Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Wish You Wouldn't Say Things Like That

When someone goes out of their way to let you know that they approve of something you've changed...

be honest,
don't you kind of wish they would just keep that opinion to themselves.


Wow, you lost all that weight.
You look so much better!

Really? That's a shame, because I haven't eaten since I got that stomach virus and as soon as these meds kick in...I'll be back to normal.

Wish you wouldn't have said that.

It's good that you're not blogging anymore. I think it's better.

Really? Because ever since you said that I've had writer's block. Can't even fill out a greeting card anymore without second guessing myself.

Wish you wouldn't have said that.

How deliciously limiting the approval of others can be.
They tell us:

I'm here watching you.
I notice every move you make.
You're okay with me now that you've changed.
If you change back, you'll be doing it against my approval.

Next time you want to be the approval/disapproval button in someone's life: just keep it to yourself. They probably don't need another voice in their head.

{There are caveats to this, but my blog, unlike FOX News, doesn't pretend to be either fair or balanced, thankyouverymuch}
I just got my first probabilities test back today. A 90%.

95% is an A
94% and less is a B


I should be comforted by the fact that mine was the highest score. Earlier in the week when I was having trouble with a problem, my prof said, Why don't you ask one of the other students for help, they seem to be getting it.

I always make a comeback.

Maybe if I hadn't taken a 7 hour nap yesterday I would have gotten ahead...
I'm late to class--walking up the steps now.

No makeup
Too many layers bc I overreacted to the fear of a cold day.

Not enough snacks to last me until the end.

Sometimes things feel out of control.

Friday, September 25, 2009

Debunking Socrates?

The essay due on Monday morning--concerning the role of the individual and government in ancient Greece: to what extent did Socrates' ideas/behavior challenge Pericles' account of the Athenian state and society?

A year ago I had no knowledge of the ancient world. Knowledge can inspire us and challenge us.

Socrates, in Plato's account of his trial, says that a truly just man could never participate in public discourse because he would naturally oppose State practices and eventually be killed for his opinions. Rather grim perspective of the corruption of governing bodies. Instead of participating in the community dialogue, he allowed the young rich men of Athens to follow him around and listen to him ridicule and humiliate the prominent poets, craftsmen and politicians of the day, proving that their basic human motivations weren't logical. The young men ate it up--here were respected men of the city who had worked for years to develop their crafts and cultivate expertise in their fields--and Socrates made them look like confused children.

What a friggin hero.

Naturally, enamored with this wisdom and strength (not virtue), they imitated his obnoxious orthopraxy all around the city, probably creating a whole new class of professionals. Professional irritants. Pulling up wheat and weeds indiscriminantly.

I cannot hide the fact that I think Socrates was a fatalist who, seeing the Golden age of Athens stretched too tightly around him, perhaps felt that the debunking of status quo- whether in regards to piety, justice or freedom--was not only natural but also beneficial. Although it would mean the end of the State as it was and life as he had enjoyed it.

He bites the hand that feeds him, and finally, the hand closes around his neck. What I find a little grotesque is that he did his duty on the surface and then under many guises of curiosity and searching undermined the State that had required the duty and valor of him.

He seemed wise out of context, apart from neglecting the care of his family and hiding his opposotion in circular and sarcastic debunking. A man who really cared about others would have risked himself more. He shows people to be foolish by proving that people often have a very hard time defining the things they feel most passionate about, almost as if to say that you only have the right to feel strongly toward things you perfectly understand and can perfectly define. In every era, it's the things that mystify us that capture our fascination and enrapture our affections. We are slaves to powers we don't particularly understand and that's nothing to be ashamed of.

This essay is going to be hard.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Pericles & The Dark Bat, Envy

"For men can endure to hear others praised only so long as they can persuade themselves of their own ability to equal the actions recounted: when this point is passed, envy comes in and with it incredulity."

-Pericles of Athens, during a funeral speech

I can handle hearing about the awesome things other people are doing if I'm doing those things; if I'm doing awesome things. How hard it is, however, to hear the praises for the person doing things I cannot or would not do.

And not everyone can be an astronaut. Not everyone drove down to the Gulf after Hurricane Katrina to help people put their lives back together. Not everyone loves their family the right way. Some things are out of reach. Because of time and opportunity. Because of ignorance.

And yet, some great acts---some noble gifts--are out of reach simply because we lack self-discipline. Because we haven't believed our contribution was important to anyone, or that it could be important to us. We don't do the really difficult, great things because there aren't incentives to doing them, and because we act in our own short-sighted interest 99% of our waking hours.

However, I'd wager that the most wonderful thing you'll ever do in your life won't seem courageous or glorious while you're doing it. You'll probably be forgoing other, better options to do it.

That's what makes the choice to do it so glorious.

Where did this start and where did it go and where will it end? Perhaps the difficulty of envy is that it afflicts the one who understands the glory of a good life but just can't convince himself to pay what it costs. It's hard to rejoice when someone else is doing what you should be doing. It would be a curious moment of the soul.

{Back to studying Ancient Greece}
The belltower is playing Moonlight Sonata. I walk out the glass doors, away from math, cheeks burning. Scribbling furiously for over two hours? I did well on my test--at least I felt like I understood most of it.

Now: one small thing achieved from a bowl of infinite goals.

I digress...Moonlight Sonata is playing now; somber bells mixing with the sound of a distant train whistle. The two sounds together are potent enough to form a feeling, but covered in relief the way I am right now, I can't say for sure what that feeling is.

I feel like I have no obligations now, just possibilities. A much needed breather that can't last; a small patch of blue sky overhead, surrounded by rolling dark clouds.

Sitting on cement steps that stretch out for half a block, a woman sits down within the boundaries of my. blue-sky reverie and lights a cigarette. She calls someone and talks loudly and unhappilly--she's irritated or irritable or both. I look up again from this little keypad and the blue patch of sky has been smothered by the grey, hanging ceiling that is always moving and never leaves.

Possibilities. Which to grab and which to let go?

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

It's not possible that he's gone.

The sky, so grey and so low to the ground today, doesn't feel full of possibilities but overcrowded with unreached goals.

Satisfaction, so fleeting.

Every second, single file and marching in this war. Against me? With me? I am too slow, too weighed down. I climb over the wall and see a thosand more ahead.

Today is the thing I wish were dead. Yet it lives on and meets me in my tired state again and again.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Riding the Iron Horse

I'm back on the iron pill wagon again.

Any type of relief for my thought-stealing headaches that doesn't look like Advil liquid gels would be welcome this week. With Shelby being such a non-drug and pharmaceuticals girl, it's hard to take things like Advil without feeling just a little wussy. Ye ole coping strategies have often included giant pieces of coconut laced cake and large dregs of drip coffee. Now I'm shopping for a new cure to my mid afternoon listlessness.

Say that three times as fast as you can.

If only listlessness were equivalent to "having no lists."
On the perpendicular, actually, listlessness seems to accompany the state of having entirely too many lists and too little energy to accomplish anything on them.

I spent my lunch break sitting against a wall near our math complex, along a path that leads to nowhere in particular. I tried to absorb the sunshine, knowing that days like these are limited. After wedging my grey cardie behind my head, I almost fell asleep against the wall, at 1:00 p.m. It's definitely time to take up the iron supplement flag again and wave it to the beat of my unbearably productive schedule, which tick tick ticks on, whether I'm awake or asleep.

Here's hoping Wednesday goes down a little smoother.
Clouds drift by overhead.
It looks like rain is coming.
I am immoveable here against this wall. I feel cement under me and against the middle of my back. I watch the clouds while finishing off the last pieces of fruit from a ziploc bag. The grass barely twitches in the breeze. Like me, the grass watches the clouds.

I sit. Or I stand. Nobody interferes. Nobody intervenes.

It looks like rain is coming, but the sun brightens the cement where the clouds are thin. I sit here.

I leave. Nobody interferes.
The American Dream.

Monday, September 21, 2009

Good and Bad, A Day in the Life of

Some good and some bad, in no particular order:

I spent the entire day counting down the hours until school was over. My mind is not in the game, as the pro athletes might say. Maybe because I spent the weekend having fun; maybe because I spent all last week not having any fun. Regardless. That's no way to spend an entire day.

I explained my social ethics book, Solitude and Democracy: Understanding the Politics of Your Soul to my mom over the phone. "If you want to understand something, teach it to someone else." That's what I've always heard and in the case of this class, I think it's working. I've explained it now to Jared, to Jaz, to Shelby in part and now to my mom. I'm crazy about the book. Crazy. Today, I had to turn in a reading paper for the class that details my understanding of the current chapter, including its thesis and key words. The professor turned to me after looking through all the papers and kissed his fingers the way the Italian chefs do to say something tastes magnificent. He said, "You got it!" and something else. Later in class, when I answered one of his questions, he pulled out a watermelon Jolly Rancher and tossed it to me. Those are his favorite. I'm his favorite.

An hour later, while sitting at my desk studying math, I started to nod off in my chair. I went over to the bed to cuddle with my overstuffed pillows for a "short" afternoon nap. Just something to take the edge off, you understand.

Three hours later I woke up, smelling like a mixture of exhaustion and vanilla. Not a good moment. My study time was gone and I still felt like I could use a few more hours of sleep. I pulled myself out of bed, put on my gym clothes and skulked defeatedly to Preston {the gym}. I watched Bill Clinton on Larry King Live while accomplishing the most mediocre workout in months. I didn't do lunges or squats. I walked home slowly.

While I was sleeping, my History professor sent me an email asking if it would be okay if he shares my paper with the class, anonymously. This is the paper that I stayed up all night writing last Sunday. Some of the students came to him after getting their papers back, wanting to know what type of paper is looking for in these assignments, so he is going to give them mine. If I wasn't so exhausted, I would be ecstatic.

Marissa, my roommate, is going to stage an intervention if I don't start getting more sleep at night. That's what she told me tonight. Then she offered me some low-fat popcorn and we talked about why I've never read the Left Behind book series.

Now I must get back to the math I was doing six hours ago and I hope that I don't fall asleep again.

Lots of love.

Saturday, September 19, 2009

I Hear Love, Did I Leave the DVD Player On?

I keep hearing myself say "I love you." While walking up six flights of stairs. While listening to professors. While doing math homework. While staring off into the distance.

Like whispers that are echoing endlessly through my ears, bouncing around in the chambers of my heart. It's a strange phenomenon. In math we might say that this type of event is a set whose only member is the empty set. It's happening and not happening at the same time.

I need to face it: I've watched too many romantic comedies lately. They're probably breaking my brain somehow so that I'm hearing myself saying things that I'm not saying.

But I leaned over the railing today and gazed into another world.

To say such a thing to a man--
--is much more lovely than anything that could be heard.

I am fascinated beyond belief with the intersections between men and women. We're so coarse with each other in our modern world. But I can still fall in love.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Belle of the Weight Room Ball

My biggest moment of the day was in the weight room when the guys on the other benches made a scene over my arm workout. I work hard in that nasty room. But I live in a legs culture and two things I certainly have never had are long, skinny legs. Instead I have long, thick legs like that beer horse that has lovely, wavy hair at the bottom of its sturdy legs.

I usually wear T-shirts to the gym, but today, nearing the end of my laundry cycle, I wore a sleeveless little spandex number. I was like a neutral toned version of an 80s workout video. All spandex-y and tough, and in the mood to pump some iron.

I had to wait for a long time to get a free bench and I took to the weights like I owned the place. Miracle of all miracles, as soon as I lifted those awkward metal wonders, my muscles practically popped out of hiding and veins showed up out of nowhere. I felt like the world's proudest body builder at that moment. It was like a novice's dream. There I was, just me and the mirror, and about twenty very bulky men who clearly have strong affinities for tanning beds.

I earned my membership into the weight-room world of glory tonight. Yesterday, I was just another girl on the cross-trainer. Funny enough, the pressure of all the eyes on me distracted me and I flubbed my routine. I spent all my energy on round one and could barely lift my arms over my head, let alone real weight, for the remainder of my sets.

Now, telling you that this was the height of my day, should give you a little insight into how the rest of it went. But in case you want a better picture, I'll admit that I tripped over my own shoe twice in front of the same person. Then I received homework back from my probabilities class in which I got a 27 out of a possible 47 because I used the wrong equation on EVERY PROBLEM!! My first class was cancelled and my second class was confusing.

You can see how being the belle of the weight room ball was actually an honest delight after all of that. Oh, the fallen pride. Oh, the crumpled joy. A 27 out of 47? Ugh.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Alone with Others {It's a Doozy}

We're talking about moral isolation in my Social Ethics class. One question the material poses is, "Why are some of us more prone to alone-ness?" So now I present to you:

Tuesday's Rabbit Trailing with Allie

The author of the book we're reading says that at every moment we're in a solitary state, and yet at every moment, even when alone, we're also with others. The others that we're alone with are the people, whether present or absent, who love, terrify, motivate or challenge us. The imagined approval and disapproval of these "watching" people end up being a measure of "true North" in our lives, guiding our decisions and opinions by proxy. Depending on how you're wired, you might be capable of more love, trust and depth of feeling for your others than for the real people in your life.

Alone-ness: I suspect that those of us who have a high level of engagement when we're out with people in new experiences will tend to feel that these experiences demand a focus and attention level from us that makes us temporarily deaf and blind to the guiding presence of the others that we've let be our "true North." It tends to make us feel like we don't know where we're going or if we're "on the right track" until we get alone again.

Everyone knows that disapproving and shaming people have a really big impact on us, so most of us try to steer clear of anyone who presents us with such blatant abuse. But in a less obvious way, a cynical city like Nashville also can have a really big impact on what kind of others we invite into our head.

He's working on his music all the time, but he's not even that good.

She's starting her own business, but it's never going to take off.

They're getting married but they don't even like each other most of the time.

Everyone wants to be around her but they don't know her like I do.

Cynicism nearly destroyed me because its piercing and merciless gaze turned around and found me standing behind it, completely vulnerable and just as worthy of mockery.

We have a vacuum within us, gasping for guidance, and it will be filled. So we look for the wisest, strongest voice in the crowd and when we find it, we put the bit in our mouths and hand the reigns over. Sometimes it's the smart-ass who has a one-liner for everything, and he becomes the person staring back at us in the mirror. Sometimes it's the ministry leader that has a loophole to explain why every good action is just a bad action in disguise, and they become the doubt that there's any point to Christian discipleship. We can jerk and dissent the idea of it, because it makes us look all too weak and fashionable. But it may also turn out to be the truth about our nature, whether we acknowledge it or not, so it behooves us to at least examine ourselves and question it.

A final note regarding the Christian hope.
The joy of the Gospel is that Christ sent His spirit into the world and from the way the apostle John tries to explain it, "Whoever keeps His commandments remains in Him, and He in him. By this we know that He remains in us, by the spirit which He gave us." Not that John was any kind of classical version of Freud or anything. But this understanding of the possibility of the work of the spirit of Christ in our lives tranquilizes that hefty psychology and stuffs it into a rental car's trunk.

If the voice in my head and the other presence that guides me, is the spirit of Christ, and is not a construct of the imagination to approve or disapprove, but an actual presence external to me that is directly acting upon me--that's a mystical wonder indeed. It is my opinion that the more the spirit of Christ becomes our other, the less alone we'll have to be, the more joyful our alone-ness will become, and the better steered our lives will also be. They'll certainly still be guided in a strong way--but we can trust that wherever we are guided will be a place of infinite possibility and hope.

"End Rabbit Trail Here"

Monday, September 14, 2009

I'm Sort of a Maverick

I'm watching the end of Top Gun on AMC right now, and no matter how many times I've seen Goose die and watched Maverick toss his dogtags into the turbulent sea...I still get all choked up every time I see it.

The sad truth is that I shouldn't be watching TV at all right now because I should be sleeping. It's Monday evening and I never went to sleep last night. I spent a few slices of my weekend formulating the perfect thesis for my ancient civilizations creation myth turned values framework essay. Unfortunately, none of my clever ruminating bore any edible or sowable or even showable fruit--I spent four hours at the library rechecking my primary sources, desperate for some spark of brilliance to light me up. After the library closed at midnight, I spent the next hour and a half walking around the campus with my notebook out, trying to distill my murky argument into two or three coherent and magnificent points. At two or later I sat in the lobby of the enormous computer and technology center, eating a bag os Snyder's pretzels. Then finally I began to create my rough draft.

I finished up the last few sentences and printed the ridiculous thing out just after seven this morning, and frankly, I felt awesome because at that hour it hasn't really occurred to you body that it's been trickd into skipping a whole night's sleep. My body thought we were headed home to bury our weary self under the blankets for a deep hibernation. Not so much.

I drank legitimate coffee. The reeeeaaaallll stuff that the big kids drink. I was hoping it would prop me up for the full day of classes. I fell asleep in my Econ class while doing price elasticity equations.

So I'm finally free to sleep and I use this precious time to watch Top Gun instead. What a goon.

Saturday, September 12, 2009

I'm sitting at FIDO with an incredibly blank sheet of what the romantics might call, "Crisp, white paper" in front of me on a wooden table that is soft and worn away by the chafing of plates and mugs, and the deep etches carved by the pens and pencils of brilliant students, corrosive indie beatnuts and a host of coffee shop regulars that dot and fill the rest of the stereotype spectrum.

I used to sit in the booth closest to the bus tubs back in 2005 when I first started coming here three or four times a week. In those days, hardly anyone I knew came to the Village to socialize, so I felt as if I had discovered a parallel universe where organic relationships and authentic community lined up at around 7 o'clock each night for a cup of Bongo brew and giant piece of cake (or was that just me...).

I had it in my head that I wasn't quite the person I should have already become; I had it in my heart as well-- I was simply out of touch with myself. So I did the only logical thing a 26 year old administrative assistant who never finished school could do: I purchased a Latin textbook, escaped my Purpose Driven Brentwood enclave each night and began to teach myself Latin from a little booth here on the edge of the universe.

I did actually learn some small bits of Latin--like, "Bis das, cito das." But while I've completely forgotten the meaning of the words I tried so hard to learn in my little booth world of miracles, I've never lost the feeling that FIDO is one of the most magical, special places in this whole city--and it's still the place I escape to and the place where I challenge myself to become the person I'm most afraid to be and most afraid I'll never truly be.

The sheet of paper is still crisp and still blank at the moment.

And the Onvelope Goes To...

I lost my place in the spelling be in 5th grade. I was so nervous, as it was, and then they said my word: "on-vah-lope." At least that's what it sounded like. If they would have said "en-veh-lope," I'd be in one of those three categories today. Hopefully not the "contributing nothing of value to society" one, though.

I spelled envelope with an "o."
And that's why I didn't finish college like the rest of my peers.

I was tardy to my 8th grade Algebra class a lot.
And that's why I've always struggled to check my oil levels in my car.

Don't you just love playing games with causality?

Friday, September 11, 2009

A Day of Remembrance

This morning, my favorite morning news channel rebroadcast the Today Show's entire morning show from 9/11/01, hosted by Katie Couric and Matt Lauer. It was uninterrupted, so for almost two hours before school, instead of studying, I sat gape-mouthed and watched the events unfold.

I didn't watch the news at all when the events actually took place, eight years ago, because I was three time zones behind and woke up well after it happened, and because I left the house immediately to go to a very needed dentist appointment. I saw clips of the devastation while sitting in the dentist's chair and looking out the window over the completely calm little city of Everett, Washington.

I lived through a number of bomb scares while living in London, one-a bus bomb-actually taking out the bus I normally took home from work on a night I chose to walk. The idea of shocking terrorism was not foreign to me--just a little unreal on home turf. I repeatedly found myself pondering throughout the day if what happened in New York was just the beginning; if there was more wreckage to come, more surprises to wake up to in the coming days.

I worked that night at the Cheesecake Factory in downtown Seattle and there was a lot of talk about the important section of the city that had been closed down to traffic. Celebrities like Eve, whose flights had been grounded at the airport, found their way into our restaurant and drank and ate as if it were New Year's Eve, which gave all of the waitstaff a soapbox to stand on behind the kitchen doors, between visits to our tables. For me, although I joined the chorus of employees that protested any establishment staying open on such a tragic day, I actually felt grateful to be surrounded by my people when catastrophe was at hand; to be surrounded by friends and companions to share that mind-melting awe and wonder with.

When I visited New York a few years ago in the middle of winter, I went to the Ground Zero site to see for myself what had become of the site of the two towers in the five years since the attack. Unlike what most visitors that I've talked to about it experienced, when I walked along the parallel roads, there was nobody around--it was the most desolate place in all the world in a sense, because the sounds of the surrounding world could be heard, but only in a very muted, far away way. In contrast to the hubbub of the city--this patch of baldness was empty and void. Nobody else was in the walkway with me. Nobody else was reading the "We'll Never Forget" signs with me. It was a lonely walk.

I had a strange dream for a long time involving grey and black patterns; and one day I was flipping through news sites on the internet and came across a section of photos from a few photojournalists. I paused on a picture of people jumping out of a burning, crumbling building. Can you even imagine being in that situation? Something that only happens in nightmares and Samuel L Jackson movies.

But what stopped me was the building itself; it's cement structure. I realized that it was the image from my dream. Somewhere along the line I got these images of crumbling buildings and people jumping stored into my personal hard-drive, only showing up in anxious, confusing dreams.

This morning I listened as the names of the dead were read aloud at Ground Zero; family members of the victims covered in clear plastic rain jackets and holding photos and mementos. Losing my dad to a sudden heart attack was tragic enough--I can't imagine what these people are feeling, even all these eight years later. Because to me, eight years seems like a lifetime ago. But to them, one wonders if they woke up this morning and said to themselves, "It's only been eight years since you were here with me."

Nonsense From the Garden of Bowling Eden Green

My head is full of theories at the moment; theories about life, death, friendship, economics--about anything that has the courage to enter the romper room of my head, really, because theories are what happens when you spend large blobs of time wedged on the steps of your cement porch, disinterestedly watching the trees drop dead leaves at the end of summer in this, our American South.

One thing that pestered me yesterday was an argument between my diversity tolerance and what Brock told me last semester was called my "paternalism"--controlling or mandating behaviors and choices for the parts of the population I don't think are able to care properly for their own well-being. I wonder, mainly, if I were God {praise Him that I am not}, and I therefore loved humans much more than I, Allie, currently do, knowing that, other than providing jobs to many people, McDonald's is a wart on the index finger of society, would I have ever allowed such a business to be created in the first place? Or would I have vetoed that idea?

These are big, important thoughts that she's got in her head, you're thinking...

Plowing on...the other human enterprises that I, as God, would have vetoed: Coca-Cola, cigarettes, tanning beds.

In my favor, as an omnipotent being, I would have let chocolate manufacturing and the development of the cotton industry pass on unchecked without hesitation. But the point of contention I'm struggling with as a sentient, mildly-compassionate and halfway-reasonable human being is that some of the best economic ideas and entrepreneurial schemes are those that create enormous wealth by capitalizing on the vices of the morally weak; those too ignorant or foolish to say no (sometimes this refers to yours truly, I admit). If we want a strong and diverse economy, we must have businesses that cater to the "unlimited wants" of our society, which turn out to be increasingly specialized desires indeed. My argument, with myself and the non-sentient garden trees in my front lawn, is that offering the opportunity to satisfy our unlimited wants is the petri dish which happens to breed some of the most risky explorations of human depravity.

Plainly, for the sake of moral climate, I would turn out to be a most restrictive cosmos-governor. Because I think it's more practical and safer, in the end, than letting our good friend, Individual Vice, control the universe by way of market power. But a balanced and healthy community, as morally rich as it sounds, doesn't necessarily experience booming economic growth given the fact that nobody really wants an unlimited selection of Slinkys or an unlimited selection of the same 'ol Christian music {or do they ;)}. And given also the fact that debt and diversity of lifestyle preferences are such fuel for such an economic fire...

Monday, September 7, 2009

Proverbial Diatribe

"And all who were slain by her were strong men."
-Proverbs 7:26

A good man isn't hard to find.
I would argue that a good man is hard to see, if you don't have tastes refined by scripture.

JI Packer said {let me paraphrase} that this generation is afflicted by two diseases: firstly, the horrible feeling that all of life is really quite absurd and there's no point to it; secondly, the sense that nothing that we actually possess tastes as good as the things we dream of.

{Sounds so much like listening to women talk about relationships}

Packer also happens to say that people who know their God will not be afflicted by either of these heart diseases.

Life is not absurd, once you peel your own vanity away.

The things we actually own are more delicious than any of the things we fantasize about having, because they're a gift from God. That's the seasoning that makes them so fine and so beautiful. The blessing makes it taste good. But that's a taste one only learns to appreciate through sacrifice, I suspect.

Anyway--I'm driving back to BGKY after a lovely Labor Day with friends and sugar treats and too much Starbucks.

Only fifteen weeks to go before Winter Break. :\