friends, not knowing where the buildings were, and missing home. But as sophomore and junior year pass on, we grow accustomed to the way things work, and even though our load grows and grows, we learn to panic less.

Or at least we learn to control the panic better.

The trouble is, we all stay in a state of minor panic. The closer to graduation we get, the more we realize that soon, we’ll be freshmen again—freshmen at LIFE. We’ll be the newbies again, done with what most people call the easiest part of our lives, and most of us feeling very unprepared.

It’s very easy to tell the freshmen from the seniors. All you have to do is look for the people who should be panicking, but aren’t. Or at least not nearly as much as they should be, by human standards. Because if there’s one thing we students at Undisclosed University have learned over the last four years, it’s the art of not panicking.

I know, at least, that I can do all things through Christ, Who strengthens me.