30 May 2009

Saturday Night Thoughts

It's currently 6:56pm in Juneau, Alaska and for what is not necessarily the first time, but what is occurring with warming frequency, I am sitting in my living room and feeling happy about my life and circumstances.  

6:57pm

I went to work this morning thoroughly grumpy and with every intention of bursting into tears  if Katrina asked me what was going on with the hopes of being sent home.  I didn't feel like being there--not using my degree, not getting anything that I loved done, not being with anyone that I loved...yet.  Kip has been sick for the past few days with what I'm 94.5% sure is swine flu...ahem, H1N1 virus...and most of the time I've been with him I've been grumpy from work.  Not exactly an ideal nurse or fiance.  I have a half-finished dress draped over one of my unused dining room chairs and a pile of crocheting yarn waiting to be made into something to sell.  My therapist comes in a skein, and I haven't been seeing her nearly enough. 

7:01pm

Through untold events and influences, my day improved until I came home from work--some fabric remnants from JoAnn in my arms and a form to register for the Nugget Mall craft fair in July--to find Kip cleaning my kitchen.  "I wanted you to come home to a clean kitchen so you didn't worry about cleaning and could just relax after work" he said as he wiped his nose and coughed up some more phlegm.  

Could he be any more perfect?  

Now it's 7:04 and I'm sitting at my desk watching Sparky cuddle with the shell I collected from the shores outside the Shrine of St. Therese and dropped in his tank, the sounds of the police scanner and Kip's Star Trek video game mixing with the rhythm of my typing.  I have a tummy full of hummus and a kitchen table full of projects, with all the time until bed to get them done.  I came home to two literary gems that are sure to make me smile for years to come:  a letter from Phyllis Tickle telling me that the thank-you note I'd sent her after graduation was the most "gracious and graceful" she'd ever received, and a link to Kasey's new blog.  A letter from my author hero telling me that my note writing skills are unsurpassed and the sincere words of my best friend available anytime I want to see them----joy incarnate!

It's 7:08 and I'm still thrilled with my life.  Kip is fighting the Federation in his game, Paul 20 just called a Code 23, and that hummus is sounding tasty again.  I'm happy in Juneau...again.  

:)

29 May 2009

Friday Photo Shoot-Out: Water

Inspired by Barry's passion for his community, I've decided to take part in the Friday Photo Shoot-Out, a project started by Reggie Girl to get bloggers into their communities and to show them off to each other as well.  I figure there's no greater way to get to know my new home of Juneau, Alaska, so here we go!

This week's theme is "water".

Because Juneau is nestled snugly in between an ice field, huge mountains, and the Inside Passage (an inlet of the Pacific Ocean), we have TONS of water.  And sometimes it is very pretty.

There's water to reflect the sunset and take beautiful pictures with.

There's water to get fish from and then store them sadistically in.

Most of the water is frozen, usually year-round.

The most exciting water for most tourists is the Mendenhall Glacier.  Extending from the Juneau Icefield, the Mendenhall Glacier is twelve miles long and is a receding glacier--which has less to do with climate change and more to do with water availability in the mountains that feed water into the glacier.  It feeds into the Mendenhall Lake (directly in front of it), which I hear is--please believe me--a spectacular place to swim after a sunny day.  The water is shallow enough that the sun warms it to a nice temperature, despite it being glacier water.  Note to anyone traveling to Juneau:  those people downtown that sell "bottled pure glacier water"?  Crakpots.  All of them.  Our tap water comes from the glacier runoff, so don't pay a buck fifty for something you can get from the tap.  Please.

The entirety of downtown Juneau sits at the bottom of Mt. Roberts and Mt. Jumbo, so there is a TON of runoff from the melting snow.  Thus, we have drainage systems that run through the city accordingly.  Everything runs off into the Gastineau Channel, which you can see at the top of the picture.

Juneau sits in the middle of Tongass National Forest--a temperate rainforest!  That's right, folks, the capital of Alaska is a rainforest.  Therefore, we get enough rain to make every grow webbed feet--or at least buy a pair of Extra Tuffs.  Sometimes the water, when not falling from the sky, is content to merely hang in midair, obstructing our view of Mt. Jumbo.

Other times, it's perfectly happy to both hang in the air and fall from the sky.  Depressingly.

It sticks to the windows and makes us all feel like going home to a bowl of soup and a mug of tea.  

But then again, the water in Juneau is pretty great, especially when viewed from the overlooks over the Gastineau Channel, where a certain someone proposed to a certain blogger who now loves the water in Juneau because of it.  :)

27 May 2009

Meet Lucy!

General Lee had Traveller.  Don Quixote had Rocinante.  I have Lucy.

Meet Lucy.  In my fantasies of what Juneaunian life would be like, I pictured sunny 75-degree days in which I would throw on a skirt because it was such nice weather and ride my bike to the nearest organic grocery store to make a fantastic meal that night for my closest friends.  Well, at least I've got the bike thing covered.  And the weather was unusually sunny the first two weeks I was here.  And I'm working on the friends thing.  The organic grocery store, while existent, is a distant financial dream, but I did get to ride my new bike, Lucy, in a skirt one day to A&P (the nearest non-organic--but still local!--grocery store).  I got hit on twice and decided that maybe be-skirted bike riding should be kept in dreams, or at least in a place where there aren't any skeezy fishermen who haven't seen women in months.  

But there's Lucy!  I took some of my graduation money and bought this beautiful little blue marvel of transportation, with a lock and a basket to match.  The bike was way too cute to go without a name, and it just sort of screamed "I'm a Lucy! I'm a Lucy!", so there we have it.  

It was a minor adventure, getting Lucy.  I headed over to Wal-Mart with the sole mission of finding a suitable form of transportation.  Salvation Army didn't have bikes.  I couldn't even find the St. Vincent dePaul Society thrift store, and the over-charging Glacier Bikes store was out.  It was Wal Mart or bust.  I chose the non-busting option and walked back to the sports section with a bit of trepidation.   I turned the corner, and came face to face with destiny.  Lucy sat there, gleaming as much as a bike can gleam in cheap overhead florescent lights.   Set on wheeling her out, I approached the next salesperson I saw, a kindly Native man named Bruce.  After some confusion over finding the serial number and a weird conversation about my trip to Bolivia and the nation's connection to cocaine, I was the proud owner of a new bike.  

Now to get it home.

Well, we have a Jeep.  And Jeeps are unusually short.  This fact comes in mighty handy when, hypothetically, one stalls halfway into a parking space...hypothetically....but isn't very handy when trying to transport large objects.  Kip was on a trip with his team at work the weekend I got Lucy, and I was all alone in my quest to get her in the car.  Showing massive amounts of feminine strength (and shouting about it to the Wal-Mart parking lot, much to a passing man's chagrin), I eventually figured it out and only had to drive with the back window open, a feat for transporting things in the Jeep...ask Kip, who had his butt sticking in the air while trying to hold my desk in the car because we couldn't close the back window or the tailgate to drive it home.  All you women who independent, throw yo' hands up at me.  (Please catch the Destiny's Child reference there)  

I drove out of Wal-Mart, down Glacier Highway (which isn't really much of a highway at all), down Egan (which is the closest we have to a highway), and to the apartment with the care of a new parent.  I'd wager, however, that most new parents don't have to worry about their baby falling out of the open hatch in the back of their vehicle...just a thought.  When I finally made it up the driveway, I exhaled a sigh of relief and exited the car only to find 3/4 of the Juneau-Douglas High School football team standing in the front yard, staring at me, not offering any help.  Kids these days.   I smacked my hands together and surveyed the situation.  I got Lucy in once, I could get her out again.  I am woman, hear me roar!  Well, maybe I wouldn't roar in front of the football team.  I am close enough to high school still to be embarrassed, after all.  Maybe I could have gotten their help if I'd offered to ride my bike in a skirt to the grocery store and make them dinner!  Blast, that's an idea for another day.  

24 May 2009

Life in Alaska, Part 1: The Breakdown

I have no idea why I didn't expect for it to happen.  Change is a funny thing.  Actually, that's not true.  Change is one of the least funny things in the entire worldly compendium of "things".  It's not that it's bad, it's just that it's...different.  So why I expected to sail right from being a student in the Lower 48 to working a real job living in a real apartment with real rent in Juneau, Alaska is beyond me.  

The massive amounts of change--leaving Chicago, leaving my friends, leaving my parents, leaving my sister, leaving the only existence I've ever known for 22 years (being a student), going to a place I'd never lived in for more than a few months, finishing the long-distance portion of my relationship, starting a new job, making new friends, and getting ever closer to actually being married--blindsided me even before I got to Juneau.  I cried when I said goodbye to my parents at the airport.  I cried a little bit on the plane.  I made Kip stay with me at the apartment when we got to Juneau because I knew I'd cry if he left and I realized where I was and, more traumatically, where I wasn't and who wasn't there with me.  I threw myself into projects with childlike enthusiasm.  I stained my bookshelves.  I found a bike.  I moved furniture.  I unpacked.  I bought a sewing machine and some yarn to do all the projects I'd wanted to do at school but didn't have the time.  And I pushed back every feeling of fear or apprehension, settling instead for a steady feeling of surreality and walking around in a constant daze.  I started my new job.  I bought groceries.  

And then, when I was unpacked and my job was started and the groceries sat in the fridge waiting to be eaten, and my bookshelves sat with books on top of my desk, and my bike sat dutifully in the driveway waiting to be ridden, I had nothing left to face but the feelings I had been pushing back for a week.  And it was not good.  The daze I'd been in became a stupor.  The tears I'd been holding back moved forward like pawns in a chess game.  Less than a week in Juneau, the Saturday after I arrived, I lost it.  I sat on my couch in my apartment sobbing, until by some miracle of connectedness, Kip randomly called me.  I picked up the phone, trying to sound okay....unsuccessfully.  Next thing I knew, he was tapping on the living room window and I was sobbing again, "Why did I move here?  You're worth it, you're worth it, but why am I here?  I don't have any friends, I'm not using my degree, my best friend's birthday is tomorrow and I won't be there and Lindsay got married today and I wasn't there and I won't see our niece or nephew until it's six weeks old, andyoucan'tevenfindanyorangeshereforadecentprice,it'sallabuckfiftyfororanges, WHOLIVESINAPLACEWHEREYOUHAVETOPAYABUCKFIFTYFORANORANGE?????"

Okay, the first few things were legit at least.  Nevertheless, I eventually reached catharsis and my very concerned fiance tucked a very exhausted me into bed and went back to work.  The next day, I woke up tired, but feeling slightly more optimistic about life in Juneau.  I walked out into my sunny living room to find this:

Kip had come back in the middle of the night and left a token on top of my as yet unopened sewing machine.  I picked it up and smiled.  Maybe life in Juneau would be fine after all. 

23 May 2009

Leaving North Park, Part 4: The Main Event

And then came Graduation.

The only other graduation I'd ever been involved in was, obviously, my high school graduation in 2005.  It might seem obvious, but I'd never graduated from college before, so I didn't know what to expect.  Here's what I figured out:  it was a lot more low-key.  Whereas the mood pre-graduation in high school was one of almost tense excitement, the graduates lined up in front of the library on May 9th were remarkably calm (with the exception of those of us who had just met our heroes, of course).  There was the obligatory squealing girl moments, of course, but generally it was a mood of....fatigue.  We were all exhausted from whatever exploits  we'd been up to the previous week---finishing papers, taking tests, moving out, partying too much, what have you.  The biggest source of drama were those damned hoods, with those who had it figured out rotating fellow graduates and pulling the swatches of blue and gold into their proper places.  We all lined up in our proper places, fixing our necklines and tassels, and when we started the walk across our pristinely manicured campus toward what felt like destiny, the fixing and the figiting and the nerves got worse. 

 Notice the people in the front of the line fixing things.  I tell no lies!

We eventually made our way into the gym, walking Noah's Ark-style (two by two).  I spied Becky and Scott in chairs on the floor of the room.  Ignoring all decorum and style, I hastily mouthed to them, "Did everyone get in?"  We had had a crisis in the Lambert-Hanson-soon to be Cheshire family; I only had four tickets to graduation, and there are now five and a half people in my immediate family--Mom, Dad, Becky (with child), Scott, and Kip.  Becky nodded and pointed behind me, where Mom, Dad, and Kip sat in the bleachers, all smiling.  I finally calmed down, found my seat, and took a breath while I tried to comprehend that this was all actually happening.

The beautiful and talented Lindsay Dudich (now Lindsay Bobbitt!!!!)

What is there to say about a graduation?  Anyone who's been through it knows what it's like to sit on a gym floor in polyester gowns, listening to speeches from people you probably don't know about things that you probably don't understand.  President Parkyn made some speeches, Phyllis Tickle was given her honorary doctorate and gave a splendid commencement address (which I smiled so hard through that my face hurt).  Then, the moment came--with surprising swiftness.  When Dean Peterson stood and faced President Parkyn, "Sir, as Dean of the School of Arts and Sciences, I respectfully submit the following candidates for graduation...", the people in my row all looked around at each other, silently mouthing, "Already?"  We waited for the first four rows to stand and file out, applauding for our friends and feeling the growing anticipation.  And then it was our turn.  
We stood.  
We turned.  
We walked toward the stage entrance. 
As we walked toward the door, I saw Joe Lill, the professor who recruited me to North Park for the music department and who played a trumpet processional for about half an hour that day, bless his heart (or perhaps we should be blessing his poor lips).  He smiled, stood up, and walked right over to me, sweeping me up in a bear hug.  "Congratulations" he whispered.  I smiled and turned back into the line, absentmindedly fixing the hood of the guy in front of me as Joe huffed, "Oh for goodness' sake" and fixed mine.  Seriously, the hoods got more attention that day than the graduates did.

And then it happened.  I stood next to the stage curtain as Dean Peterson said, "Cynthia..." I took a breath..."Irene"....I started to walk..."Lambert".  

I had a grand plan to give Dr. Parkyn a hug instead of a handshake, but I chickened out in the end and settled on an arm pat with a "Thank you so much" (he was very polite and said "You're welcome") and then took my diploma.  We had a nice little moment.  Notice Phyllis Tickle smiling below my left elbow. :)

I would later be told by all of my friends that they had screamed while I walked across the stage, and by several people that my fiance had yelled something to the effect of "Cindy is my hero", but all I heard on the stage was a wash of sound and my heel clicks on the differing surfaces--hardwood, then carpet, then hardwood again.  We decided later that Kip should have yelled "Cindy, marry me!" for better effect...maybe at grad school.

After the School of Arts and Sciences, the School of Business and Non-Profit Management, the School of Education, the School of Music, and the School of Nursing had all received their diploma holders (actual diplomas will be sent in a month...lame), President Parkyn stood, looked at us as only an administrator can do and said, "Now, you've all received some praise, but it's time for you to show your thanks to those who deserve it as much as you.  Graduates, stand and applaud your those people behind y--"...he didn't even finish his sentence, for we had already all jumped up, turned around, and started applauding our parents and loved ones, mouthing silent "I love you"s and raising our diplomas in triumph.  
It was one of my favorite moments, standing and staring at Mom and Dad, clapping until my hands hurt and refusing to break eye contact despite the hundreds of people around me.  They deserved it.  I was glad to give it. 

There were few things I looked forward to/feared more than The Tunnel.  It's a North Park tradition for the professors to line the walkway to Anderson Chapel and applaud the graduates walking through after Graduation.  I looked forward to it because it's such a great tradition, but I feared it because I knew that as soon as I saw the Biblical and Theological Studies professors, I'd burst into tears.  Luckily (?) I was too dazed to cry and settled on just smiling at them a lot as Mary handed me a copy of "The Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius" and Boaz gave me a CD of Hebrew chants, which was (appropriately) the only thing I wanted from him.  I'll cherish that thing forever.

We were all pretty dazed.  It was pandemonium.  

Me with three of my favorite and most influential people--Dr. Mary Veeneman, Dr. Joel Willitts, and Dr. Boaz Johnson.  

What else is there to say?  I hugged my way to the reception in Anderson Chapel, launched myself at the table of strawberries (I was so hungry!), and limped my way back to finish cleaning up the apartment (pretty shoes hurt!).  I took a nap on Kip's lap while we all drove out to the campground that my parents were staying at and had a barbeque.  The Dibleys came by with Lucia and Langsea, who took my hand and led me around, showing me interesting rocks and sticks and grass, and who gave me a kiss before she left.  My status on Twitter that afternoon read: "Recognized by Phyllis Tickle.  Kissed by Langsea.  Best day ever!"  

After they left, it was just my family and me.  We ate some cake from Coldstone Creamery and made a fire, eventually parting ways the next day after a Mother's Day brunch as Becky and Scott flew out of Midway, Kip and I flew out of O'Hare, and Mom and Dad hit the road for Maryland.

The eight of us:  Dad, Kip, Me, Becky, Steely McBeam (the as-yet unnamed baby!), Mom, Scott, and Sputnik, our faithful RV.

In the immortal words of Forrest Gump, "That's all I have to say about that."
I frantically finished papers.
I Baccalaureated.
I graduated.
Now onto real life....stay tuned.

22 May 2009

Moving to Alaska, Part 2: Staining with Dad

For the first time in my life, I have my own apartment.  Oh yes, this is the life--in all of its rent-paying, fixtures breaking down, paying for my own utilities glory.  

Well technically, it's my place for three months and then it's "our" place in all its rent-paying, et cetera, et cetera glory.  Kip is moving in after the wedding in August, but that doesn't stop him from helping me by being Mr. Fix-It!

One would think that after living with three other girls and their three other cleaning habits, I'd want to revel in the glory of this three-month Bachelorette pad by myself.  But no, I am the world's most extroverted introvert.  So maybe that's why I spent the first couple of days at my new apartment with...my dad.  Or at least, with my dad metaphysically.


He didn't make the trip with me and Kip.  He didn't ship himself in a box or show up for a surprise visit.  What he did do is teach me how to finish wood furniture.  

Years ago, all I wanted for Christmas was a proper desk.  The pink one I'd painted when I was six had been outgrown by me, my homework, and my tastes in interior decorating.  So Mom and Dad took me to the unfinished wood furniture store and we chose a desk.  For the next three days, Dad and I hung out in the garage refinishing this masterpiece of mahogany (okay, it was pine, but go with me...).  He taught me how to prepare the wood, how to sand in between coats and what to do to make sure the stain was equally distributed.  He taught me what the grain was and how to go with it.  After what seemed like an eternity, it was finished.  And it was beautiful.  Not just the finished product, but the entire process.  It was fun.  It was educational.  It was one of those weekends that would make an ideal Father's Day montage in the retrospective of my life.  And it was something that I imagine is very much like riding a bike--I'll probably always remember how to tie my shoes, how to ride a bike, how to drive a stick shift car, and how to stain unfinished furniture.  

Years later, I stood in the middle of my first apartment, staring at the corner that I would make into my study nook.
"I'll need to get some shelves" I told Kip.
"You want some wire ones?"
"No, I'll get some wooden ones.  I'll stain them."
"You know how to stain wood furniture?"
"Yeah, my dad taught me."  
Kip was impressed.  Some men are impressed at their future wife's skills in the kitchen or their ability to belch the theme from "Friends".  My hidden talent is refinishing furniture.  Go figure.

So while Kip was busy protecting the citizens of Juneau, I sat in my apartment eavesdropping on the conversations from my neighbors, listening to my "Hippie Mix" on my computer (The Beatles and Cat Stevens are included), and staining my new bookshelves.  Just me and my Dad...well, metaphysically at least.


Friday Shoot-Out

Inspired by Barry's passion for his community, I've decided to take part in the Friday Photo Shoot-Out, a project started by Reggie Girl to get bloggers into their communities and to show them to each other as well.  I figure there is no better way to get to know Juneau, Alaska than this, so here we go!  

This week's theme, suggested by Gordon is "Paint the Town Red".


One of the first things I noticed when I started to look at Juneau through the lens of "Paint the Town Red" was that it's not red at all...  

...even our Wal Mart is green!

So I started to think about what one could to do paint the town red, idiomatically, of course.  Here's what I came up with:

One could take a trip "out the road" (which is a true directional) to Auke Bay (pronounced "Ock" as in "Spock")...

...where one could acquire one's fishing license!

Captain Kevin is painting Juneau red, literally and figuratively, as eating live salmon heart is just about as reckless as one can get.

Or, if one still likes seafood but sushi isn't one's style, one could take a trip down to Tracy's Crab Shack downtown and feast on a King Crab leg or three.  One should not forget one's t-shirt that says, "Tracy gave me crabs"!


One could also go even further "out the road" to the Shrine of St. Therese of Lisieux...if one's idea of "painting the town red" is a hearty prayer session.

...One could abscond with some mementos from the sea as a souvenir if one wishes to do something slightly illegal at the Shrine.

One could also join Father Thomas in his weekly young adult's dinner on Sunday nights.  There is always some mischief to be had, like sawing coconuts apart, hollowing them out, and then "galloping" around the apartment with them a la "Monty Python and the Holy Grail".


Or, for a true Alaskan version of "painting the town red", one could also have a rousing night out at the shooting range.  It's surprisingly busy during evenings, although--strictly speaking--everyone is supposed to leave when the street lights come on.  One might go hunting after one's practice at the range.  One might find Sarah Palin, who is quite adept at field dressing moose, I hear.


And there you have it!  That is how we Juneauites "paint the town red"!


20 May 2009

Leaving North Park, Part 3: Phyllis (omg) Tickle!!!!!

This is Phyllis Tickle.  This is her website.  This is one amazing woman. 

I first heard of Phyllis Tickle, the woman who singlehandedly brought the practice of fixed-hour prayer back into mainstream American Christianity, who controlled the review of Christian publications in the '90s, and who is basically the perfect woman, having achieved massive academic fortitude while raising several children in the process, during my sophomore year at North Park.  I'd just declared my major to be Biblical and Theological Studies the semester before, and I was untainted by Senioritis or too many papers.  At that time, I was discerning whether or not I should go into ministry, and so when Genevive Dibley introduced me to the Kermit Zarley lecturer that year, she said, "Cindy, this is Phyllis Tickle.  Phyllis, this is Cindy.  She's going to change the world" and smiled at me with eyes that believed that I actually would.  Aghast at Genevive's faith in me, I turned my gaze to the elderly woman sitting next to her.  She looked up at me, "Oh?  And how are you going to do that?"  It wasn't a rhetorical or mocking question, it was a real one.  She agreed with Genevive and she wanted to know my battle plan for this aforementioned change.

You could have knocked me over with a paper-thin page out of the Bible.

Later that afternoon, during the lecture, Dr. Tickle was answering a question about women in ministry when she added, "...one of you in this room is preparing for it" and looked straight at me.  I somehow ripped my gaze away from hers to see Genevive in the front row, turned around and beaming at me.  

And that was the moment when Genevive Dibley became my mentor and Phyllis Tickle became one of the most respected women in my life.  

**Cut to two years later.**

The Friday afternoon before Graduation was a beehive of activity in the Biblical and Theological Studies department hallway.  Joel had called me in earlier that day to "give me something" (which ended up being a dictionary of modern English usage with a particularly applicable rule highlighted in the front) and I agreed to come to the department offices, with the stipulation that he only said good things about my paper.  Thus, Kip and I found ourselves in the hallway with the BTS faculty at its finest: wedged in the foot-wide corner between Scot's and Boaz's offices, we listened to Brad's story about getting food poisoning in Romania while simultaneously trying to answer questions about Alaska from Boaz, saying "Hi" to Mary, ignoring Joel's "we finished our meeting why are you still here?" confused looks, and speaking over Scot's yells to Mary to come fix whatever technology problem he was facing at the moment.  

It was the best possible last visit to those offices.

During a lull in the action, I pulled Kip into Scot's office to introduce the two of them.  We eventually got to discussing post-Graduation ceremony plans when Mary poked her head into the office, probably in response to the pleas for technological help, "Aren't you leaving to take Phyllis to the airport right after the ceremony?"

Phyllis?  No way.

I looked at Scot.  His eyes lit up.  "Phyllis?"  I practically screamed.  "Phyllis Tickle????"
"Yup!  She's getting an honorary doctorate, didn't you know?"
"NO!!!!!!" 

I would be lying if I said I didn't embarrass myself in front of my advisor by jumping up and down like a little girl, clapping like a cheerleader and smiling like Miss America.  It was a geek extreme moment and I was enjoying every second of it.  I couldn't sleep that night for several reasons--the let down from Baccalaureate, the clashing emotions of bidding North Park goodbye the next day, and most of all the excitement of seeing Phyllis Tickle again.  I woke up early to check out of my apartment and get ready.  

Now, the fact that modern academics only wear academic regalia for special occasions does not take away the fact that it was designed for cold and drafty buildings of higher education in the Middle Ages.  I found this design aspect particularly useful as I headed toward Main Campus, tucking my hands into my sleeves and zipping up my heavy robe against the cold Chicago wind.  As previously promised, I stopped by Sohlberg for a while to sit desk with Matt and recover a bit from the suddenly chilly weather.  Once it was time to go to the library to line up for the ceremony, I gave Matt a hug, said my goodbyes, and headed out the door, feeling more than a little nostalgic.  It was then that I caught a flurry of red robes out of the corner of my eye.  Scot McKnight was walking in the same direction.  With Phyllis Tickle by his side.

I must have looked like a four-year-old on Christmas morning, because Scot's face lit up like Santa Claus as he beckoned me over with a "Yes-you-can-come-over-here-I-know-you-want-to" wave.  I practically skipped over to them.  The scene from Sophomore year played over again: "Phyllis, this is Cindy, one of our star students.  Cindy, this is Phyllis Tickle."  
I extended my hand, "I was at your Zarley lecture a few years ago, it's an hon--"  She interrupted me as she took my hand in hers, "Oh yes, I remember you!"

That paper-thin Bible page you could have knocked me over with the first time I met Phyllis Tickle?  Overkill now.  The simple rotation of the Earth on its axis could have knocked me over this time.  This woman, arguably the best, most important woman Christian academic of the late 20th century?  She recognized me????  I could die happy.

With impressive level-headedness on my part (and exemplary grace on hers), we discussed my post-Graduation plans, my aspirations to grad school, what I'd do in Alaska to keep myself busy, and so on.  She gave me all her best wishes and congratulations on the wedding, as well as on my opportunity to write for the Zondervan Dictionary of Christian Spirituality.  I had never felt so validated in my plans until that moment.  We eventually said our goodbyes, and I walked over to my line.  No, not "walked"--floated.  I definitely floated.

Trust me, what Matt and Robert were saying was not nearly as interesting as my grin makes it out to be.  I was trying to hold back post-Phyllis Tickle joy.

Later that day, during Dr. Tickle's speech to the graduates, she told us that what she was most struck about North Park was the community and how we connected our studies with our faith, exhorting us to connect our heads and hearts through the words of an ancient prayer.  She reminisced about her first visit to the school and the people she had met when she paused and added, "I've even seen some of you again today".  
I'd like to think that if she could have made me out in the sea of caps and gowns, she would have looked at me again.  
And if Genevive were there, she would have been beaming back at me.  
I made a mental note to tell her about it when I saw her that afternoon at my graduation party. I did.  
She beamed. 

Moving to Alaska, Part 1.5: Getting There

I have been on many flights in my day--transcontinental flights, trans-oceanic flights, flights with poor ventilation and sweaty Latin American men and emergency landings in Panama, flights with malfunctioning video equipment, flights with friendly people, flights with great naps, flights with mysterious Bolivian food poisoning that made me very intimate with the aft bathroom...but our flight from Seattle to Juneau was the worst.  Observe why:

video


Observe further my proposed solution to the issue:

video

At least it was only the two hours from Seattle to Juneau and not the five from Chicago to Seattle.   Hey, call it a bonding experience!  Kip and I thought it was funny....eventually.

19 May 2009

Leaving North Park, Part 2: Baccalaureate

I find it complete and utter irony that the ability to earn a college degree does not necessarily equal the ability to figure out how to arrange a hood in one's academic regalia.  This is what I pondered the entire evening before the Baccalaureate service the night before Graduation.  Seriously, the hood came with instructions on how to pull the back out to show the right colors in the right ways.  
It included diagrams.  
Really.

Hood drama notwithstanding, Baccalaureate was the night I was looking forward to even more than the morning of Graduation.  It was the religious service recognizing our years at North Park.  It seemed to have less glitz and glamour (well, less glitz and glamour than the North Park gym can have, at least) and a little more sincerity.  It lived up to my expectations.


The service was held at Queen of All Saints basilica, a very Catholic church that very Evangelical North Park only uses for its Baccalaureate because it's so big.  Irony?  Perhaps.  A good show of trans-denominational cooperation?  That'd be fantastic!  Either way, when Kasey and I saw President Parkyn and the Provost bowing to the Tabernacle, I leaned over and whispered a pithy comment in her ear, causing her to burst out laughing right as the room fell silent.  Classic.  I wouldn't have had the ceremony start any other way.

Mom and me, rocking that hood (at least from the front).  

Dad deserved some honor cords as well, apparently.  I'll let him use mine.

Three of the four roommates--Mari, me, and Amanda.  We look like a shampoo commercial.

The beauty of Baccalaureate was that, unlike alphabetically arranged Graduation, we could sit next to whoever we so chose.  So most of the original group from freshman year--Kasey, Mari, Taryn, Alethea, and I--held hands like kindergartners on a field trip to make sure we were in the same line and could sit together.  It was lame, it was cheesy, it was altogether goofy, but then again, so are we, so it was fitting.  And it was the best part of the night--making Kasey laugh on one side and Mari roll her eyes on the other.  My personal highlight was catching the heel of my shoe in a grate on the floor right before I had to exit the pew, then walking into Mari on the aisle because Kasey's family was so hilariously distracting.

I will admit, I smiled more that night than I probably did on the day of Graduation.  The initial chaos surrounding hood arrangement and finding friends in the sea of black robes was enough to distract us all, but finally walking into the church behind the North Park banner and after shaking President Parkyn's hand on the way in was enough to make me grin the entire way down the aisle.  

After the service, we left to go find our favorite professors waiting for us outside on the steps, to go to mandated dinners with families, and to eventually skip post-Baccalaureate parties because it was all so tiring.  I think a moment Kasey and I had before the service sums it up best:  between posing for pictures for Alethea's Yaya and Mrs. Conrad, Kasey looked around and then at me, "Cindy, we're not old enough for all of this."  I nodded, "Nope.  We're not."  We looked around, smiled, and grabbed onto each other for dear life, ignoring the ticking clock that counted down the seconds until "goodbye".

18 May 2009

Leaving North Park, Part 1.5: Senior Week Respite

It must be stated for posterity's sake that we all found an oasis of celebration in the crunchy tater-tots and flowing draughts of the Celtic Crown on Senior Night.  The blurriness is a testament more to Kasey's camera and less to the level of intoxication of the evening, although I was a bit grouchy for Joel and my meeting the next morning.  Hey, it has to happen once during college, right? 

Leaving North Park, Part 1: The Storm Before the Calm

Everything they ever told me was a lie.  "Your senior year of college will be the best year of your life!" they said, "The second semester will be your easiest!"

This hypothetical "they" were wrong.

"They" clearly were not planning on moving to Alaska come graduation.
"They" clearly weren't planning a wedding during the aforementioned senior year.
"They" clearly took "Underwater Basket Weaving 101" instead of "Jewish Backgrounds of the New Testament."
"They" clearly never met Dr. Joel Willitts.  

Joel and I have had a relationship that is--shall we say--tempestuous.  The best example that skulks into my mind is the day junior year that I ran out of his class on the Gospel of John...crying....twice.  Given, the crying was due about 40% to the difficulty of the class and 60% to the fact that it was the anniversary of a dear friend's death, but when a professor sums up his pedagogical history with, "The boys drop my classes and the girls cry", you know you're dealing with one tough academic cookie.  And this cookie does not crumble, not at tears or excuses or even second semester Seniors.  Personally, I like my cookies soft and personable.  But it's the tough ones that teach you the most.  So, why I expected my Independent Study with him to be a piece of cake (or cookie?) is beyond me.  

After the Undergraduate Research Symposium before Finals Week, at which the above picture was taken, I thought I had it made--finish a few papers, forget studying for a few tests, pack up my stuff, slip into that cap and gown, and boogie right down the aisle toward my diploma.  

...Right.  

After a particularly wonderful morning at church and a tasty last breakfast at Pauline's with Josh, Alethea, and Kasey, I returned to my apartment six days before graduation to find an email from Joel informing me that my final paper for my Independent Study was half as long as it needed to be, with half the references it should have had.  It was, in a word, unacceptable.  In two words:  completely unacceptable. 

I had five days to finish it.  And we wonder why I had a two week gap in blogging?

In retrospect, I take full blame for the error.  I should have read the syllabus more closely, I should have worked a little harder during the year, and I should have read more.  But at the time, it felt like the world was crumbling down.  I cried through my first four additional sources and somehow banged out an additional 2,500 words that night, eventually bringing my paper up to about 10,000 words and 40 sources by the Thursday before graduation when I emailed it to Joel with a flourish, a huge weight lifting off me, and a cinnamon roll from Mari in hand.  


I write about this not to gain sympathy or to brag about my extraordinarily long (and probably boring to the majority of the non-academic world) paper, but to set the background for my last week at North Park and my days leading up to Graduation.  The movies have it all wrong.  It isn't all ultimate frisbee and keg stands--at least not at my school or in my life.  I spent the majority of my last week not sopping up every last moment with my friends or spending extra time with my family, but in the library, making a fort out of commentaries on Hebrews, tapping my pencil against the pages and trying not to sigh too much.  I didn't slide into Graduation well rested and giddy, I skidded in sideways with bags under my eyes and the heel of my left hand covered in blue ink from dragging it across pages of notes.  Graduation was the calm after the storm of my Finals Week, and that is why what happened in the next few entries meant so much when it did.  Stay tuned.



For the record, Dr. Willitts's academic rigor pushed me to academic levels I thought I couldn't achieve.  Like all great teachers, I hated him through the process but respect him and admire him so much more in hindsight.  He joins Amanda Schwersky, Dr. Zelle, and the illustrious Mr. Duffy--who made my 14-year-old knees knock together during Freshmen English in high school but who is by and by the most influential teacher I've had--in the list of pedagogues who put me through the refiner's fire to make me way more than I thought I could be.  Thanks, Joel.  And for the record, I was right about the silent 'h'--it's "an honor" not "a honor". ;)

16 May 2009

Moving to Alaska, Part 1: Fish on a Plane!

It's official--my life is run by a fish.  Before graduation and the subsequent move to become Nanook of the North, I didn't realize how much I was going to miss Sparky until the day Kip and I started seriously talking about getting a rabbit.  Seeing as I've wanted a rabbit since 7th grade when Mr. Heiser brought in his floppy-eared friend named Shakespeare, I should have been more excited.  But those floppy ears had lost their charm.  A little cotton tail didn't seem so cute.  As excited as Kip was, I sat on my bed at school, phone to my ear, staring at Sparky and feeling like Judas at the Last Supper.  Should I betray Sparky with a kiss?  It'd be a squishy one, but none the less deserved.  I was the worst Beta fish owner ever for merely accepting Alaska Airlines' "You have to pay a significant fee to take a tropical fish on board a plane" policy.  Could I really put a price on friendship?

Well, technically, yes.  The whole reason I'd originally bought Sparky three years ago was because I was stuck at my parents' house in Maryland for the summer with not a friend to my name.  So I bought one.  I think the price for friendship in this case was about $6.50, but now it was significantly higher.

Inflation.  Sheesh.  Blame it on the economy, that seems to be fashionable these days.

I was sure my time with Sparky had come to an end.  I had even arranged for one of my professors to adopt him.  And then I checked my email one morning to find a message from Dad: "I think you should start writing a new blog entry.  Title it 'Sparky Moves to Alaska'.  Tell everyone it was sponsored by Dad...."  My heart leapt, did somersaults, started a ticker tape parade, and then settled on  doing a nice jig within my chest cavity.  Huzzah!  Sparky could come with me to Alaska!  I wouldn't be overreacting in the slightest if I admitted that it was one of the top 10 happiest days of my life thus far.

And I've had some happy days.

We put Sparky in a plastic container and a Ziploc bag, via Alaska Air and TSA requirements.  A rogue pebble slipped in from his tank while I was pouring him into the container, but it all turned out to be for the better considering the fact that every time Kip or I checked in on him during the flight, he was cuddling with the pebble.  Hey, everyone needs a security blanket!

Sparky had a grand time traveling.  He met Tom, the Alaska Airlines desk clerk, and also the nice young man at TSA stationed by the metal detector who lifted him up to eye level before raising an eyebrow at me.  I, the grand college graduate cum laude, could think of nothing more insightful to say than, "His name is Sparky."
His eyebrow raised even higher.  "Cute."  He looked to the attendant at the X-ray machine, "Sparky here needs a hand check!"  

I don't think I'd ever heard so much laugher in an airport security line.

Sparky was probed and fish-handled by a very unamused looking TSA agent.  I didn't think it was possible for a fish to glare, but suffice it to say...it's possible.  All things considered, he behaved quite well and was declared to be non-toxic.  Phew.  I gave a thumbs-up to Mom and Dad, who were stationed on the other side of security just in case Sparky was denied.  He was on his way!  We waited on the bench by security while Kip retrieved his laptop and put his shoes back on.  Alaska or bust!

We stopped at SeaTac for a layover, where Sparky found the sushi bar.  He was not amused.  
I settled for a vegetarian egg roll, much to his delight.

And now, almost a week later, I sit in the living room typing this entry while Sparky is swimming lazily around his new and improved Alaskan tank on my bedside table down the hall.  He seems to be adjusting rather well, all things considered.  I think Kasey put words to him best, "I AM A TROPICAL FISH, I DID NOT SIGN UP FOR ALASKA!!!!"  And he hasn't even seen a salmon yet...but that's an adventure for another day.

13 May 2009

Announcements, Announcements, Annooooooouuuuunncements

**Updating soon about graduation, moving to Alaska, and the general craziness of life.  Promise.**

02 May 2009

Wolverine,Riff, MacGuyver, and my Bestie will get my back

...In response to the prompt "OH NO, IT'S A RUMBLE! Quick, put together your ideal gang of street toughs!"

Wolverine
Because he would slice that stuff up in about .078 seconds

Riff from "West Side Story"
Because we seriously need some jazz hands in my rumble

MacGuyver
Because aforementioned rumble could take place in an alley, on a plane, or underwater, and he would still be able to make a bazooka out of a rubber band, a turkey baster, and a chewing gum wrapper

Sarah Contreras
Because the only time she's ethnic is when she's referring to Mexican food or when she gets mad.


01 May 2009

Apocalypses, Zombie and Otherwise

It's the Apocalypse.  

In an attempt to make some year-end dough and therefore have the ability to invest in a used bike and a sewing machine for my future life as a hipster in Alaska, I picked up a few dorm desk shifts.  I walked into Park North this afternoon, wondering vaguely why the sun decided to come out at the  exact moment I could no longer enjoy it, filled my water bottle, and took up my post.  

Park Northers, fear no crazy man walking in from Kedzie, your loyal Desk Attendant is here!  

On my way in the door, I had grabbed a copy of North Park's usually typo-ridden and often hopelessly biased school paper, the North Park Press.  The cover featured a stained glass portrait of Jesus with Che Guevara's face imposed over the Son of God's with the feature headline, "The Church's Prosperity Gospel" blaring underneath.  Clearly this is no Yale Daily News.   Knowing that reading the cover story was a bad idea (but reading it anyway and stopping after four sentences and about forty logical fallacies), I flipped through the magazine looking for anything of interest.  I bypassed the "Finals Schedual" (which clearly wasn't located next to the spellcheck section) and the ad for Jimmy John's sandwiches ("Faster than your first prom date"....right).  And then it happened.  There was a section of bios featuring the Press writers.  

I read.  
I chuckled.  
And then it hit me.

I enjoyed reading part of the North Park Press.   Given, it was the part that referenced how the Editor-in-Chief joined Cub Scouts in third grade to learn wilderness survival and other generally useful skills before the coming zombie apocalypse (a fear which, I'm learning, is actually gaining some followers), but it was still within the confines of our weekly tabloid.   I'm not sure if this is a good or a bad thing.  I think I'll put it as a neutral between the lists of reasons I'll miss/can't wait to get away from North Park.