31 December 2011

A Romance of My Own

Before we got married, my husband asked me what my idea of a perfect romantic outing was. Now let me tell you, I am talented at answering questions, if I do say so myself. The hundreds of multiple-choice questions on the SAT and ACT, and the countless essay questions I’ve faced since starting college never fazed me, but this one did. For a moment, I was speechless. After some minutes passed by, I replied, “Ummmm, I don’t know, what’s your idea of a romantic outing?”
Definitely not my most brilliant conversational moment. The fact was, I couldn’t think of anything, anything at all, that sounded romantic that I would like to do. I mean, if he had asked me what kind of date I thought would be fun, I could have come up with some answers. I would have suggested bowling, or a Mexican restaurant, or a game of mini-golf. But while none of those fit my idea of the concept of “romance,” I couldn’t think of anything else that did. I’d seen what the word “romantic” meant, in movies and books, of course! But I’d much prefer a steak or fajitas to anything French, Italian, or from the sea, so a fancy restaurant with elegantly dressed waiters wouldn’t work. I also think candlelight dinners to be highly impractical, as fluorescent light bulbs simply provide a highly superior quantity of light. I do appreciate a nice bouquet of flowers, but putting rose petals on the ground just looks like a mess to me. The only poems I appreciate to their full extent are of the humorous type—the long-winded, amorous ones that I read in my high-school literature book bored me. I wanted to think of a good answer to Angel’s question, but I had honestly never given much thought to romance, nor had I come up with specific ideas as to what I would want romance to look like when I was all grown up and had a husband to woo me.
I don’t remember exactly what Angel replied when I, in turn, asked him what he thought was a romantic outing. I believe he said that he thought it would involve getting dressed up nice and going out to eat. Clearly neither of us was highly inclined towards the activities that are traditionally thought of as romantic. We decided to drop any ideas of romance for the time being and just continue our happy relationship without any of that nonsense barging its way in. It could also be noted that at this time in our relationship Angel was still insisting that he planned not to love me until after we got married, as he thought it would be very inconvenient to be in love with me and not yet be married to me. Ha. Needless to say, he couldn’t keep that up for very long, and we just had to put up with the inconvenience of love while we planned a wedding with all due haste.
One year into marriage, however, I am happy to discover that I’ve found romance! I even have an answer for the question of what my idea of a romantic outing is. Picture this: going for a walk with your beloved in a quiet cemetery, wandering among the stones and reading the epitaphs, commenting on the stories that can be pieced together from the information on family stones, learning about people that you were never able to meet. Angel and I first went cemetery exploring together on our honeymoon and added another activity that can be pursued in a cemetery: planning what features we want our joint tombstone to have. A cemetery is, without doubt, the place to go if you want ideas for planning your own stone. As of now, I think we’ve decided we want a black stone that includes the places where we were born, our wedding date, and pictures of us, in addition to the mandatory names and birth and death dates. Probably as we go on to explore more cemeteries in the years to come, we’ll notice other interesting features and incorporate them into our design. With all the primary research we plan to do, I’m pretty sure that we’ll design a stone that will bring enjoyment to many others like us who enjoy a stroll through a cemetery. My mom told me when I was little that cemeteries were romantic, but I never believed her. I’m not sure if this is what she meant, but I find them to be romantic now. I’m sure the rose petals and French restaurants with appropriately elegant waiters work for some people—but it’s my suspicion that everyone has their own unique activities in which they find romance.
21 December 2011


“Don’t you remember the three rules I gave you before you started college?” he queried sternly.
“Yes, Grandpa. No alcohol. No drugs. No boys.” I replied.
“And you agreed to obey those rules.”
“Yes, Grandpa.”
“Well, what do you have to say for yourself? Are you sorry for what you’ve done?”
“What? You’re supposed to be sorry. You broke the rules. Are you sorry?”
“No, Grandpa, I’m not sorry.”
He sighed, with a grin on his face. “No, I guess you’re not. So when are we having the wedding?”
I just remembered this conversation which took place the first time I saw Grandpa after I got engaged to Angel, and it made me laugh. It’s true, I did break the rule about no boys in college—but I’m still not sorry.

A Winter Adventure

As I kneel down to lace up my boots, I run through my mental checklist of everything I need: two pairs of socks, insulated jeans, thermal shirt, sweatshirt, winter coat, gloves, hat, scarf. Scarf! That’s what I had forgotten! I clumsily ran back to the living room in my boots and pulled my scarf out of the closet and wound it tightly around my face so that it covered my nose and ears, to protect them from the biting wind. Now I was ready to face the outdoors.
I opened the screen door slowly, but a gust of wind snatched it out of my hand and banged it open all the way. Quickly I grabbed the door, and using both hands, was able to close it completely. Then I began walking resolutely in the direction of my goal. It was hard, because the wind was blowing directly against me, so hard that sometimes I felt like I’d be swept off my feet. But step by step, I was getting closer to what I had set out to do. Finally, I was almost there! I stumbled down the short but slippery incline towards the road and jerked open the door of the mailbox. Aha! Mail! I grabbed the three envelopes that were there, shut the door, and clutching them tightly, began my trip back to the house. Going this direction, the wind was with me, and I was able to run. At some points, I felt as if the wind were even helping to speed me to my destination. I made it to the screen door, and gripped the envelopes between my teeth while opening the door carefully with both hands, so that the wind would not catch the door again. I stepped inside the house and pulled the door tightly closed behind me. I ran into the kitchen and turned on a kettle to boil. There I stripped off boots, hat, coat, gloves, and scarf. When the water came to a boil, I prepared myself a cup of much needed hot chocolate and sat down to inspect my booty: 2 bills and a Christmas card.


Does the fact that I wrote a three page paper on the relationship between Watson and Holmes make me a geek? Oh well, it is in honor of the most recent Sherlock Holmes movie that I present the following to you, my readers.

At a first glance, it can be hard to figure out why Sherlock Holmes and John (affectionately known as James) Watson are such an inseparable pair. A heartless intellectual who has no patience with the slow mental processes of his fellow humans and who lacks completely in interpersonal skills except when he chooses to use them seems to have little in common with an amiable doctor who knows his profession but seems to enjoy laziness, appreciates a good-looking woman, is rather susceptible to getting his feelings hurt, and perhaps has slight weaknesses where gambling and drink are concerned.
Yet these two very different figures are hardly separable from one another. Whenever Watson finds himself unmarried, he is often eager to quickly move back to his home in Baker Street, and Holmes is glad to have him back. Even when Watson is married, he visits Holmes at his rooms and spends long hours off gallivanting with Holmes, without much apparent thought to his wife, who is often conveniently away on a visit.
On a superficial level, one could infer that Holmes wants Watson around because Watson’s honest admiration of the great detective’s skills is comforting to Holmes’s vanity. Watson often expresses amazement and wonder at Holmes’s intellectual feats, such as making many accurate deductions about the character of a guest based on the guest’s appearance. But this hardly explains such a hardy relationship. As we have already seen, Holmes and Watson are of very different tastes and temperaments. Watson disapproves of Holmes’s drug use, and confronts him about it in The Sign of Four. Holmes annoys Watson with his extreme messiness and fits of laziness which prevent him from cleaning up the apartment except on rare occasions. In “The Musgrave Ritual,” Watson implores Holmes to do some cleaning up but Holmes distracts Watson from the messy state of the apartment by telling him a story of one of his earliest successfully solved mysteries. Holmes often speaks very sharply to Watson, condemning his lack of ability to analyze and deduct useful information. In The Hound of the Baskervilles, Holmes encourages Watson to use his methods to make deductions about the owner of a stick that was left at their apartment, and afterward Holmes proceeds to show that nearly all of Watson’s deductions were wrong.
Yet there is an enduring friendship between these two very different characters, and perhaps it is their very differences which make them such a formidable team. Both Holmes and Watson have their own unique abilities which they bring to the partnership. Holmes, with his brilliant intelligence, offers excitement and drama to the otherwise quiet life that Watson may have led when he returned to England. Watson, on the other hand, offers Holmes a willing, obedient, and reliable comrade in any of Holmes’s adventures, legal or not. Watson also, in some cases, such as "The Adventure of the Engineer's Thumb," brings an interesting case to the attention of Holmes.
Having this trustworthy accomplice is invaluable to Holmes during the solving of countless cases, whether he sends Watson on errands that he cannot accomplish himself or asks him to bring his revolver along on a dangerous mission. Holmes himself says of Watson in The Hound of the Baskervilles that “There is no man who is better worth having at your side when you are in a tight place." This is proved true when Watson saves Holmes's life as well as his own in "The Adventure of the Devil's Foot" by his quick reaction to Holmes's ill-advised experiment. Watson, or rather his revolver, come in specifically useful in “The Problem of Thor Bridge” for helping Holmes to verify the manner in which the crime was committed. On that occasion, Watson apparently stood by Holmes and watched him manhandle his gun, allowing it to be drowned in the marsh without saying a word about it.
But Watson isn’t always so unruffled by his friend’s strange behavior. At times he is quite offended when Holmes insults his intelligence. And he admits that he “suffered” under Holmes’s habit of not explaining his actions or revealing his plans until the very last minute (The Hound of the Baskervilles). And Watson justly feels “hurt” when Holmes refuses to give him any encouraging congratulations on his engagement to Mary Morstan (The Sign of Four). Holmes does not seem to treat Watson with the greatest care, or even common politeness. He even allows Watson to believe he is dead or dying on more than one occasion. One could assume that Watson put up with all of Holmes’s queer treatment because he admired the intelligence of the man or because he enjoyed the excitement offered by helping Holmes solve his mysteries. But there is evidence of a deeper connection between these two men.
In spite of his low estimation of Watson’s analytical skills, Holmes tells Charles Augustus Milverton that “Dr. Watson is my friend and partner”. In "The Five Orange Pips," Holmes claims that Watson is his only friend. I deduce from that statement that he didn't consider any of the Scotland Yard detectives that he worked with as friends, not even Lestrade, who occasionally came over for a chat and a drink. This is certainly expected, seeing that Holmes had few good words to say about those detectives. Watson often refers to Holmes as his “friend” throughout the stories, but he seems to take a more humble view of the relationship, when, in The Hound of the Baskervilles he speaks of Holmes as his “Master”.
I believe that the most touching scene regarding Holmes and Watson’s relationship comes in “The Adventure of the Three Garridebs.” In this story, Watson is shot by the criminal, and Holmes immediately knocks the criminal out, then attends to Watson, saying “You’re not hurt, Watson? For God’s sake, say that you are not hurt!”
                Watson comments: “It was worth a wound—it was worth many wounds—to know the depth of loyalty and love which lay behind that cold mask. The clear, hard eyes were dimmed for a moment, and the firm lips were shaking. For the one and only time I caught a glimpse of a great heart as well as of a great brain. All my years of humble but single-minded service culminated in that moment of revelation.”
After finding out that Watson’s wound is merely superficial, Holmes turns on the criminal and says, “If you had killed Watson, you would not have got out of this room alive.”
Now, perhaps this scene is just a little melodramatic, but I like melodrama! And so does Holmes. The scene does show that Holmes has affection for Watson and has a high value on his life.
We know that Watson has a high regard for Holmes from “The Final Problem” where he eulogizes Holmes as “The best and wisest man whom I have ever known.” Also, in "The Case of the Dying Detective," Watson is so concerned for his friend's welfare that he goes so far as to break societal convention and barges in on Culverton Smith when it is apparent that the butler will not allow him in, because he believes that only Culverton Smith can save Sherlock Holmes's life. When Watson first hears that Holmes is attacked for getting involved in “The Case of the Illustrious Client,” he is ready to “thrash” those who harmed his friend.
This close friendship benefits both Holmes and Watson, as Watson gets the excitement of sharing in Holmes's adventures, and he also gets to exercise his pen, in telling us all about the peculiar character and habits of his friend. Holmes does need an accomplice on many of his missions, and the willing Watson fills that role most admirably. We must also admit, that without Watson, we should have never known of Holmes and his adventures, because even if Holmes had taken it upon himself to write down his adventures, he would have done it in a textbook format and likely none but the most scholarly among us should have ever stumbled across that volume. This friendship, which lasted till the two were elderly men in "His Last Bow," benefited both of them, and it was also beneficial to us as the readers of Holmes's adventures. I have no doubt that the relationship between Holmes and Watson also served as a model for later detectives who aspired to a fame as great as Sherlock's. Of these, I am most familiar with Hercule Poirot, whose adventures were chronicled by Agatha Christie. He has his own "Watson," who, in this case is named Arthur Hastings. Poirot met Hastings very soon after Hastings had returned to England after being injured in a war. At one point in his career, Poirot shares rooms with Hastings. Hastings does not have the intelligence of Poirot, and it is very easy for a beautiful woman to catch his attention. In fact, it is in assisting Poirot in solving one of his crimes that Hastings falls in love with the woman who later becomes his wife. The similarities between Hastings and Watson are obvious, just as obvious as the enormous differences between Hercule Poirot and Sherlock Holmes. It is clear to me that in many ways, Poirot decided to go his own route in establishing his reputation as a great detective, but in studying the methods of his great predecessor Sherlock Holmes, decided that it was necessary to have a Watson of his own if he was to reach the same heights of detective fame that Sherlock Holmes did. When Poirot stumbled upon the acquaintance of Arthur Hastings in the adventure recorded in The Mysterious Affair at Styles he quickly realized the resemblances between Hastings and Watson and set out to make Hastings his intimate friend. Poirot realized, as we all should, that Holmes would not be Holmes without his Watson. Together, Holmes and Watson make up a team that any criminal should be afraid to meet.
19 December 2011

Terms of Endearment

I have a bad habit of calling people names when I am frustrated or impatient with them. I try to repress this embarrassing impulse, but the names slip out during the most inopportune times. Since I started attending college, I have tried even harder to watch my mouth—because calling a professor “Sweetie” would be very hard to explain.
Yes, I use terms of endearment when I am annoyed at someone: Love, Sweetheart, Baby, Honey. I always have. I think it may be due to the fact that my first experiences of having my patience tested were brought to me by my younger siblings. I love my younger siblings, and, besides that, anything even remotely approaching rude or derogatory language would be punished severely in my family—so all normal forms of name-calling or insults were completely out of the question when it came to responding to frustrations. So, the only way I could express my feelings was a polite, “Honey, you need to stop wasting time and get your schoolwork done.” Or “Sweetie, you’re not allowed to get into my makeup.” These were often said through clenched teeth, which gave a slightly different tone to the precisely worded statements, and usually inspired immediately action on the part of my younger siblings.
As I got a little older, I started teaching Vacation Bible School and Children’s Church classes, and I found more occasions to use these words. “Honey, there is no talking while I am teaching or you won’t get any snack today.” Yes, I believe I was considered the second meanest children’s church teacher in our congregation, why do you ask?
In my teens I found that upon occasion, my friends, particularly the guys, would annoy me to quite a degree. Normally, I believe that becoming annoyed is a weakness on the part of the person who is annoyed, and that they should seek to be gracious to those that annoy them and refuse to have a bad attitude about it. But I swear, teenage guys get a certain unholy pleasure out of annoying their female peers, and we should probably let them have their fun. There were a couple awkward situations when I would explode “Honey!” or “Baby!” at a young man who had not been initiated into my habits of expressing frustration, thereby giving him quite a surprise, as he was probably not expecting such a pseudo-affectionate response. My siblings, who knew all about my habit, would usually explain the situation to the guy, and we’d all have a good laugh at my expense.
Now that I’m married and on the verge on entering the professional world, I have to be even more careful to suppress my instinct to hurl terms of endearment at people when I want to relieve my feelings. Some months ago, Angel and I were playing games with a bunch of our friends and I became especially annoyed at a dear friend of ours who is as frustrating as he is lovable. “Honey!!” I yelled at him. He stopped his banter, and his mouth dropped open. Immediately, he sought Angel, who was in another part of the room and hadn’t heard the exchange. “Your wife just called me ‘honey’!” he tattled. “Hah!” Angel grunted. “You don’t know what that means. I do.”
Yes, he knows me well.
30 November 2011

Not a Writing but Certainly Random

 One of my other favorite hobbies is acting, if you'd like you can check out the link to a "commercial" I acted in which purports to show how very, very fun it is to be a college student. I do not recommend that you believe this commercial's portrayal of a typical day in the life of a college student, seeing as it involves no sitting in classrooms and very little studying.
College Student Fall Day

Lessons Learned from a Lost ID

There was no doubt about it, I had lost my student ID. I’d already checked the pockets of my coat and jeans several times, looked in my wallet, and searched all the places I had been since the last time I remembered feeling the familiar plastic rectangle in the right pocket of my coat. I was not too happy. This was my second ID since starting college, and I really didn’t want to pay another $20 fee to get a new one. Granted, $20 is not a fortune, and I was blessed enough to have a twenty dollar bill in my wallet at the time, but I really did not want to waste it on another ID card. As I walked toward my next class, I prayed that somehow, I would find it, or that someone would return it to me. I’ve prayed for lost things ever since I was a little kid, scrambling to find a lost shoe right before leaving for church. Praying when I’ve lost something has really become a tradition for me. But even as I prayed that I’d find my ID, I was already thinking of ways that I might attempt to talk myself out of the fee when I went to request a new ID. After all, this ID was more than a year old, and it didn’t even have my married name on it, it shouldn’t be too hard to convince the college bureaucracy to give me a new one for free, should it? I briefly considered trying to make it through graduation without an ID—I only have 6 months to go, how often could I need to have an ID during that time? Unfortunately, college IDs are a very useful thing to have, both at my college and at all the restaurants and theaters that give me discounts when I whip out that little piece of plastic.
               I attended my Spanish class and practiced the subjunctive, and afterward I went straight to check my college email, as is my habit. Professors frequently email their classes at the very last minute and still expect their students to have studied and understood all of their emails by the time class begins. I had one unread email which read, “Hi Rachel, We have your ID waiting for you at the front desk across from the dining hall.”
                Standing in front of that computer, I suddenly remembered my quick prayer, the prayer of habit, and I was humbled. I prayed that I would be able to find my ID, but I was too caught up in planning my own strategies of how to get a new one free of charge that I didn’t even actually have faith that God would answer my prayer. I’ve prayed prayers of faith before; I’ve seen God answer prayers in miraculous ways. And I still didn’t even have faith that He would answer my prayer about a lost ID. Yet He did.  Thank you God, for being faithful when I am faithless.
27 October 2011

A Love Letter

We’ve already been together a year, but I still get butterflies every time I see you, my red microwave. My life is more exciting, just because you’re in it. You’re so special and unique in everything you do. Whenever I need you, you’re right there. You never leave me hanging, or try to play games with me. When I need my leftover pizza warmed up, you’re always willing to help, no matter what time of day or night. I love you for what you do for me, yes, it’s true; I also love you just because you’re you. So many other microwaves are content with being white or black or silver—but you had the guts to be different, and express your own sense of style. Some hoity-toity microwaves insist on being installed into the wall instead of being content with sitting on the countertop. That’s just another thing I love about you—you’re laid-back and satisfied with what we have together. You’re always up for adventure and a change of scenery. If the kitchen needs rearranging, you’re happy to sit on any counter. I am assured that when life calls me to another job, another town, you’ll come with me. My best friends don’t love me enough to move with me wherever I go, but you do, and I’m so thankful for such steadfast love. My heart will break if our relationship ever ends—please, we won’t let that happen, will we? I love you and I need you, my red microwave. No matter how many new models come out, no matter what new technology develops, I will be faithful to you, as I vowed: “For better or worse, for richer or for poorer, in sickness and in health.” Here’s looking forward to many more years of bliss—whoever said relationships were tough?
23 October 2011

On Professors

We all have to encounter them sooner or later. In the olden days, students relied on word-of-mouth to discover which professors at a school should be avoided, but now we have convenient sites like that we can refer to when choosing classes for the next semester. In my college experience, I have found that professors fall into 4 general categories:

The Professors who Dislike Having Students
Many of these professors are those who never wanted to be a professor at all. They wanted to be academics; researchers and scholars who wrote erudite articles to be published in journals read only by the upper crust of academic society. However, these intellectuals found that even scholars must eat and so they became professors, a profession which allowed them some time for research and the writing of scholarly journal articles, but not nearly enough, because of the necessity of wasting countless hours grading the papers of wretched undergraduates and replying to their redundant emails. Professors in this category are those who cancel class due to the most trivial of reasons. These professors will likely instruct their students to ask their classmates any questions about the class and assignments, rather than sending emails or, even worse, coming to visit the professor in his or her office to discuss the matter. These professors are the ones who don’t remember your name until about the last week of classes. Sometimes these professors are British. I’m not saying that there’s a correlation, but it just seems that I’ve heard the “I can’t believe that I’m wasting my time and energy on you lazy American undergraduates when I could be writing another book on the role of the chorus in Greek tragedy” speech more often delivered with a British accent.

The Professors who Want to be Your Friend
I’m sure these professors are really actually very nice people, but I have to admit that they make me somewhat uncomfortable. I enjoy and appreciate the students vs. professor dynamic in most classrooms, but those professor that insist that you call them “Steve” rather than “Professor Jonker” just make things a little awkward. These professors are the ones who invite you over to their house for movies or even Thanksgiving dinner, and the say things like, “I find students so much more interesting once I get to know them outside of class.” I know they have the best intentions, but it’s hard not to hear the creepy music playing in the background when professors attempt to prove that they can still chill with college students.
The Evil Professors
                These professors are not to be confused with professors who don’t want to have students. These professors want to have students all right, for the express purpose of making their students’ lives miserable. These are the professors who give out 213 review questions for the final exam, and end up putting just ten of those questions on the exam, with another five questions that don’t look even remotely like any of the review questions. These are the kind of professors who write midterms that require twenty pages of handwritten essays, and feign surprise when their students are unable to finish the test in the allotted time. These professors take pride in giving the highest number of failing grades in their department, and boast to their current students that the last student who got an A in their class was in 2001. They have strict rules against making audio recordings of their lecture, but then they expect to have entire lectures, complete with sub-points and illustrations, repeated back to them on tests. Avoid these professors, it you can.

The Professors that Everyone Loves
                There are some professors that students just can’t get enough of. When their name comes up in conversation, students will say, “Oh, I had her for English 101, she was so awesome! I’m taking her again for my capstone course.” These professors are sought after and coveted by the unlucky students taking classes taught by evil professors. The qualities that make a professor loved are somewhat varied, but often include leniency when it comes to assignment deadlines, creative teaching strategies (perhaps involving songs, movie clips, or puppets), a solid review strategy that prepares students for tests, and a facility for remembering their student’s names.
              Choose wisely as you plan your semester’s schedule, as the kind of professors you have will influence the way you spend your days and nights for months to come. Will you cry yourself to sleep every night because you are under the firm rule of a tyrant of a professor? I hope I won’t.