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Reverb10 December 30, 2010

Posted by A. Robinson in Reverb10.
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Okay, so Christmas has me way behind, but I AM GOING TO FINISH THIS DANG IT.

December 12 – Body Integration. This year, when did you feel the most integrated with your body? Did you have a moment where there wasn’t mind and body, but simply a cohesive YOU, alive and present? (Author: Patrick Reynolds)

This is an interesting prompt, because this year I’ve felt more alienated from my own body than I ever have.  From allergies to back problems, I really struggled to get myself in order.

However, I did discover PiYo, which is a mixture of Pilates and Yoga.  Though it hasn’t fixed all of my problems, it gave me a chance to try and get in tune with my body.  Though it wasn’t always successful, I always felt a little better after leaving a class.

This year, I just didn’t jive with myself.  I’ve been stiff, static, and sick.  I’ve always been comfortable in my skin, but this year I felt as if my body was working against me and really hampering my productivity.  After having a few weeks off, I feel better, but not totally in sync.  I think a combination of stress, overcommittment, and exhaustion threw me off, and I hope that 2011 will help me get back on track.

December 13 – Action. When it comes to aspirations, it’s not about ideas. It’s about making ideas happen. What’s your next step? (Author: Scott Belsky)

This is pretty easy, since in graduate school your next step is lined out for you.  Right now, it’s completing my coursework.

It’s the steps after that which become really problematic.  After I complete my coursework, I begin reading for my comprehensive exams, where I pick three subject areas to specialize in.  The problem is, I like tons of literature.  The only areas I know I HATE are 18th century literature and modernism.  Other than that, I’m really open.

Right now, I’m thinking about Victorian literature, which I’ve always had a passion for.  Of course, my major emphasis has been gender, which I’ll keep with.  However, after that, I have no idea.  I used to be really opposed to American literature, but now I’m pretty okay with it.  I’m really interested in the American West, but not westerns, per se.  Minority literature, like African-American literature, has always fascinated me, and I’ve done quite a bit of work with Southern lit, too.  Sigh.

I really need to crack down on this—I only have a few months to decide.

December 14 – Appreciate. What’s the one thing you have come to appreciate most in the past year? How do you express gratitude for it? (Author: Victoria Klein)

TIME.  This year, I have come to really appreciate my time (though I can’t say that I use my time any better.  Cue sad trombone).

I’ve come to really value my own time, but I’ve also become acutely aware of others’, as well.  I don’t waste other people’s time if I can help it, and when people willingly spend time with me, I try and thank them for it.

December 15 – 5 Minutes. Imagine you will completely lose your memory of 2010 in five minutes. Set an alarm for five minutes and capture the things you most want to remember about 2010. (Author: Patti Digh)

Ooh, a toughie.  Here we go…

I really don’t want to forget playing games with my grandparents.  I always laugh so hard when we sit down and play Uno or Yahtzee.  I’m glad that John has come to appreciate that, too.

I’ll never forget the Razorback game that lasted 6 hours because of rain delays.  John’s dad and brother were able to find John, Courtney, and I by my love of kettle corn, and we watched the whole thing, start to finish.  (Also, I want to remember sledding on Christmas, even though that technically was LAST Christmas.  Hoo boy, that was wicked fun!)

Diving and Cozumel.  What a wonderful reward for finishing my thesis.  I’d like to forget having my ear nibbled by a creepy old mariachi dude, but that crap is pretty memorable.

I also don’t want to forget my thesis work.  It was amazingly difficult, but it was the first time I really felt like an academic.  I researched it top to bottom, and presenting it felt amazing.  It reassured me that I can survive in academia, and maybe even be good at it.

I want to remember my honors composition II class, too.  I really felt like a literature teacher, and I think I did my job to the best of my abilities at the time.  I know I can do a better job now.

Most importantly, though, I don’t want to forget the quiet moments with John, where we just sat and were.

Reverb10 December 22, 2010

Posted by A. Robinson in Life, Reverb10.
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December 8 – Beautifully Different. Think about what makes you different and what you do that lights people up. Reflect on all the things that make you different – you’ll find they’re what make you beautiful. (Author: Karen Walrond)

This is a really interesting question.  Getting married has taught me a lot about how I’m unique.  I know that sounds strange, but follow me for a moment: when you’re dating, you think about all the ways you are like another person.  For example, maybe you’re like “Oh, he likes to rock climb too?  Match made in heaven!” or “I can’t believe that he also dips his bread in milk!”  But once you’re married—or in a very long term, monogamous, committed relationship—your differences become apparent.  Suddenly you start saying things like, “Why does he sort laundry like that, doesn’t he know that’s wrong,” and “Do we have to watch Police Academy again?  We did that last week!  How about a romantic comedy…wait?!  Where are you going?!”

Point is, there’s nothing like living with another person to help you realize how different you are.  It’s really not a bad thing; as the prompt so aptly says, different is beautiful.  However, for the purposes of answering this prompt I’m going to switch the word “different” to “unique”—it will help me talk about that “lighting people up” bit.

EDIT:  I wrote a few paragraphs, and decided that this would work better in list form.  Buckle up.

  • I’m an English major, but I’m not all hoity-toity about the stuff I read.  I hate it when people dislike books just because they’re popular.
  • I’m a homebody.  I like to travel, but not too much.
  • I have a hard time controlling myself when presented with the following foods: watermelon, Cadbury eggs, chocolate covered cherries, flour tortillas, orange Tic-Tacs, hushpuppies, lemon bars, blackberries, French fries, squash, and bread.
  • I’m perpetually cold.  It’s very hard for me to be overly hot
  • I will kill someone for opening something that belongs to me.  Like, if I buy a DVD, I’d BETTER be the one that takes off the cellophane wrapper.  After that, I can be the 50th person to use the damn thing, but I’d better be the first to open it.
  • I’m multiracial, which gives me quite a few interesting characteristics and perspectives.  For example, I’ve got all of the fiery temper from my Latin side, but I’m outdoorsy like my Mom’s family.
  • Things I’m good at:  learning, leading, teaching, joking, relaxing, reading, writing.
  • Things I want to be good at:  listening, praying, seeking, being, cooking, building, creating, photographing, compromising, loving.
  • Things I will never be good at:  calculating, exercising, coordinating (my body!), pushing, feeling, failing, quitting, wasting, sentimentalizing
  • I’m not afraid to voice my opinions.  I’ll tell you what I think, every time.
  • I can do anything I put my mind to, not because I’m talented, but because I’m stubborn.
  • I’m Mexican but I hate spicy food.  Loathe and detest it, actually.
  • I am very, very religious, but sometimes I find it difficult to identify with my religion.
  • I don’t like women very much.  I’d much rather be friends with men.
  • I have a very strong sense of right and wrong, but that doesn’t make me immovable.  I’m willing to compromise and bend on certain issues, and I understand that the world is not black and white.
  • I love to read, but I want to write for a living.  That would definitely be my dream job.
  • I have a very hard time telling my dreams from reality.  I have hyper-vivid dreams, and often I’ll wake up and not realize that what happened (in said dream event) was not real.
  • My husband is my favorite person to hang out with, and I rarely get tired of him.
  • I can waste hours on the Internet.
  • I will yell at sporting events, television shows, and animals.  I will never yell to win an argument.
  • I love horses.  I also love sharks.  I wanted to be a marine biologist as a kid, but that never worked out.
  • When I get really mad at someone…I mean, like, pop-my-top angry, I picture myself beating the crap out of said person.  It always makes me feel better.
  • Writing things down motivates me.
  • I can learn anything—well, I’ve got a perfect record so far, anyway—from a book.  Cooking techniques, crochet, sewing, Photoshop, you name it.  If the instructions are well-written, I’m golden.
  • I have terrible allergies.  My brother once told me that when he sees a Kleenex box, he thinks of me.  He wasn’t kidding.


December 9 – Party. What social gathering rocked your socks off in 2010? Describe the people, music, food, drink, clothes, shenanigans. (Author: Shauna Reid)

I don’t really go to parties.  I’d have to say the most important one I went to was my dear friend Grant’s wedding in Kansas.  We almost missed the whole thing (I got the time wrong, John got the location wrong), but we were there, and it was wonderful.


December 10 – Wisdom. What was the wisest decision you made this year, and how did it play out? (Author: Susannah Conway)

Pssssht.  Wise decisions?  What the heck are those?

It’s a lot easier for me to pick out all of the UNWISE decisions I made, but I guess that’s not quite what the prompt is asking.  Let’s see…I guess it would have to be continuing for my Ph.D, though to be fair, I only feel like that was a good decision 70% of the time.

The thing is, even with grade disputes, crappy students, and long hours, I love teaching.  I enjoy learning, and I love school.  For the first time since starting graduate school, I feel like I’ve learned enough to really be valuable in a classroom.  I love the new and changing challenges.  But the best thing is that they PAY me to read, write, and talk ALL DAY LONG.

December 11 – 11 Things. What are 11 things your life doesn’t need in 2011? How will you go about eliminating them? How will getting rid of these 11 things change your life? (Author: Sam Davidson)

Looks like today’s series of posts will be somewhat of a listography.  Let’s see—what 11 things should I get rid of in 2011.

Daily Websites
If I check all the websites I like that update daily, I can spend 2+ hours just poking around the internet.  It’s so easy; one site has a link to another that you follow to another and before you know it, BOOM.  Afternoon gone.  I think I could easily become addicted to the Internet in a bad way, and I need to seriously cut down on my browsing time.

Bad-For-You Food
My schedule this year made it almost impossible for me to keep a really healthy diet.  Being gone from the house three nights a week made it hard to cook, so we would heat up something from the freezer section of Walmart or grab take-out.  Though there are healthy options in both of those categories, John and I are notoriously picky eaters.   This severely limits our options and often ends with us eating stuff we shouldn’t.  I want to cook more, and cook healthier when I do.

Like most college students, I racked up student loans while in school.  Right now, John and I are slated to pay them all off by December of next year.  There’s nothing I want to be more than debt free!  That way, we can begin working our way towards saving for a house of our very own.

Critical Judgment (but not Critical Thinking)
I’m very judgmental, and sometimes that really complicates my relationships.  That doesn’t mean that I judge everything everyone does.  I’m actually very cautious about that, and I go out of my way to be as open-minded as possible.  However, it’s easy for me to criticize people I don’t know that well (like people I see in supermarkets, etc.),  and I know that comes off as cruel even though I think I’m just being observant.  It’s time to police myself better.

Less Control, More Spontaneity
I’m a control freak, and that keeps John and I from doing fun things sometimes because I’m more tied to what we should be doing than what we want to be doing.  I want to lose a little control and be a little more irresponsible if that means I have more fun.

Back Pain
I’ve earned my MA, but I’ve also found back pain in graduate school.  Lots of reading + lots of sitting + lots of hunching when grading papers = throwing my upper back out once a semester.  It’s incredibly painful.  I’ve found that yoga and Pilates keep it in check, but it’s so hard to work aerobics classes into my schedule that they often fall by the wayside.  I really want to recommit myself to healthy living, and that means managing pain through exercise.

I’ve always had bad allergies, but they’ve gotten progressively worse since living in Arkansas.  I’m on daily medication, and even that doesn’t manage them sometimes.  It’s gotten to the point where my allergies affect my quality of life, and it’s time to get shots (as much as I dread them).  I want to be healthy AND happy, and getting sinus infections from pollen doesn’t fit that model.

I hate clutter.  I mean, I HATE clutter.  I want to go through our house and get rid of everything that’s just taking up space.

Birth Control
Okay, I know this counts as overshare, but stick with me.  (You can even skip this one if you want to!)  I’m not trying to have a baby—GOD NO.  I don’t even like kids.  But I hate The Pill.  I want to switch over to an IUD, and stop worrying about the burden of pregnancy and contraceptive.

I mentioned in an earlier Reverb10 that I stretched myself waaaay too thin over the past 8 months.  No more!  I don’t need any more commitments in my life than I have right now.  In 2011, I want to say NO to more responsibilities and YES to reclaiming my free time—and my life.

The Brown Desk
This is sort of silly, but right now we have the crappiest desk in the world.  In 2011, I want to redesign our study so that John and I have a nice and comfortable place to work.  Right now, we can barely use our desk it is so AWFUL.


Reverb10 December 20, 2010

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December 5 – Let Go. What (or whom) did you let go of this year? Why? (Author: Alice Bradley)

I spent all weekend thinking about this prompt off and on.  I’ve done quite a bit of letting go this year, and some of it was really, really tough.  I know I’m going to have to do a lot of letting go next year, too.

One thing I let go of this year was a very close friendship.  My freshman year, my roommate and I became very good friends.  Best friends, you might say.   At the time, I thought we were just really close, but in retrospect, we had a pretty toxic relationship.  She was needy, wanted validation constantly, and demanded a lot of my time.  Because of that, some of my other friendships suffered, for which I am now incredibly regretful.

Anyway, she got married, and as soon as she moved away, that was it.  She and her husband would come back into town to visit and never call; we’d run into each other and it was a big “Oh, surprise!  Sorry!  You want to grab dinner or something?”  I’d call her and she wouldn’t call me back, or she’d pick up the phone and immediately dismiss me.  It was incredibly clear that she wanted nothing more to do with me.

I was so deeply hurt…hurt to the point of almost hating her.  I’d think of her and my stomach would clench; I would dread going to football games in case we saw each other in the parking lot.  I even missed church one night because I knew she’d be back for a visit.  I used to have dreams about punching her in the face.  That’s messed up.  Basically, I let her treatment of me dictate aspects of my life for a long, long time.  (Note to self: That’s part of why I need to stop holding grudges)

Anyway, I’ve been working really hard to make new friendships and get over old ones, if you know what I mean.  Then, earlier this year, her grandmother died.  John and I are still very good friends with her uncle (whose a sophomore in college—confusing, I know.  He’s adopted, and we’ll leave it at that).  Like good friends, we went to the visitation, and I was all upset because I knew SHE would be there.  I saw her, told her I was sorry, and…that was it.  I felt…nothing.  No anger, no sadness…it was just over.

Over.  What a nice word to type.

Strangely enough, writing about this—no matter how vaguely—makes me feel better, too.  It’s nice to put it out there, to acknowledge to the world that I’m okay now.  Well, maybe okay isn’t the right term.  I’ve let go, and now I’m working through the emotional baggage on my way towards being “just fine.”

Maybe I’ll write a longer post about this once I get there.


December 6 – Make. What was the last thing you made? What materials did you use? Is there something you want to make, but you need to clear some time for it? (Author: Gretchen Rubin)

Hah!  This is funny, because I’m actually making Christmas presents as we speak.  Some of it is hush-hush, but suffice it to say I’ve recently crocheted two very warm, very fuzzy, very red presents.


December 7 – Community. Where have you discovered community, online or otherwise, in 2010? What community would you like to join, create or more deeply connect with in 2011? (Author: Cali Harris)

This is kind of an interesting question for me.  I haven’t really discovered community anywhere this year.  I would say at my home church, but that’s really a 2009 thing, so I guess that doesn’t quite count.

Perhaps it’d be easier if I stuck to the second half of the question.  I know exactly where I’d like to find more community: at work.  I’d like to make better friends with my fellow TAs.  It’s been hard—I was lucky enough to land in an office with instructors, but that means that I don’t have much interaction with teaching assistants.  It lets me be an affective TA, but I’d like to have more interaction from my peers.

I also want to do a better job maintaining the communities I do have.  It’s been very hard over the past few months to keep in contact with my friends—school, marriage, and my family has taken precedence.  I’m not very good at making friends, and I really value the ones I have.

Reverb10 December 17, 2010

Posted by A. Robinson in Life, Reverb10.
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Wow, I didn’t realize it had been this long since I last blogged.  Trust me, I’ve wanted to, but I’ve been running at full capacity this semester.  I’m glad it’s over, and thankfully, that means I’ll have more time to blog.  Yay!

I thought I’d start with a project called Reverb10, which is an online initiative to reflect on the past year and look forward to the next.  I was inspired to do this by my friend, Aba, who has been “Reverb-ing” (with commitment!) this month.

Since I’m quite far behind, I thought I’d do a couple of posts a day until the month is over.  Hopefully this will help get me back in the spirit of blogging, too.

So without further ado…

December 1 – One Word. Encapsulate the year 2010 in one word. Explain why you’re choosing that word. Now, imagine it’s one year from today, what would you like the word to be that captures 2011 for you? (Author: Gwen Bell)

Full.  This year has been packed to the brim.  I finished my Master’s thesis and moved straight into a Ph.D program that gave me one night a week at home.  John and I took over more responsibility in our church, which kept us quite committed as well.  We were often double or triple booked, and our life was a constant—but successful—juggling act.

One year from today, I’d like to say that my life is balanced. This isn’t so much as a wish as it is a necessity; neither I nor John can keep operating at the pace that we have been.  The only problem is that we’re both strong leaders and often assume responsibilities that we have no business taking on.  I don’t want to sacrifice our families or our church if we can help it, but I’d like us both to take more time to just unwind, relax, and have some fun.  Crazy, right?

December 2 – Writing. What do you do each day that doesn’t contribute to your writing — and can you eliminate it? (Author: Leo Babauta)

Unfortunately, there’s quite a bit that contributes to this—mainly school/work. This can’t so much be eliminated as streamlined.  I’m a pretty organized and on-task individual, but my officemates love to chat which really cramps my productivity.  I want to maximize and make better use of my time so I can shell out some more time for fun writing.

December 3 – Moment. Pick one moment during which you felt most alive this year. Describe it in vivid detail (texture, smells, voices, noises, colors). (Author: Ali Edwards)

I felt most alive when I was scuba diving off the coast of Cozumel.  Honestly, it’s one of my favorite things to do, and it’s such an otherworldly experience.  The ocean, especially the Caribbean in Mexico) is just phenomenally beautiful, and that’s just from the beach.  There’s a whole ‘nother world under the surface that very few people get to experience.  Heck, most people are blissfully unaware—as we were snorkeling the beach, we saw stingrays swimming around people’s ankles!

When you dive, there’s a real sense of excitement and anxiousness as you suit up.  I mean, the potential for death is really high if you’re not careful about your equipment.  Once you hop in, though, diving is just so incredibly…peaceful.  The only thing you hear is your own breathing and the bubbles from your exhaust as you sink down to the bottom.  Scuba diving is physical, but you actually swim fairly slow as you go through reef formations that are thousands of years old.

The one amazing thing that you just don’t understand from aquariums, or even snorkeling, are the incredible colors of the reef.  Every color imaginable is down there, and the patterns are just so complex.  Everything down there is alive, moving, sparkling.  There’s just so much life that you can’t possibly take it all in.  We saw sea turtles, squid, lobster, sharks, eels…just tons of aquatic life.

The coral reefs are the most beautiful things I’ve ever seen, and there’s nothing that makes me feel more alive than recognizing how small and insignificant I am in God’s greater plan.  You can’t not be aware of that when you’re diving and surrounded by so much magnificence.

December 4 – Wonder. How did you cultivate a sense of wonder in your life this year? (Author: Jeffrey Davis)

I don’t know if this counts, but I pretty much discussed this on Day 3.  I guess, for variety’s sake, I’d say that my job cultivates wonder all the time.  I’m constantly engaged in explorative thought; my job—and the thing I most enjoy—is teasing out some new meaning from a text.  You could say that I wonder all day!