Sunday, June 8, 2014

Dear College-bound Nieces: 10 Pieces of Unsolicited Advice

There are plenty of things I'm not an expert on. College is not one of those things. As my cute nieces are jumping into their last summers at home, I've been going over the things I learned from my nearly-a-decade at school, and here I offer some of those things, unsolicited:

1. Find a tribe. It may be a club, it may be your freshman roommates, it may be an on campus job, hopefully some combo of all of these things, but having friendly faces and a place on campus where you feel comfortable will mean the difference between disoriented lonesome wandering and starting to feel at home. This can also mean going out of your way to meet people. Be nice, be outgoing, even if you don't feel like it.
2. Get an on campus job. It may be that you don't need to work to support yourself. It may be that you're taking 21 credit hours (this is a bad idea), it doesn't matter: get a job, on campus. It may be somewhere random like the lost and found or somewhere that really applies to your field, like a TA. Both have benefits, both are a good idea. It doesn't have to get in the way of school (don't let it) or in the way of your social life (if done right, it will help more than hurt). You have the time. Some benefits:
  • A) a tribe, one that you're forced into proximity with, for good or bad, where you can learn more about yourself and others.
  • B) a home away from your apartment. Apartments are great places, don't get me wrong, but it's nice to have a place to go to where you don't have to worry about chore charts or that third roommate you're not so sure about.
  • C) a letter. One day you're going to apply for grad school or a job and someone's going to ask for a letter of recommendation. You will certainly have professors who you've grown close to, but if you can find a job as a TA or RA, you'll have someone who really knows you and your work and who can really open doors for you.
  • D) A line on your resume. Show grad schools or your employer that you can take care of business.
  • E) Spending money. Jobs on campus don't pay nothing, but you're not going to get rich. It's nice, though, to have a little extra cash on hand for marginally responsible road trips or hair dye.
  • F) Something to worry about that isn't school. It's hard to write papers, it's hard to TA a class, but they're different kinds of hard so are good breaks from each other.
3. Travel! Study abroad, go on marginally responsible road trips, save up for a trip to Italy. You can make the time and you'll never have as much freedom again.
4. Don't take 8:00 classes. You think you can handle it (early morning seminary!), but two months into the semester you will hate yourself. I promise.
5. Don't skip class, much. So I'll be honest. I had a Health/PE class I stopped going to after the second test. I had great physiology in high school, attendance wasn't mandatory, and I pulled a B+. Not my best grade, but I'm not losing sleep. On the other hand, I had students that just stopped coming class midsemester. Or didn't come on the day a paper was due, or didn't turn in a paper before they left for Christmas break. These students got worse grades than I did and also were dumb. The point: there will be times when skipping class is totally worth it, but don't get carried away!
6. Take a fun class (or two). Russian Literature! The History of Jazz! Every once in a while take something you're not required to take--it's fun and good for your brain. It also makes you look like an interesting person to grad schools. (I did take a lot longer than I needed to to get through my undergrad, but I know plenty of people who graduated in 4 years who also wandered a little.)
7.  Take honors classes. They're easier (less busy work), they're smaller, they're usually geared to align with the professor's interests, all winners.
8. Don't be afraid to shop around for classes. You can add/drop classes for the first two weeks of the semester. I didn't get to be a real pro at this until maybe my junior year, but: if a class/professor seems boring or uninspired, find a new one! If you didn't get into a class you really wanted, email the professor beforehand and then show up. You won't always get in, but you often will. A professor will really make or break the subject matter so particularly for classes that matter, find someone you love!
9. Study groups! They're fun, they're (generally) waay better than they were in high school and you get to hang out with people you like outside of class. And you can bring cookies. Don't be afraid to initiate 'em.
10. Take classes one Spring/Summer semester. This is mostly for Provo kids: it's magical.
11. Get off of campus once in a while. The college town you live in expands beyond the bounds of campus, and so should you. Wander off a little to find the great pupusas, the quirky thrift stores, the adorable neighborhoods and great hiking trails that college kids don't always get to appreciate.

Have fun! Be nice! Draw closer to Heavenly Father!
The End.

Sunday, February 16, 2014


Best of the Week
James: Valentine's Day Date (2 latest episodes of Sherlock)
Kjerstin: We went to a marriage seminar and part of it was saying nice things to each other. It was really nice to reconnect. (Also: successful paella!)
Isaac: Walked! Loves being outside (and the weather lets him!)

You read right: we have a walker! He won't do it while we're filming, and almost won't if we're watching. The first big jag was out by the pool carrying a fire poker from the fire pit. Like 8 steps! He's been so close for so long I'm not surprised that he's pretty comfortable. But our little guy! Sherry and I both dreamed that he started running as soon as he started walking, and we're halfway there.

This week has been *gorgeous.* I went on a hike Wednesday in the sun. And today was lovely and lakey and beautiful. I am all for sudden springs--it was 30 on Monday and 70+ today and I love it.

Also, Valentines Day was a big success: I got out of Costco with 1 item (miracle) and out of Central Market (which is wonderful--Whole Foods with better produce and less pretension somehow) under $20 and paella, though complicated, is wonderful and forgiving and delicious. We had a super low-key night: Paella, grapefruit smoothies, Sherlock on Scott and Sherry's bed, hazelnut gelato. Mellow, lovely.

I also had big plans to give these lovelies to my in-laws for V-day:

 They didn't turn out quite as beautifully as I'd hoped, but were super tastey, and the orange-gorgonzola cream cheese that accompanied them is otherworldly. My friend Amy at Club Narwhal wrote about them and man that girl know how to pair flavors.

James worked a *ton* this week. He spent a big chunk of time painting one of the offices, but also is really upping clinical hours. Busy and awesome. He learned about this couple's seminar that we did Saturday. It focused on communication--lots of active listening stuff--and was full of good reminders. It was nice to spend the day together and was a nice entree into talking about all sorts of stuff.

Finally, James' mom turned *75* today. We're sending her to Chichin Itza (and it's the end of winter) so we did big tissue paper flowers and streamers, Brazilian lemonade, salmon, asparagus. Lynette made tiramisu (thank you very much). And the Ballards, of course, know how to have a good time. There was singing and lots of laughing and so much delicious food.

We're all entirely exhausted and excited for a new week.


Sunday, February 9, 2014

Feb 2.

Best of the Week
Isaac: Getting a huge cheer every time he stands up from sitting.
Kjerstin: Friday I worked on my thesis for a couple of hours. Successfully!
James: Miter saw!

Cold this week. Texas isn't alone of course, but has been such a ridiculous winter. For the grownups, of course, the cold doesn't count for much (except bad attitudes maybe), and Isaac actually seems unfazed. He wears his adorable hoodies and sits contentedly when I walk him across parking lots and mostly contentedly when I buckle him into his carseat (which has recently become his least favorite place in the universe).

Also, Isaac started sleeping in his own bed again! It's actually appropriately timed--those teething and sleeping problems from my last post pushed him into our bed in the first place. We didn't want to just pop him in his crib and let him cry it out, so we're gradually getting less involved--sitting farther away from his crib, giving him more time to work things out, etc. Last night was much much better than last Sunday night which I spent in large part on the floor and Isaac spent screaming his guts out and pointing at our bedroom door (poor kiddo) but we're all still a little grouchier than we'd like.

We're on walk alert. Isaac has taken a couple of shuffly steps, but seems pretty determined to keep crawling for the moment. We try and stand him up away from furniture, but he's a pretty savvy and also stubborn little guy. I'm a little worried (we're coming up on 14 months here), but, also, he walks when he walks. Other adorable things: he's more and more vocal. These last couple of days he's been exploring the shriekier registers. Mostly charming. He's discovered our bathroom drawers--loves lotion. When we raised our right hands to sustain the newly called folks at church today, he raised his right hand too. And this morning when we were cuddling he starting running his fingers through my hair (I do this all the time lately because he has the best hair). Melt.

Karen (James' mom) took me to Rusalka at the movie theater on Saturday. It's a Dvorak opera that reads like The Little Mermaid. Except sad. Renee Fleming was the lead and gorgeous. And the costumes were weird and beautiful. It was lovely to get out of the house and a lovely opera.

James has been working like crazy. He's getting new clients all the time and also doing some housekeeping stuff around the office (painting, organizing) which he loves. He made a bad-a trebuchet with/for our cute nephew yesterday with the miter saw he bought himself with Christmas money.

No pics this week (but next for sure).