Monday, May 28, 2012

A Conglomeration of Memorial Day Thoughts

Happy Memorial Day!

I truly am thankful for the many people who have sacrificed so much - everything, in some cases - in the service of our country. Especially those I have personally interacted with: my brother-in-law stationed in Alaska, two cousins stationed in Afghanistan, both grandfathers who fought in the army during the Vietnam era, two uncles and several great-uncles, friends from high school, the old men in church who would wear their veteran hats and pins, and the once-homeless Vietnam veteran who lives with my former piano teacher as he goes through surgery after surgery, still fighting the effects of the war on his body. I have always been fascinated by war veterans, wondering what they truly went through - but not really wanting to know, at the same time. I also feel much gratitude to the wives of these honorable men, including my beautiful sister Jenessa. I've seen what they go through, but I cannot imagine what it would actually feel like.

My sister and her new(ish) husband :)
On Friday night I watched "Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close" with some friends. I totally bawled for a good majority of the time haha. It really made me think though, seeing the intense confusion of the boy who's father died in the World Trade Centers and who desperately tried to understand why someone would kill his dad, a complete stranger. It made me think about how war today isn't like how it used to be, or like how I once imagined it was. It's not always about right versus wrong. Or like when I was a little girl and would line up all the little toys to fight an epic battle, where the dinosaurs and monsters were the bad guys and the Little Bo Peeps and Hello Kittys were the good guys. Sometimes it's not that clear cut. Sometimes we're not even sure what we're fighting for anymore. But that makes me almost more grateful for the soldiers who still fight, who still pledge to defend the Constitution as their number-one priority, even if they're not sure exactly what that means. And sometimes, it's not just those in uniform who are the heroes - it's the firefighters who entered the crashing buildings knowing they'd probably never come out again, just to save a few individuals. It's the civilians, people like you and me, who rushed to others' safety without thinking of their own. On that day and in the months following, America was united. We may have looked weak to those who were laughing and celebrating at what they had done; but in my almost-20 years of life, we have never been stronger.

To be honest, I wasn't always so sure about America. In elementary school, I grew up feeling quite patriotic and proud of my country. However, over time the cynics really began to affect me, and I wondered if the United States wasn't as great as I had thought it was. It started to be "uncool" to be patriotic, and in a way, I could see why. I remember one day my sophomore year of high school as my principal - one of the most patriotic men I know - was speaking of America and the great nation that it is. I don't remember what he said exactly, but I remember that at one point, I made a sarcastic remark about America to the people next to me to try to get a laugh out of them. Well, it worked - but I felt horrible. By the time my principal was done talking, my teacher was furious. With great conviction, she told us about those who have died, and those in her family, in the service of this country. She reprimanded us for the disrespect we had shown, and we certainly felt it. I had much admiration and respect for my teacher, and I was so ashamed. I went to her later that day and choked out a measly apology for my disrespect. 

Still, I felt confused. In elementary school, our teachers taught us what a great country the United States is. By the time I was in high school, I felt like we were constantly told how many bad things the US had done and how it's not such an awesome country. It wasn't just the historical stuff like slavery or the near-complete annihilation of the Native Americans either - it seemed that America just couldn't seem to do anything right. How could I reconcile these conflicting statements? How could I love a country that had done so much wrong? Were the good things that the US actually did do just means to achieve selfish motives? And why does everyone in the whole world seem to hate us? 

I've thought a lot about these confusions I've had. Just in the past year, I've learned a lot about the United States in relation to other countries, and heaven knows we are not perfect. However, I realized today that maybe I can love the US in a way similar to how I love other people, or even how I love myself. I don't expect others to be perfect, but I love them anyways. I know that I am not perfect, but I can still love myself as I try to overcome my imperfections. And just because I love myself doesn't mean I hate everyone else. Maybe being patriotic isn't so different. I can love my country enough to want to help it become better. Loving my country doesn't mean I hate others - in fact, having a love for the United States helps me to see the good in other countries as well, and see what other countries do right that we can apply to our own country. I have hope in my country, just like I have hope in humanity. And, I can be proud to call it my country. I can listen to my country music, break out a good ole American-style BBQ, watch a fireworks display, and wear my red white and blue with pride.

So today, I say thank you to everyone who has sacrificed in the service of America. Because of you, I can enjoy the freedom I take for granted every day. God bless America!

Monday, May 21, 2012

Jobs get you jobs.

I got a new job! Yay!

I always feel really blessed with my job searches because it seems like I get jobs when I'm not looking for one, not when I actually am actively looking for one. Case in point: at the end of fall semester last year, I applied for a few jobs and the only thing I got was a job to work at the cafeteria, which I didn't really want (not that there's anything wrong with working at a cafeteria!). Then a day before winter semester, I got an email from a political science professor, saying that my PL SC 150 (Comparative Politics) professor had recommended me as a TA. Evidently he was pretty desperate for a TA, because he hired me before he even met me.

Then last week I was sitting in PL SC 150 as a TA, when someone started making an announcement about a research team on campus; since my job only lasts until the end of spring, I thought I'd better listen up. He said he works with the BYU Political Economy and Development lab in conjunction with an organization called AidData, which basically works to increase transparency and accessibility of international aid data. Since he announced that they were looking for new research assistants, so I thought it wouldn't hurt to check it out. I emailed the lady in charge of it, met up with her a few days later, handed her my resume, and sent her my transcript, and she hired me! It was great! Also...I had written up my resume just one day previously for a class assignment, so all I basically had to do was hand her my homework and I got the job :)

Since I don't actually start training until the end of spring term, I'm still not sure exactly what I'll be doing. It seems like the gist of what I'll be doing is what Wikipedia calls "geocoding," which is where I'll look through databases and records of international financial aid reports and code where exactly everything went, which will then show up on a map so that it's easy to see where the finances are going.

Anyways, here's a link to the research group I'll be working with: PEDL..and the AidData organization: AidData...and I like Wikipedia so I'm including it here for kicks: Wikipedia

I'm a little nervous because it's going to be a lot of time and work, but hopefully it'll be a good experience! :)

One more thing...since I love pictures but I don't really have any for this post, I decided to post a picture of these absolutely adorable African children! I know we'll work a lot with aid that goes to African countries, so I figured it was relevant enough (plus I just really really love African children...)

Friday, May 11, 2012

Swicket Showers

Friday morning at the SWKT--formally known as the Spencer W. Kimball Tower, commonly pronounced "swicket." Go figure. Anyways, Friday morning found me there at about 6:45 AM, 45 minutes later than I had planned. Some eight hours earlier I had found myself locked outside of said building, on the phone begging the BYU Police to just let me in and grab the midterms that I was supposed to have graded and entered by last night. Alas, no mercy was granted--although what I was really asking for was justice, as the building was not supposed to be closed for another 25 minutes! So, I was stuck having to come early this morning to enter the grades in time for my professor to access them before the 9 AM class. I decided that while I was at it, I might as well have an adventure...

First, a picture of how I looked when I got to the TA office in the basement of the SWKT. Yep. Proof that even drop-dead gorgeous people like myself don't look so hot early in the morning:
What am I doing here?!
It took me a while to finish up with the midterms, but by 8 AM they were all turned in. Then the real fun began. Once upon a time in my freshman year of college, I had a review session in the SWKT and happened to find a shower in one of the girl's bathrooms. I thought that that was funny, and later put "shower in the SWKT" on my mental bucket list of things to do before graduating from college. Today was the day.

Turns out I forgot where exactly the shower was, so I awkwardly walked around a few floors and went up and down the elevator a couple of times before I found it: the Shower, found on the 11th floor of the 12-story building, where research posters entitled "Changes in the Cingulate in Acute Mild TBI Detectable with Diffusion Tensor Imaging and their Relation to Memory Function" and "Functional Neuroimaging Evidence for High Cognitive Effort on the Word Memory Test in the Absence of External Incentives" are pinned up on the walls next to the "Center for the Study of Elections and Democracy" research rooms. Yeah, actually I can see how those would go together.

I was quite tickled when I turned on the shower and there was hot water--I was a little nervous that I would have to shower cold. Turns out it was almost better than the shower in my apartment...maybe I should do this every day and save on my utility costs! Anyways, some proof:

I'm not the only one who's had this idea...

Been a while since I've had to use these to shower!

Rub-a-dub-dub? Don't think I've ever carried shampoo, etc. to school with me before...glad I had a car this time! This was seriously so exciting haha.

 Ok enough pictures of the shower, that's just weird.

Yep, it was quite a success--I only had one person come and give me a really strange look until she finally asked, "Did you actually shower in here?!" 
<--I was at about this stage in my getting ready when she walked in. Super attractive. Pretty sure I made her day.

I finished up my morning by finally eating some breakfast. Yep, I definitely brought instant oatmeal to school. It was delicious.
The packet even matches the bowl! Definitely planned that.

There are only two things I would do differently if I were to do this again. First of all, I wouldn't forget my belt...that made for some awkward inconveniences. Second, I would definitely consider singing "Baby It's Cold Outside"--maybe then some cute elf would start singing with me.
yeah maybe not...

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Sophomore Whippersnappers

Clarification: I'm not actually a sophomore (anymore). However, I don't have much to write about regarding this past week, and seeing how I had so many groovy times last year but kept next to no journal, I decided I'm going to write a little tribute-to-Brookview-17-and-the-former-inhabitants-therein post! Here we go...

Fall Semester:
The proof-that-we-live-here picture!
On our way home we stopped by the duck pond south of campus. Next time, we should let the ducks join our picture. Especially since we have such an awesome relationship with them, after having one ding-dong-ditched at our doorstep late one night in honor of Sam's birthday...
Speaking of Sam's birthday, these pictures were taken at her party! Sam is super awesome and I am so glad I was able to live with her! She is enthusiastic about everything. I loved how all I had to do to make her jump was walk in the room and say hi. I loved having so many classes with her Winter semester--her crazy, fun spirit kept me going through our late nights in the library. I love her so much! "SNAP DIGGETY!"

Near the beginning of the year, a group of us from the ward went up to my old stomping ground, Aspen Grove, to hike to Stewart Falls! It was fun seeing the falls actually flowing and not frozen over like they were when I first got to AG. Everything was so beautiful and it was the perfect fall weather for a hike!
Leah worked with the Residence Halls Association for Heritage Halls, so basically she planned really awesome parties! Ashley and I went with her to this BYU Football Party she helped organize, where we hung out with her and a lot of crazy freshmen. Leah is always super dedicated to her work and does an awesome job! She is really great at making sure everyone is having fun and feeling included. She also has an awesome laugh! Plus, there's never a shortage of peanut butter when you live with Leah..."STOP. STOP JUDGING ME."

Halloween! I don't even remember what our jack-o-lanterns ended up looking like. But, we had fun making them! Especially Ai, apparently...

Here is Ai, with her face showing! I love this picture (even though it's fuzzy) because it's quintessential Ai (as in the girl, not the subjective first-person singular pronoun). Ai is from Japan - thus the name written in Japanese in ketchup on one of her amazing omelets. I had the joy of eating one of those omelets with ハナwritten on it, and it was divine. Besides being a fabulous cook, Ai always has awesome words of wisdom to impart unto us, and is just plain hilarious. "SOMETIMES I WANT TO HIT MY HEAD WITH THE WALL."
After running home one Sunday night in the rain...I like how this is one of the few pictures we have with all 6 of us roommates in the same picture. Just for all of our future progenitors...L-R is me, Sam, Ashley, Leah, Jordan, and Ai.

 The obligatory fall pics with the roomies. But aren't they great?! What a beautiful day and a beautiful campus. Amy Witt joined us in our pictures since Jordan wasn't there. She is probably one of the funniest girls I know! We always loved having her come visit :)

Another voyage to Aspen Grove! I used to clean this room...this time I got to party in it! Ward Christmas Party 2011 :) (once again, please excuse the fuzzy picture...)

Let's name all of the reasons why we are so excited here: (1) BYU won the basketball game! I think...maybe I'm just assuming we did because we're THAT AWESOME! I don't think we did actually. But it was a blast. (2) 2-for-1 pie shakes at Sammi's! (3) DONE WITH FALL SEMESTER FINALS. What a great feeling :)

 Winter Semester:

People always say that Sam and I look alike...actually some even thought we were sisters. Haha I don't know if I see it! But, I don't mind being compared to Sam :)
At the Hunger Games midnight premier! I did not want to go to this...but I'm so glad my roommates made me go! It was so worth it. Plus we had some intense roommate bonding while lost in the hills of Bluffdale...
Kinda love this picture of us. I'm so so happy that I get to room with Jordan this year! Jo is so much fun to talk to and just chill with! I've loved the times we've cooked, watched movies, gone to the gym, and practiced piano together. I love how she always laughs at my dumb jokes and weird stories. Def more fun times to come (she also LOVES it when I shorten words). "FOR REAL?!"

I don't think I have ever seen such amazing and hilarious pictures in my life as these three. Seriously. Where was I when this was going on?! Love these girls.

Ashley! I couldn't have asked for a better room roommate. She is always super optimistic and a really great listener. I seriously feel like hanging out with her made me a better person! Plus she always let me steal her clothes ;) And every time I hear a weird hiccup, I always think of her. "TRUE THAT."

Cute pics. But this is what college really is like...

Crazy hair, retainers, and no makeup. I love roommates.

 Wohoo! These are the times when I LOVE COLLEGE! (k maybe not the falling asleep while reading a textbook times, but the others :) ). Thanks for making it a great year! Can't wait for all the fun times to come!