The Grace You Can Get

But the warm rembrances faded and the siblings returned to the dark and stormy night. Blue flashes occasionally lit the kitchen, but otherwise Paul and Jeanie sat in a stunned silence.

“So what are you doing?” Paul ventured.

“What am I doing?” Jeanie repeated, with a hint of annoyance in her voice. She wasn’t sure what Paul meant by the question, but for her there was only one place the question could go.

“I don’t know, Paul. I honestly don’t know. I feel like I’m at the end of my rope, and maybe I am.” Lightning lit up the room again. “You don’t willfully move back into your parents’ house. It’s not something I wanted to do, believe me. But I have no other option.” She finally stopped, feeling like she could ramble on about the inevitable all night, like a dripping faucet that just won’t stop.

Paul merely nodded and sat there in the quiet. What was he supposed to say? Little brothers aren’t supposed to counsel older sisters.

Jeanie sat across the old kitchen table, her face buried in her hands, her heart longing to cry but her mind not allowing it. She wouldn’t stoop to that.

“Sometimes you need a fresh start,” Paul said before he could stop himself. He was the student who was never afraid to speak in class, but usually waited for a worthwhile moment.

“I’m sorry, that sounds kind of trite.” He faltered for a moment. There was something in her face that told him it was his place to be quiet and commiserate. He was also the kind of person who wanted to fix problems, not just listen to them.

“It’s okay. I’m not in a position to reject much of anything.”

The two sat there for a few minutes longer, the thunder echoing and the rain strumming on the window pane.

“I’ll take what grace I can,” Jeanie said.

I Could Use a Walk in the Park

College is an interesting time in your life. Your classes are your occupation, except that it never ends. Presumably when you enter the work force you are employed for an eight hour period. When it’s over, you usually go home. Sometimes you might work a few hours over if you have stuff that has to be done. But at some point you call it quits and go home. There is a vast separation between work and home, at least ideally. Of course lots of people bring thoughts of work home with them, if not actual work from work.

But in college you don’t have that leisure. Home is at college. College is at college. It’s one and the same. You don’t go home and get away from your classes and your work. It’s called homework for a reason. When your classes are over your books are still bearing down on you from their designated shelf. Your pile of work still sits in the corner, waiting to be done. When you climb into bed, what ever isn’t finished sits on your desk for tomorrow morning, to greet you along with the blare of your alarm clock.

Kind of depressing, isn’t it? And I only have one semester left. Ha! But seriously, I paint a picture of working for a living as a walk in the park, and college as hell. In reality I’m sure it’s not that way at all. College just seems like hell right now. I could use a walk in the park.

Slaughterhouse V

Isn’t it lovely to be sick on the first day of school? You’d think I plan these things. Well, at least I’ve set myself up with excuses to take advantage of.

Another book I read this summer was Kurt Vonnegut’s Slaughterhouse V. I wanted to read it because that’s one of the more famous books by Vonnegut, and I remember reading another novel by Vonnegut in high school and really liking it. Of course Slaughterhouse V isn’t exactly an ordinary novel. Contrary to the sound of the title, it’s not a bloody slasher novel. It’s about the carpet bombing of Dresden in World War II, when the Allied Forces basically leveled the German city by bombing the entire city and forcing the city to burn to the ground. Citizens were trapped in bomb shelters and roasted alive from the intense heat. The devastation is comparable to Hiroshima.

Understanding all of that, you’d expect it to be a rather gripping novel that teaches you a lot about history. But I’m beginning to understand that Vonnegut isn’t a very predictable author. Slaughterhouse V has a very strange plot line, and for the first few chapters you’re not sure what’s going on. It’s a very interesting way to tell a story. I could explain some intricacies of the plot that you’ll find in the synopsis on the back of the book, but I think it makes it more interesting when you approach the book with little or no knowledge of what it’s about. By the time it was over I was a little surprised. It didn’t meet any of my expectations. But it made me think. And that’s why I read.

Last Day Before It Starts

I’m back for real this time. I promise.

Tomorrow begins the first day of my senior year in college. And if that’s not intimidating enough, it’s not really a senior year, it’s a senior semester. In four very short months my formal education will be complete and I’ll enter the real world. I’ll also be starting a wonderful marriage, hopefully finding a wonderful job, and entering the frightful “real world.”

I don’t think I’m afraid so much as in disbelief. Not too long ago I was a quiet high school kid. In many ways I’m still that quiet kid. While my roommates talk about graduate school, I can’t help but wonder if I’m out of my league. I feel like I slipped past the guards and will get a diploma I really don’t deserve. I feel like I haven’t learned that much in these past three years. But in some small way, I know I have. I know I’m a different person than I was three years ago when I fell asleep in my freshman loft, my head six inches from the ceiling, spinning and reeling from too many faces, too few friends, and too much to retain.

I always feel the need to look back and see what I’ve accomplished. Summer has come to an end, and I can tell you I haven’t accomplished much of what I hoped. But it always works out that way, so I’m not too disappointed. But I did manage something this summer like I haven’t done in a long time. I read. I read voraciously, which is something I’ve never done for such a sustained period of time. I read ten books this summer, which I think averages to one a week. It’s not as many books as I had on my summer reading list, but summer reading lists were made to continue indefinitely.

I hope I can continue reading. I know classes will start, and I’ll have a large pile of mandatory reading. I’ll take joy in some of it, but some will be college reading that you can’t enjoy no matter how hard you try. Somewhere in there I hope to have time for leisure reading. I don’t want to sound all scholarly and anal, but I really feel like my mind stretches and grows when I read. Of course there’s a lot of crap out there to read, and some of it might help your mind shrink. I’d love to recommend some books that will stretch your brain. Of course I’m not the end all source for “good” books, nor do I claim to be. But you can always take or leave friendly advice. I’d love it if could offer such friendly advice. I’d love a book review section. Or a movie review section for that matter, but I’m getting ahead of myself.

The first book I read this summer is one I was supposed to read for a class in the spring. But I didn’t keep up with the reading and never finished it. So to start the summer I caught up. It was Jonathan Kozol’s Amazing Grace: The Lives of Children and the Conscious of a Nation. It tells the story of a lower class New York neighborhood. Kozol visits the neighborhood and shares what he encountered and the stories of the people who live there. At times it can be a difficult read, because he admits that the children he describes have little or no hope. It’s a sad thing when a society abandons its own. But this is our society, and ignoring it gets us no where. Somebody has to live in those places you call “bad neighborhoods,” some child has to grow up there, some widow has to grow old there. Just because we ignore them doesn’t mean no one who lives there matters. Kozol’s book doesn’t give a lot of answers, but it does make you aware. Sometimes that’s the most important thing.

I’ve now established my own cop-out. Whenever I can’t think of anything to write about for ReAL Thoughts, I can offer a summary of one of the books I read this summer. It may be a cop-out, but I can get pretty fired up about some of the books I’ve read, so hopefully it won’t be a real cop-out. I think there’s been enough copping-out in the past month.

It’s good to be back.