Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Fr. Ah and the Fig

We called him Father Ah.

Not "Ah" as in, "Ah, that's a beautiful sunset." Not a sighing, happy "Ahhhhh."

This Ah was a loud, operatic, trilling Ah.

Fr. Ah would sing with an enormous voice full of vibrato and zest for hymns.

I was a wee one, and I thought it was hilarious. So my dad and I named him Fr. Ah, the Ah of which we would voraciously sing into the air with joy and giggly happiness.

Fr. Ah, who ministered at my parish during my childhood, would not have approved of our silliness. He was serious, an academic.

It is only apropos that this academic taught a lesson that has stuck with me for many, many years.

I remember this as happening in the 2nd grade. It could have been before, but I know it wasn't after second grade. Regardless, Fr. Ah ministered, booming voice and all, and peered out at us from his pulpit, exasperated.

It was almost Lent, a Sunday, and Fr. Ah was in rare form.

He boomed from the pulpit, his voice punctuating each word with the grace of a protestant minister (the likes of which we heard every Thanksgiving as my great grandfather, a preacher, delivered the Thanksgiving prayer, blessing the hands of everyone involved with the food from my grandmother to the workers who lovingly sowed the seeds).

Fr. Ah said something that would change my life.

"Do. You. Think. God. Gives. A. Fig. If. You Give. Up. Candy. For. Lent!?"

He said it.


This was obviously serious. The youngster in me sat, confused, wondering what in the world I was supposed to do now that Fr. Ah had told me that the Lenten giving up standby was totally useless in God's eyes.

In the pew, we suppressed laughter at the unusual turn the homily had taken. It was truly a moment of lore, a quote that would enter into the recitation of jokes and stories.

I suppose any priest should be so lucky to have his homily message so well remembered. Unfortunately, the rest, undoubtedly a story about meaningful sacrifice (and undoubtedly made for the adults in the audiences, not the 2nd graders), is lost to us now. And every year, the murmurings start, questioning what objects I would go without, what I would sacrifice for Lent. And each time, Fr. Ah's booming words came back, echoing in my mind. I assuredly did not give up giving up at the moment of the fig — I remember, for example, a particularly horrible Lent with no ice cream and a similar inconvenience when I decided to give up cursing. I spent a time trying to make a positive Lenten promise, focusing on good works or other such improvements.

But forgoing candy? Perish the thought!

And every year, the fig returns, a reminder of sacrifice and scorn (and laughter).

I will think of Fr. Ah today, the beginning of the Lenten season. I will think of him as I abstain from meat on Fridays and fast when it is required. I may even say a prayer for him, for the good he has done in this world, for the intended message that got lost the day I lost the will to give up candy.

After all, it is because of Fr. Ah that I will be able to munch on delicious peanut butter eggs before Easter.

Not that God would give a fig if I didn't.

Monday, February 23, 2009


My uncle joined facebook. He was talking about the strange quirks of facebook while at Rafferty's for brunch on Sunday.

He started with the silliness of the status. He questioned its worth and then started making fun of it.

"I'm going to write, 'John had a bloody Mary and a sandwich today' or 'John recommends the pickled garlic you can buy at Cracker Barrel.'"

But the biggest confusion, he said, was when a woman he had known in high school friended him.

"So this girl I knew in high school wants to be my friend. I haven't talked to the woman in 40 years! I was like, I wanted to be your friend when we were in study hall together, and you wouldn't look at me then!"

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Table of Discontents

I am formatting my Table of Contents, my List of Tables, and my acknowledgments for my thesis, when I realize that I have some of my tables lettered with uppercase: This Table is for Cool Numbers; and then some with lowercase: This table is for cool numbers.

And right now, for the life of me, I don't know which one is right or if I want to use one over the other.

How did I do that in the first place?!

Monday, February 16, 2009

Epic Swim Meet Post

Two Saturdays ago, I did something I have never done before.

I swam in a race. I swam butterfly, which I could do four strokes of in September. I swam 50 meters of butterfly in a meet populated by three colleges and a swim masters program. I got into a bathing suit in front of guys with washboard abs and girls that have never been over 20 on their BMI. I dared a girl on my team to slap the butt of a boy who wore a suit that said, simply, "ROCK." (She didn't, and apparently the Rock is some sort of high school in Missouri.) I sat in the hot tub after my race.

My race! That's what you want to know about!

My race was the third race from the end. I arrived at the pool to sit nervously with my teammates. Our club's president told us not to be nervous, and soon we loosened up. After all, I had about an hour and a half wait once the meet started before I swam.

But then, the men swam the 100 fly. I watched mesmerized as the guys did double the race I would be doing.


I turned to my friend Matt at the end of the men's race and said, "Matt, that is my 50 time."

He laughed and said, "It's ok, Mama."

So by the time my race rolled around, I was convinced I would be swimming for 20 seconds by myself, that everyone would be finished when I was making my first (and only) turn.

Thankfully, there was another young woman in my race who was swimming the fly, and she kept me company. Kept me so much company that she almost beat me in the last 15 meters of the pool.

Yes, that last 15 meters.

Wait, I'm getting ahead of myself.

So, before I knew it, my race was called. I stepped up to the block. There were 3 other women swimming in my race. One was my friend Andrea and another was a different girl from my club (I don't know her, being that she's apparently in the top group).

I had practiced my start during warm ups. I have no idea if it paid off. I have no memory really of jumping in. I was thankful that my goggles stayed on. Suddenly, I was swimming. I got three fourths of the way down my first length and thought to myself:

I've never swam this fast before!

Excitement abounded. I saw, briefly, that Andrea was a ahead of me, but not 20 seconds ahead of me. I had no sense where the other two women were.

I FLEW to that wall. And I touched it and turned the best I could (butterfly being one of the strokes where, thankfully, you don't have to do a flip turn -- had I had to do a flip turn, there was real possibility that I would get so dizzy I would swim straight down instead of where I was supposed to, or, alternatively, flipped right into another person's lane).

I turned -- only 25 left.


I'm not joking. Died.

There's a yellow rope they hang above the middle of the pool (I'm not sure you'll be able to see it on the video or not, because it's thin). I am convinced that this yellow rope holds an invisible wall that comes down to disrupt your last 12 meters or so.

I totally hit that wall.

Hit it so much that while I was about a full body length ahead of the girl next to me, she caught up and almost beat me.

But ALMOST is the important word here.

I beat her by a slim .26 seconds. I had no idea of this until several days later, when I got the results. Because I didn't hit the timing block hard enough when I finished, so my time didn't clock on the computerized thing.

Not that I could have seen it anyway, because I didn't have my contacts in.

I wanted to do the race in under 50 seconds (which is a terrible time, but, hey, I could only swim four strokes of the fly four months ago). I swam it in 47.6. So I'm pretty pleased with myself. I am also pleased that I did it at all, regardless of hte outcome.

I present to you the video of the race. I apologize for the bounciness, as a person I don't know recorded it after Hal threw our camera at her when he realized I was actually on the blocks. I am in the second lane from the top. Andrea is above me. I did throw in some pictures that are much clearer.


Sunday, February 15, 2009


My class schedule is conspiring against all manner of things. Like lazy Sundays, regular swim practices, sanity. ;)

I have somehow managed to take classes that ALL have some sort of internet requirement in addition to class time. My schedule has destroyed my Sunday and front loaded my weeks. Which would be fine if i could inspire myself to work ahead. Which I can't. So it's my fault, too, of course.

On Mondays, I have due by 9 a.m. questions on the readings for my religion class (also on Monday). Tomorrow, I also have due an annotated bibliography and a simple outline for my paper due by 9 a.m. (also online). Class is not until 2:30. My Tuesday night class requires emailed written responses to the upcoming Tuesday's readings by 6 a.m. on Monday morning. And every Tuesday, my JOU class has a book reaction paper due, which means, of course, reading the book. it also requires participation in the online discussion forums about the book, which means, of course, reading/skimming the book. I have been doing work all day.

None of this is bad. Even all together it's not bad. (And, actually, I kind of like having the email requirements because it means I HAVE TO read the stuff.) It's just sad that I lose my Sunday due to my procrastination. :) I must do better about this this week because of next weekend events.

Monday, February 9, 2009

And why are our children obese?

Epic meet post is coming. But I must recount this little tidbit from Sunday. Yesterday, Hal and I volunteered for an organization that was helping to host a "Welcome Home" for a national guard unit that just came back from Iraq. We were manning a table that was giving away free food and information. I was manning the cheese and crackers, Hal was next to me with desserts. There was a group of youngsters at the event and they, most of whom were plump, came walking over.

Plump Boy: Is this free?

Me: Yes.

Plump Boy: Are you serious?

Me: Yes. Help yourself!

Plump Boy [excitement lighting up his face]: I love to eat. I eat so much that I can't fit into my cub scout uniform anymore.

Me [what do you say to that?]: Ohhhh. [smiles hugely]

It was hilarious and sad at the same time. But mostly hilarious. ;)

Saturday, February 7, 2009

Race Results, kind of

I will have an epic swim meet post later with video and pictures, but I must share.

I swam the 50 fly, and I think I actually beat someone.

I don't have the official results yet (I didn't hit the clock thing hard enough, so my time was screwed up. Luckily, we had a person clocking as well, and she corrected my time). However, I think I swam a 47.6 and the girl next to me, I think, swam a 47.8. I'm not actually sure, though. We'll have to wait until we get the emailed results. Looking at the pictures, it looks like I beat her, but we'll see. (To say nothing for the other two people in my heat who KILLED me!)

Thursday, February 5, 2009


I am racing in my first swim meet on Saturday.

I am very nervous. I know that I have terrible chances of winning, and I'm not worried about that, but I also don't want to be horribly embarrassed.

I comfort myself from these nerves by thinking that in the slower-case scenario, my race will last for one minute. I can live through any embarrassment that only lasts for one minute, right?


Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Cabin Fever

I think Layla is starting to get cabin fever from all the snow.

It doesn't help that the snow has been deep enough that it makes me nervous when she's running around. I'm afraid she'll twist and ankle or something.

I was hoping that the snow was over, but it snowed AGAIN last night. Another fluffy two inches or so, just enough to fly up and brush my ankles when I walked to school. Sigh.

Monday, February 2, 2009


Today, my advisor, the assistant dean, and the dean signed off on my thesis.



I don't usually do stuff like this.

But a little girl I have been praying for for the past couple of months passed away on Friday. Her name is Tuesday, and she died from Neuroblastoma. (The link on her name is her family's blog, which chronicles Tuesday's cancer struggle, which began in July.) Tuesday left behind her parents, her twin sister, and her two older brothers.

I first learned of Tuesday's struggles through Debi's blog. In honor of Tuesday, Debi is fundraising for a foundation Tuesday's family set up. Her fundraiser is simple, which is why I've decided to link to it. If you leave a comment on Debi's blog by tomorrow (Tuesday), she will donate $1 to the fund. Please consider doing so. To do so, go here. You can do so anonamously, you can just write "Stacie told me to come here and leave a comment," or whatever. But it's an easy way to make a difference. (When you go to the site, you need to go all the way to the bottom of the page and click on "Post a comment," which should open a pop up where you can comment. "Post a Comment" is right above a section that says "Links to this post.")

And, of course, keep Tuesday and her family in your prayers.


Sunday, February 1, 2009

The birthday party

The birthday party for Arin went fantastic!

It was very heartwarming to be welcomed so warmly by my classmate and his wife. They are Korean, so most of the guests were Korean. My classmate made sure to welcome those of us who weren't Korean by name in his welcoming speech (spoken first in Korean and then in English).

There was a HUGE spread of traditional Korean food. It was excellent and I ate a ton.

Also, I won a prize! And I never win anything. They had a basket full of about 8 objects. There was a microphone, a stethoscope, money, a golf ball, a ball of yarn, and other things. Behind the basket, there was a board and pictures of each object with a corresponding envelope. We had to decide which object we thought Arin would pick up. The game is supposed to give insight to the future of the baby. We put a ticket we got in the corresponding envelope. I picked the golf ball, and that's what Arin picked! They then took all the tickets from the golf ball envelope and Arin picked a ticket out of her mom's hand. She picked mine! I won a beautiful set of lotions and bath salts. It was very exciting.