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Wednesday, September 4, 2013


I'm in the process of transferring this blog to a self-hosted WordPress site. Sorry if anything gets cray in the meantime. Comment if you have any advice about migrating!

Friday, August 23, 2013

The Bell Curve of Beefy

This summer's season of The Bachelorette ended recently in a flurry of rose petals and tears and bad poetry, so now my Monday nights and my life feel empty and meaningless. (Just kidding. Only my Monday nights.)
Anyway, my froomie Bekah texted a couple of days ago and reminded me that I never posted the promised Bachelorette-inspired post, so here it is. Better late than never, right?

One of the reasons I love the Bachelor franchise is that these shows are like one big ethnographic study. I'm fascinated by the interactions, by the drama, by all the feels the contestants express.

This season, however, I'm seriously tired of seeing abs. And pecs. And huge necks. These guys are either spending way too long in the gym or they're 'roiding big time. Or both.

It is for this reason that I feel the need to explain what I like to call the Bell Curve of Beefy.

This bell curve basically posits that bulking up — pumping iron, getting cut, what have you — will only make you more attractive to a certain point. Pass this point, and it will begin to have the opposite effect. Bulk up too much, and you will look like a meathead. 

Allow me to illustrate the curve with Disney characters:

(I'm pretty sure bell curves are usually for averages, but if the graph fits...)

I first became aware of the principle behind this graph while using the ridiculous rec center at Mizzou. The main weight room there is always full of brawny boys in basketball shorts and cut-off tank tops. The room is thick with the scent of sweat and Axe and protein shakes, and it's walled in glass, which gives outsiders the opportunity to observe the gymrat species in its natural habitat.

Whenever I passed by, I found myself most intrigued by the neck machine. Every time I saw a boy strengthening his neck, I wanted to rap on the glass and ask, "Um, excuse me, are you doing that for me?"

And by "me," I would mean the girls.

Are you boys thickening your necks for us? Or for each other? Because I promise you, I PROMISE YOU, girls do not mind the natural circumference of your neck. You can leave it the way it is.

Is there another, non-appearance-related reason to work out your neck? If so, enlighten me. Please. What do you need to lift with your neck besides your own head?

Maybe your motivation to work out has nothing to do with impressing girls. By all means then, disregard my commentary. Maybe you're bulking up so that you can — I don't know — perform various heroic feats. Or maybe you just like being cut for your own sake. In that case, go for it.

But in case you are working out for us, allow me to provide you with a brief list of things women are more concerned with than your neck/lats/abs/pecs/biceps:

  • Whether you're nice to your mom
  • What you're reading
  • Your work ethic

I know you're not getting this stuff from GQ and Men's Health.

(I actually just Googled "Men's Health cover," and now I am being blown away by their headlines: "17 DAY ABS," "GOLD MEDAL ABS," "SHRED YOUR ABS!" I am genuinely sorry that the media are bombarding you with faulty information about what you need to be. Now I want to start an entire blog series debunking Men's Health articles about "What Women Want!" Hint: It's not your 8-pack abs.)

I'm not saying guys should quit working out altogether. I'm just saying let's find the happy medium, people. The Gaston look isn't good on anybody.

♫ No one's slick as Gaston / No one's quick as Gaston
No one's neck's as incredibly thick as Gaston ♪

Monday, August 19, 2013

ABC Family, you get me every time.

ABC Family has a new show, so, duh, I'm watching it. It has the same plot as basically all of their other shows, which should surprise no one.

Twisted: It's like all of ABC Family's other 
shows but slightly more ethnically diverse.

If something can be criticized as "formulaic," I can almost guarantee you that I will like it. (File this under Reasons I'm Not a Hipster.) This is how I see it: We reuse formulas because those formulas are awesome. They work every time.

The Backstreet Boys, for example, change keys two-thirds of the way through practically every song. And that is always, ALWAYS, the best part of the song. No need to tamper with a formula that works. (Coca-Cola tried once, and we all know how that turned out.)

Twisted, like Pretty Little Liars and The Lying Game before it, centers around teenagers who
as they try to solve murders/mysteries involving
  • false accusations,
  • potential framing, and 
  • corrupt/misguided law enforcement
all while navigating typical high school drama such as
  • relationships/love triangles, 
  • pesky principals, and 
  • parents' marital problems.

And, of course, the amazing hair/wardrobes and the unrealistically articulate and intuitive "teenage" boys are, respectively, the whipped cream and the cherry on top of this delicious dramatic recipe.
Seriously, though.

Only one ABC Family formula has started to bug me, and that is the characters' proclivity for late-night visits to cemeteries/wooded areas/seedy hotels.

Seriously, Pretty Little Liars, will you ever learn to quit going to sketchy places at night alone in four-inch heels?

Saturday, August 17, 2013

Get to You

Cannot get over this '80s-tastic new music video from Matt Wertz.
Also cannot get over the song.

Also cannot get over the cameos by Ben Rector and Steve Moakler.
Just cannot get over any of it.

More posts on the docket, people!

Thursday, August 8, 2013

I'd kiss job interviewing goodbye.*

Being a grown-up has its perks. When you're a grown-up, you don't have math homework (or math teachers). Your braces are probably long gone, and your skin is probably mostly kind of clear most days. But being a grown-up also has its downsides, like job interviews and realizing you will never be a Disney child star.

Upon leaving a job interview the other day, I had a deja vu moment. I was like, This job interview feeling is familiar. And then I was like, Oh, wait, that's 'cause it feels exactly like a first date. The more interviews I go to, the more similarities I see. For both job interviews and first dates:

1. You can never figure out what to wear.

In my case, this means spending way too long in front of the mirror trying on every combination (permutation?) of the items in my closet. It is like the intro to Sabrina the Teenage Witch up in my room, except that she just has to will her outfit to change, whereas I have to throw all the pieces everywhere.

Should I go with a skirt or pants? When was the last time I washed this top? Where the heck are my shoes!?

2. Some online reconnaissance is expected.

It's stupid to go into a job interview without having done a substantial amount of preliminary research about the company. Similarly, it's stupid to go on a date with a guy without doing your dude diligence.

In recent months, I have scaled back my pre-date internet stalking because I realized how super creepy it is to know random details about a guy due to the fact that you read his Facebook notes from 2008. You do not need to know a guy's (a) preferred Bible translation, (b) cousins' names, and (c) last six Halloween costumes to go on a date with him. (But do go ahead and make sure his favorite movie on Facebook isn't, like, The Texas Chainsaw Exorcism of Austin Powers.)

3. You get all nervous beforehand.


4. The conversation is basically the same.

Where are you from? Where did you go to school? What do you do? Why that field?

The Venn diagram of first date conversation topics and job interview conversation topics is practically a circle. You know it's a great date when conversation diverges from the standard fare.

5. You have to wait for them to call afterward.

Every time I remember that I'm expecting a call from a company, it feels as if my stomach and my lungs have swapped places. Does anyone else know this feeling? It's the same one you get when you remember that a guy said "I'll call you."

6. And the phone conversations are supes awkward.  

I do this awful thing when I try to make pre- or post-date conversation with boys on the phone: I get so afraid of awkward pauses that I talk so fast I forget to breathe. And then I have to disguise the fact that I am literally gasping for air. This also happened the other day when I was on the phone with a company. I was trying to tell this lady about my education, but instead I was hyperventilating.

(This is undoubtedly the most embarrassing revelation included in this list.)

7. Down the road it will either end in commitment, or it will just end.

Early in my job-searching days, I had to turn down a job offer that wasn't the right fit. It felt like a mini break-up. I worried I'd led them on. Taylor Swift is writing a song about it.

8. The only thing worse than going through one is never getting the chance. 

Sometimes you apply for a great job, and the company never even asks you for an interview, and it all feels like such a waste because you would've been perfect for the position.

And sometimes you like a boy, and he never even asks you for a date. And that, too, feels like a waste because you totally wanted the chance to chat with him while you both fiddled self-consciously with the cardboard sleeves around your coffee cups.

9. You never know what they've already read about you on the internet. 

For instance, if any potential employers or suitors (What word would you have used?) have read this blog, I have undoubtedly guaranteed that I will never get a job interview or a first date again. Oops.

10. You've gotta remind yourself that you're a catch.

No matter how nervous I may feel, I know the company that lands me lands a stellar employee. Extrapolate as you will.

*Just kidding, that would be a surefire way to guarantee unemployment.

Thursday, July 25, 2013

Glamour & Grammar & Miley Cyrus

Welcome to the fourth edition of Glamour & Grammar, the blog series in which I address grammatical failures in pop culture.

Miley Cyrus is a rebel, and she really really really really wants you to know. In case maybe somehow you still associate her with the Disney Channel, she wants you to stop. Immediately.

Proof Miley Cyrus is a rebel:
  • She has a bleached blond mohawk and a grill.
  • She wears crop tops and mesh almost exclusively these days.
  • She does not do gluten, but she does do lines in the bathroom.
  • She sticks out her tongue a lot.
  • She follows the grammatical conventions of no man(This is her house; this is her rules.) 

Objective pronouns? No way. Miley Cyrus uses subjective pronouns wherever she pleases. (Not unlike Gaga.)

Agreement? AS IF! Miley Cyrus will switch between singular and plural if she wants to switch between singular and plural.

Difference between prepositions and conjunctions? WHO CARES? Not Miley Cyrus. She interchanges like and as on a whim!

Avoiding double negatives? Ain't nobody got time for that! Especially Miley.

You win the Most Grammatical Errors in a Single Pop Song Award, Miley!
Way to rebel, you little rebel, you. 

Saturday, July 6, 2013

I don't know about you, but I'm feeling 22.

I kind of resented that Taylor Swift's song "22" hit iTunes a few months after I turned 23, but I downloaded it and listened to it on repeat anyway.

Partially because — hello — that song is pop gold.

And partially because, if feeling 22 means feeling "happy, free, confused, and lonely at the same time," then I still felt 22 at 23.

I still feel 22 at 24, actually.

I'm just now doing the post-grad thing. Grad school delayed but did not prevent it. The floundering feeling that first hit my college friends two years ago is hitting me now as I apply for jobs and try to figure out where my life is headed.

It's funny how some days I wake up and feel as if I've got every opportunity in the world at my fingertips and some days I wake up and feel as if I might flounder around forever.

I'm finding my early 20s to be marked with contradiction. I'm trying to be a grown-up, but I still feel like a kid. There are far more decisions and responsibilities and difficulties in this stage of life than I ever expected. All the possibilities are exciting when they're not terrifying.

People are quick to give advice to new grads — about life and jobs and relationships and growing up. But perhaps the most helpful thing I've been told (by T-Swift and a few others) is that everybody feels confused at 22 — and 23 and 24 and beyond, for that matter. You don't have to have everything figured out. School's over, but you're still learning. And that's okay.

Monday, July 1, 2013

Blog Ketchup

 Get it? Ketchup? Catch up?
I know what y'all must be thinking: "Oh em gee, Kate, it has been so long since you have blogged! How am I to keep on living without regular doses of your wit and updates on your whereabouts?"

Well, I'm sorry. And I'm flattered. And, frankly, a little freaked out. I mean, it's just a blog for heaven's sake. And look at that picture. It's of ketchup. Don't you have anything better to do with your spare time? (Just kidding!)

On Thursday I had a job interview in Louisville, and the interviewer asked what I did in my spare time, and I said "Go to weddings." This may or may not have been the most appropriate answer for a job interview, but it was nothing if not accurate. (I have also missed a few weddings lately, which saddens me greatly and furthers my anger toward all the scientists who have not yet invented teleportation and time travel.)

Going to weddings, catching up with friends, and starting to apply for jobs are basically the only things of note that I've done since coming home a month ago. I've also been chewing on some blog post ideas and then failing to follow through with them. I've decided to provide a list of the posts on tap both (a) to pique your interest and (b) to motivate myself to start or finish them.

Pending/potential posts: 

1. On leaving Columbia

I frequently find myself writing this post in my head while driving, but I don't know if I have the emotional capacity to type it all out yet. If you haven't heard, I've decided to stay in Kentucky. I have peace about the decision. But I didn't get real goodbyes in Missouri, and I didn't get to say thank you as much as I should have.

Make it stop, Miley.
2. Recent weddings

Basically an excuse to post pictures of fun times with all the friends I miss so dearly.

3. Glamour & Grammar & Miley Cyrus

The way Miley Cyrus has been using pronouns recently is almost as interesting/disturbing as the way she's been wearing her hair recently. (Also, it's been too long since I've written a Glamour & Grammar post.)

4. My fave podcast

A few months ago I started listening to a life-changing podcast, and I've been wanting to blog about it this whole time. BUT the list of things I want to say about it keeps getting longer as I work my way through more and more old episodes. I'm not even going to tell y'all the name of the podcast right now (though most of you who know me in real life have already heard me talk about it). I want to make you wait to listen to it until I can preface it with the intro it deserves.

5. ABC Family dramas
ABC Family, where the teenagers are beautiful,
unnaturally articulate, and prone to terrible decisions.  

I'm not sure whether this deserves its own blog post, but as I have mentioned before, I have a thing for ABC Family shows, and there is a new one that I like.

6. The Bachelorette

I'm almost done with a post about The Bachelorette. Go ahead and get excited.

7. Job interviews & first dates

I know that first dates are not supposed to feel like job interviews, but — let's be honest — job interviews feel a lot like first dates. Upon leaving that Thursday interview, I started making a mental list of the similarities between the two. (Example: Both require me to try far too many combinations of the items in my closet. Also, both make me unreasonably sweaty nervous.) You will get to read said list once I flesh it out.

8. Job search in general

I have some other thoughts about job searching/being a grown-up/this thing called the in-between.

9. Running

Maybe just a little update on the progress of my legs and my running.


I need to update my blog header. I am no longer a graduate student, so obviously I need to scratch that out. Maybe I'm just dawdling because "Musings & general excitement of a 20-something wastrel" sounds terrible.

Anything else I should write about? I'm open to requests.

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

On Grad School, Grace, & Growing Up

My three most recent blog posts are all saved as drafts, ne'er to be published. The last couple of months have been particularly trying. I've attempted to articulate my thoughts in writing, but the results have not exactly been blog friendly.

I finished — nay, survived — graduate school. I literally want to burst into the Doxology every time I think of this. It's the only response I can muster.

Portions of the unpublished posts I'd written were about grad school — about the stress of the final stretch and the idol that I'd let a master's degree become and the lessons the Lord is teaching me about grace and more grace and more grace.

And portions of the posts were about the future. (Insert that Beethoven intro here: DUN DUN DUN DUNNNN.) I don't know what I'm doing, where I'm living, where I'm going. Missouri and Kentucky are playing tug of war with my heart. And for the first time in my life, I don't have a plan.

People keep asking me what I'm doing next. I field this question every day in text messages, in emails, in face-to-face conversation, over Skype. When other people aren't asking me, I'm asking myself. The answer is: I don't know. The best I can do is tell you what I'm thinking, so here are my thoughts, distilled and itemized in a somewhat logical order:

1. Now that grad school is over...

I need to exhale for a minute — to recuperate. I just want to run until I've sweat out the stress of the last two years. I want to spend way too long walking around Target. I'm enjoying things like vacuuming my carpet and washing my dishes and cooking actual meals from recipes. Those were the things that grad school always prevented from happening. I'm done. I'm done. I just want that to sink in. I just want to cry tears of exhaustion and gratitude.

2. Kentucky vs. Missouri...

I might stay in Missouri. I might return to Kentucky. Missouri has my church. Kentucky has my family. Both states have my heart. Let it be known that neither option seems easier than the other. Leaving Missouri would break my heart. Not returning to Kentucky would break my heart. It's a win-win and a lose-lose.

3. The immediate future...

My plan — the only plan I have, I suppose — has been to apply for jobs in both states and walk through doors as the Lord opens them. I have not yet dived headfirst into this process. See item one.

I will be going home to Kentucky in the next week or so to attend a series of weddings. I've been so homesick lately, and I can't wait to see mah family and mah Kentucky people. I don't think it will fully hit that grad school is over until I get to go home. I'm not sure, at this point, how much of my stuff to take with me.

4. Looking back...

Part of the reason I want to stay in Missouri is the fact that, over the past two years, I have had such a strong sense that I was where I supposed to be. The road that takes me to campus and church and work and MC is called Providence. Providence. How fitting! I often marvel over the street signs en route to my various places. I have been led to where I am. I have no doubt about that. I thought I was coming to Columbia for the J-School, but God has shown me so many other reasons why he brought me to this place.

When I look back at my time here, I am amazed by the Lord. AMAZED. He has blessed me over and over and over and over again. He is faithful even when I am not. During grad school, I learned a lot about research and strategy and brand development, but I also learned a lot about my own sinfulness and inadequacy and the Lord's goodness and grace and faithfulness. The Lord has been so evident to me in this city.

5. The future future (TMI alert)...

Part of the reason I want to move back to Kentucky is that I MISS MY FAMILY and I hope to settle near them in the long run. This, in my opinion, deserves sub points:
  • My family members are literally my favorite people on the planet. I cannot adequately convey my love for them, and people make fun of me when I try, so I'm going to stop trying. I just think they are the best.
  • Wanting to settle near home sometimes seems strange to people used to the American ideal of individualism, but in almost every other country, settling near family is normal. It is not a sign of weakness or dependence or lack of ambition. It is a sign of collectivism, a form of valuing community.
  • I grew up 12 hours from one pair of grandparents and 15 hours from the other pair. For most of my childhood, I saw my extended family once a year. I have always hoped my future kids will get to be raised near my parents, and the longer I live far from home, the slimmer the chances are that I'll ever move back, right?
  • Let it be known — because this point is oft raised when I talk about wanting to raise my kids near my family — that I hold these hopes with open hands. I understand that the Lord may have other plans for whomever I marry and, thereby, for me.
  • It is difficult to find the happy medium between considering my hopes for the future too much and considering them not enough.
  • Let it also be known — because this point is oft raised as well — that I'm not afraid I will disappoint my parents if I stay in Missouri. My parents may be the only two people in my life whom I never worry I will disappoint.
Part of the reason I want to move back to Kentucky is also that I miss my friends there, but I'm unsure how much to hope or expect that the few who are still there will stay if I return. They keep peacing out for "more important" things like "marriage" and "mission trips." (Just kidding, girls. You know I think what y'all are doing is amazing.)

6. Nice problems...

My mom often reminds me that most of my problems are nice problems. (She taught me that my problems were nice long before #firstworldproblems became a meme.) A nice problem is the pain from braces or the stress of college or the difficulty of choosing which dress to buy when you've found two pretty ones. A nice problem is a problem that results from blessings.

The pain I'm experiencing now as I look at my church in Missouri and my family in Kentucky and know that I can't have both nearby is the epitome of a nice problem. I am so blessed to have so many people whom I love and so many people who love me. 

7. Things to remember...

I've been doing a lot o' praying, a lot o' Bible reading, a lot o' wisdom seeking, and a lot o' sermon listening (and a lot o' crying) as I try to discern where the Lord is leading me. In lieu of a clear "You should ____, Kate," I keep getting the same reminders, which also deserve bullets:
What amazing reassurances! Sometimes I think the whole reason this "decision" has been dragged out so long is that the Lord likes it when I cling to him more closely.

8. Reality check...

When I was growing up, our family car was this 1983 Volvo two-door sedan. This car was so old that it didn't have an airbag on the passenger side, which meant I got to ride shotgun even as a little kid. I loved riding with my dad because he would let me man the stick shift.

As my dad drove, he would say "Put it in first" or "Put it in second," and I would do accordingly. He did all the real driving and navigating, but somehow I felt I was helping us get places.

I remember getting the stick shift stuck in the wrong gear on occasion and hearing the engine complain. When that happened, my dad would just reach over and calmly right it. He was in control even over my own tiny task.

This afternoon while waxing nostalgic to my roommate about my stick-shifting days (I can't drive a stick now for the life of me), I realized that it was an apt analogy for my current state in life.

As I try to figure out where I'm supposed to go, it's easy to forget that I'm not the one navigating or even holding the steering wheel. I'm basically just doing my little part from the passenger seat, trusting in my heavenly father's plans and power and love for me. I try to follow his directions when I recognize them, but even then, he is in control. I cannot screw up his plans.

It is a great reassurance to know that I can't accidentally — or even deliberately — step outside the Lord's plans. There is no wrong decision or wrong state that will render me untouched by his sovereignty. He is so good to me.

(You guys didn't think you were going to get through this whole super long post without some sort of illustration, did you? C'mon.)

9. Avoiding adultescence...

The difficulty of my current state is compounded by (a) the general uncertainties that come with growing up, (b) my newfound fear of becoming independent — financially and otherwise, and (c) the fact that I never really pictured myself going it alone in my mid-twenties (TMI alert). I may be tripping clumsily towards adulthood, but at least I'm attempting to get there, right? I'd like to imagine that, somehow, somewhere, Judy Blume is applauding me for making it this far.

10. A taste of heaven...

In a strange way, everything I'm experiencing right now has reminded me that I get to look forward to a time without goodbyes and separations and heartbreak. Shane & Shane's new CD finally came out today, and (a) it is amazing, and (b) I can't get over the chorus from their song "In a Little While":

I see a city, a new Jerusalem, coming down from heaven 
Every tear that's falling will be picked up again, and we will live as one

I look forward to the day when my Missouri people and my Kentucky people and my Asbury people and my Georgia people and my Pennsylvania people and now my Texas and New York and Tennessee and Ohio and North Carolina and South Carolina and Indiana and Wisconsin and Illinois and Virginia and Alabama and Africa and Asia and everywhere people live as one — with Jesus and a whole bunch of other people I haven't even gotten to meet yet!

That sounds like heaven to me.

All the love and encouragement I've received in the midst of this has also been a taste of heaven. I'm going through a tough transition, but there's a sweetness to it because it has reminded me how loved I am and how good God is. I'm so looking forward to heaven with the Lord and you crazy wonderful people.

Images via WeHeartIt and lyrics via this cover that I can't quitttt

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

The Sound of Sanity

This week has felt like neither spring nor break. It has been comforting to be home and see family, but my days have been devoted to research, not relaxation. I'm experiencing a new level of anxiety as I try to wrap up my research project and my professional project this semester.

I thought I'd share the Spotify playlist that's helping me maintain some semblance of sanity. It's a mixture of the old faves that got me through college and the new faves that I've played on repeat during the most wearying weeks of grad school.

It's 40+ songs that remind me that grad school is not that important, that I will live, that God is in control. Robbie Seay Band, Jimmy Needham, Audrey Assad, Needtobreathe, Shane & Shane, etc. This list is ever growing, so feel free to share other songs that belong on here!

Friday, March 15, 2013

You Are So Welcome

I once read that the single greatest predictor of a child's intelligence is the education level of his or her mother. On days like today — when my to-do list looks impossible and I'm trying desperately just to keep my head above these grad school waters — I think, "YOU'RE WELCOME, FUTURE CHILDREN," and somehow it keeps me going.

*I don't know where I read this or whether it came from a peer-reviewed scholarly journal. #gradschoolproblems

Monday, March 4, 2013


This has been my favorite PostSecret in quite some time.

Sunday, March 3, 2013

Be Not Dismayed

Yesterday I printed this verse and slid it into the plastic sleeve on the front of my research binder. Then I saved it as my desktop wallpaper. I need to be forced to look at it every time I stick my head in my research.

I should rephrase that last sentence. It makes it sound as if there are times when my head is not in my research. In actuality, the back of my brain is chewing on my research even when I'm not conducting or transcribing or coding or comparing interviews.

I've finished five interviews at this point, and I have four to go. I need to nail some of those down this week.

I recently read a BuzzFeed post about the differences between undergrad and grad school. No point resonated with me more than this: "In college, your main job is to consume knowledge. In grad school, you're supposed to the one PRODUCING the knowledge."

That so accurately captured what I'm wrestling with right now. I know how to absorb knowledge, to distill knowledge, to summarize and synopsize and synthesize knowledge. But this whole producing knowledge thing? Yeah, not so sure how to do that.

But that's the whole point of this research project. At the end of it, I'm supposed to come up with a theory. A theory, people.

When I'm not worrying about the theory that I haven't yet developed, I'm actually pretty fascinated by my research. I think that's how I'm supposed to feel. I'm interviewing brand managers from nonprofits, and I'm basically just getting to pick their brains. I ask about their experiences and challenges and successes in developing and articulating their brands. The same issues come up in every conversation: How do we tell the stories of the people we have helped? How do we articulate to the public what it is that we do? How do we justify using donors' dollars on marketing? How do we ensure consistency? How do we help staff members and volunteers recognize that they are stewards of the brand?

These are not just the questions I'm asking. These are the questions that the interviewees themselves seem to be dealing with. It's a competitive charitable market, and everyone who's doing this for a living is, to some extent, just trying to figure it out.

Is this fascinating to anyone besides me?

I'm supposed to develop the theory by noting relationships among concepts. So I print each interview and go line by line, making a note for each concept that comes up. I have like three pages of concepts already. Brand voice, differentiation among audiences, confusion among nonprofits, reasons for financial support, etc. etc. etc.

Am I really going to end up being able to piece these concepts back together into a theory? I don't know yet.

I wish my final report could just be a list of things that I still don't know. "Well, I conducted nine interviews. I pored over the transcripts. I mulled over the concepts. I mentally stuck them together and pulled them apart like a 2-year-old with a new box of Legos. And what I discovered is that I have a thousand more questions."

It's amazing how my feelings about whether I'll be able to get this project done change regardless of my actual progress. I can shift from a sense of competence to one of utter fear and dismay in the course of a few hours. Let's not even talk about the way I feel about my research when I wake up in the middle of the night. It's like SHEER TERROR.

I'm hoping that seeing that Bible verse a hundred times every day will help. I am not alone in this. My feelings and my fears do not represent reality. It's not all up to me. Or, rather, it's not up to me at all.

I don't know how to wrap this post up tidily. Fortunately, blog posts — unlike research projects — are not about producing knowledge. I can end them with a big, fat I don't know if I want to. I haven't gotten it all figured out yet, and that's okay.

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Here and There

"I bet that in two years you won't wanna leave." Those were my dad's parting words as I said a tearful goodbye to him and my mom in a parking lot 19 months ago. They were heading back home to Kentucky, and I was staying in Missouri alone. Nothing had ever felt so unnatural to me.

But he was right. He knew my heart. I fall hard for people and places. I love and don't want to let go. And here I am, three months from graduation, feeling like I haven't gotten enough time in this city, enough time with these people. 

Last semester was rough. I was exhausted. I hated my classes. I missed my family. This semester I'm realizing that the finish line is in sight. This week in particular I have started to notice that the trees are budding, the birds are chirping, the days are getting longer. Spring is just around the corner, which means graduation is just around the corner. And I'm not ready for the imminent goodbyes.

Didn't I just go through that?

When I left Asbury, I left with 300 other people. If I had stayed, I would've stayed alone. It broke my heart to leave, but even if I'd had the option to stay, there would've been no reason for me to be there any more.

If I leave Columbia, I leave alone, and my community stays. I will take the memories that I made, and I will preserve them alone.

I've got a Ben Rector lyric stuck in my head: "And I find I am divided between here and there and you and them and me." Oh, that is how I feel. My family is in Kentucky. My home is in Kentucky. Most of my high school friends have scattered, but when they go home, they all go home to Kentucky. Most of my college friends have scattered, too, but we'll always have the Asbury campus — and Kentucky weddings, for the next few years — drawing us back.

But how can I leave Missouri knowing that life will go on here without me? If I leave Missouri, I most likely leave it for good. If I stay in Missouri and find a job, it won't be as it has been because I won't get four months each year to go back to Kentucky and reconnect and soak up home.

Oh, I wish God would just tell me what to do. I don't want to be the person who's paralyzed in fear, unwilling to do anything until God directs it. But I also have the sense that I don't even know what I want. I want both things. I want to be here, and I want to be there. I want to stop joining communities and then leaving them. I want to stop making memories that I alone will keep.

I could just stay for a while longer — a year maybe, or two if Jane comes to Mizzou. But is it worth it to prolong the inevitable? Would it be easier to rip the Band-Aid off now?

Thursday, February 7, 2013

Silly Me

I have a phone interview in approximately 35 minutes, and I am inordinately nervous about it.

I'm not even the one being interviewed. I am the one conducting the interview.

I have 40 questions already written out — which, by the way, is way too many for a 60-minute interview. But I have a tendency to overprepare.

This interview is the first of nine that I'll be conducting with brand managers at nonprofits for my master's research project, which is called, unsurprisingly, A Look at the Brand-Building Efforts of Nonprofit Organizations.

I think my nervousness stems from my sense that I don't know what I'm talking about. I have this expectation that I'll be halfway through my interviews, and my interviewees will realize that I know nothing and that they can provide no more information to someone whose frame of reference for this sort of thing is so very small.

Never mind that I have literally spent months doing background research. Never mind that the whole purpose of research is to learn more about something that you don't know enough about. I am lacking in experience, and WHAT IF THEY CAN TELL? Or what if I don't glean any useful information? What if none of my interviews can be tied to each other in logical ways? WHAT IF NO PATTERNS EMERGE? What if I interview and transcribe and code and categorize and compare and can't come up with anything!? WHAT IF NOBODY ELSE COMMITS TO AN INTERVIEW AND I DON'T GET ENOUGH DATA!?

These are the thoughts in my brain — now 12 minutes out from my interview.

I can be really silly sometimes.

Thursday, January 24, 2013

A bunch of little blog posts mushed into one.

1. Back in Missouri

Drove back to Columbia last Saturday after another tearful goodbye. My brother rode with me to keep me sane. It was dark by the time we pulled into town and still dark when I said goodbye to him at the airport the next morning. The darkness somehow exacerbated by sadness, and I was a mess until I got to church and remembered why I had loved this city. "I'm so happy you're back!" were literally the first words that greeted me when I walked in the door. And then I got a hug, and, oh, I could've just crumbled into it.

The back-and-forth-ness of graduate school has done such a number on my heart. Being away from my family and Kentucky friends weighs on me so heavily, and so much of me just wants this semester to fly by. But I know that when it comes time to leave my Missouri friends in May, I will be an absolute wreck — a giant tear duct in human form.

Skyping with (most of) the fam on my first day back in Como. 

2. Semester shock

Classes are over, so this semester I'll be occupied with my professional project (which is like a big internship, but we're not supposed to call it an internship) + my assistantship + my master's research. I would be excited if I weren't so anxious. I love my professional project so far. It's really the prospect of doing my research on top of it that sounds impossible. Let's not talk about it.

3. Sabbath

Speaking of not talking about it, my roommate, Bekah and I are taking Sundays off this semester. Shocker, right? I read this book over Christmas break, and it made me want to cry. Not because it is sad — it isn't — but because it reminded me of how tired I am and have been throughout my entire college and grad school career. The main reason I dreaded this semester was that I was so beyond worn out and beaten down last semester. I just couldn't do it any more. So, despite my uncertainty about how all my work will get done in the next few months, I've decided that none of it will get done on Sundays.

Oh, and I bought a "luxury sleep mask" at Walmart for $4. It is hot pink — fuzzy on one side and satiny on the other. It makes me feel very restful. And luxurious, duh.

4. Reading

Speaking of books, I have a problem, y'all. I have a problem with starting books before I finished my last one and then not finishing them. My bedside table is now host to nine books that I'm "in the middle of." A few of them are even from interlibrary loan, which means I went out of my way made a librarian go out of her (his?) way to get them for me.

Maybe thinking I can finish non-school-related books in grad school is setting my hopes too high.

4. Smoothies

In the same way that I am the type of person to start a book and never finish it, I am the type of person who pins a lot of things to Pinterest and then never makes said things. But I saw this green monster smoothie pin last Tuesday, and I went out later that day to get the ingredients. I have made it three times since. I have a feeling it is going to be my new go-to meal. It feels indulgent, but it's oh-so-easy to make and oh-so-good* for you. The perfect combination!

*What is the correct way to punctuate that? "It's, oh, so easy..." "It's oh, so easy..." 
Set off interjections with commas, right? But that looks so weird. Sticking with hyphens...

4. Running

Speaking of things that are good for you but also wonderful, I have been running more and more lately! 

Er ... I wrote that sentence last week when I was all excited to tell y'all how much better my legs have been doing. Today I sat back down to work on the blog post I left unfinished, and that sentence is mocking me. My left knee has been hurting again. Aching hips are keeping me awake at night. Before this week, I was running great, and now I'm in pain again and trying not to be discouraged. Here's to hoping this setback won't last long. I'd had at least two months of doing really well before this. Boo, you know? BOO AT PAIN. 

Apparently retailers think that people have already given up on their new year's resolutions, so they have discounted workout wear. Snatched up this cute pink running jacket for TEN DOLLA NO HOLLA last week. Talk about a score. Pictured right before I hit the pavement in 19-degree weather. I told you I love running. 

5. Pop culture

So much good stuff going on in pop culture lately, you guys. I have thoroughly enjoyed the return of Downton Abbey and The Bachelor, and I want to see Les Miserables approximately a thousand more times.

In related news, I want to marry a barricade boy. They're just so studious and masculine. I know Les Mis isn't primarily a love story, but the scene in which Jean Valjean basically passes the torch of protecting Cosette on to Marius made me swoon and long for times past. You know, times in which men were men and women were women.

6. Dating 

Speaking of men and women being men and women, this article, "The End of Courtship" that ran in the NYT recently was totally singing my life with its words and killing me softly with its song. 
"Traditional courtship — picking up the telephone and asking someone on a date — required courage, strategic planning and a considerable investment of ego (by telephone, rejection stings). Not so with texting, e-mail, Twitter or other forms of 'asynchronous communication,' as techies call it. In the context of dating, it removes much of the need for charm; it’s more like dropping a line in the water and hoping for a nibble. 
'I’ve seen men put more effort into finding a movie to watch on Netflix Instant than composing a coherent message to ask a woman out,' said Anna Goldfarb, 34, an author and blogger in Moorestown, N.J."
I thought this was a problem unique to Christian culture, but apparently I was wrong. Read the article, marvel at its accuracy, and weep for our future.

7. Blogging

Look whose blog hit 50,000 views this week! Little old me. Thanks, everyone!
Thanks for reading and putting up with the fact that I began four paragraphs in this post with the words "speaking of." You are all the best.

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