Vegetarian Saga – The Halfway Point

October 17th.

I have existed as a vegetarian for 17 straight days in a row. No animal muscles for me, no siree.

I’ve even been careful about staying away from anything potentially meaty, like chicken or beef broth. Did you know Ramen Noodles lists “powdered chicken” in their spice pack ingredients? Can we all agree the phrase “powdered chicken” is disgusting?

The only encounter with meat I have had that left me SUPER bummed out was when I ordered turnip greens from Cracker Barrel. I was so excited. I love those green bundles of joy. But when I got them they were totally tainted with the flesh of pork and were completely inedible.

Y’all, pigs are smarter than a three year old child. Why on earth would you eat something with the intelligence of your three year old child?

Okay, I miss bacon, I admit it.

Otherwise, things are looking good on the 31-day vegetarian front.

But my friend N just informed me that they are selling chicken fried steak on a stick at the Predators games this season, so you better believe that’s where I’m heading in November. I just HAVE to try that.

Cheers.

Vegetarian Saga – Days 1 & 2

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It has begun.

I can officially call myself a vegetarian.

I know I’ve tried this before (oh, how I’ve tried!). I’ve experimented with the term pescatarian, but it just wasn’t working for me. I’ve argued myself into thinking giving up beef and pork would be enough to satisfy my growing social and environmental awareness while I could still have the occasional chicken biscuit. But then I’d eat a bratwurst and feel guilty for a week. And I’ve tried the term “part-time” vegetarian, because, really, that’s what I’ve been since February. I maintain my vegetarianism for a few days here and there and then, when it becomes convenient to not do so, I quit.

But no more.

When I sat down to write this 25 list in January, I thought eating an all vegetarian diet for one month would be the easiest thing to accomplish. It’s basically what I did when I lived in France, and I don’t eat a lot of meat anyway, so I didn’t think it would be a big challenge. But me eating “not a lot” of meat still equals me eating meat much more often than I am comfortable with.

It’s everywhere. My partner S eats it for breakfast, lunch, dinner, and all the snack-times in between. His roommates cook bacon every morning. It’s in all the things I want to order at restaurants. It’s in everyone’s soup, sandwich, or salad at lunch time. No matter how hard I try to resist, I can’t get away!

It’s not even so much the craving as it is the convenience. If I’m running late for class, but haven’t eaten all day, I want to stop and get something hot quick. It’s virtually impossible to find something vegetarian fast. I have to plan ahead. If there is one thing I’ve learned over the many months of trial and error, it’s that the attempt to eat the way I feel morally and socially obligated to eat is going to take careful planning and sacrifice on my part.

So, partly to fulfill my “25” requirement and partly to satisfy that internal self-bettering urge, I have decided that October is my vegetarian month.

For 31 solid days, I will be a vegetarian. This means no poultry, beef, pork, or seafood. It will be hard, but with the support of my friends and family, and you as well, my readers (the 2 of you out there), I believe I can do this!

Another post will be dedicated to why I feel the need to take this journey, but for now, let me just say it is 11:34 on Wednesday, October 2nd, and I have been meat-free for 28 hours.

Grace and Peace to you this day.

Where are we?

It’s the first day of FALL!

I’ve been hesitant to embrace an early fall this year, mostly because I wasn’t quite prepared for summer to end when the rest of the world decided to end it. (Damn you Starbucks and your pumpkin spice lattes.) It was still warm, so I was still wearing shorts and craving iced tea and swimming and backyard barbecues. I didn’t want to let it go!

But now everything has changed. I awoke this morning and my body said, “Shelby, it’s time. Your favorite season of all is upon us.”

So I got up on this lazy Sunday morning full of autumnal yearning. After sleeping in and skipping church, (because I’m young, not yet ordained, and can still get away with doing that. Gotta enjoy it while it lasts), I made a batch of pumpkin chocolate chip pancakes.
pumpkin pancakes

And now I’m sitting here in the living room, sort of watching the Titan’s game, but really just basking in the fall sunshine streaming through the windows, and I’m thinking about the year so far.

2013. It’s been a whirlwind of a year. I say that every year, but really, I have been challenged in my personal, academic, and social life this year more than ever before. And I don’t think I’m alone. So many of my peers, friends, family, and loved ones have expressed similar surprise at the difficulty the year has brought. There have been wonderful things happening right along side the hard stuff (isn’t that always the case?), and it’s good to remember those things when we’re just feeling so exhausted and down trodden and ready for a new phase of existence.

So I got to thinking about that list. That “25” list I so ambitiously set about accomplishing many moons ago.

Let’s review:

1) Begin a blog to document my experiences this year.
For a beginning blogger, I think I’ve done pretty well with this one! I’m by no means a regular blogger, but that’s okay, because I am a full-time student with four part-time jobs and a LIFE so I am not really feeling bad about not posting everyday.

2) Learn to play Debussy’s Clair de Lune perfectly, from beginning to end.
Ummmm. This has not happened. Let’s just be honest: This is not going to happen. I can play the first page. That’s progress. And I’m proud of myself.

3) Go skydiving.
Still on the to-do list. I think there is a strong possibility I can get it done before 2014, I just have to be intentional about finding time to do it!

4) Write (and actually finish) a short story to be published here for your pleasure and feedback.
I have one in the works. I hope you like it. Wish I could tell you when to expect it, but I just don’t know. These things have to happen in their own time.

5) Train for and complete a half marathon.
Well…. I did one last year, will that count? I still have time to do one in December if I start training now…

6) Hike 20 miles of the Appalachian Trail.
This may have been a reach.

7) Take 12 photos of 12 amazing places.
1. Vanderbilt Children’s Hospital, Nashville, TN
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2. Red Rock Canyon, Las Vegas, NV
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3. Love Circle, Nashville, TN
Love Circle
4. Salisbury Cathedral (Salisbury, Wiltshire, England)
Salisbury Cathedral
5. The ruins of Old Sarum, Salisbury, Wiltshire, England
Old Sarum
6. Platform 9 3/4!
Platform 9
7. Vanderbilt Divinity School, Nashville, TN
VDS

I have five photos left to take of amazing places!

8) Complete 1 round of golf… no cheating.
Haven’t even had the chance to cheat, just haven’t gone. Need to rectify this immediately before it is too cold!

9) Go deep sea fishing.
Nope. Went to the beach TWICE, and still didn’t do this. Still want to. Next year?

10) Begin learning Spanish.
Have taken no serious steps in this direction. Bad Shelby.

11) Rock climb at Climb Nashville.
Nope. Waiting for a groupon or amazon living deal to pop up.

12) Gamble in Las Vegas.
I did that! It was great! See previous post.

13) Tackle the Titan.
I’m concerned about this one. I read recently that there was a serious accident resulting in a woman’s death on the Texas Giant. Not sure how I can get myself on the Titan right next to the Giant after that.

14) Consume an all vegetarian diet for one month.
I have been part-time pescatarian since watching Food Inc. with L in Vegas. If I’m going to do the vegetarian thing for a full month, I need to start now, because the holidays will be VERY hard to resist.

15) Picnic on Love Circle.
Yep! Had delicious food and wonderful company. So romantic!
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16) Create a backyard vegetable garden.
This one was fun. I was so excited to see actual life springing forth from the ground I had worked so hard to prepare. But so were all the wildlife in my neighborhood, so I didn’t get to enjoy much. At least someone did.
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17) Dye my hair an unnatural color.
Purple, yo.
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18) Be an extra on ABC’s Nashville.
I don’t know whether to count this or not. I got dressed up for the season 1 finale taping (CMA Awards episode), I got to the set, I waited, I waited, I waited… I never got on. I waited four hours, and they never called any extras back. So I had to leave because I had other things to do that day. But here’s the proof I was there at least. Maybe I can get on for season 2 before the year is up…
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19) Eat fish and chips in England this summer. (Thank you Vanderbilt Divinity School!)
Did it, it was awesome. Sorry, no picture.

20) Learn how to make paper.
Not yet.

21) Make a t-shirt quilt.
Not yet. Christmas gift for S maybe?

22) Make and carry homeless “care” bags in my car. Each bag will have necessities and a list of resources that I can hand to neighbors who might need them.
Have not done this. Winter is coming, and with winter months comes Room in the Inn. So maybe I can get this done.

23) Read the entire New Testament in one month.
I plead the fifth. As a graduate student in theology, I read too much about the New Testament, not so much of the New Testament itself. But I think December might be a good month to attempt this feat as classes will end and I will get a much needed break.

24) Boat down and camp on a Tennessee River.
NEED FRIENDS TO DO THIS WITH! C, I’m looking at you!

25) Make one new friend each month.
Ok, Ok, I’m not social. So sue me. I have friends.

“25” Updates

I have coined this journey, comprised of dedicating myself to the completion of 25 tasks and writing about them in a public space, simply “25.”

How am I doing on my mission? Let’s check in.

Well, I can cross #12 off the list. I gambled in Vegas. True story. I played the slots, and I firmly believe they are evil machines posessed by spritely demons. I played Black Jack at $5 a hand, $10 a hand, and $15 a hand. I lost the first $15 hand and went back to the relative safety of the $5 and $10 tables to lick my wounds. In grand total, I believe I lost close to $100, winning back $30 the day before I boarded my flight home. Could have been worse.

My good friend L, whom I stayed with while in Vegas, told me that each casino has a unique smell because they are pumped with aromatic oxygen. With a continual supply a fresh oxygen, the gamblers are far less likely to become tired and leave. I can attest to this. I am typically checked out of any coherent or alert state by 10:30pm, but I had no problem traipsing around the tables at two in the morning. Of course, my body was on central time, and the excitement of being in such a huge, cavernous, fast paced space filled with oxygen-high homo sapiens may have contributed to a feeling of light-headed  giddiness.

So as I’m flitting from casino to casino with my similarly oxygenated clergy and clergy wannabe friends, I am trying to do two things simultaneously: 1) I want to stay in the moment, soaking up the probably once in a lifetime experience, enjoying the people watching, enjoying the thrill of the gamble, trying to allow my eyes and ears to absorb every bright light, fast car, and winning ding. 2) I am also trying to be mindful of all the tremendously problematic consequences of American consumerism at its absolute worst.

How many people did I see sitting on the street with their legs stretched out and a cardboard sign asking for help? Too many to count. L told me she had read somewhere that the average beggar in Las Vegas brings home around $20,000 in one year (who knows how accurate that number is). Regardless of your thoughts or feelings about homelessness or begging, whether you firmly believe in the old “Pull yourself up by your bootstraps,” or alternately, “Nobody is responsible for anything, all problems are systemic,” or, like me, somewhere in the middle, it cannot be denied that gambling can and has ruined people’s lives.

It’s true, many people can go to Vegas, or Tunica, or Shreveport for a weekend, have a good time, and return to their normal lives on Monday. But some get caught in this vicious cycle that destroys their humanity, destroys their desire for relationship with anyone but the dealer. What does it say about us when we contribute to this cycle, knowingly or unknowingly?

I wonder about issues of justice in cities like Las Vegas. Or in any city for that matter. I wonder about labor justice: are the casino employees treated fairly in order that I might enjoy a quick game of Black Jack? Do they receive benefits? Are their children cared for? What about food justice? Vegas is the home of the buffet… what about all of the hands that go into preparing ungodly amounts of food, excessive food that can never be eaten? What about the people outside the buffet doors who are hungry? Hungry for more than just food, hungry for health and happiness and freedom from addiction? What do I say to the world when I go to Las Vegas and participate in this grand portrayal of spontaneity and adventure knowing the harm it causes?

(My ethics class has destroyed me. I can no longer perform any single action without immediately imagining every consequence.)

Which brings me to my next point. #14 on my 25 list says, “Consume an all vegetarian diet for one month.” While I have not successfully completed this task as of today, I want to fill you in on some thoughts I’ve been having about this.

When I stayed with L, we watched the documentary Food Inc. I can’t recall now every detail, which at the time boiled my blood and turned my stomache, but I know that at the conclusion of the film I thought to myself, “That’s it. No more meat for me.” I said this even knowing how biased film makers can be. It was just that convincing. For me, I thought the thing that would finally push me over the edge into the land of the vegetarians would be the unethical treatment of animals. Turns out, while that’s certainly part of it, I’m more mad about the horrible moral and ethical standards of our meat industry. I don’t have time to delve into all of the details here. Watch it. Seriously, you need to.

So I have not had beef, chicken, or pork since leaving Vegas. (Caveat: I tried eating some Chick-Fil-A chicken biscuits the next morning at the airport, just to say goodbye [especially since I’m so thrilled about the friendship between Dan Cathy and Shane Windmeyer] but I just kept imagining the unethical treatment of both birds and poultry farmers and couldn’t stomach it.)

I currently call myself a pescatarian (basically vegetarian, but with fish and seafood). Eventually, I will go full-fledged vegetarian. Stay tuned.

What else? I made a new friend (#25 on the list) while in Vegas. Her name is S. She lives in Texas. We know many of the same people. Such a small world. Now I follow her on facebook and instagram. She’s pretty awesome.

I’m going to need to rack my brains for a March friend. I might have failed y’all.

#16 says, “Create a backyard vegetable garden.” Thanks to my Vandy Div. friend E, I am a few steps closer to making this a reality. She gave me some of her heirloom seeds from last year’s crop, and they are planted in their seedling pots and I am anxiously awaiting them to sprout! Pictures to come soon.

I also need to post my picture of an amazing place for March (hint – it might be a zoo. The Nashville Zoo. That’s not a hint, I just told you. Sorry.) and be thinking about what to photograph for April. Maybe the dog park? Who knows where the wind will take me.

That’s about it for now folks. I’ve got to buckle down and complete about 70 pages of writing by April 30th. If you don’t hear from me until May, you’ll know why.

As always, cheers!

Red Rock Canyon

I am in Las Vegas!ImageAs an aspiring United Methodist Church young clergy person, I am attending a conference here in Vegas today, tomorrow, and Saturday. The Relevance/LEAD conference is at the University of Nevada at Las Vegas and is geared towards equipping young adult clergy and lay leaders for effective young adult ministry. I am looking forward to a weekend full of learning and fellowship, and bringing back this wonderful knowledge to my home congregation.

Another amazing thing about this trip is that my very good friend from high school, L, and her husband have been living here in Vegas for the past few years, and I have not seen her in all that time. So I’m spending valuable and precious time with her exploring the local Vegas hangouts. It is a much needed respite from the current stress of my “real” life.

One of the places we explored yesterday was Red Rock Canyon in the Mojave Desert.Image(See the tiny people in the bottom right corner? This formation is HUGE!)

We spent close to three hours driving along the 13 mile route, stopping every few miles to get out and hike the trails. We couldn’t have asked for better weather in February. I wore a t-shirt and some yoga pants and was quite comfortable. This landscape is one of the most awe-inspiring places I have been to.

Which brings me to my February “Pic of the Month.” For this month’s awesome place, I choose the Red Rock Canyon National Conservation Area. (http://www.redrock.org/)Image

Here are some more pics of the scenery and my mad climbing skills…ImageImageImage

Today we are planning on going down to the Strip, so be looking for more pictures tomorrow!

As always, cheers to you today and everyday!

New month, new writing stuff!

Folks, we are officially one twelfth of the way through the year 2013.

25 update #1: I took a picture of an awesome place yesterday, so I didn’t miss my January deadline. Hooray!

It’s only a camera phone photo, so it’s nothing fancy. But I think it’s a great place to start documenting the many awe-inspiring places of my life.

ImageThis is the Monroe Carell Jr. Children’s Hospital at Vanderbilt.

It’s a mouthful of a title. But a big place that does such big things deserves a big name.

I am currently serving as a chaplain intern at the Children’s hospital, and let me tell you, it has not always been sparkly and vibrant. In fact, it can be downright ugly and heart stopping. But Good God Almighty, it is a beautiful place.

It’s beautiful in the conventional sense in that someone (or more likely a very large committee of someones) put a great deal of time and effort into designing the building itself. The halls are swathed in “rivers of healing and ribbons of peace,” or some similar saying. It basically means that there are a lot of swirly, flowy, ribbony type elements that make you feel more like you are in a children’s art museum than a hospital. Plus actual patient art can be found on nearly every wall of every floor. There are bright colors, photos, artwork, child-friendly statues, blown glass light fixtures, butterflies, and animals everywhere you look. It is a truly stimulating and sensual experience to walk those halls every day, no matter how tough things may get physically, emotionally, or spiritually.

But it’s also beautiful in the quality of people that occupy the space. The medical staff, social workers, child life specialists, chaplains, receptionists, volunteers, and everyone else who gives their time and energy into making sick kids feel better each deserve a Nobel prize. Seriously. I sometimes look around at these people and think, “This is what the Kingdom of God looks like.”

But I think what has been the most amazing, most inspiring, most affirming thing in my personal experience working in this hospital is my work with the patients and families. I have been present for everything from broken bones to chemo, trauma, and life-support removal. These are real people in real pain, and it has taken me a while to realize that they really know God. I think I had expectations when I first started that I would be serving as more of a teacher, reading scripture and calming fears and anxiety with prayer. I am a master of divinity student, after all. I have deconstructed and reconstructed my theology every which way. I thought I was ready to provide pastoral care. (If you are wondering, you are never ready until you actually do it.)  I vainly thought I could help bring God to these families. I was so so wrong.

What a surprise, and yet how perfectly consistent with everything I believe, to find that God is always already there, and has been there long before I walk into a room. I don’t “bring” God anywhere. I walk in, I listen, and what unfolds before me is a powerful and miraculous story of pain and suffering, which is always infused with great amounts of faith and hope. It is a testament to the human spirit and God’s strong desire for relationship with us that faith can still be found in these places of deepest hurt. I am constantly amazed at the resurrection and new life I see all around me, every single day.

The Vanderbilt Children’s Hospital is a living and breathing miracle here on earth. Even when patients die (and they do die because we live in a world which is continually being redeemed, and we wait for the Kingdom of Heaven while we actively seek to build it), the glory of God and the redemptive work of Christ is still present. This is not to say we don’t hurt and cry and scream our hearts out to God. It’s just to say God can take it. And thank God for that.

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25 update #2: I think I can say that I successfully made a new friend in January. If we want to get technical, she’s been an acquaintance since last semester, and I didn’t really ask her to be my friend until today, Feb. 1st, at the end of our discussion class. It went like this:

Me: Hey, um, S?
S: Yeah?
Me: We should get coffee sometime. Or grab lunch or something.
S: Yeah, we should!
Me: Ok, Fridays usually work for me, but I have to finish a paper.
S: Well let’s do next Friday. Fridays are usually the best for me too!
Me: Ok!

I realize now that this would have been a good place to stop the conversation, smile politely, and say something like, “Have a good weekend!” Instead…

Me: Hey, do you mind if I put you in my blog? (Immediately horrified I even asked her this. What kind of weirdo am I? Ok, I can fix this.) I mean, I just need a new friend. Can you be my friend this month? (Not helping myself out at all. I am sooooo lame.)
S: (smiling), Haha, yeah, that’s fine, I’ll be famous! Let me know when you post it!
Me: (in my head: I KNEW I liked you for a reason! You don’t care that I’m weird!)

Thank you Lord, for S.

Anyway, even though it’s February, I’m going to count S as my January friend. Because I can.

The end.

January, why you leave so fast?

Today is the last day of January.

WHHHHAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAT?

Have I made a new friend this month? (I’m racking my brains, trying to rewind the month like a youtube video in my head… and I can’t think of one. That means I have to talk to a stranger today. Ok, now I’m nervous.)

Have I taken one photo of one awesome place? NO!

I have exactly 15 hours left to do both of these things. Can I do it? Yes. Will I do it? I don’t know! I think I need a pep talk:

Kid President, I think you just stole my heart. Why cry about it when I can dance about it?! In fact, while I’m at it, I think I’m going to start training for the April half tonight! And maybe I’ll go shopping for my vegetarian diet! (Whoa there, I think that pep talk got me a little too peppy. One step at a time, Shelby, one step at a time.)

But yes, I can make a friend today. And I can take a photo of an awesome place. I’m surrounded by them here in Nashville. But how to choose!? I guess you’ll find out tomorrow!

Cheers!

21 Days Later

I just sent off my first letter for the year 2013!

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Technically it is the second piece of mail I sent, the first being my brother’s birthday card. But that one just said “Happy Birthday, here’s a check.” I don’t think it counts.

The January letter to my friend C, the same C from my last post. Hope she gets it soon!

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Caveat: On my original, handwritten list (the one I thought I lost on the car ride home from Texas and thus created a new one from memory, as seen in Post 1), had an important item on it that I forgot to include in the revised edition. That would be to write one letter to a different person each month. So even though it didn’t make the final cut, I still thought it might be a good idea to try and keep up with such an admirable communication goal!

And therefore…

This calls for a celebration!

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mmmmmmmmmmm……..

Cheers 🙂

25

The title of this, my first blog post*, is fitting for two reasons. The first is that I have a mere five months and a scattering of days left of truthfully claiming to be twenty-five years old. Such fleeting time for the life of a graduate student who holds the title “mid-twenty-something” very near and dear to her heart. But secondly, and more importantly, the number 25 is the taproot of this year-long endeavor. The story is as follows.

One week ago, as my partner S and I made the twelve hour trek back to Nashville from my family’s Christmas, I was having a telephone conversation with my good friend C. C was telling me of her and a friend’s of hers idea to create a list of twenty-five things to accomplish for 2013. This is not your ordinary, everyday, run of the mill New Year’s Resolution list however. For C and her friend, this is a list of writing prompts. A burgeoning young writer is forever in need of writing prompts, as life has not yet yielded much practical experience to a person in her mid-twenties. By creating 25 “to-dos,” to be spread throughout the year at one’s own leisure, a writer is provided with ample opportunity to hone her craft. My heart thudded as I considered the possibilities. I tried to tactfully mention my interest in such a project, but instead heard myself saying, a little too desperately to be considered tactful, “Can I do it too?!”

And thus began the creation of Right Writing. On this day, the fifth of January in the year 2013, I am beginning a journey which will hopefully lead to a better understanding of myself and my writing ability. Cheers to that.

So here it is. My list of 25 things to do this year that will hopefully prove just as thrilling in the retelling of the events as the events themselves. Friends, do not judge me harshly for my choosings. I am a beginner, after all. Here it goes:

  1. Begin a blog to document my experiences this year. (Aha, we’re off to a great start here!)
  2. Learn to play Debussy’s Clair de Lune perfectly, from beginning to end. (I think this one gives me more anxiety than #3. I foresee hours and hours of effort.)
  3. Go skydiving. (I had planned to do this last year for my 25th birthday, but chickened out. So my 27th year of life will start off with an adrenaline rush.)
  4. Write (and actually finish) a short story to be published here for your pleasure and feedback.
  5. Train for and complete a half marathon. (Several options abound, more info to come.)
  6. Hike 20 miles of the Appalachian Trail.
  7. Take 12 photos of 12 amazing places. (One a month, I can do that!)
  8. Complete 1 round of golf… no cheating. (I’ve only ever played 9 holes before, twice in my life, cheated like an old western card shark both times.)
  9. Go deep sea fishing.
  10. Begin learning Spanish.
  11. Rock climb at Climb Nashville.
  12. Gamble in Las Vegas.
  13. Tackle the Titan. (The Titan is a frighteningly large roller coaster at Six Flags Over Texas, the theme park of my childhood, of which I have been phobic since it’s inception in 2001. This is the year I will face my fear and ride it!)
  14. Consume an all vegetarian diet for one month.
  15. Picnic on Love Circle.
  16. Create a backyard vegetable garden.
  17. Dye my hair an unnatural color.
  18. Be an extra on ABC’s Nashville. (Living here should make this a little easier, I’ve already declined the offer once!)
  19. Eat fish and chips in England this summer. (Thank you Vanderbilt Divinity School!)
  20. Learn how to make paper.
  21. Make a t-shirt quilt.
  22. Make and carry homeless “care” bags in my car. Each bag will have necessities and a list of resources that I can hand to neighbors who might need them. (Why haven’t I done this earlier?)
  23. Read the entire New Testament in one month.
  24. Boat down and camp on a Tennessee River.
  25. Make one new friend each month.

There you have it. Don’t think I will be trying to tackle this list chronologically my dear reader. I think I will let the Spirit guide my steps with this project. Now, as I wrap up this first post (my coffee has grown cold since I first began), I can tell you that I am looking forward to a glorious year of challenges and excitement designed to test my strength and courage as a writer of experience! If, heaven forbid, it turns out I have zero talent, you will let me know, won’t you? But let me down easy, friend. I’m a sensitive soul.

Cheers to you, and Happy New Year!

*In the spirit of honesty, I must admit to you, dear reader, that this is not my first blog post. As an undergraduate student as yet unfamiliar with such worldly concepts as “blogging,” I admit to having an active livejournal account for several years, though I treated it as more of an online diary of sorts than an attempt at any actual communication with the blogosphere. That being stated, I have reviewed some posts from these formative years and have determined the bulk of them to be horrifying and myself to have been embarrassingly vain. In some years time, the same may be said of this, my second attempt. But for now, as always, I remain blissfully unaware of my future thoughts about myself.