Thursday, December 16, 2010

O Tree Most Fair and Lovely

Last year, I hacked my own apartment's Christmas tree out of an upside-down tomato cage covered in green fabric. It got the job done in a minimalist kind of way.

This year, my friend Sarah decided that a tomato cage Christmas tree was unacceptable, and she gave me the present of a little artificial tree, perfect for my apartment.

The trouble was that I didn't technically have any Christmas ornaments. So the first Sunday of Advent, I invited my boyfriend Blade and my friend Steve over to help me make decorations.

Here is what we came up with:

Your skirt's crooked.

I did end up finding a handful of little glass ball ornaments at a garage sale. The tree skirt is actually one of my summer skirts, and the garland and flowers are pieces of a long-abandoned crochet project. We used paint chips from Home Depot instead of buying construction paper.
Upon closer examination, you will notice:

The Amazing Technicolor Dream Bear
I crocheted him last winter as a test run for a baby shower present.

The Christmas Caterpillar
He started out as one of those paper kissing balls you make in 3rd grade art class, but that failed, so he became a squinty little caterpillar.

The Abominable Cyclops
Blade made the happiest cyclops in the world.

 The Seraph
I told Steve I wanted an angel topper. He made one of those scary angels from Isaiah, all covered in wings and eyes.

I'm not sure it would win Martha Stewart's approval, but it's worlds cheerier than the tomato cage.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Carol's Off the Christmas List

This is me with my friends Brendon (left) and Kevin (center). We are full of accurate information about the Festival of Lessons and Carols, which will be put on next week by Church of the Resurrection.

In a short form improv show, Madrigal only takes about two minutes to perform, even if you allow time for Brendon to come up with one of his increasingly complicated Origins of the Madrigal speeches. So I thought it would the three of us, veteran town criers that we are, no more than half an hour to film a Madrigal, especially without the pressure of a live audience.*

Apparently, having never made a short film before, I am naive about time. It took about two hours. (Brendon, who has made short films, insists we made good time.)

We filmed take after take, not only inventing new lyrics as we went but also playing with the frame and our presentation: Oh, no, we have to redo that one, Kevin stumbled on his words, Brendon was singing in a different key, Alyssa moved completely off the screen, were we supposed to be looking at the camera that time? None of these things would matter in front of a live audience, but they're noticeable and annoying on camera. So we would try again just one more time. And one more time after that.

After two hours of one-more-time's, we decided we had a passable take and called it quits for the night. Brendon suggested that, since we were finished working on the announcement, we should turn the camera back on and be ridiculous for awhile. The pressure was off, so we tried to do everything exactly wrong, just for the fun of it. 

That's the version we actually kept, the throwaway take we filmed at midnight. In comparison, the other takes look labored, like we were Trying to Be Right. The performance was better when we stopped needing to be right and really played.

Good work, Kevin and Brendon!

And if you're in the Wheaton/Chicago area, come to Lessons and Carols! We didn't make up that part about hot chocolate and Legos!


*It turns out that I am less nervous in front of an audience than in front of a camera. The bigger the audience, the less nervous I get. I am the opposite of everyone.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Del Close on Harold and Rhymes

I stumbled upon this 1986 video of Del Close talking about Harold.

"By this time, the scenes are beginning to relate, ... to rhyme with each other in some mad, conceptual way."

I love that idea, the idea that scenes can rhyme with one another. I'm horrible at actual rhyming games, where I'm asked to make up a song and have it make sense and be in rhythm on top of making it rhyme. I'm always the first out in elimination rhyme games like "Da Doo Run Run" and "Beastie Rap."

But I am good at seeing patterns within individual scenes and over the big picture of the show. I had never thought of those patterns as rhymes before, but they kind of are. Different scenes that have the same taste to them, characters whose motivations echo one another's, status interactions that parallel each other, objects and gestures that take on new significance each time they are used.

I love mad, conceptual rhymes.

Fellow improvisers, can you spot the following in the Del interview?
  • At least one sentence that is quoted word-for-word in Charna Halpern's Art By Committee
  • A performer who is currently famous (by improv standards) but is not mentioned at all in Del's monologue
  • An unattributed Keith Johnstone quote
  • A thinly veiled criticism of 1980's Second City

Friday, November 12, 2010

Harold with Your Eyes Closed

When I teach improv workshops or coach troupes, my first order of business is to get them comfortable with Harold. Harold is the simplest long form, but it is not necessarily easy. To an audience, it looks like an improvised play. To an improviser, the breakdown looks something like this:

Infographic by Dyna Moe, via Story Robot
Harold gets a lot of flack. Some workshops and troupes have told me Harold is too basic for them and they want to move on to something more sophisticated. (Ironically, those are usually the groups who don't do well with risk, and their Harolds are dull as a result.) Others have told me they didn't want to do Harold because it was impossible. (Maybe it is impossible, but I've seen it done so many times, and I've done it myself.)

Harold is an excellent barometer for how a troupe is really doing, especially when it comes to spotting games and patterns, heightening, and reincorporation. No one moves past Harold. Your Harolds get weirder or more elegant as you grow as a player and as a troupe, but a good Harold is never boring. If you can do Harold, you can do anything.


Some friends and I have been getting together for the past several weeks to work on our improv. There are six or seven of us, depending on the night, and we are called Stradivarius and the Other Kinds. We were each in wheatonIMPROV, but we had never all played together. We were in different eras of the club and on different troupes. Given the range of experience, I foresaw our practices being a little rocky as we fought to reconcile our various approaches to improv and life.

So I was wonderfully surprised when, twenty minutes into our first practice, the group mind clicked. I think it was because of the following two things: (1) We respect one another, despite not have much shared stage time under our belts, and (2) we all have a thorough grasp of Harold. We could do a Harold with our eyes closed. In fact, that is exactly what we did. ...  More on that later.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Relearning Church through Improv

Confession: Church did not teach me how Christians should act.

Church -- at least, the two churches I grew up in -- modeled for me that when two Christians disagree, one of them is wrong and needs to repent so the other one can lord their mistakes over them and call it forgiveness.

I learned that the best response to conflict is to quit and start another church two miles away and force people to choose whom they like best pray about where God is leading them.

I discovered that the key to avoiding these kinds of conflicts is to seem pulled together and in control. One easy way to do that is to volunteer to give announcements at youth group. Anyone on stage must have things all figured out, right?

Especially, I saw that the more you respect and trust a leader, the more devastating it is when they fail or they turn on you, and that those relationships are irreperable.

There were a few bright spots -- Heartbeat in seventh grade comes to mind, as well as some good conversations with youth leaders -- but those were the exceptions. Mostly, I collected compelling reasons not to trust people.

I didn't unlearn all of this mistrust until I started doing improv at Wheaton. I saw that if people trust one another, it's possible for them to be honest about their struggles, forgive one another's mistakes, and help one another grow.


This is another one of my favorite books.

You can buy it here. And you probably should.
Wells writes:
[One common] assumption is that improvisation is trivial and self-indulgent. This is perhaps because it is associated with humor and the ephemeral, and also because it can create intensely committed communities that seem united by no substantial goal, only the formal means of interacting. ... Underlying it is the assumption that Christian ethics is an intensely serious, somewhat earnest, and decidedly difficult discipline, weighing matters of daunting substance, and only to be entered reverently, soberly, and after serious thought. In this perspective, improvisation sounds suspiciously like a joke, an artifice -- an insult. Such a view risks being more solemn than God.

Throughout the Christian drama there is joy and playfulness. .. The church can afford to concentrate on details, because God has given her time to follow him. Taking time for the trivial is therefore a sign of faith, not foolishness. The church can afford to take the risk of the humorous and the ephemeral, because the joke is God's and the laughter is divine.

Some of my improv friends gave me rides to their church, where I found a community of people who don't seem to be pressuring me to have everything together or to agree with them about every tiny detail. They treat seasons of celebration and joy with as much importance as those of waiting and repentance. I learned that church didn't have to be as constantly traumatic as the churches I'd known. I've now been a member for more than five years. 

I know I am amazingly blessed to be part of a church that values the differing gifts of its members, even if those gifts are in the arts. Our artists at Church of the Resurrection write music, yes, but also stage dramatic interpretations of scripture, paint altar pieces, and film comedic announcements. I love it all.

So when I wanted to teach an introductory improv class as a ministry through Rez, the church told me to go for it. I'm SO glad that five wonderful ladies decided to take a risk and play with me these past few weeks. I am not a preacher, nor do I have extraordinary gifts of healing or tongues or evangelism or any of those big impressive ones. But I know God has met me through play more than in any other way, and play is something I can teach.

Monday, October 25, 2010

How to Be a Jerk

Dear fellow improvisers:

Are you having fun?

If you are not having fun, seriously consider the possibility that you are a jerk.*

If improv isn't fun, it probably has to do with judgment. You're judging other players, judging yourself, or judging your coach. Judgment is antithetical to acceptance, to YesAnd. In my head, this idea looks something like: 

If you are the jerk in the troupe, not only are you sabotaging yourself, but you're making it hard for your friends to play with you and hard for your coach to direct you, and now nobody's having fun. Just like you. So congratulations.

The solution to not having fun is to have fun. That means showing up** and playing with your fellow artistic geniuses. Having fun doesn't mean everything will be easy, but who cares if it's easy if you're having fun?

Even if everyone else really is better than you, have fun. If you're having fun, nobody will notice your shortcomings, and you'll get better faster.

Even if one of your troupe members really is a black hole of comedy, have fun. If you support them anyway, you might be surprised. And even if you're not surprised, this scene is over in three minutes, so who cares?

Even if you think your coach is trying to ruin your life by turning your troupe into an extension of his own ego, have fun. Play hard despite your director having an off night or your coach asking you to exercise a muscle you don't feel like exercising.

I know these blue boxes well because I have been guilty of all of them at different times. When I was stuck in that orange box, it had less to do with improv and more to do with how sick and depressed I was at the time. Talking to my coaches about it helped.

If you're in that green box, can I come to your shows? Better yet, can I play with you?

*Credit to Derek, who got me started on this train of thought a few years ago when I overheard him say something like this to a surly workshop. Susan Messing and Rachel Mason both say things along the same lines, but they are less quotable for being rated R.

**Physical presence without emotional presence doesn't count.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

The Chart

This is The Chart.

Auden had sloppy penmanship.
Specifically, it's W. H. Auden's Romanticism chart. However, one of my literature professors at Wheaton called it The Chart with some amount of reverence, so that is how I think of it. (You can read a more legible PDF here.)

The basic idea of The Chart is that hell is getting what you think you want to an extreme degree. It is taking a good thing so far that it becomes an obsession. In the middle of the chart is balance, everything in its right place.

Another way of putting it is that one side of the chart wants Earth to return to being Eden/Arcadia, to return to nature and freedom; the other side wants Earth to hurry up and become Zion/Utopia. Neither extreme really lives in the present. Both take a good practice so far that it loses its context and becomes a bad practice.

Which, of course, makes me think of improv.

This is my improv extension of The Chart:

My handwriting typing is better than Auden's.

I find it helpful to check in once in awhile and notice where I'm defaulting in my scenes. For me, I find myself hanging out mostly on the left hand side of that chart, particularly when I'm tired or distracted. If I can be honest with myself about that, then I know what to work on. 

If I notice I've been basically myself in every scene lately, it's time to be a character so totally different from me that she (or he) might not even be sane. Or if I've been defaulting to high status, it's time to try being varying degrees of low status characters for awhile. And, incidentally, I notice that if I've veered way to one side for a long time, I'm probably sabotaging myself by playing out of fear.

It's awesome if you have a director who can tell you honestly what he sees and guide or shove you out of your comfortable default. Unfortunately, I'm my own director at the moment, so I have to trust my gut and shake up my own playing. This works better some days than others.


If you have the patience to read a couple of poems, you can see Auden's application of this idea that we all tend toward one end of this spectrum in "Under Which Lyre" and in the Vespers section of "Horae Canonicae." I hope you do have the patience sometime -- those are two of my favorite poems in the world, though I suspect I only half-understand them.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

The Elements of Style

This is possibly my favorite book.

My friend Kevin gave me this illustrated edition for my birthday a few years ago.
The Elements of Style is a tiny book, mostly a list of rules about grammar and punctuation. It tells you the difference between further and farther, lie and lay, nauseous and nauseated, and that most crucial distinction between shall and will. It has lists of rules, such as:
12. Choose a suitable design and hold to it.

13. Make the paragraph the unit of composition.

14. Use the active voice.

15. Put statements in positive form.

16. Use definite, specific, concrete language.

17. Omit needless words.
I go back to this book every few months, whether or not I'm writing anything at the time. I tend to pick it up when I'm mired in some kind of unfinishable project, when I am too overwhelmed with life to begin reading a novel or too unfocused to read poetry. (It was the only book I could even pick up after my friend Stephen died, suddenly and far away, over three years ago now. I read it over and over, because it was small and concrete and certain, and life was big and vague and confused.)

Each of Strunk and White's rules is followed by examples of good writing that follows the rules and bad writing that doesn't. Sometimes, though, our heroes deviate from the plain examples to explain why the rule is important to the world. Here is one of my favorite passages in the entire book:
Muddiness is not merely a disturber of prose, it is also a destroyer of life, of hope: death on the highway caused by a badly worded road sign, heartbreak among lovers caused by a misplaced phrase in a well-intentioned letter, anguish of a traveler expected to be met at a railway station and not being met because of a slipshod telegram. Think of the tragedies that are rooted in ambiguity, and be clear! When you say something, make sure you have said it. The chances of your having said it are only fair.

The illustrator of the most beautiful edition of The Elements of Style is Maira Kalman, who is proof that I am not the only one fixated on this book. She has also made a short film based on her illustrations, which I stumbled upon via The Kitchn:

And here is Maira Kalman talking about her life and art. She talks about The Elements of Style about 8 minutes into the talk.

Her illustrations look like the inside of my brain.

Friday, October 15, 2010

Cake! Caaake!

A dear friend of mine sent me a link to this post by Hyperbole and a Half, which chronicles our hero Allie's psychological meltdown when she can't have cake.

I felt this way about improv in the year after graduation. Rather, I would have felt this way if I hadn't been too sick to do stand up without passing out for those first few months. After that was over, though, I had crazy, get-out-of-my-way improv withdrawal.

Improv is my cake. Cake is also my cake. The following is improv nerdiness, interspersed with cakes!

Lauren and I made this for a friend's birthday. My mom probably helped with the icing.

I've used baking as a metaphor for improv when people in my workshops ask me why their scenes aren't working even though they're working hard on accepting, heightening, making strong offers, what have you. It's because that's not improv, really; those are just tools to help your improv be less sloppy.

If improv were a cake, technique would be the wooden spoon and mixing bowl and spatula. It'd be really messy to make a cake without those things. But if all you have is a really great bowl and spoon and spatula, you'll still go hungry. At least, hungry for cake. 

Time would be the oven, the form would be the cake pan. Cupcakes have the potential to be as delicious as bundt cakes, layer cakes, or crazy sculpted cakes; short form can be as fun as Harold and Armando. They're different shapes in which to pour your awesome scene work.

I made this cake for my friend Meredith, who is a vegetarian.

There is no definitive list of what to put in a cake to make it a good cake, just some general guidelines. Most cakes have some combination of eggs and flour and sugar and milk. Some have cream cheese or carrots or cocoa; some are vegan or gluten-free. It's a lot of stuff that wouldn't necessarily taste good on its own but works in combination with the other flavors to make something new. There's flexibility there, as long as you keep your proportions reasonable and your ingredients are good quality.

Most scenes have some basic ingredients, too: relationship, character, environment, game, and probably more I can't think of. Or fewer, depending on the kind of scene.

If your milk's gone rancid or your sugar has ants, your cake will be awful. Your cake pan and egg beaters might have been fine, but that doesn't save your cake. There's no sense investing in an expensive Kitchen-Aide mixer if you're not going to bother with your ingredients and proportions.

And once in awhile, for some inexplicable reason, a cake with all those great ingredients still doesn't turn out the way it's supposed to, and you can't always know why. You just have to double-check your ingredients, clean up your tools, and try again.

My mom probably did not help with this icing. This is all me.

FURTHERMORE. You don't have to have icing for a good cake. In fact, bad icing will ruin an otherwise good cake, and good icing won't save a gross cake. If I have to chose between a cake with bad icing and a cake with no icing, I'll pick no icing.

And I'll take a good, interesting scene that doesn't me laugh over a weak scene dripping with gags. Even good icing doesn't make up for bad cake, and funny jokes don't make up for shoddy scene work.

Truth: Icing is my favorite part of cake. But it gives me a stomach ache to eat it by itself. Good icing on good cake, though? Life doesn't get better. I mean, improv doesn't get any better. That distinction keeps blurring these days.

I wonder if the same could be said for many art forms, like writing and painting. Technique helps so much. But if there's not something the technique is serving, if its for its own sake, then you have some lovely shiny clean dishes and nothing to eat.

This is from when my mom pretended it was my birthday so my friends would come over and watch Schindler's List.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Fear, Failure and Feathers

Here is the picture from my elementary school history book that made me afraid of being tarred and feathered.

I thought it might happen to me on accident if I walked on our road too soon after new asphalt had been poured. I don't know where I thought the feathers would come from, though. Or the colonists.

(Other childhood fears included: scorpions, letting my feet touch the floor if the lights were out,* and the witch from "The Three Little Pigs."**)

I've been thinking about fear because of improv. I've heard that fear of public speaking is almost as common as fear of death. Several people lately have told me that they can't imagine trying improv, that they would be so afraid that they would throw up or pass out.

I want to tell them that a very good improviser I know has been known to throw up before shows. And I've passed out at key moments in plenty of practices, including practices I was directing.*** Improvisers aren't fearless people but people who choose not to let that fear keep them from playing.

However, we do let that fear drive us away from playing our best.

The common things improvisers are afraid of include: Not being funny enough, looking ridiculous, having too much responsibility, having no control. Really, those are all manifestations of the fears of being hurt and alone.
If I don't control this situation, it might go somewhere awful. And if it goes somewhere awful, it will look like my fault. And if it's my fault, other people won't want to play with me anymore. And if nobody wants to play with me anymore, I will be alone, and it will hurt. Therefore I must control all scenes and games or I will be alone. Probably forever.

When you actually write it out or say it out loud, you can see how irrational it is.

I think the best thing for me, and probably the best thing for many of my improv friends, was to experience undeniable failure.  
I didn't control the scene, and it DID go somewhere awful! I knew it I knew it! 
And then to realize that that's as far as it went. We moved onto the next scene after that, or we shook off that horrible performance and showed up ready for practice the next week. None of the other scary hurt-and-alone-in-the-dark things really happen after failure. Ok, so there's tar on your shoes. Acknowledged. But where did you think those feathers were going to come from again?


 *This was somewhat to do with scorpions, which were a real threat in my house, but mostly it had to do with that there might be some tar on the floor and I might accidentally step in it and get sucked in and be tarred and feathered.

** I know. There is actually no witch in "The Three Little Pigs." A wolf, yes. But no witch. I still had nightmares about that witch, though.

***Anemia + abject panic = fainting.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010


This is my friend Duke.
"I have faced existentialism and bitten my thumb at it."
Throughout college, Duke gathered friends and strangers around him for movie nights, often referred to with one of the following handy acronyms:

TGIBF (Thank God It's Brazil Friday, in which we did not watch more than ten minutes of Brazil every week before we changed our minds and picked another movie)

TGIBFBF (Thank God It's Boys From Brazil Friday, in which we similarly did not watch more than ten minutes of Boys from Brazil)

TGINMOPIN (Thank God It's Not My Own Private Idaho Night, in which, as rumor has it, they watched way too much of My Own Private Idaho)

After our cursory scans of the theme movie, the actual movies we watched ranged from popular to obscure, but usually more on the obscure side. Many weren't in English. Some turned out to be great movies, like Secret Sunshine and Tokyo Godfathers. Others turned out to be abusive, like Carnivale, or laughably horrible, like Zardoz. Some were too baffling to categorize, like Wool 100%. We didn't know what to expect, but we knew it wouldn't be run-of-the-mill. No summer blockbusters here.


These days, Duke is teaching English classes in Laos. We miss Duke. Besides missing him for his own sake, I've also noticed that my friends get together less frequently when he's not here. That combined with my new living alone situation, I see less of my friends than I would like.

So when Steve asked if I would open my apartment to a movie night, I said of course! Friends! Come over!

Steve paused the movie before it began and said, "I want to introduce this by saying that there's no good way to introduce it, just that Duke says it's important, so here's The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya."

That is how, even with Duke out of the hemisphere, I found myself watching an alienating anime, which I did not enjoy much, but which I kept watching because Duke wanted it. And I hung out with friends I don't see as often these days, because Duke wanted them to see the show, too.

So kudos to Duke, the only guy I know who can orchestrate a Wheaton movie night from Southeast Asia.

Friday, October 1, 2010

The discovery never seems to stop.

This is my friend Steve.
"Everyone stop asking me to do things I like!"
Not long ago, I borrowed Steve's computer for a few minutes to show him a video clip. In the short time we were on Hulu searching for the clip, we had to sit through two different birth control commercials, as well as repeat screenings of a disturbing, Lisa Frank-style cat commercial. Each time Hulu asked if these ads were relevant to me (read: relevant to Steve's computer) I clicked "Yes."

If you ever use Steve's computer, I implore you to follow suit. I dream of a world in which Steve is so bombarded with Yaz and Friskies ads that he writes unpleasant things on helium balloons and releases them over a field of ostrich-legged turkeys.

Good luck, and we're all counting on you.

Friday, September 24, 2010

Fear Not

When I was in elementary school, I was in a church Christmas play called Three Wise Men and a Baby. It starred our choir director as a bear and is a little hard to explain in words.
I'm the one who brings the myrrh.
Right now, though, I'm thinking about the shepherds.

The angel comes to the shepherds in the field, keeping watch over their flocks by night. (Tangent: That participial phrase, "keeping ... night," placed after the word "field," should techinically mean that the fields were keeping watch. I'd never noticed that until I typed it out just now.) Anyway, the dialogue goes something like this:

Angel: Fear not.
Shepherds: AHHH!
Angel: I said, "Fear not."
Shepherds: AAAHHH!
Angel: What part of "fear not" are you not understanding? Nevermind. Listen up.


I've offered to teach an improv class for women at my church. We're not planning to take over the city or anything, just give people an introduction. We decided to start with just women, because for some reason it's harder to get women to play, so we thought an all-female environment would feel safer.

The announcement in the bulletin read:

Improvisational comedy workshop for women
Don't be scared: Improvisation is not about being original or clever. It's about working together with a group to create something beautiful and true (and often very silly). This is a great chance to stretch your creativity and to connect with other women at Rez in a lighthearted environment. Come play with us!

I heard a lot of enthusiasm, along the lines of "I'm so glad you're doing that! This will be so good for building community among different ages of women who don't normally spend much time together, and we have so much creativity in this church." The next sentence was inevitably, "But I'm too scared to come."

Hey, I said, "Fear not." What part of "fear not" are you not understanding?

Over the past few weeks, I've been following up with those ladies who liked the idea but didn't see themselves being brave enough to try. I explained that this is going to be a relaxed class, like recess for grown-ups. Some have decided to give it a go. We'll begin next week.

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Ten Words or Less

Last night, I was asked to describe my summer in 10 words. I condensed it to 9.


Explicated, this would be:

Fired from Web Works. Something to do with my not wanting to manage (read: lie about) the reputation of our big clients, who wanted me to make them appear honest and reliable. (My favorite part of that was when they asked me to bury the scandal that had aired the night before on Frontline. Seriously? You want to pretend a PBS documentary never happened?) I questioned the ethics of this, and I learned not to ask a marketing company about ethics.

Volunteered at my church's office, which is a great way to get to know people at church and add structure to a month of unemployment.

Bridesmaid-ed at my little brother's wedding, which was decked out in Alice in Wonderland-style black and white, red and turquoise. Blade and I and a few other friends helped decorate and run errands. I saw people at that wedding that I hadn't really planned on seeing again after middle school. It was surreal. Thomas and Amanda are now married and living in Arizona. We like her. He's ok, too.

Hired at the local zoo for a few hours a week. There was no convincing my mom that this was not a lion tamer job. This zoo doesn't have lions. It has deer and rabbits. It's mostly a farmyard. My job was supposed to be to tell people that their beloved zoo, which was free, is no longer free, would you like a receipt? But before I started work, I got ...

Hired at an Honey, an organic restaurant down the road from my apartment. It was friendlier and offered better hours than the zoo, so I took it instead. I waited tables and learned to make espresso drinks. It was a lot of hours at first, sometimes breakfast, sometimes supper, but then I got ...

Hired as an administrative assistant at Russian Ministries. Ah, a real job. Yes, it's a lot of filing and data entry, but there's a point to even the most tedious parts. Lately, I'm processing donations, some of which will be directed to help families in the Ukraine adopt local orphans, and others will go to training programs to equip pastors and lay leaders in the former Soviet Union. You don't get much pointier than that.

Moved into a new apartment. My lovely roommate's company transferred her, so I needed to find a single bedroom place for myself. Now I'm in a surprisingly cheerful basement apartment directly underneath my fellow Russian Ministries administrative assistant's house. My parents came up for a few days to help me settle in and make the place feel homey.

Left Honey. Once I started at Russian Ministries, I couldn't wait tables during breakfast or lunch anymore, but the restaurant's owner didn't have many evening hours to give me. When she said those hours wouldn't pick up, I left to find something more stable. Within two hours of my leaving Honey, I got ...

Hired by a local family whose three children need to be driven around after school before their parents get off work. I'm getting a tiny taste of what it must be like to be a soccer mom. More specifically, a soccer-lacrosse-5K mom. (Seriously, have you ever heard of a 9 year old training for a 5K?)

I've got one word left to use, so, um:



Let this be a warning, said the magpie to the morning
Don't let this fading summer pass you by

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

It's a job! It's a job!

Since graduation in May, I've had a seasonal job, a part time job, and several short-term gigs, but never a full time position.

Applying for jobs is time consuming. Most days, I spent several hours filling out applications, researching companies, and sifting through ads to avoid scams and pyramid schemes. I have record of having applied for over 200 positions, but I didn't keep a record of anything I applied for through staffing agencies, which don't reveal the name of the company unless they get you an interview. It's probably closer to 250.

To keep from going stir crazy while un/deremployed, I have:
  • Held two internships, one as a writer at MAI and one as an administrative assistant/courier at World Relief 
  • Helped Church of the Resurrection's office with miscellanious preparing-for-Easter chores
  • Sang in Rez's choir
  • Taught two semester-long improv workshops 
  • Joined a Bible study
  • Weaned completely off of medicine I didn't need anymore, and consequently slept a lot
  • Radically changed my diet to accomodate a newly-discovered dairy allergy
  • Read a zillion books (a random sampling of which would include Les Misérables, After Virtue, Oryx and Crake, and Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close.)
  • Got hooked on The West Wing, even the not-as-good seasons
  • Learned to crochet 
Staying busy helped keep me from becoming resigned to un/deremployment, and that will make it an easier transition when I start my new full time job this week.

I'm the newest web coordinator for Web Works, which means I will write copy for small businesses, churches, politicians -- anyone who needs to set up a website. 

I start on Thursday. I like to think of it as Maundy Thursday, though I keep being reminded that it's also April Fool's Day.


If you're in the Chicago area, come to Edman Chapel (on Wheaton's campus, though this is not a function of the college) on Saturday at 7 for Rez's Easter Vigil.

Besides singing in the choir, I'm in the Red Sea reading, which means I'm an Israelite, then an Egyptian, then an Israelite again, then an Egyptian again, and then (spoiler) I die. There are drums. Come and see!

Monday, January 11, 2010

A new plan

The hunt for a full-time job continues, and I would like to switch strategies.

Do you have a job you would like to offer me? If so, email me a job description, including hours, starting salary, and why I won't feel like I'm wasting my time and energy and bachelor's degree at your workplace. Then I will interview you, and I will expect you to impress me despite your nerves.

If I am not impressed, I may or may not give you the courtesy of a rejection letter. I might just string you along for awhile, just to see you jump every time your phone rings during business hours.


Also, The Pub, a Wheaton College magazine I wrote for a time or two, has a blog now.

On this blog is an essay I wrote about Shakespeare and liturgy and an article I helped a friend edit and revise.