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It’s 12:30 am on November 3, which means that in my world, it’s still November 2 because I haven’t gone to bed yet.  I’m drinking a cup of coffee and editing a paper, and my roommate (my sister) just went to bed.  And I’m watching the election coverage on CNN.

 

This time two years ago, I was at an Election Party at the Grey Barn, watching Barack Obama win the presidency.  The party was hosted by the History department and was open to the student body, meaning that in attendance were some history students, all the poli-sci majors, and the few students who weren’t put off by our somewhat-bluer-than-average political climate.  Dr. Rousellow had been wearing her Obama button for at least two weeks.  As educators, our profs were supposed to foster independent thinking and offer unbiased coverage of the subject matter, but they couldn’t quite hide their liberal leanings.  I loved that about them.  In a way, they did more to broaden the perspective of their students than they would have had they stuck to textbook impartiality.  Open-mindedness is not best learned through agreement.

 

This time four years ago, I was in the Student Union, watching the election coverage on a projector screen and trying to hear the results over the noise of all the non-politics geeks in the Union.  I was supposed to be writing a literary criticism paper, but was instead providing my own running commentary on the elections to my boyfriend, who was an English writing major and probably didn’t need to hear my detailed explanation of a filibuster.

 

Now I’m here again.  The paper I’m editing is actually a program application essay for a friend, and the coffee is meant to keep me up so I can finish my lesson plans, not write literary critiques.  (My lesson for tomorrow includes using Skittles as a visual aide.  I’m pretty much the best teacher ever.)  But I’m facing the same dilemma I’ve had every election since I started college.

 

I’ve always emphasized my love of politics by saying that I watch the national election coverage like it’s the Superbowl.  I shake my head at bad plays, yell at the TV screen occasionally, and shout the score down the stairs.  (“The Republicans took back the House this year, but the Democrats still have control of the Senate.  That means… two years of gridlock!  Yippee…”) The problem with this analogy is that I don’t really get football, and I only watch the Superbowl for the commercials.  So every election, I remind myself that I’m a poli-sci student and I need to thoroughly study the issues and candidates so that I can make an educated vote.  I did this year.  Anna and I researched the major candidates and talked over the pros and cons of each one’s platform.  But I also did what most Americans do when they go to vote.  I blindly marked “yes” to every judicial seat in Florida’s court system because I knew nothing about any of the judges and decided they should all get a fighting chance – besides, I’ve seen a picture of one of them and he looked really nice.  I voted along party lines when I didn’t know anything about either candidate.  I chose candidates based on whose name I liked better.  (Don’t even tell me you’ve never done that.)  Poli-sci student or not, does it really matter who the agricultural commissioner is anyway?  I guess the analogy holds true.  As excited as my inner politics geek gets around election season, I’m also reminded of how great a task civic responsibility really is.

 

PS – I learned today – after being interested in politics for years – after completing four years of college education as a political science student – what GOP means.  I finally gave up trying to pretend I understood what people were talking about and googled it.  It’s an acronym, and it stands for “Grand Old Party”, which is the nickname of the Republican Party.  So GOP just means Republican.  It does not, as I thought before, mean “the party which is currently not in control of the House/Senate/governor’s seat”.  Although in all fairness, that was a reasonable guess given the political climate of the last few years.  Is this new information to anyone else?

I think this officially makes me a bad poli-sci student.

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In my car right now:

 

– two changes of clothes

– three coffee cups

– Windex

– a plug-in AC adaptor

– a log

– hair straightener

– my friend’s Bible

– 15 lbs.’ worth of middle school textbooks

– two ice scrapers (yes, it’s 85 degrees here.  Why do you ask?)

– an Ontario guidebook

– a piece of plywood

– empty to-go box from a muffin Anna ate in August

– vegetable oil

– corn syrup

– all my student loan paperwork

– empty water bottle

– leaves from Tennessee

– map of Louisville, KY

– a magnetic dart, stuck to a metal ball.  I don’t know where either of these came from.

 

Also trash.  Lots of trash.  Just thought you should know.

Last Wednesday, I was sitting at my desk at Geneva, post staff meeting, when I got a call from the headmaster of FCA.  FCA is Faith Christian Academy, the school affiliated with Living Waters (my “other church”, as I call it to all the Presbyterians who don’t understand why I’m not an official member of Geneva).  I’ve worked at FCA off and on for the past four years, as a camp counselor for its summer program and then as a substitute teacher.  It’s a small school – as in, there are 30 students in its middle school classes.  And two-thirds of the kids know me either from church or from camp, which makes being a sub interesting, since I’ve been “Miss Lauren” to them for years and they’re used to seeing me in gym shorts with no makeup on.  But they’re pretty much my favorite group of kids, and the main reason I keep coming back to summer camp year after year.  (That, and the $8.25 they pay me, which almost covers the gas it takes to drive to Fernandina from Jacksonville…)

So anyway, after subbing a couple of times this year, I got a call from the headmaster.  Apparently, the 4th/5th grade teacher resigned a week before the first quarter ended, and due to a long and complicated series of events, FCA now needs someone to teach 6th grade Social Studies and 7th/8th grade Science until they replace the 4th/5th teacher.  And that someone is me.  I’ll be there at least a couple of weeks, and possibly longer.  I guess we’ll see.  For now, it’s teaching experience, a paycheck, and a chance to hang out with my kids and try to pretend I don’t think it’s hilarious when they do things like ask questions about poop and strip in the middle of class.  Maybe I’m not mature enough for middle school yet…

I celebrated my birthday three days in a row.  Does this make you age faster?  In theory, I’m supposed to be 23 now, but there are several factors suggesting that I might be older.  For example: I have more than one cat.  I like to knit.  And there’s a fall wreath on my front door.  Also, I woke up yesterday convinced I was actually 45 because I ached all over.  I took two ibuprofen, spent 20 minutes stumbling around Target in between hot flashes and cold chills, considered going back to bed, popped some more ibuprofen, and then felt great!  Turns out, the aches and pains probably have more to do with the fact that I decided to celebrate my birthday by… doing yardwork!  Isn’t that what everyone does?

Actually, I started doing yardwork on Monday, when I went up to my dad’s house.  This is our arrangement: I clean his house and work in his yard and he pays my half of the mortgage payment.  It’s a good deal for both of us, since he hates cleaning and I hate living in a refrigerator box.  My project lately has been clearing his back yard.  He lives in one of those creepy, Big Brother-esque neighborhoods where all the houses are identical.  The neighborhood is policed by 80-year-old women, who roam the streets making sure you haven’t painted your shutters or replaced the hinges on your gate without the approval of the HOA.  When my dad bought the house, it had been a foreclosure, so it was in bad shape all around.  He did tons of work on the inside of the house and hired a contractor to build an addition (the old ladies especially loved the porta-potty that sat in our driveway for three weeks), but the yard was at the bottom of the list.  After receiving several written complaints, my dad finally had sod laid in his front yard (by Anna, Wes, and I) last fall.  But the entire back yard is hidden from view by a six foot tall, HOA-regulated fence.  So the back looks pretty much the way it did when he bought the house, with the addition of two years’ worth of weeds.   I think it’s his way of rebelling against the neighborhood watch.

My dad wants to have a walkway poured in the back yard, so I had to clear all of the weeds.  They started out knee-height, but they got taller and thicker the further I got into the yard.  By the time I got close to the back, they were at least five feet tall.  Then I found what looked a lot like a human vertebra in the dirt, and I seriously started getting concerned about the possibility of finding a dead body slumped against the back fence.  (“Let’s see, I’ll have to call my dad first and get him to come home so we can make sure he has an alibi.  Then we’ll call the police and they’ll do forensics work to determine how long the body’s been here.  It has to have been a while, because there’s no smell anymore…”)  I’ve watched a little too much NCIS.

Fortunately, there was no body, so my dad’s not in jail.  Which is good, because I really need him to pay my half of the mortgage.

Tuesday, I mowed my grass and edged my sidewalks, using scissors that started out in my second grade art supply box.  Definitely an effective landscaping tool.  Wednesday was my actual birthday, and I finished my firepit!

Okay.  Here’s a picture of my back yard before the firepit:

Note the sketchy storage shed, another prime body-stashing spot.  Wes was convinced that the house’s previous owner had buried her dead husband under the shed.  I was hoping for sacks of money, personally.

Here’s a picture of the half-completed firepit:

See the mound of weeds?  That’s where the firepit is supposed to be.  We pretty much dug a hole in the ground and forgot about it for four months.  But now…

 

Anna enjoying the firepit 🙂

 

 

The finished product!  I ran out of daylight and built the last wall in the dark, but it’s done.  Between the leftover pavers that were already here, and the cinderblocks holding up the sketchy storage shed, I only had to buy 5 more cinderblocks to finish it up.  (I went to Lowes and loaded them into the car by myself.  While wearing a skirt.  That’s right.)  We celebrated by making a fire out of all the sticks our shoddy yard waste pick-up guys left in the front yard.  Also drank a little ChocoVine, which is pretty much chocolate milk for grownups and has no business calling itself wine, but would be great in coffee.

Thursday, Wes came over and weed-eated my yard and re-edged my sidewalks (although I don’t know why, since I’d clearly done such an excellent job with my state-of-the-art lawn care shears), and I painted my front door!

Yes, it’s orange.  The paint chip was actually called “hot pepper”, which I think is how I convinced Anna to let us use this color.  But it’s definitely orange.  I win.

So now I have a new front door and a new firepit.  I also have a slightly damaged wrist, 835 mosquito bites, and legs that resemble a nine-year-old boy’s.  Between the weeds and the cinderblocks, I’m pretty scratched up.  But since I stubbornly maintain that things like gloves and long pants are for sissies, I think this is my fate.

P.S. – We all went out to dinner Thursday night to Buca di Beppo (yum), then came home so I could open my mountain of presents.  It was like Christmas all over again.  I’m used to the flat, green kinds of presents, which I normally end up using for groceries and gas, so it was a lot of fun.  Thanks, family!  Cujo had a little too much fun, though.

Two things

I got this from the back of a Good Earth tea bag tag, back in my junior year of college.  I was a terrible procrastinator then (then?…), so I taped it to my desk as a reminder.  Three years later, I still need the reminder.  Time management isn’t just a tool to manage one’s crazy schedule.  It’s a discipline, part of growing up and becoming a mature adult and realizing that you’re too old to have a bedtime of 3 am.  So here are my two things for the day:

Number one: I put my clothes away.  Yes, you’re supposed to master this skill at age 10, but when I’m the only one who ever goes in my room, it’s so much easier just to leave the clean clothes in the hamper.  I used to dump them on my bed during the day, thinking that then I’d have to fold them all before I could go to sleep.  Wrong.  Instead they’d end up in a heap on my chair.  Now they’re all in drawers, and I’m trying to figure out what in my psyche is so opposed to folding laundry.  “For the very reason you don’t want to do them”?  Hmm…

Number two:  This really should count for more than one.  I gave Cujo a bath…

This is Cujo.  Bath time is clearly not his favorite.  Note the cloud of brown water around him.  That’s why I didn’t want to bathe him, and is also exactly why I needed to.  I think it’s been a month.  I would like to point out that he’s not actually mine; he belongs to my sister.  But she’s gone for the weekend, so “Uncle Lauren” is babysitting, and I definitely couldn’t take him to my dad’s house being as dirty as he was.

He goes ballistic after he gets out of the tub.  He starts snorting and rolling around and flailing his legs.  It’s intense.  Seriously, the first time I saw him I thought he was having a seizure.  But now it’s funny, and it almost makes up for the fact that I’ll have to bleach the bathtub before I’m getting in there again.

Refocusing

I’ve been unemployed since September 1.  I say unemployed, really I’m working part-time at a church, Geneva Presbyterian.  I manage the curriculum for Geneva’s youth program, and also hang out with the youth group.  Tonight, I’m going to a play that two of my kids are in; it’s a great job.

But 20 hours a week on a ministry salary doesn’t exactly pay the bills, and since I only work Sundays and evenings, I am, for all intents and purposes, unemployed.  So I’ve been going through the process a lot of my college friends are familiar with, scanning online job boards and trying to figure out what exactly my political science degree is good for.  (Answer: working at Target, impassioned rants about the evils of capitalism.)

I say all this not to whine about how depressing it is to not have a job, but to remind myself to make the most of it.  Coming out of a summer where I worked 65 hours a week, I know how valuable free time is.  I have lots of it right now, and I intended to put it to good use, starting September 1.  Instead, I’ve spent lots of time steam-cleaning my carpet, reading novels, and watching The Office with my sister.

I started this blog partly as a way to hold myself accountable – then subsequently went a week without posting anything on it.  Follow-through is not my greatest gift, what can I say?  So now I’m refocusing.  Now I have to fill my time with noteworthy things in order to have something to write about here.  Right?

Tomorrow’s project: celebrating Oktoberfest.  Note: this will involve food.  And beer.  I’ll keep you posted.

I don’t do titles.  Seriously.  I took a fiction writing class in college that required me to actually finish a short story.  I’m not really in the habit of finishing things that I start, but two all-nighters and thirteen cups of coffee later, I did.  Except for the title.  I couldn’t stand to take the very soul of what I’d just written and condense it into a defining word or phrase, to take something once alive and flatten it down into ink on paper.  In the end, I called it “Stories about Mustard”, an inside joke with my classmates and the best way I could think of to skirt the assignment.  My prof laughed at me and let it slide.

Maybe I tend to overthink things, or maybe this hesitancy to summarize says something about my character.  Here we could go into a long philosophical discussion about the part of human nature that struggles against being labeled and yet strives to define itself.  Let’s skip it.  The point is, I don’t do titles.  So when I decided to do the blog thing, I put off starting for a long time because I really didn’t want to “call” my blog anything.  So I’m skirting the assignment once again.

The word “undefined” can mean both “infinite” and “vague”.  Ambiguous, hmm?  And I like the paradox of a word that is, by definition, undefined.  I’m choosing the one word I can think of that won’t limit me.  Take that, system.

I had a friend in high school who had more intelligence than he knew what to do with.  He started a band called Quantum X Theory.  The theory was that an x placed between brackets represented anything and everything, all possible sets*.  This had something to do with quantum physics and being a smart ass, and made my English teacher really mad when he turned in a paper with (X) on the first page.  As a theory, I thought it was insane and brilliant.

So welcome to [Undefined], where I will write about whatever I want.  I’m a little schizophrenic, so this could get interesting…

*to my math and science friends: sorry for misusing/ abusing your terminology.  Clearly I have no idea what I’m talking about.