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To talk of many things. But not on this blog anymore.

I haven't stopped blogging, but I have decided to move on over to Wordpress, which has a superior platform that will allow me to expand my blog into a website. I hope that in the next few years I start publishing, and I'd like to have a place that will function as more than just a blog.

I'm keeping all my old posts up, for now, but the blog of the future is over at http://explainingitall.wordpress.com/. I hope that friends and followers, old and new, will continue to tolerate my musings on the new site. In fact, my musings should be better.

Or if not better, at least easier to read.

Greg and I are currently obsessed with dogs. We have fanciful conversations about where to put a dog bed, how to prepare the house, all the things we need to buy. We can pass hours on the internet looking at shelter pages and rescue dogs. Whenever we see a dog on the street we get giddy.

We can't get one until our finances are in slightly better shape, which should resolve in two or three weeks when I start getting paid for my assistantship. That's not a very long time at all, but it feels like FOREVER.

And there are so many dogs to choose from. We have been looking extensively at petfinder, and the sheer number of dogs in need of homes in our area is not only sad, but overwhelming. We love ALL dogs, and just to give you an idea, here is some of what we're trying to decide:

We know we don't want a puppy right now, because eventually (very long-term) we'd like to buy a large-breed (mastiff, St. Bernard, or Newfoundland) purebred puppy, but for a first dog we'd like to get a shelter dog that is already housetrained, and one that is low-energy (we unfortunately don't have a large yard for it to play in). Part of me wants to adopt a senior dog for exactly this reason - but I'd also hate to have a dog that won't be around for very long, and senior dogs tend to have (sometimes expensive) health problems.

Our ultimate dream, as I've said, is to own a very large breed dog. I've seen a few listed on shelter sites, but I'm not sure if they're the best fit for us right now...what on earth would we do with a giant mastiff in our tiny apartment?

I think we would be happy with an average-to-large dog, but the VAST majority of the shelter dogs around here are pittbull or rottweiler mixes. Guess which two breeds we're not allowed to have? I would LOVE to have a pitt - and I grew up with rottweilers, since my neighbors used to breed them. I think either would be perfect, but unfortunately our landlords say no.

There are a few small breed dogs that we love - pugs, corgis, and English bulldogs. But nearly all of the ones I've found have either been too old/sick (pug rescue is a sad place to spend an afternoon) or too expensive.

I've narrowed it down to two local shelters, one in Knightdale and one in Cary, that I've sent applications to. We're waiting to hear back from them. The truth is, at the end of the day, we're not that picky about our dog - we just want one here NOW! It's hard to believe that after waiting so long our dream might actually come true in a few weeks...I really hope we're able to get one sooner rather than later. I never knew that getting a dog would be so stressful!

So far, I'm loving grad school. I'm in my second week of classes now, and adjusting well, I think. I don't have any teaching responsibilities this semester, but I am observing an undergraduate creative writing course, which I will be teaching in my second year. I'm also taking a course on Flannery O'Connor and Cormac McCarthy, a course on Medieval Women Writers, and of course the fiction workshop with John Kessel. We had our first workshop yesterday and it lit a fire under my butt - I came home and finished a story for the first time in about half a year.

I still have a surprising amount of free time, not at all like undergrad, but it's sinking in that I need to use every single second of it that I can stand to be writing, revising, or reading. This time truly is a gift, and I'm trying to treat it that way.

The English department is in a glorious building, a converted textile building, and it's a very large, open space. The grad student workspaces are lofted on two levels in the center of the corridor and the professor offices ring the outside of it. Everything is close, convenient, and convivial. I did a little giddy dance when I got the key to my office space (I didn't even know I was getting one!) and felt like a real grad student.

On Monday night I auditioned for the Raleigh Civic Symphony, which went very well, and I think I'll be playing principle horn for them this semester. I am more happy about this than I can express - I feel so much more myself when I have the opportunity to play. I wish I had been this confident a few years back - I might have stayed in the game and tried to find a job. But I think I needed the time away in order to develop a different perspective on playing and performing.

So, in short, things are busy but not too busy, and mostly very good. Also, Greg and I are preparing for an addition to our family. No, not a baby...but a doggy. We expect that he/she will arrive in 2 or 3 weeks. And we're very excited.

When I was at BU, the dorm guest policy was a little behind the times. You couldn't stay past 11pm in a dorm that wasn't yours. So officially I wasn't allowed to stay the night with my boyfriend in his dorm.

That in itself wasn't what annoyed me. What annoyed me was the loophole. They had this thing called "study extension." You could sign up for it any day of the week - including Friday - and you were allowed to remain in the dorm until 7am, at which point you had to come downstairs and re-swipe your card to sign in again.

This meant that every single weekend, couples would sign up for study extension, and every single Saturday morning at 7am, there would be a tired group of couples standing there in pajamas at the front desk to swipe their cards. This infuriated me. If you've created a loophole in your rules that essentially allows the very thing you've prohibited, and it's blindingly obvious that this is what your loophole is being used for, why on earth would you not just go ahead and legalize overnights? All it created was a giant headache for both students and staff. Luckily, BU changed the rule eventually (right after I graduated of course). But I was reminded of it again this week.

NCSU requires that I obtain North Carolina residency for the second year of my assistantship; otherwise I will have to pay the out-of-state balance in my second year. Again, I have no problem with this.

What annoys me is that the university itself continually sends me reminders and tips on how to do this effectively. In my orientation meeting, I was actually told to do a bunch of things like take out a public library card to help "build my case" and that if asked I should lie and say, "Of COURSE I'm going to live in Raleigh forever! It's great here! Look, I even have a library card!" no matter what my long-term plans are.

So, in other words, the university is encouraging me to lie in order to convince the university that I am a North Carolina resident.

If the university A) wants me to become a North Carolina resident and also B) knows that I may very well may not stay in Raleigh long-term, I don't understand why they insist on so much extra work. I don't have to prove my residency to an outside party, just some guy in an office somewhere on Hillsborough Street. Why not be satisfied with a change of driver license and 12 months of residence? Sure, maybe it's taking advantage of the university - but the university itself is encouraging (and in fact requiring) me to take advantage of it! Stuff like this just drives me crazy. I'm sure that when I'm filling out the library card application or whatever else, I'll feel just like I did when I was exhausted in my pajamas trying not to look a security guard in the eye as I sign out from my "study extension" on a Saturday morning.



















We are slowly adjusting to Raleigh. The move down here was kind of a nightmare - I got food poisoning halfway through and we had to spend an extra day at a hotel in Wytheville, Virginia. Then as soon as we arrived I got knocked by a cold that quickly turned into a sinus infection. I only started feeling normal again a few days ago.

Our apartment is nice, if a little bland, but it's the newest building I've ever lived in and we haven't run into any problems yet, other than our eternal need for more bookshelves. We've had mixed feelings, though. The cons:

- the climate here is subtropical. Hot and muggy alllll day, then torrential thunderstorms in the afternoons and evenings. The first three times we went out - to WalMart, Target, and the grocery store - we walked in to sunshine and walked out in deluges that soaked us to the bone. I find the heat wearying and it keeps me from wanting to go anywhere.

- the bugs are prolific and enormous. Mosquitos in droves, two wasp nests on our deck, cockroaches the size of my thumb, spiders large enough to frighten dogs. In 12 hours something mysteriously built a long mud tube on our door jamb that we had to knock away with a broomstick. Do they go away in the winter? Does Raleigh have winter?

- I see now why the area is nicknamed "Sprawleigh." It doesn't feel like a city, just like one giant suburb with very little character. Greg particularly hates driving here.

But there are some good things, too:

- the NCSU camps is lovely - leafy and green, and even though it is large, it's worlds prettier than BU. The campus bus system is great, and very convenient for me.

- everything we could possibly need is a very short distance away, including Whole Foods, a couple of great bookstores, coffee houses, and restaurants galore.

- the air-conditioning. God, I missed air-conditioning this summer. Also: SWEET TEA.

Also, Greg started a new job this week, which has been a huge relief. He seems to like it so far, and it's another work-from-home position, which is ideal. Meanwhile, my orientation begins a week from Tuesday, classes start a week from Thursday, and I'm equal parts excited and terrified. Me! A graduate student!

I also have an audition for the Raleigh Civic Symphony in two weeks. I've been practicing some on the music building on campus. Frankly I sound awful right now but I'm hoping I can pull it together enough to get a spot. I have missed playing horn more than I thought possible. Just the physical sensation of having it in my hands again makes me feel better. Now that it's no longer the focus of my career ambitions, it's actually a huge stress-reliever for me. I can't wait to start playing and performing regularly again.

So onward to my last week of summer...eeek!

In 1996, when I was ten years old, I became obsessed with the U.S. Women's Olympic gymnastics team (a.k.a. "The Magnificent Seven"). When I say obsessed, I do mean obsessed. I watched every event, I memorized statistics and biographical facts, I bought at least two biographies (Dominique Moceanu's and Kerri Strug's), I bought the Wheaties box with the team on it and displayed it prominently above my desk for at least a year, and watched every TV special ever run about them.  Most absurdly, I was so enchanted that I actually wanted to be a gymnast. My swingset rings, the monkey bars, springy grass, hanging tree limbs, and sidewalk curbs become gymnastic apparatus. This was hilarious because I was not even remotely gymnastic. I was overweight, sedentary, and possessed the flexibility of a concrete pillar. Somehow I didn't see any of this as a problem, and at the height of my delusion I actually had my mother enroll me in a beginning tumbling class at the local community center. During the first class I spent twenty minutes with the teacher trying to master some basic position (a stationary position - I wasn't even doing any actual tumbling) - while hordes of first graders did hordes of cartwheels and roundoffs around me. My dream died that day. I never went back, and slowly my interest faded. At least until Sydney in 2000.

But my fascination with gymnasts never disappeared entirely. When the Olympics roll around, I always watch them. And oddly enough, gymnasts (and, to a lesser extent divers and figure skaters) are the only athletes with whom I feel some measure of understanding. Bear with me here.

I'm absolutely no athlete, and all my forays into athletics have ended badly. But there's some common ground between the gymnasts and the musicians out there. Especially the hornplayers, for whom each performance is a new adventure. You can do something right a thousand times and then completely fall on your face the 1001st time. You just have to hope that time is not The Big One, The One That Counts, The One People Remember. So much depends on the muscle memory, the repetition, the forcing of your body to do something it does not naturally do (there is NOTHING natural about playing most instruments), the warming up, the interminable wait, and then: a matter of seconds, you have to make something look (sound) easy. There is so much precision involved. It is hard to get across to anyone who has not done it. Gymnasts, I think, would get it.

With so many other sports, the pressure is of a different type. There's always another down, another inning, another serve. There's always the opponent, the time to beat, the limit to push, the world record to break. I appreciate that in gymnastics there is only that one try, and that the starting expectation is always perfection. They don't really battle opponents; they battle perfection. Musicians, I think, get that.

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