December 1, 2008

Seventeen Going On Eighteen

Just when I felt certain that it took traveling across the world to discover myself, I found that maybe I have been hiding here all along. Over the Thanksgiving holiday, I dug around in my childhood bedroom and uncovered my journal from the summer before college. Humorous and sentimental, yes. I stirred up quite a bit of trouble at the end of that summer that I had forgotten about. But perhaps most startling for me was my extreme level of self-awareness at the ripe age of 17. Apparently I knew myself better at the age of seventeen than I do ten years later, which is a disconcerting revelation for me. I'm just starting to process what that might mean. I even made some predictions about the "me" I would become. Some very far off, some right on the ball. Regardless, it is an amazing experience to reintroduce oneself to one's self. So here, I share some of my less-personal reflections from that remind myself that there are pieces of my self hiding all around me, waiting to be discovered. Or perhaps, rediscovered?

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December 30, 2007

Growing Up

This semester was easily the hardest of my life. Did you catch the irony? My strength was tested in ways that I had never expected. In part, I grew up. I no longer feel like the 26-year-old girl with no life experience, the girl who flittered about unaffected and unaffecting. I learned a little about letting go of expectations. I learned a little about grief and loss. I learned what it meant to accept imperfection, the hardest lesson of all for my approval-seeking self.

It wasn't like anything tremendously unusual or different happened in my life; it's just that I became different. I didn't transform overnight, and it isn't even noticeable on some days. But overall, I feel differently. Part of this may be attributable to Wayne's death, part of it to Family of Origin; part of it due to a difficult class experience, part of it because of changing relationships. I can't even pinpoint the ways in which I feel different. I still have my sense of humor, I still care what others think of me, I still give everything my all, and I hopefully always will. But my approach is different.

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October 17, 2006

An Attempt at Self-Discipline

As the school year progresses and I feel more and more out of control, I understand what I need to grab hold of my sanity: self-discipline. Unfortunately, this doesn't come easy to me and never has. My mom and dad attempted to instill discipline in my sister and I by enrolling us in piano lessons before we could even reach the pedals. Piano, you see, requires a commitment to practicing, diligence to start over even when the wrong notes are played over and over, and a certain amount of perseverence to continue when the going gets tough (particularly after embarrassing yourself at concerts). The rule was that I could quit piano when I could handle keeping my room clean. Well, I played piano until I graduated high school and my room still isn't clean after all these years.

Right about now, though, self-discipline could come in handy for me. I am struggling with an immense amount of homework and thesis development, a body image issue and need for health, and basically never feeling organized enough to make it through one week without having a mini-anxiety attack. Some people recommend planning out a schedule and sticking to it, to make rules and not exceptions. Well, I love the planning. That's never been the problem. I get motivated to get all of my work done and to stick to the food pyramid and my workout schedule and even to make sure all of my clothes are off the floor before I go to bed. But the next day, the momentum goes back to a realistic level and "things fall apart." I've even tried setting attainable goals for myself that are easily attained on a daily level, but then I don't feel like I'm making much progress.

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October 3, 2006

Bringing Peace

Laurelle, Missy, and I headed to church on Sunday for the 9:30 am traditional service at Hennepin Avenue United Methodist Church. Besides just starting again recently, I haven't been to church in quite awhile. Last Christmas a sisterly argument kept me from the holiday mood and prevented my typical annual visit. So besides weddings, I have not been to church in over a year and a half. It was refreshing and comforting to learn that not much has changed. My family and I attend(ed) a smaller Methodist church in Osseo, MN throughout my childhood and adolescence. I remember running through the dark halls after "Joyful Noise" practice and delivering cakes or food for my mom when I received my driver's license. I really loved it. Unfortunately, every church has it's cliques and politics, which turned me away. Not to mention, it is difficult to get me out of bed before double digits on the weekends.

In the last month, though, some personal matters have called me to church, seeking spiritual guidance and stability. The life of a 25-year-old, particularly a graduate student, is chaotic and I missed the "method" in Methodism. I know some people prefer the more fluid contemporary services with a lot of singing and praise worship, but I prefer the traditional structured service. So I was thrilled when Laurelle and Missy, two of my closest friends, willingly accepted my offer to attend with me. Church is like exercise; I'm more likely to participate if I have a "workout buddy."

This last Sunday, the umpteenth Sunday after Pentecost, was the Blessing of the Animals as well as International World Day. Unfortunately, the Blessing of the Animals was at the second service, so we only saw one or two pets. But I must say, I love that these city churches celebrate ideas like this. But for the International Day (one of six days for communion in the Methodist church), the theme was peace. Very suitable at a time when our country is at war with terrorists and our politicians are at war with one another. Hardly the shining example of democracy!

Anyhow, about one-third of the way into the service, the children are dismissed for Sunday school. Before they leave, the pastor gives a mini-sermon with the children gathered around the altar. Every week the children say adorable things and the congregation laughs and smiles, but this week was particularly funny for my Democrat self.

The minister asked the children a few questions. One of which was "How do you do good for others?"

Girl 1: I go swimming in a swimming pool.
Boy 1: I go to the zoo.
Boy 2: I go swimming in the lake.
Boy 3 (catching on): I do chores.

Pastor Robbins of course relayed the intended message and went on to the next question: "How can you bring peace into the world?"

Boy 1: Protect wildlife!
Girl 1: Do good.
Boy 2: Not vote for George Bush because the Iraq War is bad and should end.

As if Boy 1 wasn't funny enough, after Boy 2 spoke, the congregation erupted into laughter. In a very open and tolerant Methodist church, it was apparent why this message would be so well-received. Yet it was so funny to me...I loved what the kid was hilarious. But later I wondered, how do children get these ideas? I understand it must be from parents. But at what point do kids understand why they believe what they do? When do we start questioning these beliefs? Are there some of us who go through life without challenging the beliefs of our parents and simply pass them from generation to generation just like Grandma's pearls and Grandpa's war medals?

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September 26, 2006

You threw my crayon out the window?

So, over the weekend Steve and I headed to Granite City, his favorite restaurant, for lunch. I was feeling tired from a bachelorette party the night before and needed a cheeseburger to hit the spot. It was a nice, low key date, until the way home.

We get into the parking lot and I was digging in my purse for something to entertain us on the drive home. I found a pack of crayons Betsy had distributed as party favors on her birthday. I decided it was a great opportunity to write on Steve's arm. He was in workout clothes, not looking particularly clean, so what the heck? I was just goofing around. He, being the anal man he is, firmly "requested" I stop. I was annoyed that he was so annoyed and kept going. After one mark, he took my crayon and threw it out the window! I made him turn the car around so I could pick it up...not like I particularly care about a crayon, but I was angry he threw it out the window. We proceeded to have the most immature argument of all time. We knew it was bad because we were both trying our hardest not to laugh.

"Why did you write on me?"

"Why did you throw my crayon out the window?"

After I threatened to walk home, we both apologized. But I was just so frustrated that he couldn't be more laidback. Then again, who wants someone writing on their arm?

Anyway, I will keep you from the pain of the rest of the details, and now I am laughing about it, but it got me curious...what is the stupidest fight you have ever gotten into? This was definitely Steve and I's most immature moment as a couple. I, of course, blame it on the stress of a new school year and anxiety I am feeling over some family health issues. But we can't be the only ones (or so I hope)! Tell me, what have you and your significant other or ex-significant other fought about that was just stupid?

By Ray Pelley

September 20, 2006

The Reign of the Bachelorette...the Emergence of the Bridezilla

As I get ready for a weekend away with the girls, I wonder, who started the bachelorette party? My mother told me several times over the years that when she was young, people were excited to get married, and not worried about celebrating their last single night on the town. What is the get up concerning abandoning the single life? Has this resulted because the single life is more often viewed as a decision and a time for independence?

In any case, this interests me. Particularly because in the past, all of the bachelorette parties I have attended have caused drama. Perhaps this is inevitable when 20 or so 20-something girls get together in hopes of attracting male attention. But I think it is actually wrapped up in expectations. In our materialistic world, the bachelorette party seems like another opportunity to shower the bride with objects: limos...lingerie...lap dances...For one of my dearest friends, I put down almost $500 for her bachelorette party when it came down to it. $500 for what? Yes, we had fun. Yes, the bride got enough lingerie to last for her honeymoon and much longer. But overall, it was upsetting to her that the other girls decided to jump up onstage and receive as much attention as she got. All three of my friends who I have been active in the planning process (and one I just attended) have turned to tears or anger due to a lack of attention, when in reality the party was thrown for them! It made those of us throwing it feel unappreciated and upset, frustrated that all of the time and money invested came to mean nothing.

Some of my friends re: bachelorette parties

What are the expectations of the bachelorette party? Brides want to feel attractive and appealing to the opposite sex. It's expected that lingerie should flow like wine. No one should get as much attention as the bride-to-be, and if it is offered, it should be declined. Some brides have gone so far as to choose the theme of their own party, to determine exactly the outfit she want others to buy her or the veil and other items that should adorn her. Some have decided they want a low-key tasteful party but then, once out downtown, have decided that they miss the rite of passage the other brides have experienced. And when the party is thrown in a kind gesture by others, what is the etiquette? I wonder, because I have had girlfriends who have not shared their expectations, and they have been disappointed. I also have girlfriends who have explicitly shared their expectations and desires - and been pretty demanding about it - and they have been disappointed. In fact, the only two non-drama invoking and successful bachelorette parties I attended were the ones thrown for the earliest ladies to get married in our social circle.

So is this a rite of passage? That women go out and sell their bodies by pasting lifesavers on their shirts and offering boys to "suck for a buck"? That some girls invest a substantial amount of resources into a party for their bestest of friends yet she is inevitably disappointed? That a successful party is one where the bride can hardly remember the end of the night? For my generation, it seems to be. Anyone wondering what it is like to be a young adult in America can simply attend a bachelorette party and understand a whole new perspective.

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September 1, 2006

25 Years Later...

My 25th birthday has come and gone. It was a beautiful day. Sunny with a few clouds and a light breeze. I could feel fall coming, which signals the first day of school ever since I was a little girl. I spent the day at the spa, completely indulging myself with a Viche Shower invigorating body scrub and a pedicure. I chose the color "Quarter of a Cent-Cherry" in honor of my birthday treat. At night Steve and I went to Wildfire in Eden Prairie (what a wonderful surprise!) and he presented me with diamond earrings. He sure knows the way to a girl's heart! We had the most amazing date. Very romantic and wonderful food. I highly recommend the Chopped Tomato and Red Onion salad. It is my favorite! Check out the menu if you are interested:

In any case, my birthday was also celebrated with a Greed night with my family and a trip to Ghastof's for a boot with my friends. All in all, it was pretty amazing! A great way to end the summer and get prepared for the chaos that is graduate school.

Before I sign off, I thought I would shed a little light into the purpose of my new blog. After a successful first twenty-five years, I am looking forward to happens in the next chapter of my life. I felt a blog would be a wonderful way to chronicle my journey through graduate school and to see my progress towards achieving my personal and professional goals. I am hoping that visitors will get a little insight into my life - to learn my curiosities, comment on my neverending questions about life, and to get a glimpse of what it is like to be a 25-year-old American girl - and to find out what that really means! Please be patient with me...I know I will not be as disciplined as an experienced blogger. And, my entries will range from social life to politics, health to academia. Hopefully, something for everyone! I'm hopeful that this blog will be an outlet for me, to share my thoughts and questions, and send them off into the dark abyss of the internet.

So, welcome to the next chapter of my life! Fasten your seatbelts - it's going to be a crazy ride!

Libby Plowman