(seventy seven) or garden party grief

So far I’ve asked three lovely people to garden party for me. I have one last person, my hellee Mackenzie, but I am stumped on ideas. Every idea that pops into my head doesn’t feel special enough. When Mackenzie asked me to hell her she made a scavenger hunt which ended in her room with a cake, sparkling cider, and roses. I want to do something just as meaningful and thoughtful as she did for me! I’ve known her for three years, so I know what she likes and doesn’t like, but everything I come up with pales in comparison to how amazing she is!

Part of me wants to do a scavenger hunt just like she did for me, but I also want to give her something new and special. I think I’m going to end up making a movie of all of our memories together- that way she can watch it at her leisure, but she also has a special something that she can keep forever.

Regardless, I’m really excited to ask her, and I can’t wait to graduate!

(seventy five) or ice ice baby

It’s gorgeous outside. Like drop dead beautiful. Having grown up in Florida, snow is a mysterious, magical phenomena that only impacted the north, so now that I’ve made Philadelphia my home I feel like I’ve been allowed into some secret world.

One thing that will perpetually shock me is how bright it is outside. When everything is covered in a snowy blanket, the sun seems to be 100x amplified. It’s beautiful to see a huge patch of untouched snow reflecting the sun in a million little ice crystals.

I’ve also found a love of trying to walk on top of the snow. I have found that you can only do this on certain types of snow, but I have made it my mission to find out where I can do that. The occasional fear of falling through towards the solid ground gives me a sense of adventure on the way to classes. It’s also really pretty to walk across snow versus slogging through it ruining the pristine blanket that covers the earth.

The only “downside” is when the wind picks up and blasts you with an icy chill. It seems that no matter how much I bundle up a part of me is always cold. Usually it’s my ears, and I return inside to find them numb and in a bit of pain, but it’s very worth it to go across my own personal winter wonderland.

I find that in weather like this students tend to stay indoors a bit more than usual. I understand why, but this only gives me more of an opportunity to go outside and play. Pam has had it with me (having grown up in places that were super snowy) and my ways, but she’s a good sport and lets me take longer paths just so I can hear the crush beneath my feet.

(seventy four) or snow day part two

Yesterday I was able to enjoy the second snow day of the year! We were expected to get a pretty nasty snow storm, so the school decided to make the decision to cancel classes. I had planned to wake up super early and get a bunch of work done, but when I woke up I looked outside and couldn’t muster the emotional strength needed to get out of bed. It was just so warm under my blankets, and the snow was coming down heavily, so I made the wise choice to remain wrapped up watching the storm progress. Last snow day I learned how to ski, but this snow day was probably the most stationary I’ve been all year.

I’m finally taking my own advice to slow down and enjoy things as they come. I’ve began reading Salman Rushdie’s The Satanic Verses after having finished his Midnight’s Children and enjoying it. I think the premise of Satanic Verses is super interesting- what if instead of receiving prophecies from God, prophets were being intercepted by Satan instead? I had never thought of that as an idea, so I’m excited to read his interpretations of it.

Apparently his story was based upon The Story of the Cranes, which I had never heard about. I’m taking it all with a grain of salt, however, and recognizing the Rushdie’s work is a production of fiction and that the Story of the Cranes is highly disputed among theologians. Also if you google it you get a bunch of apocalyptic literature and hateful topics so I would highly recommend not doing that.

The Story of the Cranes goes as follows according to the As-Sunnah Foundation of America;

“Allah’s Messenger – Allah bless and greet him – saw rejection coming from his people, so he sat in isolation, wishing to himself: Would that nothing is revealed to me that would drive them away from me. Thereafter Allah’s Messenger – Allah bless and greet him – approached his people again and made overtures to them, and they responded to him. One day he sat with them in one of the usual public gatherings around the Ka`ba and he recited to them “By the Star when it setteth” (Sura 53, al-Najm). When he reached the words:

19. Have ye thought upon Al Lat and Al Uzza?
20. And Manat, the third, the other?
the devil interjected two phrases (kalimatayn) upon his tongue:
“Those are the elevated cranes: truly their intercession is dearly hoped!”

Allah’s Messenger spoke these two phrases then went on to finish the entire Sura, then he prostrated and all those in attendance prostrated. Al-Walid ibn al-Mughira took a handful of earth and [applying it to his forehead] prostrated on it, for he was an aged old man who could not prostrate. It is also said that Abu Uhayha Sa`id ibn al-`As was the one who did this…. and some say both did it.

They [the Quraysh] were elated at what Allah’s Messenger – Allah bless and greet him – had spoken, saying: “We definitely know that Allah gives life and gives death as well as creates and sustains, but these our gods intercede for us before Him, so if you give them their share, we are with you.” This statement of theirs bore heavily on the Prophet – Allah bless and greet him – and he withdrew to his house. When evening came, Gibril came to him and rehearsed the Sura with him, whereupon Gibril said: “Did I bring you those two phrases (al-kalimatayn)?” Allah’s Messenger said: “Have I said on Allah’s part something He never said?” Whereupon Allah revealed to him [p. 206] the verse: { And they indeed strove hard to beguile thee (Muhammad) away from that wherewith We have inspired thee, that thou shouldst invent other than it against Us; and then would they have accepted thee as a friend.} (17:73)”

The moral of this story is I don’t know anything about this, but I find it super interesting, and therefore am hoping to learn more about it. If you’ve read this book and have thoughts please feel free to share!

(seventy three) or declaring a major advice

I’ve been getting several very endearing (but also panicked) messages from underclassmen who are about to declare their major, are thinking of declaring their major, or have just declared their major and are worried now, so I thought that I should write down what I learned from my experiences.

  1. Choose Something That You Like: I know, I know. Everyone tells you this, and you say “But I like everything!” or “I don’t like it enough!” That’s fine. You don’t need to love it and want to do it forever and never do anything else, but you do need to think long and hard about what classes/themes/ideas make you think harder/longer/better than other courses do. Have you found yourself actually enjoying the readings for your History of Art class enough to talk about it with your friends? Do you find that the professor who teaches your math class has ideas that you’ve always wondered about? Locating and narrowing down a topic is the first step.
  2. Choose Something That You’re Good At: This one is a bit more tough love advice, but it’s true- if you declare a major in something that you’re not good at, your GPA will tank and you will be a stressed puddle come graduation day. You need to find that perfect balance between what you like and what you’re also good at. You don’t need to be naturally good at it, but you do need to be good at it enough that if you study hard you’ll be able to understand what’s going on.
  3. Look At The Department: This advice is a bit more specific, but it’s important to see what type of people you’re gonna be around for the next two years. Is the department made up of one-year professors who you’ll build a relationship with but then they’ll have to leave? That’s gonna be a bit hard on you, and on them. Do you hate every single professor in the department with a passion? Look into Haverford and see if you get along with them better? Regardless, these people will be your mentors, and especially if you’re going to be writing a thesis, you’re going to see a lot of them.
  4. Look At The Requirements: Especially if you wanna go abroad. A lot of the times the requirements for STEM fields are not conducive to going abroad, so if this is a big deal to you, try to talk to someone to figure out an option that works for you. BMC also has options to go abroad in the summer (along with funding!!), but you’ll need to start this process early. Besides going abroad, you may also have required courses that you need to take within the major (Sociology, for example, requires a statistics course). During this time you should also look at if you need to complete a thesis or not. It may not be a big deal now, but it will be when you’re a senior doing a zillion things. It’s always good to look ahead and see what’s coming for you.
  5. Look At YOURSELF!: This one sounds a bit cliche, I know. But it’s important! You need to ask yourself “What type of person do I want to become?” You may want to be a good person, you may want to be a rich person, you may want to be a happy person- all of these are valid! Now you have your first goal. Do you think that you can see yourself becoming your goal with the academic path you want to choose? By this I don’t mean “I want to be rich, therefore I want to major in engineering.” I do, however, mean “I want to be financially stable, and I can achieve that with a English degree.” Make sure that your goals match up with what choices you’re making (This extends to things besides your major, too!)

Overall, declaring your major is a bit of a stressful time. My experience was a lot of going back and forth, worrying if I was going to do something to permanently damage my future prospects. But the truth is you will always have time to go back and change your mind. Your future isn’t a straight cut line unfortunately, but rather a bunch of unexpected curves, and drops, and hills. Luckily you will graduate with a great support system that you can rely on! So yes, right now it feels like you’re sealing your fate but in reality you’re opening a bunch of new doors that have wonderful and exciting opportunities behind them!

(seventy two) or happy birthday to me!

Happy Birthday to Me! I got to spend an amazing day at home with my parents. My mom made my favorite dinner (her baked chicken) and my dad made this amazing cake. The cake was called Gateau Concorde, which is a recipe from Gaston Lenotre. I’m about to get really nerdy so prepare yourself.

Lenotre (spelled Lenôtre but I can’t get my keyboard to do the top hat over the “o”) was a French chef, and was pivotal in french cooking, specifically pastries and desserts. The concorde cake was named after the plane that flew in 1969. The cake is a bit tricky and technical to make but it was very worth it. My dad spent a long time on it, but he indulged my silliness by letting me pipe the meringue. I wasn’t quite good at it, and now have more respect for patissiers.

Whenever I’m anxious I watch baking videos to calm down, so actually getting to pipe the top part of the cake was pretty fun. Apparently this recipe is only meringue and mousse, but it 100% fooled me because I could have sworn it had a thin layer of gooey cake. Regardless it was delicious, and I think Pam would also have really loved it. I’m thinking I’ll try to make it for her once we move in together.

It was cute to see so many of my friends (even some that I haven’t talked to in a while) wish me a good day. I think all this positive energy is helping me get over this stupid flu I’ve had for what feels like weeks! I’m feeling very loved, and very happy, so overall today was an excellent day.


(seventy one) or family friends

When we first moved to Florida I was a rambunctious toddler who had a tendency to wander away to her next adventure. I was doing just that when I met Donna. Running towards her tree swing, I was more focused on the swing than on my father who was chasing after me. Luckily for me, Donna was able to slow me down long enough until my dad caught up with me. And that is how my family and her family became life long friends!

Donna introduced me to her son, Anthony. Ant is 364 days older than me, so I will never let him forget the one day that we’re the same age. I was introduced to Donna’s sister Susan, and her partner Kip, at around the same time as meeting Donna.

I’ve grown up with this parallel family! Donna and Susan have become like second mothers to me. I love them so dearly, and I am so thankful to have them in my life. It’s interesting because whenever something big happens in my life my list of women to tell goes- Pam, Mom, Donna, Susan. Always! Susan and Donna are strong women, and have always been excellent role models to look up to. They’ve been with me through thick and thin, and they’ve taught me excellent life lessons (and some not so excellent ones- Donna taught me how to hook a worm when fishing)

We try to see them when I’m in town for breaks, but we always make sure to celebrate Anthony’s and my birthday together. Anthony is technically my oldest friend. I think that I’m his, too, but I’m not 100% sure. I’m going to give myself that title regardless. Anyway, yesterday we went out for our joined birthday dinner, and it was an amazing time. Not only did I get to see my family, but we got to enjoy a delicious meal together. I ate a lot more bread than I should have, but birthday bread doesn’t count right??

I’m happy that I have such wonderful people that I can call family. Even if they can’t offer me a kidney because we’re not genetic matches still doesn’t mean they won’t try, and I think that’s pretty kind.


(seventy) or spring break

Spring Break is finally here! I hate flying more than I hate a lot of things, so I try to leave as early as I possibly can in order to (hopefully) miss some of the turbulence. This meant that yesterday I left for the airport at 4:30 am. However, my fear of flying was abated when I finally landed in South Florida!

It’s always really funny to get off the airplane and feel the instant humidity of Florida. It hits you like a wall. For me, it’s a “Wow, I always forget how dry the air in Pennsylvania is.” The next thing you’ll notice is the sun. It’s so sunny. Like crazy sunny. You’re going to need to invest in a pair of sunglasses if you don’t already own them, otherwise you’re going to spend your days squinting and trying to block out the rays just to do simple tasks such as driving.

It feels really nice to be home, but it’s still this weird mix of knowing that I’m moving out and this is the last college break I’ll have for the foreseeable future. I have my list of things I need to complete before I return to Bryn Mawr, but it’s still this heavy feeling that I’m carrying around with me. Spring Break has always been a weird time for me because it’s so close to the end of the term that you’re thinking about what you need to do before courses end, but you’re also thinking about what you need to do before summer begins. It’s also the time when I realize that some of the people I love the most are graduating- but this time, it’s ME!

Spring Break is also the time of my birthday! I’m excited to be spending it with my parents, but I also have been with Pam only once on my actual Birthdays, and I’ve never been with my college friends. It’s kind of silly, but birthdays used to be such a big thing when I was younger and now they don’t feel like anything special. I supposed this is another perk of growing up.

In other news, my lovely cat Effy seems to have gained some weight. Normally I would attribute it to his fluff, but this time I think I can safely say that his size is pure fat content. As my father so eloquently put it, “When I see Effy trying to run I imagine a dump truck trying to take off and fly.” My poor little kitty cat. He’s currently sleeping on the chair across from me, unaware that I’m informing the inter webs of his recent weight gain. I don’t think he’d mind really. He doesn’t seem to care much of his appearance, unless we’ve gotten him recently shaved. In which case, he walks around with his little tail up in a happy question mark (?) formation. I think he enjoys his summer shave to be honest.

(sixty nine) or test anxiety

Despite being an institution not focused on grades/comparing ourselves to others, I’ve noticed that a lot of students (myself included) still have test anxiety. Test anxiety is when you feel anxious during, after, or leading up to an examination. For me, I’ve always felt this way. However, I’ve realized that a lot of social factors play into this feeling of anxiety before taking a test.

Seeing as I have my Sociology midterm today, I’m going to analyze testing with a sociological lens! I am, how they say, “killing two birds with one stone.”

So first off, institutions view tests as a necessary part of the way that professors can accurately measure how much someone has progressed in a course. Using Durkheim’s structure-functionalist theory, we can see that tests contribute to the macro level of a college’s functioning. Testing also creates group solidarity and collective effervesce, though things such as displayed feelings of anxiety about the exam, but knowing that we’re “all in this together.” Finally, by using tests to see how well students are retaining information, we are preserving the status quo by using the same methods over and over again. (Luckily for me/all of us in my class, Professor Nolan likes to spice things up and use other methods which give students other types of chances to demonstrate knowledge. I love her.)

You can also see testing as symbolic-interactonisim. Goffman is attributed to this! Students come into the testing space “costumed”- by this I mean we are all wearing comfy clothing. But! Students don’t look too comfy- we are the perfect level of comfy and put together. We want to show other people that we are competent social actors, and therefore we are trying to display the perfect level of “I’m chill and I got this” and “I am still nervous like you all, which makes me part of the group.” Through this we are also showing front stage behavior. We want to be presented as capable, but we may secretly be feeling nervous or anxiety beyond belief! What we keep inside and show when we’re not in front of a lot of people is called back stage behavior.

We can also apply Marx’s social-conflict approach. This one may not be as obvious as the others, but try to hear me out. Within our classes we have diversity of knowledge. This creates power and inequality within the classroom. For example, for some people, this test will be something totally new and strange to them- they would represent the proletariat. For other people, they’ve tested in this subject before and are now taking this course- they would represent the bourgeoisie. The social-conflict approach focuses on the macro-level structures and institutions in society that maintain inequality and how tension between groups manifests in social behavior. You may have a group of students who are resentful because they know another group of students doesn’t have to try as hard on the exam because they have already taken courses that allow them to perfect their thoughts and understanding. (Luckily, I don’t think thats a feeling within my class! I think we have more group solidarity than that.)

During a test we can also see Gemeinschaft. Gemeinschaft is having community and unity despite separating factors. As the class takes an exam, they are physically together within the room, but they are also mentally together, thinking about the exam and concepts of sociology. As we complete the exam, we are still thinking of each other and wishing each other well.

However, once we leave the testing room and begin to focus on our other things, we begin to exhibit Gesellschaft. Gesellschaft is when you are physically together, but not mentally. So after my exam when I go to the library to study for another exam, although al the students are in the library together, their minds are in a thousand other places, which doesn’t form mental community.

I’m feeling a lot better about my midterm, and I’m hoping you all got a fun sociological insight into the testing classroom.