Ordinary Adventures Part 2: In Practice

In a weeks time, classes will be in session, and I know that the number one question that will be asked of friends who run into each other in the halls will be: "How was your summer? What did you do?"

I dread this question.

I can never give a satisfactory answer. My (insert academic holiday of any sort) was great, and I do have a life--a nice one at that--but the moment you ask me what I did and how it was, I can't remember any of the truly worthwhile things I did. I have actually said on occasion, "what did I do?"
So for those of you who really care to hear about what I did during my summer of ordinary adventures, read on!

Living

I decided to trying living away from home this summer, as practice for that not too far off day when I graduate and get my life together regarding graduate school.  I lived on campus in the townhouses with other summer stayers, working in the library by day and in Chattanooga by night. It was a good experience. Its not like I'm not used to housework and cooking and the necessary chores of living already, my family training has paid off in that area of life. But I had to adjust to self-starting and motivating myself to do those little things even though there was nobody benefiting from them but myself.
Conclusion: I'd much rather cook for a lot of people than just myself.

It was good to practice being financially independent--living off my paycheck, budgeting, saving and grocery shopping--knowing that as my dad told me at the beginning of the summer, I could always come home if I wanted/needed to. I felt like I was flying, but with a safety net. The first day I got my paycheck and paid my rent, I texted both my parents. completely independent of each other they both texted back a quote from Mulan (which is probably the most quoted movie in my house) "all grown up, and savin' china!"  I might have laughed all the way to work that day. My parents are some of the finest.

Working

For a couple hours every morning, I hit up the Bryan Library to do any little odd projects they might need me for. For the most part I did a lot of shelf reading, but for the month of June I had the privilege of working with Stephanie Wood, our former archivist, helping her wrap up some of her final projects. I learned so much about the school, and archiving... and even got to hold a picture of Leo Tolstoy, signed by Leo Tolstoy himself. That was a major geek-out moment for me.  The humanities (archive) room in the Bryan Library is now imbued with some very fond memories of this summer, and my education toward becoming a librarian.

As for my night job... every afternoon at 4:15, I drove the 45 minutes it takes to get to Chattanooga, where I worked at Southtree from 5 to 11:30. Tonight is my last night, and while I'm not gonna miss the late nights and long drives, I think I will miss the job. I started out as a photo tech, scanning and digitizing prints, negatives and slides, but later got moved to quality control, making sure every order was put together properly before it went out. It was a really good job for me, and kind of went hand in hand with my archive work in the library. Memories Matter is the company motto, and with every order I worked on, it was fun to think about the people behind the pictures and videos.
Compared to last summer's job at Five Guys, the work environment at Southtree was a huge blessing. The company was started by two Lee graduates, and the majority of my coworkers were graduates or current students of Bryan or Covenant, and I just fit right in. It'll probably go down in the Annals of the Life of Sarah Peden as my favorite summer job.

Social and Leisure

I did have some time for fun this summer, despite all the working I did. :)
There were two weddings very near and dear to my heart. Mary Clare and Isaac Geyman, the sweetest young couple I have ever met, got married June 23, and was that ever a happy affair. 
Before that, on June 1st, two of my best friends, Sarah and John Glenn got married, and I had the honor of attending Sarah as a bridesmaid. (my first time!) That weekend was full of crazy adventures and lovely, lovely memories.  After the honeymoon, they moved back to Dayton (John works at the school) and needless to say, Sarah and I spent a lot of time together. Almost every afternoon you could find us together drinking coffee or tea and watching a BBC Dickens adaptation, or Doctor Who, or just being together. She kept me from going insane with loneliness. 

Speaking of coffee... ( I know, that was two sentences ago) I did the math this morning and I drank upwards of 200 cups of coffee this summer. With my late work schedule, I finally figured out the best times of the day for me to get my coffee fix in order to not fall asleep at the wheel on the drive home. I found a blessed routine in the ritual of coffee making and drinking that gave a certain steadiness to my life. 
I read a lot, of course. But then, when am I NOT reading? I always have a L'Engle book on my nightstand (and I'm really excited cause I have a new one coming in the mail!) I'm still working my way through Little Dorrit, and I read various childrens and teen lit books...you know, light and fun stuff. But if I were to choose one book to hold above the rest this summer, it would be A Tree Grows in Brooklyn by Betty Smith. That is one book that you can truly savor and digest, and incidentally one that really embodies my summer theme of ordinary adventures. Francie Nolan knows what it means to see the beauty in small things. 

“People always think that happiness is a faraway thing," thought Francie, "something complicated and hard to get. Yet, what little things can make it up; a place of shelter when it rains - a cup of strong hot coffee when you're blue; for a man, a cigarette for contentment; a book to read when you're alone - just to be with someone you love. Those things make happiness." --A Tree Grows in Brooklyn

And by these standards  I have had a very happy summer.


Ordinary Adventures Part 1: In Theory

The word "adventure" seems to have become a popular word in my generation. I used it as a search term on pinterest to get a visual as I was writing and the results (click here to see them!) were full of rope bridges and hang-gliders and beautiful, far-off landscapes.  The text that accompanied some of these images expressed--among other things--curiosity, excitement, and a restless spirit.  Yes, by definition (Merriam Webster in this case) Adventure primarily means "an undertaking usually involving danger and unknown risks," but it's the secondary definition that I'd like to think about for a little bit. Take out the danger and unknown risks, and you get an "exciting or remarkable experience." I am persuaded to believe that with the right mindset, anything you undertake can be a remarkable experience.

That has been the theme of my summer this year. Finding adventures in the ordinary. Ordinary adventures. I have friends that went overseas this summer, to Ireland, Africa, and India, and in no way do I mean to discredit the adventures they had, but in my own longing to go places and see the world first hand I began to recognize a misinformed idea that you have to go to have adventures. Going is good, and I hope that I can go places one day, (Summit Oxford has a strong magnetic pull for me right now)  but how can I possibly appreciate the adventures abroad, if I can't even appreciate the little adventures that pop up in my everyday life?

I was reading G.K. Chesterton's Tremendous Trifles essay collection earlier this summer, when I was first starting to mull over this idea of having ordinary adventures and in the title essay, one passage in particular really validated my thoughts on the matter. Chesterton was writing about different schools of thought in literature, referencing Rudyard Kipling in saying that some thing that adventures must be had on a grand scale in order to be worthwhile. However, Chesterton's own view was that even the ordinary person in everyday life can see things, and maybe more so. According to Chesterton, Kiplings theory is that,
 "We moderns are to regain the primal zest by sprawling all over the world growing used to travel and geographical variety, being at home everywhere, that is being at home nowhere."
(Having lived in three vastly different regions of the United States I've had enough of being at home nowhere, thanks very much.)

Chesterton goes on to say that,
"The purpose of Kipling literature is to show how many extraordinary things a man may see if he is active and strides from continent to continent... But the object of my school is to show how many extraordinary things even a lazy and  ordinary man may see if he can spur himself to the single activity of seeing."
Of course that last bit got hold of my mind and wouldn't let go, as those who know me well know that I am ever on a quest to truly see the world and not just look at or even through it, but to truly see--things, people, events--as God intended us to, and in so doing, become a little more particularly the particular me I was meant to be.

 And now, I've gone on longer than I anticipated about the ideas in my head this summer... I'll spare your eyes for now and save the practical aspect of my ordinary adventures this summer for part 2 tomorrow!

Doctor Who: Why I Watch It and Other Things

WARNING: The following contains jargon and unexplained references to a complicated TV show. Read at your own risk. also, SPOILERS maybe. Just to be on the safe side.

It was only a matter of time before I wrote this post... Ask me what I've been doing for fun this summer, and I'll tell you three things: Reading, sleeping and watching Doctor Who. By the end of this weekend I will have completed 4 seasons of the highly acclaimed BBC show, and I am not ashamed of this fact.
I decided to write this post for a couple of reasons,
1.) To better explain to the various non-whovians* in my friend group my unabashed love for the show,
2.) To explain to my whovian friends why I can watch the show completely out of order and still respect its 50 year legacy.
3.) To explain why the Eleventh Doctor is my favorite (and its NOT just because he's the best looking)

*whovian: noun. A word which here means, "fan of Doctor Who"

So, here's my story.
I started watching Doctor Who (henceforth abbreviated as DW) in January of 2012, at the beginning of the Spring Semester. I had nothing to do after moving back in to the dorms and I had been thinking about giving the show a try, so I wrapped up in blankets and queued up my Netflix. I started at Season 5, where Matt Smith picks up the story as the Eleventh Doctor. This is one point on which on of my whovian friends and I disagree "You can't just start in the middle of a show!" he says.
I say you can.
I had researched the show before I started. (What can I say, I'm a librarian!) Being active on Tumblr and Pinterest had let me in on the fact that this was no new fad, but rather a longstanding, well respected show with a huge fan base and a lasting legacy of nearly 50 years. But where do you start with a show of such enormous proportions?
This is what it's like starting Doctor Who
There are three answers, none of them right, none of them wrong. It just depends on your personal preference.
1.) Start with Classic Who. Not all of the Classic episodes even exist anymore, having been lost, or (sadly) just chucked in the rubbish heap by BBC (the archivist in me cries bitter tears at this thought) but Netflix does have a few key stories from each of the Eight Doctors before the show went off the air.
2.) Start at the reboot. A fan decided to revive the show after it had been off the air for about 16 years. The the reboot starts up with a new season numbering starting at season one with the Ninth Doctor.
3.) Start at the most recent Doctor. While researching, I found fan forums saying that this was an acceptable way to start, so thats what I did. I picked up with Matt Smith as the Eleventh Doctor  at Season 5.

"But you won't understand the story!" you say.
Let me ask you this. Do you think Amy Pond understood the entire life story of the Doctor and the race of the Time Lords when she first met Eleven when he dropped out of the sky in a blue box and landed in her
garden? No.  I learned about the Doctor along with his companions, and I think that's a perfectly acceptable way to approach the show. (Also, I pick up on things quickly, so it wasn't any problem.)

That being said, Eleven is undeniably my favorite for a couple reasons, the most simple being a phrase that is oft repeated in the sphere of the whovian universe.  "You never forget your first Doctor." I fell in love with the story of the Doctor while watching with Eleven, therefore, I am unshakably loyal to him as my favorite.
But there are other reasons I like Eleven. His style for one, I adore the awkward, tripping all over himself, long-legged, bow-tie and suspenders wearing image that Matt Smith shaped as his version of the Doctor.
Secondly, his theme song. Murray Gold composed the most wonderful piece of TV music in the universe when he wrote the "I Am The Doctor" Theme. It is truly beautiful and will never get old in my ears. Thirdly, his speeches and quotes are marvelous. One minute he'll be giving an epic, blood-stirring speech of defiance from the middle of Stonehenge, and the next minute he's speaking the most uncanny words of wisdom. He speaks with such universality, that even non-whovians might see a quote and be inspired by the philosophy of the Doctor as it is realized in the words of his Eleventh Regeneration. Quotes like
"You know that in nine hundred years of time and space and I've never met anybody who wasn't important before." 
 and
 "My experience has been that there is, surprisingly, always hope." 
 are only a two examples of the life-giving mentality that I love about the Eleventh Doctor. No, I haven't seen all of the other Regenerations yet, but from what I have seen, this is a special something about the Doctor that Eleven brings out very well. And THAT, my friends is the ultimate reason why I love Eleven.
Now, I don't expect my non-whovian friends to drop everything and start watching the show immediately. I'm not a radical, just a gentle evangelist, when it comes to winning people over to my fandom. If you don't want to come, its ok. I understand. Not everyone has the time or energy to be a fan-girl/-boy. Nor do I expect my whovian friends to agree with me totally. Just hear me out and see things from where I stand for a minute. Its a lovely place, but not for everyone. Just take a peek at the view from here, then you can go back to your linear, logical standpoints. ;)
And for all you people, like my mom, who don't really get why I get so obsessed with things like Doctor Who, I leave you with a quote from author John Green on what it means to be a nerd.
 “…because nerds like us are allowed to be unironically enthusiastic about stuff… Nerds are allowed to love stuff, like jump-up-and-down-in-the-chair-can’t-control-yourself love it. When people call people nerds, mostly what they’re saying is ‘you like stuff.’ Which is just not a good insult at all. Like, ‘you are too enthusiastic about the miracle of human consciousness’.” 
Peace, my fellow enthusiasts-of-the-miracle-of-human-consciousness. Over and Out. S

time enough to dream

I don't know when I last enjoyed such a day of freedom as this gloriously quiet Saturday, but I sure know that there won't be many more this summer. There are two more weekends in the summer, one of which I'll be traveling to Nashville and back. Don't get me wrong, it'll be fantastic to go home before school starts up again, but I have grown to love the independence of Saturdays on my lonesome.

Now, Mom, because I know you're gonna read this at some point, don't be upset and think I don't miss the family or anything--That's what Sundays are for (haven't you noticed I usually call on Sunday?) 

It was one of those mornings where I wake up around eight, same as usually, but instead having to o up immediately and preparing for work in the library, I just grabbed a book and stayed in bed. I'm reading a new teen lit book that the Dayton Library had on display, Eleanor and Park by Rainbow Rowell. It's a story I'd class with the likes of The Fault in Our Stars or anything  by Sarah Dessan. It was one of those mornings where I read while I get dressed and do my hair, while I eat my burnt toast (burnt cause I wasn't paying attention to the toaster oven) and nutella (well... Jif's imitation nutella, which is just as good and half as expensive) and pretty much don't put the book down for anything unless I have to.

My one real chore for the day was grocery shopping, which despite the kvetching I'd done at work the night before about not wanting to have to run errands, turned out to be not so bad. I enjoyed trying to figure out what I'd cook today for the week to come. I ended up with an amazing pot of potato soup (with carrots and parsnips and onions, Oh My!) that will dole out nicely for dinners at work this week. It'll be a nice change from Ramen for sure.

The rest of my afternoon was unashamedly filled with back to back episodes of Doctor Who and coffee and knitting my Amy Dorrit Shawl. I finished off Series One (with a pounding heart at the finale and regeneration of Nine and great cheers at the appearance of Ten), made a dent in Series Two (while chopping vegetables) and nearly finished the shawl.

The thing I like about Doctor Who, is that its a very Naming show. The writers are sometimes brilliant (more recently they've been nothing but) and it stirs my thinker in lovely ways, so all the in  betweens of today have provided plenty of time to dream and fodder to dream on. There's been no rush to get out the door to work, no exhaustion of coming home at midnight, brain- and body-tired. The whole day was filled with a lovely, free, hopeful feeling. Even pumping gas at the the walmart gas station turned into a glorious moment when a summer storm broke out over head. Little things like that excite me :)

Now that I've gotten to the end of this post, I've realized that I really didn't have all that much of import to say. Maybe I was attempting to preserve at least a shred of this idyllic day. I almost never take pictures (and some things which can't be captured on film) but rather I hold stories and feelings and memories in state in my mind... folded neatly into little drawers, to be taken and out and reviewed at my leisure.

As a last word, which is not really a word at all, I leave you with a mini playlist of two of  my current favorite songs, which I feel properly exemplify this day.

till next time lovely readers.
S

Rubber Bands

I'm working in Quality Control, reviewing and packing a large order of film reels, which has a lot of loose rubber bands.  I can't resist stretching one out on my thumb and shooting it across the room. It flies true, all the way from Shipping to Processing. I retrieve it with a mischievious grin, then return to my workstation. The rubber bands sitting on the table amid plastic CD sleeves and pens and neon pink highlighters trigger a long ago memory. Paperclip Guy (the king of all random stories) takes a seat at the disc printer. As I pick up another order, I ask him if he wants to hear a random story. He has no choice.

Once upon a time I was an awkward middle-schooler. A very awkward middle-schooler. I used carry a couple rubber bands with me at all times, wearing them on my wrists like bracelets, as self protection against the middle school boys in my sunday school class.

"How did they protect you?" asks Paperclip Guy, waiting for discs to print. 
"I would shoot them if they annoyed me," I answer, "I was a vicious little thing if provoked."

He asks when I stopped. 
I honestly don't remember. I'm not sure I ever did. I tell him that I still shoot my brothers with rubber bands when then need it.
His discs are almost finished printing as he asks where I fall in birth order. 
His knowing nod when I tell him I'm number one says, "that explains it all."

All of a sudden, I see something in my story, something that reminds me of Fourth Brother James. In a moment of clarity, I see my self ten years ago contrasted against Fourth Brother now. We are so similar--our copious amounts of reading (mostly fantasy), our quirky habits. His behavior of late begins to make some sense. I can see things more from his perspective. I was an awkward middle schooler once, just as he is now. I decide at the end of this long, branching bunny trail that I can, just maybe, cut him a little slack.