Posts Tagged 'LJ Idol'

Food Memories

“I’ll never forget our very first Thanksgiving turkey after we were married,” Mom said through tears of hysterical laughter. “The turkey was beautiful and ready to come out of the oven, but somehow when we lifted it up, it fell off the pan and bounced. There was a loud THUNK as it bounced off the door of the oven and rolled across the floor. Some of you in this room ate that turkey!”

     This topic reminded me of my sister’s bridal shower my parents hosted in 2008, the theme of which was “down home.” My mom thought it would be fun for all the women to take a fancy note card, write a recipe on one side and their worst/funniest cooking disaster on the other. Then we would go around a circle and share them. Thinking back on this shower it has occurred to me that while a delicious meal that goes off without a hitch is wonderful, the cooking disasters are where the memories are made.

     Like last Thanksgiving for example, when my brother who doesn’t like pumpkin pie decided to make a favorite dessert similar to rice krispy treats but with chocolate melted on top. We think he overcooked the rice krispy marshmallow mix because the bars came out so rock hard that we almost needed a saw to slice them and I, mean little sister that I am dubbed them cement krispies.

     Or the time Mom and I were baking oatmeal butterscotch cookies and my mom read the ingredients wrong and only put one cup of oats in when the recipe called for two. When they came out of the oven, we couldn’t figure out why they were so crumbly. That’s when Mom discovered the mistake. But hey, those crumbles made for a delicious ice cream topper and as much as we enjoy the many perfect batches of cookies that have come out of the oven since, one of us always laughs fondly and says, “remember when we made those oatmeal butterscotch cookies?”

     Or the time when Mom and Dad thought they had bought a pre-cooked ham one day last year, so they simply microwaved it a few minutes. It seemed a little tougher to all of us than ham usually is, but we thought nothing of it until Dad was putting the leftovers away and saw blood on the bone. We had basically eaten raw ham! What fun I had spreading the story to my siblings who had all moved away on Facebook and asking my sister’s husband a science guy if we were all going to die. (By the way in case you are wondering, he said that ham is so well cured that it is probably perfectly safe to eat raw, but he wouldn’t recommend risking it). When my grandma, the type of person who is so obsessed about meat being cooked thoroughly that she puts her Thanksgiving turkey in the night before, got wind of the story, she called to check on us every day for a week! But “Remember when we ate that raw ham?” we can say with a laugh now every time we have ham.

     Or my personal favorite catastrophe when a special teacher for the blind was giving me a cooking lesson. I had measured out chocolate and oil for some graham cracker bars and this teacher asked the kind of grumpy seventh grade math teacher if she could borrow the microwave in her classroom to melt the chocolate. Well the mixture burned, and when I went to math class in that room three hours later, it still smelled smoky. Instead of warm-up problems on the board that day, the teacher simply wrote “don’t mention the smell”, and banned us from using her microwave. But we still laugh about it to this day any time food enters a conversation.

     Now some of you are probably thinking, “how about sharing some cooking disasters that you are solely responsible for rather than ratting on your family and teacher.” The truth is, I am still at a phase of cooking where the prospect of my own cooking disaster scares me to death, so I only cook in the microwave, and I stay away from things that burn easily like chocolate and oil, cooking only things like frozen meals with simple goof-proof directions. Once, I almost had to clean up a baked potato explosion. I knew that you were supposed to poke holes in raw potatoes before putting them in the microwave, but when I heard a strange whistling from a potato I was reheating that had previously been cooked on the grill, I learned that grilled potatoes don’t need holes pricked in them. So I almost had a cooking disaster. I often leave the microwave unattended when I am cooking too, but fortunately that day, I was still in the kitchen, so I ran over and was able to stop the microwave before the disaster unfolded.

     So I can still brag that I have never had a cooking disaster. But eventually, I will want to graduate from microwave cooking, maybe even get married and host Thanksgiving dinner. Given that I am clumsy and kind of absent-minded, I have no doubt that this spotless record won’t last forever. But the day this record is tarnished, especially if it is a holiday, I hope I can live by the example of my parents and teacher and not think of it as a cooking disaster, but a funny memory made.


Dig Me Up a Piece of that Kit Cat Scat

It was a very cold, rainy, dreary Saturday morning, the kind of day when I’m glad I only have to go outside the couple minutes it takes for me to do my business in the grass. When Mom brings me back in and I shake the water off myself and wag my tail, I already feel as if I have put in a whole day’s work and have earned a day where my only responsibilities are scarfing down the kibble Mom puts in front of me, occupying my dog bed in front of the couch and barking at the occasional animal that enters our property.

     Of course, humans take life too seriously to spend the whole day being lazy, but on Saturdays Mom, Grandma and Grandpa will treat themselves to a little bit of laziness in the early morning hours: Mom sits at the dining room table savoring a bowl of oatmeal and a banana, while Grandma sips coffee and shares the newspaper with Grandpa. I, of course, am snoring in front of the couch.

     But before long, Grandma can be heard taking her last sip of coffee and stretching. Grandpa can be heard yawning and Mom is scraping the last morsels of oatmeal from the bowl. It is that moment when no one wants to admit it yet, but the newspaper has been read, the coffee finished, breakfast completed. It’s time to get to work.

     “So what’s the plan for today?” Grandpa asks at last.

     “I guess I should do some reading for school,” Mom says.

     “I was thinking since it’s too nasty to go out today, this would be the perfect day to work in the basement,” Grandma says.

     “I agree!” Grandpa says.

     I agree too! But I pretend to be sound asleep and oblivious to this conversation, so as not to draw attention to myself that if noticed, would put Grandma, Grandpa and Mom on guard and a rare opportunity would be lost.

     You see, there is a storage room just inside the basement, to the left of the staircase. I happened to be exploring this room shortly after joining this family three years ago and found the most amazing treats! But when I came up from the basement smacking my lips, Grandpa flipped out, yelled at me and put a barricade behind the door that only the cat can get around.

     But I have found with this family that when they have a big project to do, two things happen. They remove barricades so they can easily get from room to room as they are sorting, and they forget about me. In other words, if I play my cards right, I have a very good chance of getting a treat today!

     As I sleep, I am planning. This crime does take careful planning. If I make no noise at all, I can be naughty right under Mom’s nose because she is blind, but Grandma and Grandpa can see. So sneaking down while they are working would be risky. I could maybe sneak down while Grandma and Grandpa are gone putting stuff in the garage, but that might not take long enough for me to enjoy my treat.

     Wait! I’ve got it! They always stop for lunch which takes at least an hour! And they chatter loudly during lunch too! Perfect!

     All morning, I sleep patiently. At noon when Grandma and Grandpa come up chattering happily about all they accomplished, as they open a can of soup and pull the lunch meat out of the fridge, I continue to sleep, all innocent and cute on my bed by the couch.

     “Lunch is ready,” Grandma calls up to Mom, who closes her book with a sigh of relief that she has an excuse to take a break from reading and emerges happily from her room. This means the opportunity is approaching. Still I sleep patiently.

     But it isn’t long before they are seated around the kitchen table, fully immersed in happy conversation. I listen for a few minutes to make sure I don’t hear any mention of words like “dog” or “Gilbert” topics that would increase their awareness of me and could blow my cover. When I was pretty certain they were talking about what they had done in the basement, I very quietly stand up. The time has come. Usually I shake myself to wake up, but not now. Too noisy!

     Quieter than a naughty child, I make my way to the foyer, careful that my claws don’t click on the tiles. Soon I approach the first seven stairs, the most dangerous part. The steps are carpeted so I don’t have to be as mindful of clicking claws, but they are situated where Grandma and Grandpa could potentially glance over and spot me. I’m so excited and nervous all I want to do is run down these stairs, but I’m a big dog. That would make too much noise and I would be busted for sure. So ducking my head and hugging the wall of the staircase, I creep down one step at a time.

     The second flight of stairs down to the basement poses less risk of being spotted, but the steps are made of wood. Mom has very astute hearing. I’d better not get overly confident. I make my way slowly and calmly down these stairs and at last reach the basement where I discovered my theory was correct. They had forgotten about me! The door is wide open!

     Wagging my tail, I enter the room where I find a box of litter, stick my nose in and savor some delicious pieces of, let’s call it kit cat scat!

     When I have dug up all I could find, I run up the stairs unable to suppress the joy over my successful mission.

     “Uh-oh,” Mom says hearing me run up the stairs.

     “What?” Grandma says.

     “Gilbert just came from downstairs,” Mom states.

     There is no need to say anything more. They all know what that means.

     “Did you close the door?” Grandma asks Grandpa.

     He doesn’t even need to answer. The smacking of my lips as I enter the room nonchalantly confirms he didn’t.

     “GILBERT!” they all shout in disgust.

     Then they realize they cannot really punish me now that the deed has already been done. All they can do is sigh and laugh.

     “Well, you’re not allowed to lick me for a few days,” Grandpa says.

     “Why not?” I wonder. “I was just digging for a treat. There is no difference between that and digging through a candy bowl, is there?”

     Apparently there is, according to humans. I don’t understand it. But for months after this infraction, they will diligently check and make sure the barricade is up.

     But us dogs, especially labs like me, are patient and undeterred when it comes to pursuing guilty pleasures like kit cat scat. So I am always listening, watching, waiting. If that door is ever left open again, I’ll be ready.

Trick or Treat

Last week, Mom and I were shopping at Target when we saw Halloween candy on display and decided it was time to stock the big wooden salad bowl, just in case we get trick-or-treaters. But last year, we only had a couple trick-or-treaters and the year before, the pumpkin lit with a candle was outside the door, the porch lights on, “The Monster Mash” playing on a stereo we place outside and not a single trick-or-treater came.

     Since answering the door and being the one that got to say, “and who do we have here?” to the little witches and goblins that came to the door was the extent of my Halloween celebrating once I reached an age when it was no longer socially appropriate to be a little witch myself, this absence of trick-or-treaters was disheartening.

     I have tried to replace the tradition I outgrew with new traditions. Well, they cannot really be called traditions because they only lasted a year or two, but you know what I mean.

     The last two years, Dad and I celebrated by dressing up as burritos to win a free burrito at Chipolte Mexican Grill. This year however, my dad has a new job and will probably work too late to continue this tradition and well, I inherited my love of stupid silly fun from my dad! And anyway, it still wasn’t the same as trick-or-treating.

     Two years ago, Dad also took me to a haunted house, but I wasn’t that haunted by it. I’m not sure if it was because that particular haunted house was geared towards little kids or if it was because I am blind and the scariness of it was more visual. But whatever the reason, I left that house puzzled about why haunted houses draw such long lines.

     This year, I am starting what I hope will be a tradition that I can carry over to the office job after college. I am going to live vicariously through my guide dog Gilbert and put him in a costume for Halloween. It is no longer socially acceptable for me to dress up I suppose, but dogs never have to give up their cute innocence right? So along with the candy, Mom and I picked out an adorable $6 old man costume for Gilbert, complete with a purple hat and orange tie. This will be the most fun tradition yet I think, especially when it is time for my Creative Writing class, a very intimate, fun class with only five other students, all of whom love dogs, especially Gilbert and have been looking forward to seeing him dressed up for days. But even this tradition will never live up to the fun I had trick-or-treating.

     Of course, since our neighborhood hardly has any trick-or-treaters these days, my parents and I have been enjoying the candy all week and will have plenty left over, but somehow, this candy just doesn’t taste as good as it used to.

     To hear me rave about trick-or-treating this way, as if it was so much fun that nothing could ever live up to it, you might think trick-or-treating was something I looked forward to for months just like Christmas. Actually, trick-or-treating was met with a mixture of excitement and dread for me. I thought it was fun to dress up and I loved eating the candy of course, but earning that candy was hard work in my neighborhood.

     Now that I am an adult, I appreciate our neighborhood more. It is a beautiful, peaceful neighborhood with two-acre yards, spread out houses, long driveways and a paved country road that can go hours at a time without seeing a car. In the spring, you can smell lilacs and honeysuckle from the road, making it a wonderful neighborhood for taking walks. But for little short-legged children, this neighborhood is torture.

     I have vague memories of my older sister pulling me through the neighborhood in a little wagon with the candy bag in my lap when I was really small, but most years, I walked. Some neighbors would drive groups of trick-or-treaters from house to house, but my parents never did that. Though I wasn’t aware of the increase in childhood obesity then, perhaps that is the reason. They didn’t want to spoil our fun like other parents by rationing our candy, but we could at least walk to earn it.

     To add to the misery of trick-or-treating, many Halloweens were cold and windy. I remember trudging through snow one year. In kindergarten when I dressed as a princess, the wind blew my crown off my head and my mom had to run after it. I vividly remember several years of wearing my winter coat over my costume and coming home with a nose tip that I am told was red and which I could tell was cold to the touch. So when I arrived at each door, rang the doorbell and removed the scarf from my mouth to say “Trick-or-treat” I felt I had earned the pile of candy lovingly dumped in to my open bag by each neighbor.

     Being blind made the process of trick-or-treating annoying because every neighbor has a different configuration of steps that lead up to their door, which made getting up to the door even more tedious than it was for “normal kids”, but I thought it was fun not being able to see the kind of candy being put in my bag. This meant that in addition to every other kid’s eagerness to get home and eat the snickers bar they saw, walking home for me was like waiting through the night of Christmas eve. “What treasures did the neighbors put in my bag this year?”

     As soon as I was in the warm cozy house and I had taken my coat off, my parents let me go wild and dig through it all! If I saw M&Ms or Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups, I had struck gold, but I loved anything with chocolate. I wasn’t as fond of fruity candy like Smarties, so those I generously shared with my brother. (smile)

     It’s funny how when we are little, we cannot imagine being big. We don’t appreciate how special trick-or-treating is because life seems timeless and the notion that one day we will be too old to say “trick-or-treat” never crosses our mind. But all of a sudden, puberty sneaks up on us and says “boo!” and we realize we aren’t one of the little kids anymore.

     Now that I think about it, the onset of puberty was also when Halloween candy no longer seemed to taste as good as it used to. Sure, this could be due to the fact that with maturity came a greater consciousness of health, so guilt got in the way of my enjoyment when eating candy. But I think there is more to it than that. In the same way that I always felt a sweeter sense of victory and satisfaction when I did a difficult homework assignment or cooked a meal all by myself, working for my candy, walking for what seemed like an eternity to my short little legs, fighting my way through cold, wind and sometimes rain and snow, made the candy taste even sweeter.

     Thus it has occurred to me that my mourning about being too old to trick-or-treat is not about the costumes or candy, or even the void that was created when I outgrew this tradition. It is about the simple joy of earning my candy instead of having it handed to me, which brings me back to my disheartened mood in recent Halloweens when we hardly get any trick-or-treaters. Mom pointed out that many of the children in our neighborhood are now past trick-or-treating age. But on summer days, I hear a lot of little children’s voices shouting and laughing in yards all over the neighborhood. I hope that maybe I’m just a poor judge of age. Maybe you cannot judge a child’s age by their voice. I hope there really aren’t as many children as it sounds like there are. I hope that all the children I hear playing in the yards aren’t going to more compact neighborhoods where they don’t have to work as hard for their candy, because I have found that earning my candy on Halloween and in life is half the fun.

When You Pray, Move Your Feet

This proverb reminded me of a joke I heard a long time ago. I don’t remember it word for word, but the premise was something like this:

     A woman is caught in a devastating flood. Eventually, the water is so high that she must escape to the roof of her house. While sitting on the roof, she decides to put her survival in God’s hands and starts praying to God to save her.

     After a time, a neighbor with a boat notices her on the roof and says, “I can rescue you,” but the woman says, “I appreciate it, but God will save me.”

     As she waits on the roof, the water gets higher and higher, but a little later, a rescue helicopter comes with an offer of help. Yet again the woman says, “no thanks. God will save me.”

     Eventually, the house is overcome with water and the woman drowns. When she gets to heaven, she asks God, “I prayed and prayed for you to save me on the roof! Why didn’t you save me?” to which God responds, “I tried to. I sent the helicopter and the neighbor with the boat.”

     I understand if some of you may have found this joke insulting, but allow me to argue that even if it is a little over-the-top and insulting, there is some seriousness to it. I think the point this joke was intended to make fun of was society’s oversimplification of religion.

     We have all heard of other extreme and not-so-funny examples of this oversimplification in real-life. In my local area a couple years ago, the parents of a little girl with juvenile diabetes were sentenced to prison because they prayed for God to save the child when she went in to diabetic shock instead of seeking medical care for her. She died as a result.

     But there are plenty of less extreme examples of times in which we have all been guilty of oversimplification. I am speaking here not as any kind of theologian or expert on religion by any means. I am just your average college student who happens to be blind, but I can speak as someone who was guilty of buying in to this oversimplification myself.

     One day as a teenager, I was flipping through channels when I came to a religion channel that sounded interesting. As I watched, I would find out the show I tuned in to was The 700 Club. For awhile, I was enjoying the show and found the testimonials of people who had come to Jesus inspiring. But then they had a segment where someone prayed over people who were afflicted with physical blindness from eye conditions and they supposedly got their sight back.

     “Anyone afflicted with blindness, close your eyes and pray with me,” someone said, “and your sight will be restored.

     The rational part of me knew that this was a sham. If it was that easy, every blind person would have done it already and there wouldn’t be any blind people in the world. And yet I am ashamed to admit I did it. Not surprisingly, when I opened my eyes, I was still blind. I never watched that show again.

     But I fell in to the miracle trap again. I was watching a news report earlier this year about a church in my state that is believed to be the site of an apparition of the Blessed mother. The news story also said it was believed to be the site of miracles and specifically sited the story of a man who came in on crutches and left the church without them, a knee injury completely healed. Usually, I would have begged and pleaded to stay home when my family wants to tour a church, but ever since hearing that this church was the site of miracles, I was consumed with this weird mix of excitement and hope. After doing further investigating on the church’s web site the day before the trip and finding that other miracles included the restoration of sight to blind people after family members prayed a novena at the church, I felt like a child on Christmas Eve.

     Deep down, I knew that miracles by definition were rare and inexplicable. Also, I was always taught that God has a purpose for all adversity. Yet when I walked out of that church and playfully quoted a line I used to put a nurse practitioner at the eye doctor in her place a couple years ago when she asked me if I had noticed any changes in my eyes, (“I’m still blind!”), the truth was I did feel let down. My parents said prayers, but we were only there for one afternoon, not long enough for a novena which I learned was an intense form of prayer that spanned several days. I never told my parents, but for 48 hours after the trip, I abandoned rational thinking, researched novenas and longed to go back to the church and see if “we just didn’t do it right.” If only we had time to do a real novena, I could be running down our country road swinging both arms at my side in jubilation, untethered from the cane, dog harness or human elbow. As I wrote in an entry back in March called What Would Seeing Feel Like? it wasn’t that I was depressed about being blind, far from it. I have been blind my whole life, so being blind is normal for me and I am very happy and well-adjusted. But I have always secretly wondered what it would be like to run down a street hands free or stand on a hilltop and see for miles. Fortunately, that week I had an internship interview to prepare for which distracted me so the feeling wore off quickly, but it was sobering to realize that I was behaving no better than the woman in the joke that began this entry, or even the parents who didn’t seek medical help for their child. I had misconstrued the purpose of prayer, buying in to the myth that prayer is synonymous with magic.

     Alright, most of you probably cannot relate to my experience either, so let me ask you this. Have you ever had a job that you loathed for inadequate pay, long hours, no sense of fulfillment or all of the above? Did you ever pray to God for guidance, asking him to send you a sign that would make it clear whether you should stick it out or quit and find something that better suited you? When he sent signs that you should leave–depression, no appetite, an inability to sleep at night–did you still insist on sticking it out and not search for something better? I know of so many people in this situation.

     Have you ever continued practicing the faith you grew up with because it is familiar, but in reality you are just going through the motions with no passion? When you felt pulled by another faith that ignited a spark in you, were you unable to take a leap of faith (no pun intended) and let the spirit lead you to try something different on a long-term basis? I know of people in this situation too.

     All of these situations are very different, I realize. But I feel like the moral in all of them is the same: prayer is not synonymous with magic.

     It would be wonderful if a divine being could swoop down and save our lives, literally and metaphorically. It would be wonderful if all afflictions in this world could be erased through a simple prayer or if we could literally hear a voice telling us what we should do rather than having to settle with an ambiguous feeling that something “just isn’t right.”

     I admit I still struggle with the “prayer should equal magic” thinking, but I am slowly realizing that since God knew the purpose he had for us before we were even born, prayer is really about asking God to be with us for whatever life throws our way. I have also come to believe that God should not be thought of as a physical being but as a spiritual force that sends us the signs that a circumstance in our lives isn’t right for us, inspires the helicopter pilot to go rescue the lady from the flooded house or helps the blind person to recognize and accept that He has a purpose for their blindness and live out this purpose instead of fantisizing about what isn’t meant to be. It is up to us to recognize these signs and “move our feet” accordingly.

Students Suspect Preferential Treatment of Blind Student

Shepherdsville, WI. School administrators at Clifford University are investigating student complaints regarding perceived preferential treatment of a blind student by professors. The student, Allison Nastoff, is a senior pursuing a bachelor’s degree in Journalism and a politics minor.

     Typically people at the center of serious investigations like this decline our interview requests, but Nastoff says she has nothing to hide.

     “An investigation isn’t necessary in all honesty,” Nastoff said, “the preferential treatment my peers speak of isn’t perceived. It’s real.”

     Nastoff, who has been blind almost her entire life, said some preferential treatment has always been a part of life.

     “I’ve always received a little bit of special treatment, simply because totally blind people like me are rare, and thus fascinating,” Nastoff said.

     But even she has noticed a sharp increase in preferential treatment since she started college. It just so happened that the start of college coincided with the acquisition of her first guide dog, a yellow lab named Gilbert.

     This issue was first brought to the attention of the administration by Thomas Truman, a student in Nastoff’s history class freshman year.

     “I had to stay up all night finishing a paper and I was exhausted. But being the motivated student that I am, I dragged myself out of bed and made it to the 8am history class. But I inadvertently dozed off and my head slumped onto the desk,” Truman said.

     According to Truman’s official complaint, Dr. Jefferson noticed and reprimanded him for being disrespectful, telling him he shouldn’t come to class if he is too tired to pay attention. But a couple days later when Gilbert snored loudly during a lecture on stagflation, Dr. Jefferson laughed and said affectionately, “I guess Gilbert isn’t interested in stagflation.”

     “How is that fair?” Truman would like to know.

     Since Truman first raised the issue, other students have started to come forward.

     “I sat next to her in an International Relations course last year,” said Hillary Palin.

     Palin recalled one assignment where they all had to write papers about whether or not the United States should send foreign aid to countries with corrupt dictators like Libya, and come up with our own ideas for how the United States could get aid to these impoverished countries without supporting corrupt dictators.

     “The day papers were handed back, I overheard Dr. Biden say to her “95 percent! Nice job!” as he gave Gilbert an affectionate pat. At first, I was impressed that she scored so high and was going to congratulate her, but couldn’t help glancing over her shoulder and noticing a comment Dr. Biden wrote on her paper,” Palin said.

     As Palin tells it, Nastoff proposed as one of her solutions to the issue that money should be sent to non-governmental organizations like the Peace Corps, to which Dr. Biden pointed out that the Peace Corps is part of the government.

     “I had no idea it was possible to even get in to college not knowing that. Would such a demonstration of stupidity have been so easily forgiven if I had written the paper, being that I am not allowed to bring my dog to class? I doubt it,” Palin said.

     Phillip Peepys is in an english class with Nastoff this semester.

     “Class had just begun, I mean JUST begun, when Allison and Lynda Dillard started giggling. Now if my friends and I had been giggling amongst ourselves during class Dr. Webster would have asked us to leave for being disruptive,” Peepys said, “but when Dr. Webster found out they had been laughing because Gilbert was already snoring loudly, she laughed herself and stopped class, not to reprimand her but to rub Gilbert’s belly! Now I don’t care what anyone says. Laughing while the professor is giving a lecture, even over a cute dog is rude and the fact that Allison was able to get by with it is so unfair!”

     Yet the administration has also gotten wind from a student who is in Nastoff’s senior capstone class this semester that this unfairness has gone beyond the campus boundaries as well.

     To graduate, all students in the communication program are required to have 150 hours of internship experience and are expected to seek out and apply for their internship independently.

     “I found an internship, but only after sending out over fifty applications and attending numerous interviews,” said Norah Rawls, “Allison used to be my best friend until I was chatting with her on the first day of school while waiting for Dr. Johari to start class and learned that she only sent out three applications, two of them resulting in interviews, both of these interviews resulting in internship offers!”

     One of these offers, and the one Nastoff ended up taking was an internship with the governor’s office. Rawls acknowledges that Nastoff is smart and an excellent writer but “come on! No one gets such an impressive internship with such little effort these days. I personally feel these offers had more to do with Gilbert’s cuteness than Allison’s intelligence.”

     We contacted the Dean of students who declined our request for an interview but sent a written statement.

     “Our investigation is still ongoing, but at this point we do not intend to discipline these professors, partly because the same students who filed complaints later asked that they be recanted because they love Gilbert too.” We were able to confirm that this is true.

     “I regretted filing that complaint as soon as I did it,” Truman said, “he’s a dog after all! He can get away with not paying attention to the professor.”

     “If I had a choice of either playing with an adorable dog in my dorm room or doing the research that would have shown the Peace Corps is part of the government, I cannot say I wouldn’t have chosen to play with the dog, so I realized I shouldn’t fault her,” Palin said.

     “Even professors admit lectures can get boring,” Peepys said, “it occurred to me that I shouldn’t be complaining about a momentary diversion from a lecture, a glimpse of pure innocence from a dog who can do what we all wish we could do without any consequences.”

     “If I were a hiring coordinator, I suppose I would have hired someone who can bring a dog every day to lighten the mood of the office,” Rawls said.

     “I do sincerely apologize for any bitter feelings Gilbert and I may have caused for my peers, especially regarding the prestigious internship. But the reality is that in a society where the unemployment rate for blind people is 70 percent, I’ll take any advantage I can get,” Nastoff said, “and frankly, given how much Gilbert has made life easier for me by charming professors and employers, I don’t understand why only five percent of blind people choose to have a guide dog.”

     So while most of her peers are already fretting about how they will find a job after college, Nastoff is confident that Gilbert’s charm will land her any job and any promotion she wants. Her ultimate dream is to get a job that pays enough that she can spend two weeks a year in the Gilbert Islands.

Let Season 8 Begin!

Well readers, it’s the second most wonderful time of the year, the first being Christmas of course! This second most wonderful time of the year though is the beginning of a new season of LJ Idol! Yes Idol contestants, I’m coming back!

     For readers of this blog who may be new, LJ Idol is an amazingly fun spin-off of reality shows like American Idol where each week, you are given a topic to write about. People vote for their favorite entries and whoever has the fewest votes for that week is eliminated, or should I say, “sent home.”

     Last year, Season 7 was my first experience as a contestant on LJ Idol. I had a wonderful time, but unfortunately was sent home on week 10. But this season, I can officially call myself a veteran. In other words, things are going to be different this year.

     I would like to say with confidence that I will win, but I won’t be that arrogant. I hate how every contestant on shows like American Idol introduce themselves by saying they are confident they will win. While it is great to project confidence and think positively, the reality is there are a lot of excellent, and for that matter much more experienced writers in this community and only one person can win. If I win, that would be so amazing, but if I don’t I am alright with that too. However, it is my goal to at least make it further than week 10 this year.

     Finally, I should apologize to my fellow contestants for not being able to read everyone’s entries or respond to all the comments regarding my own entry. I know that when I signed up to be a contestant last year, I mentioned wanting to meet other writers and make new friends. I genuinely would love to do this, but unfortunately, I quickly discovered last season that being a full-time college student doesn’t allow me to be as social as I would like to be. I could catch up on entries on semester breaks, but it feels kind of awkward to comment on entries after everyone has moved on to the next topic. So what I ended up doing last year was reading the entries of contestants on my friend list and then go to the polls and read a couple of the entries receiving a lot of votes in my tribe. If I don’t read your entry, it is not because I don’t care about your writing. I simply cannot read them all, and I don’t think my parents would be pleased if I failed college classes over LJ Idol! No offense.

     The same is true for responding to comments on my own entries. The braille computer I use is kind of slow, so even replying to one comment takes forever. I could reply to one or two of them but don’t want it to appear that I appreciate some people’s comments more than others. So since I cannot reply to all of the comments and don’t want to hurt anyone’s feelings, I typically won’t reply to anyone’s comments. But please know that I do read and appreciate them all. I will graduate college in May, so by season 9, I should be a college graduate with a job and no more homework and therefore a lot more time for an online social life.

     With that being said, some of you readers are probably understandably asking, “if you don’t have time to read everyone’s entries or respond to comments, why compete?” My simple answer is that life can be pretty dreary this time of year where I live. It is midway through the semester, right when classes are at the height of boringness. My trek to class often involves cold damp wind or rain and since I am too old to get dressed up and go trick-or-treating and our neighborhood is so spread out that trick-or-treating is no fun anyway, there is nothing to look forward to until Thanksgiving. But reading comments about my writing, having the opportunity to read as many entries as I can from other amazing writers and the thrill of watching the polls is just enough to put a spring in my step and give me something to look forward to amidst the monotony of school life, and although I have no way of scientifically proving it, I feel like when I have something to look forward to, I have an easier time staying motivated to get my school work done.

     So I understand the reasoning that “if you may not be able to read my work, why should I read yours?” If you don’t read my writing, that is fine, especially since I would really have no way of knowing. But if you would like to motivate a student to keep writing and study hard in school, I sure would appreciate it and I promise that next year I will pull my weight and more actively support you. On that note, let the games begin!

My LJ Idol Concession Speech

Good evening my fellow Americans.–Oh wait, wrong speech.–Good evening my fellow LJ Idol community members. Last weekend, and the early part of last week, this great community exercised a fundamental privilege in our democracy: the chance to have your voices heard by going to the polls and casting your ballots to determine who should move on to the next round of this competition. The outcome of this election was not what I had hoped it would be. But the voters have spoken, and this week, I was the person to receive the fewest votes in my tribe.

     While I had hoped to have the honor of writing a victory speech as an Lj Idol champion, I am not bitter about this defeat. After all, the reality is that in the end, only one person can hold this title. Between college responsibilities, holiday commitments and being in too much pain to read much after getting my wisdom teeth removed, I didn’t have the chance to read as many of the entries from other contestants as I would have liked. But the entries I did read were written fabulously, so I knew the competition was tough.

     Also, although claiming this title would have been really cool, winning was not my primary objective when I wrote my declaration that I was competing in this competition back in October. In fact, since I am toward the younger end of the age range of LJ Idol contestants, and I have observed from past experience that the most eloquent, well-developed writing comes with age, wisdom and a larger bank of life experiences to draw from, I actually didn’t expect to last as long as I did. So my primary objectives when I decided to take part in this competition were to meet new people, to develop as a writer and to share my writing with a larger audience. Though my journey as a contestant in this competition was relatively short, it was as thrilling as I had dreamed it would be with the chance to realize all of these objectives.

     Whenever I had a free moment, I had a blast meeting people by way of reading their journal entries, which were beautifully written, and sometimes shared aspects of their personal lives and glimpses in to their thoughts that they might never have been comfortable sharing in person. I also enjoyed meeting people through the comments people left on my entries, especially when people shared their own insights and perspectives about the thoughts I shared in my writing. I apologize that I often didn’t reply to them, but I read and appreciated them all.

     I definitely developed as a writer through this competition as well. For one thing, I definitely identify myself as a writer, and as my english teacher this semester says, “writers have to write.” Yet before this competition, I often let the craziness of real life or a lack of motivation prevent me from meeting this need to write. But this competition forced me to develop discipline and set aside time to write which was a wonderful stress reliever, and thus something I am going to strive to continue despite being eliminated from the competition. But I think my writing itself has also been developed in that since many of the topics were vague with a lot of room for creativity, I have learned to think more creatively as a writer which I hope will show itself in this journal and maybe even real life.

     But most exciting of all has been the validation I have gotten for my writing by a larger audience than just my family, friends and teachers. Before this competition, I loved writing but would often feel discouraged when I would pour my heart and soul in to an entry that never received comments. Family and friends have told me they enjoy my writing, but sometimes I would wonder if my writing was worth sharing with the larger world. Do family and friends just say they enjoy my writing because they are family and friends? Are people even reading my writing?

     But since taking part in this competition, some of my entries have received 22 comments, a number I never imagined I would see on my blog, all from strangers, all of whom loved my pieces. I cannot think of another experience in my life that has boosted my confidence in myself as a writer for a larger audience than this overwhelming positive response from readers in this community.

     I was also moved by the friendly spirit of this community when the polls closed and it was announced I had been eliminated. One friend even sent me some virtual flowers. Even though winning was only a secondary hope when I entered this competition, I was still a little stunned and disappointed that I had been eliminated, so this kind gesture really made my day.

     Was there more I could have done to keep myself in the game? Maybe. Maybe I could have written entries that were more short and to the point. But long-winded writing is my style because I think a lot of detail and background really enriches a piece, and I would rather not win a competition than win it with writing that is not true to my style and principles. Maybe I could have indicated in the subject line or in the entry that my entries were for LJ Idol so that friends who didn’t know about this competition could have voted for me. Maybe I could have even provided the link for people to vote directly for me. (I don’t actually know how to do this since I am the kind of person who prefers to keep life simple by only learning the basic computer skills needed to get by in life. But I could have learned). But while the thoughts I shared in my entries were prompted to the forefront of my mind by the topics, I feared that if I explicitly stated which entries were for LJ Idol, readers unassociated with the competition would think I was just making up thoughts and views to suit the criteria of each particular topic. I wanted readers unaffiliated with the competition to see my writing as my original writing, not something I crafted for a competition. I know that sounds silly and irrational, and I didn’t think any less of people’s writing when they explicitly stated it was for the competition. I just didn’t want to reveal this in my own entries.

     Finally, like everything in life, there is a silver lining to every disappointment, and my elimination from this competition is no exception. For one thing, it so happened that last Tuesday was my first day of second semester, which always seems to be more demanding than first semester, so I suppose it is a good thing that I was eliminated before school made life crazy and I had to make wrenching decisions like “do I need to drop out of the competition and focus on school, or make college grades my second priority?” Fortunately, my elimination means I won’t have to have this conflict with myself. But last week was also the perfect moment to be eliminated because it so happens that I haven’t a clue what I would have written about Icarus! We studied Greek gods briefly when I was in sixth grade, but since I never imagined I would be in a competition where Icarus was a topic, I didn’t pay much attention. Next week, I hope to start participating in the home game when school permits, but this week, I’m sure glad I don’t have to write on the topic!

     So to close, I just want to say that although it may sound cliche, and although I ended another entry I wrote last summer with this quote, there is so much truth in it that I want to reference it again on this occasion. It really is not the destination but the journey that counts, and I am alright with the fact that I couldn’t make it to the destination of victory because the journey I got to take with this community was wonderful and unforgettable.

     Feel free to friend me and continue following my entries if you are interested. I will continue to follow, cheer on and vote for contestants the rest of the season. I cannot wait to read the entry that clenches someone’s victory as this season’s LJ Idol because with all of the talent I have already seen early in the season, I know that the writer who wins this tough competition will be spectacular!

     But writers beware. When it comes time to sign up for Season 8, by which time I will be a little older and wiser, with a slightly larger bank of life experiences to draw from, I’ll be back!