Archive for May, 2011

25 May, 2011

12 Things I Now Have Time To Do

Now that the semester is over, I’ve received my 4.0 grade report, and the world was not, in fact, destroyed by zombies,or any other apocalyptic disaster, I find myself with massive quantities of one of the most precious things in the world: Time.

Right around the first week of May, I decided to do something unprecedented. I decided to take a break. The way I figured it, I would be leaving for Russia on the 9th of July, coming home and immediately starting fall classes. If I didn’t take a break now, I wouldn’t get one until Christmas – when it’s really too cold to thoroughly enjoy a said break.

And I am enjoying it – even if “break” is a relative term, considering the two conferences I’m attending next week and all of the pre-Russia paperwork to fill out. But never mind those pesky details. I’m finding plenty of ways to fill my time.

1. Mostly, right now, I’m Simming. Did you know that was a verb? And a noun… and an adjective. Highly functional, Sims. Once upon a time, I was ADDICTED to a game called The Sims, and subsequently, The Sims 2. I’ve been playing TS2 for about seven years now, and have a pretty extensive neighborhood and storyline built up. I don’t play often, because it’s a huge time suck (and *shudder* requires me to use a PC). But I pulled out the game to use for part of my Russian Portfolio and I’ve been dying to get in and play ever since.

2. When I’m not Simming – and sometimes while I’m simming, because I’m an awesome multitasker like that – I’m reading. And tackling the pile of books beside my bed. And on my Kindle. And on my laptop.

3. For less intellectual entertainment, I now have time to watch Law and Order: SVU reruns on Hulu. Sometimes, for kicks, I also watch Rocky and Bullwinkle. It takes me back. And okay, I was doing this BEFORE my break, but now I don’t have to feel guilty about it.

4. Long, long ago, I had friends. Then I started taking Intensive Russian. Now, I have time to see my friends again. Lesson thoroughly learned though: do not let your friends drink a bottle and a half of cheap wine apiece in your living room. Enough said.

5. And from my friends, I now have the time to take their money in rousing games of poker.

6. There is a pool in my apartment complex. I haven’t used it once in the two years I’ve lived there. And with the bastards raising my rent, I really feel I ought to milk everything I can get from them This summer, I WILL swim. Bonus information: the smell of new pool float is my favorite in the world. I’m weird like that.

7. I have time to write. And characters that want written. But I’m so engrossed in the Sims right now that I’m just not there yet. Writing it a little too much like school, and for once, I’m glad that school is out. (Give me a week and I’ll miss it again.)

8. I have time to respond to my e-mails. I’m not doing that either. I’m still in denial.

9. I have time to go to Lockhart and eat lots of mama food. I’m doing that right now. It’s yummy.

10. I have time to research things on Wiki, including but not limited to: badgers, the Waltons, the origin of tetris, and skunks.

11. I have time to walk Cooper.

12. I have the time to deal with the unfortunate coming together of the last three things I had time to do. Lockhart, Cooper, Skunks. You do the math. I’ll get the tomato juice.

Time is dangerous.


21 May, 2011

I Hate Fundamentalist Fear Mongers

I would much rather be writing about something else.

I would much rather be thinking about something else.

Anything else.

But because I am an obsessive-compulsive with a background in scrupulosity, or religious obsession, there is only one thing consuming my mind right now. The world is supposed to end tomorrow, according to a certain fundamentalist. And this… this, I can’t get out of my mind.

I could try to distract myself from it. I could go ahead and write about my awesome night playing poker, trying all the while to pretend that the thoughts running through my mind aren’t there, aren’t terrifying, aren’t making my hands shake and my heart race. But I won’t. Because in the long run, that isn’t going to help anyone. Least of all, me.

Let’s get one thing straight: I’m a Christian. Not the beat-you-over-the-head-with-my-engraved-Bible kind of Christian, but a Christian all the same. The faith I’ve come to have is, perhaps, not orthodox — but it is mine, and I love it. It is my personal belief system; one that has room for homosexuality, feminism, and yes, other religions. My personal relationship with my God, and I’ve never had any inclination to force it on anyone else.

That being said, I hope I’m not offending too many people with this next statement. I HATE fundamentalist Christian crackpot fear mongers.

Don’t get me wrong. If you want to me a militant fundamentalist, more power to you. Your life. But when your beliefs start leaking out into my world, and screwing with the obsessive-compulsive in me, I have a problem. When you start using your beliefs to scare the living hell (literally) out of people, so that they will believe like you? I wouldn’t be okay with that if I didn’t have a disorder that sunk its claws into me every time I heard the word “rapture.”

The thing is, I know that this whole “end of the world” thing is bullshit. Some crackpot pulled a few numbers out of a hat and stuck them together in an arbitrary manner. He’s done this whole prediction thing before, and he sucked at it then.

May the 21st? That seems an awfully silly date. It’s not a very round number. It doesn’t even add up to 7. It’s like he opened a calendar and then threw a dart, blindfolded.

The “non-believers” he’s trying to “reach” don’t give a damn about what he says, except for its comical value. Those who subscribe to different religions don’t give a damn about what he says because it’s irrelevant to them. Most “normal” Christians look at him and think, “gee, you contradict yourself an awful lot buddy,” and then dismiss him as annoying. So the only people he’s really getting to? The ones who already subscribe to his beliefs. And those of us who lack proper filtering mechanisms in our minds to be able to completely dismiss the bull for what it is. This category includes children and the mentally ill. And if anything, he isn’t making us want to jump on the bandwagon for his belief system – he’s just… scaring us senseless.

In short: He’s a bully preying on the vulnerable and using a religion that I love to scare people into listening to him. He’s making Christians look bad.

And even though I know this objectively, the OCD Badger in my head is what-iffing me to death.

Because my filters don’t work.

And let’s face it – my life leaves a lot for the Badger to what if over. I mean, in the past 48 hours alone, I’ve drunk alcohol, I’ve gambled, I’ve lied (you can’t really play poker without doing this, but I’m not sure where “lying while gambling” falls on the spectrum), I’ve worn makeup, I’ve dropped the f-bomb approximately seventeen thousand times, and I’ve made fun of fundamentalist Christian crackpot fear mongers.

If the world ends tomorrow, I may be screwed.

I still have dirty dishes in the sink. And my bed is unmade. And I need to buy dog food.

I’m trying to laugh. I really am. This is the strategy I’ve adopted for dealing with obsessions – I call it the Harry Potter Method. It’s like dealing with a Boggart. If I just point my wand at the Badger and say ‘RIDIKULUS!” and try to make the whole thing as funny as humanly possible, I might be able to survive it. (To be fair, Kelly’s been using this method with me for years. She’s in Iowa right now. I hate Iowa.)

I don’t like to get political here. I usually make it a point to not be insulting to anyone in writing. But quite honestly, I’m fed up with the fear mongering. I’m almost as much pissed off as I am scared. So as far as I’m concerned, this guy who is using my faith for his own personal agenda, feeding off my fear, making a mockery of Christianity…

well, if he thinks real hard about it, I’m sure he can figure out where I would like to tell him to go.


7 May, 2011

Конец (The End)

The final exam still looms, and next week are our oral proficiency interviews, as daunting as ever… but today, the thing that has consumed my thoughts for the past nine months came to an end.

Today was the last day of Intensive Russian.

I’ll admit that there is a part of me… glad… to have finished. Intensive Russian has been, well, intense. I’ve driven my friends and family to the point of madness. They don’t want to hear Russian. They don’t want to hear about Russian. They don’t want to hear about how much I hate Tanya and Misha, the silly characters from our Russian book. And no, they most certainly do not want to be a part of my Russian portfolio.

For the love of God, couldn’t I please just go back to speaking English? They ask.

And sometimes I ask that too. Like when I’ve lost my car keys, and the only thing that I can think to say is где ключи? (gdeyh klyoochee) Or when I’ve been wandering around the grocery store, talking to myself in Russian, and have trouble finding my English again when the clerk asks me how I’m doing. Or when my english Grammar starts (imperfectively) to resemble on my Russian grammar. I can’t simply ‘go downtown’ anymore. Now, verbs of motion have directionality and mode of transportation embedded in my head, and I catch myself thinking “I’m going to go downtown by vehicle in a unidirectional manner.”

I have breathed in Russian for the last nine months. I trained my dog. I labeled my house. I taught the Chaos children how to say ЧТО! (Shto!) And all of this… it is the fault of Intensive Russian.

And thank God for it. Because the thing is… I’m in love with this language. I want to teach it. I want to speak it at the highest possible level. And for all of the exhaustion, all of the sleepless nights, the pages and pages (and pages and pages) of workbook homework… Intensive Russian has brought me to a level in nine months that I’d be hard pressed to reach in two years of regular study.

Truth be told, the part of me that is glad to be finished is only a tiny part. There is a much larger part of me that is sad.

Every weekday, Intensive Russian has been on my schedule. I’ve gone into a classroom with the same people, the same professor, the same goal. I’ve known what to expect. I’ve known that, for at least an hour a day, I’m going to have fun.

Because our class? It was fun. We laughed. A lot.

Since we started this journey in August, our we’ve become a solid unit. So much so that for our last exam, Dr. Garza allowed us to test collaboratively. We’ve learned how to work together. We’ve supported each other. We’ve made a Facebook group and I’ve watched us go from barely able to string two words together to writing whole paragraphs in Russian, having conversations in Russian, and answering questions in Russian.

I answered a lot of questions. Sometimes I was wrong. Sometimes I got cranky. Sometimes I wished people would just leave me alone, because Lord knows I’m not the definitive Russian expert. Towards the end of this semester, I actually got angry, because I felt like I was only wanted for my question-answering ability. But despite all of this, I loved that part of Russian class. It made me feel useful. It gave me a small taste of what it might be like to teach some day.

I’ve made friends. These guys:

Back: Hilary, Me, Dr. Garza, Sam, Mark, John, Isto, Chris, Misha, Kolya, Fanyu; Front: Katya, Rhiannon, Molly, Haley, Charlotte, Oscar, Michaela, Kim, Lucy, Bonnie

Katya, luckily, had the presence of mind to show up today with a camera. I’m so glad to have a record of this class. Of these people.

And to them, I just want to say: Thank You.

Hilary: For being my Russian-teaching guinea pig this year. I now feel capable of taking on tutoring as a real job in the fall.

Katya: For being so cheerful and for remembering the camera. And for buying me that Mt. Dew during our library homework-a-palooza. You have no idea how much I needed that caffeine. And… for being so sure that I’m actually good at this Russian thing. I’m just as insecure about my ability as everyone else, and you were always reminding me that maybe I CAN speak Russian after all.

Rhiannon: For humoring me during last semester’s oral presentation, for sitting behind me in Jester, and making lots of snide comments about Tanya and Misha. Also, for texting me about a certain espresso order back in December, and making me feel much less like a stalker. Or maybe just as much like a stalker, but less weird, because you were doing it too.

Sam: For always asking relevant questions. And for reminding me not to go off the deep-end when I realized that I had only a day to secure a scholarship recommendation letter.

Molly…Molly…Molly: For being a constant source of entertainment – and I do mean that in a good way, my friend. For taking the time to get to know me outside of the Russian world, and for respecting me even when you thought I was nuts. (I hope you know that it goes both ways… the respect and the occasional certainty that you’re nuts.) And yes, for the Molly-Questions. They made me smile.

Mark: For being a pretty-fracking-awesome TA, being lenient and tolerant about late homework, taking over the class when Dr. Garza was away and being such a good sport about the inadequate attendance.

John: For having much better pronunciation than I do, and giving me something to aspire to. I, of course, also hate you for this.

Haley: For humoring me THIS semester and agreeing to sing as part of our OPI. For bringing doughnuts. For being right – and vocal about it – during Thursday’s exam. And for looking so much like Hilary and having such a similar name that Dr. Garza kept using the wrong one. It was hysterical.

Isto: For everything. For always talking to me before class and being so supportive when I was freaking out about my show, my boyfriend, my life in general.

Charlotte: For SO many things. You, I’ve known since my first semester. Thank you for not being nearly as “scary-cool” as I thought you were then. (This is a good thing too. You know what I mean.) For always having tylenol. For loaning me Dr. Pepper money. For running quick, like a bunny, to gather paper towels when I lost one of the full Dr. Peppers in my lap, in class. For eating pizza with me and being, generally, awesome.

Chris: For my second-hand smoke fixes, hours spent standing outside in the six-pack shooting shit, and being my post-Russian lunch buddy. For not thinking I’m any weirder than your average person… or at least not so scary weird. For listening. And walking out with me to sit that panic attack. You’re pretty cool. For a freak. (It’s okay. I’m a freak too.)

Oscar: For accusing our professor of “trolling” and providing me with much-needed laugh. For making me feel less guilty about the times I missed class. Sorry about that whole test-prank thing.

Misha: For looking just like the guy from Машина Времени. You were a good sport about that.

Michaela: For consistently “liking” my Facebook posts and taking the time to answer questions on the FB group. I think I talked to you more there than I ever did in class.

Kolya: For providing me with an alternative to wandering around the grocery store babbling in Russian, for hanging out after class to chat, and for going along with the whole beard shaving thing. Though, truth be told, I think you should grow it back.

Kim: Why didn’t I get to know you better BEFORE last week? For being so much fun during homework-a-palooza. And for your part in the excellently played FB joke on Oscar. (Katya and Isto also get props.)

Lucy: For being the ONLY one in class to actually come to my show. I really did appreciate that. For being an example of a most awesome Freshman, and for volunteering to go first during oral presentations. You did awesome!

Bonnie: You were so quiet! I’m not sure that we ever really had a conversation. Oddly enough, your birthday is the day after mine. And our names are very similar. I’m not sure how this is relevant, except that I didn’t realize it until a few days ago. For… being someone that I still want to get to know.

Fanyu: Oh, Fanyu. You drove me up the fracking wall. I wanted to kill you. I contemplated it. You’re the first person I’ve actually physically battered since I was about ten. But I do thank you. You make me laugh sometimes. You remind me of how lucky I am to have figured out where I’m going. For providing me with lots and lots of practice in patience  for that day when I have my own students and it’s no longer acceptable to backhand them. And… for putting up with me. For liking me, despite the fact that I’ve been kind of an ass. For seeing through a lot of the ‘tough’ show I put on. For what it’s worth, I see through your bull too. If you ever learn to work that filter between your brain and your mouth, you’re gonna be an okay kid. 😉

Finally, Dr. Garza: I’m not sure there’s much I can say here that I haven’t said to you before. You are the best professor I’ve ever had the privilege of learning from. You’ve tolerated my incessant questions. You’ve put up with my grade freak-outs. You’ve set a new standard for compliance with academic accommodations. You’ve never complained. You’ve shown me respect and given me countless reasons to respect you. No one at this university has done more for me, has believed in me, has pushed me harder than you have. You gave me permission to love Russian and you are teaching me how to teach. There is still an honor’s thesis to be written, a class on foul language, the Russian fairy tale. There’s still graduate school. But I will say this: These last nine months, it has been both my privilege and my pleasure to learn from you and to get to know you. Thank you.

Now about that final exam… I’d like an A. Just saying.

For those of you, my dear readers, who are rejoicing and thinking that this will be the end of my Russian ranting… I’m sorry. I’m going to Moscow in about eight weeks. And then taking Third-Year in the fall with a bunch of these guys. I’m sure there will be more stories… more dreams of Sam losing his goldfish in the swimming pool. This is not the end of Russian.

But this semester, it is the end of this Russian class. Next semester, some people will be gone. Haley will have graduated. Not everyone is taking Third-Year. We’ll be breaking in a brand new professor. No more Tanya and Misha (oh, wait, that’s a good thing). It’s sad. But things change. Жизнь случается.

So for now, we’re at the конец. The end. But it’s been a blast. And I can’t wait to see what happens next.

До скорой встречи,


5 May, 2011

I Am Lucky

Today, I had the first of four tests that I must take before this semester is over. I was terrified, because I wasn’t as prepared as I could have been. When I got to class, our professor told us to get in groups because we were going to take the exam collaboratively.

I am lucky.

Tomorrow morning, I will take the second of my four tests. I have to be up earlier than normal so that I can arrive on campus an hour before the test is scheduled, because I need the extra time. The OCD makes testing a pain. But I have an amazing TA for Intro to Linguistics, who understands the OCD and goes out of her way to accommodate me, including letting me use headphones during the exam.

I am lucky.

Liberal Arts is facing massive budget cuts, and many of our language programs are losing staff and graduate students like crazy. Slavic is no exception. We’ve lost funding. We’ve lost lecturers. But our enrollment numbers are up, and there are so many people signing up for 3rd-year Russian that they now have to offer a second class. People are interested. They want to learn the language. Our faculty are fighting tooth and nail to make sure that we still have a program. They aren’t giving up on us.

I am lucky.

My school is huge. Colleges like Business and Natural Science are impersonal. My engineer friends hate their departments, even when they love their work. I landed in Slavic and Linguistics, and I have the pleasure of both loving my work and loving my departments. We’re like a family, and we try to take care of each other.  Some students never know more about their professors than their names. I have professors who will stand around and talk for hours, when they have the time. I have professors who will write me letters of recommendation at the last minute. I have professors whom I respect, and who respect me.

I am lucky.

I don’t want to take my finals. But when they’re done, I’m taking the first break – by choice – that I’ve taken in a very long time. My financial aid is allowing me to do this.

I am lucky.

I don’t get to blog as much as I want to. I have a fictional character in my head that I’m dying to write. There isn’t any time right now, but at least she’s talking.

I am lucky.

I am thoroughly exhausted. I don’t want to be studying. My house is a mess. Cooper is pissed because I haven’t taken him out to play. There isn’t enough time to finish the projects I’ve started for my Russian portfolio. I may or may not make my 4.0 this semester.

But tonight, I’m choosing to look at how lucky I am instead. When things are overwhelming, it’s important for me to remember that, in the great scheme of things, I’ve got it pretty good.

I am lucky.