Monday, June 24, 2013

Keep Your Day Job

I've been cleaning bellows today in my lab.  It's tiring and menial and somehow very satisfying.  The choice of music?


Yep, it's like the color except with a few more e's.  (One e for every band member)

I just have to give a shout out to this band.  I've liked their music for a while now.  They are upbeat and have a lot of good messages and somewhat quirky songs.  

But here's the best part: the identity of the band members is completely unknown.


In order to protect their alternate careers as ...

wait for it...


They didn't want their rocker status to affect their chances of passing the dental exam. However, once they all passed their exams and were full practicing dentists, they decided to continue not to reveal their identities because hey!  why not?

Nerdy Clark Kent types who moonlight as rockstars?  Just the thought of it and I break out in a peal of laughter.  I love it.  It's absolutely awesome.  Can you imagine all of the backpedal lame excuses these men have to give when their patients innocently ask, for conversation's sake, if they have any plans for the weekend?

"There's an exciting 'Teeth: the complete History' 12 hour documentary on this weekend."
"A new volume of the Dental Association's Journal just came out and I'm dying to read it."
"There is a seminar on new teeth cleaning methods."
"I have to wash my hair."

So, next time you think your dentist is just a little too much into his job, just remember: he could actually be saving the world in his spare time.

Isn't one of their latest music videos so apropos?  

Saturday, June 22, 2013


Last weekend, I got to see my baby niece again.  She's just so adorable and she recognizes me now so I don't get a lot of crying anymore... except when I gave her a bath.  She kept throwing me angry eyes for its duration.

Here's a few pics of my lovely niece who I am choosing to call Gwiyomi which means "Cutie" in Korean at least for purposes of this blog.

Hanging out with a towel on her head doesn't even faze her.  

Stormy Weather?

Every day, before leaving my apartment, I check the weather on my phone.

Today, it said 'Cloudy'

Which is apparently the code word for 'Most Beautiful Day Ever'.  Here are some pictures of my current study spot - the Lawn.

The Rotunda is copper colored right now - I adore it and wish they wouldn't return it to white

Cabell Hall 

When I looked up the weather in Doha a few weeks ago, my phone said 'Dreary'.  I wonder what that is code for.  

Friday, June 21, 2013

The Things To Which We Give Power

Today, I was scanning through Facebook - you know the daily practice of looking at everyone else's über cool lives - when I happened to see a post from someone from my mission.  I frowned and thought some very un-nice thing.  Then I realized what I was doing and stopped myself.  "It's been almost 10 years, Reed," I muttered to myself.  "Shouldn't you let it go?"

Here's the age old incident: I was on my mission and this person and I were on exchanges meaning that we were not normally coworkers but for that day, we were.  She followed me around for a while as I tried to talk to people and tell them about the message of Jesus Christ.  Then, as we went to get on our bikes, she told me, "You're not happy."

Frankly, her comment freaked me out.  I was in last few months of my mission.  I was in that time that I was supposed to have figured it all out.  I was supposed to love what I was doing, love who I was serving and be happy.  I thought I had been doing pretty good at it but her comment rattled me.  Honestly, there were moments I wasn't happy - a lot of the time actually.  I struggled my entire mission with self-esteem issues and struggled to feel that I was enough, doing enough and serving enough.  I never attained my self-determined definition of "successful."  And lots of people I worked with only further strengthened my idea of failure with their own two cents on missionary success.  Fortunately, I met a lot of wonderful people who let me into their hearts and their lives, enough for me to forget myself and truly rejoice and enjoy the work.  However, even to the very last, there were always moments when thoughts of everything that I wasn't rushed in and I was left gasping for breath, a break or a sign that I was better than I thought I was.

I think I sincerely had hoped that she who was so confident would watch me and say, "You're doing your best.  The Lord must be so proud of you."  Instead, I got an opposite response.  It was as though she had just said, "I've got you figured you.  I can see right through all your pretenses."  I didn't humbly admit that she was right.  I didn't even tell her that on that particularly day, I was actually doing quite well.  Instead, I got mad.  I tried to prove to her how happy I was which only gave her argument more fodder.  I ended the night crying into my pillow.

I could never look that girl in the eye again and shrunk from any further contact.

It's been ten years and I've let myself remain scared of her and her judgment.  It's laughable really.  I'm sure that girl doesn't think bad things about me; in fact, I'm pretty sure she doesn't think about me at all.

This post though isn't about that girl or even about my mission.  It's about the fact that there are always competing comments we will hear in just about every single thing we undertake.  When we are met with opposing thoughts/ideas/voices, it is our choice then to determine what we will choose to listen to, what we will choose to believe in and what we will choose to act on.  In fact, that's how it will always be.    That's how our world works; we choose for ourselves.

Sure, this girl pointed out my weaknesses.  I could have chosen to listen to the voice inside of me that insisted, "You're doing your best.  You're going through a hard time - be patient with yourself."  But I didn't.  I gave her words power to hurt me, power to scare me, power to anger me because I chose those words to be the ones I listened to.

A friend whose husband finished his PhD a few years ago told me that one of the biggest things her husband learned during that time was to distinguish which voices/comments he should listen to.  Should I listen to the voice that tells me that I'm a failure?  Or the one that tells me that I'm capable at finishing what I've started?  I stared at my friend in amazement when she told me this and suddenly realized that this was a lesson I wanted to learn.  I want to distinguish which ones I should listen to and then which ones I want to give power to, to guide my actions.

We choose what we believe.  We choose what we think.  We choose who we listen to.  

We choose.

And that makes all the difference.

Friday, June 14, 2013

Something to Mull Over

Last night, I had a dream that I met a person was defending his house.  It was really just a small house with only a few rooms, and it was pretty old but it was a house.  Anyway, these people were attacking the man and he was fending them off.  He was already quite bruised and bleeding from the fight and as it went on, he fell more often and it took him longer to get up.  Then, finally, he put his hands up and called defeat.  The attackers took him at his word that he would leave and I ran over to help him up.  He thanked me for helping him and then I asked him why he gave up.  He told me, "What I was defending was not the worth the price I was paying to defend it."  He then showed me the house - there was nothing in it, no one he was protecting from the defenders.  Sure, it's a house and that's a place to live and sure, it's land but when it came to losing his life over this empty building, he chose his life.  I promised myself I would remember his words and think about them once I woke up.  So I did.

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

The Joy of the Children

That line - "the joy of the children was in his voice" - is hands down my favorite line from the book Christy by Catherine Marshall.  I don't even know what children she was referring to but I definitely know what kind of joy she's talking about.  It's something that bursts out in a tumble of energy and spontaneity and is both deep and pure. 

I found this gif today on tumblr for the moment (I'm almost sure of it) when Japan found out they were going officially to the World Cup in Brazil.
It's a moment when Hasebe literally jumps for joy.

I can't seem to stop watching it, marveling at how child-like he is in this moment - the joy of a little Japanese boy who dreamed one day of going to the World Cup but probably never dared to dream that he would be the captain that led his team there.  Part of me wonders if I'm the only one who could watch this all day until I think about his mother, who must absolutely adore this moment, when her 29 year old son seems no older than six.

We all grow up from childhood too quickly - we start to pick up burdens that are heavy; we start to concern ourselves with decorum and what is expected of us.  We rarely have those moments of completely giving ourselves up entirely to our joy.

But I confess, it is moments like this that I hope for most for my friends and loved ones.  Those are the moments that make all the tears and the struggles and the heartache worth it.  Those are the moments I remember forever. 

Monday, June 10, 2013

Baby Comes for Dinner

Baby stopped by with her mother yesterday on the way back home from a race in the mountains.  My sister had had a rough weekend camping and running on washed out trails in rainy weather.  Baby had absolutely no complaints.

Baby is growing up so fast.  She uses almost perfect grammar and has a very good memory.  When she was playing with my mini soccer ball, I told her to go get the big soccer ball and she immediately went to the cabinet where it was located.  But she couldn't remember which door so I told her the left one and she tried opening the right door with her left hand before I corrected myself, "No, I mean, the left door."  I'm just impressed by how much she can communicate and how much she knows. 

Here are a few of our conversations:

 <I picked up my dolls from Japan and handed them to her>
Me: Now, Baby, there is a boy and a girl.  Guess which one is which.
Baby: <points to the girl> Girl.  <points to boy> Boy
Me: Wow, you're good.  Is Mommy a girl or a boy?
Baby: Girl!
Me: Is Daddy a girl or a boy?
Baby: Boy!
Me: What about your cousin?
Baby: <thinks for a moment> Her is a girl!
Me: Her?
Sister: She uses all her pronouns correctly but she won't fix that one.

<We line up three little dolls from Japan and admire them>
Me: How many dolls are there?
Baby: One, two, three, Four!
Sister: She still hasn't learned how to count objects yet.  Baby, put your finger on it as you count it.

<Baby sees a penny. She picks it up and holds it up to my face>
Baby: MONEY!
<Later, she is playing with my markers and finds an entire pile of pennies>
Me: You can have as much money as you can count.  (She only got through four pennies)

Me: Baby, what's your favorite movie?
Baby: Pocahontas!
Sister: Huh? But Baby, you've never seen Pocahontas.
Me: Hahaha.  You're always a surprise, Baby. 

Sister: Baby, thank Erin for letting you play with her markers.
Baby: Erin, thank you for letting me play with your markets.
Sister: Did you notice how perfectly she fixed those pronouns?
Me: Yeah, that's really impressive.
Baby had a pink and purple hand after playing with my markers

Picture of me taken by Baby.  I didn't realize she was taking pictures.

Thursday, June 6, 2013

My Favorite Machinist

Have I ever told you about Ed, our lab's machinist?  He's special.  And not the weird kind of special.  He's the kind of special that you won't ever forget.

Most days, when I walk into lab and walk through the machine shop, he's there working and I greet him with a smile, "Hello, Ed."  If I'm later than usual, he smiles and comments on it.  If I'm earlier than usual, he smiles and comments on it.  If I walk through the shop later, he throws out a comment about the weather or about how I'm covered in oil.  If I need his advice or his expertise, he's always helpful.  He lets me borrow the shaker bath or gives me bolts and screws, quickly machines anything I need and generally proves again and again to be one the best parts about my lab.

When I came back from Japan, there were rumors floating about how people were trying to force Ed into retirement and how they don't need machinists.  Everyone who loves Ed got really upset with those comments because we understand that great is the worth of an experienced machinist.  In fact, when I got to research conferences and tell people how small our models are and how delicate the internal plumbing, they all stare in shock at how skilled our machinist must be.  The best part is, because he's in house, we can take our rough hand sketched ideas and talk with him until we both figure out a way to make the part fit our needs with the best machining methods.  I can't say enough good things about Ed's workmanship.

Or his character.  He comes to work every morning at 6:30 am and leaves at 1:30 pm sharp.  Every Friday, he leaves Little Debbie snacks for the lab on the plate on the microwave.  And then he scatters sunflower seeds and birdseed for all the creatures outside.  Someone once teased me when I said how much I loved the snacks he left for us.

It's not that I think Little Debbie is the best food - in fact, it's probably not very good for me.  However, it reminds me of my Grandpa Reed who used to make cakes for us when we came to visit.  Even when he was old and really shouldn't be making things for us, he still did his best.  I always knew that one way my Grandpa showed me he loved me was making those desserts for me.  The Little Debbie snacks remind me of my Grandpa who I miss a lot.  Ed reminds me of my Grandpa.  I like to pretend the snacks are his way of making sure I'm eating ok, and happy in life, just like my grandpa.

It's always a big question though of how old Ed is.  The rest of the lab has spent several times debating and wondering how old he is, as well as how long he's been working here at UVa.  He's old and apparently, he retired several years ago but still manages to come in every day.

Yesterday, our lab manager found me, "Erin, I found an article on Ed that was published in a UVa magazine in 2000."

I was so excited.  I went and washed my hands of oil and dirt and read it carefully.  It was delightful to hear a little more about him - he was born and raised in England.  He makes elaborate doll houses for his friends and family.

I turned to show the article to my colleague and he immediately asked the question I should have been asking, "How old is he in the article."

"It says here, he was 71."
"That was 13 years ago."

"HE'S 84!"

84, and still coming to work everyday.  Yep, that's our Ed.  I told you he was special.

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Dreaming of Freedom

Yesterday was a gorgeous day.  Like a beautiful I-just-want-to-sit-down-and-watch-the-white-clouds-roll-on-past-the-bright-blue-sky-kind-of-day.

So, I indulged myself just a little at what I have decided is one of my new favorite spots at UVa.  It is a good imitation of the columns that originally inspired Jefferson's architectural style and it's simple and understated in  atypical UVa fashion, which just lends to its charm.

It was on the way from English class to the depths of the Alderman library where I would spend my afternoon.  Although men were painting the columns, construction and repair work doesn't even faze me and I walked right past their buckets and drop cloths and settled down into a seat where I watched a man mow the field below in perfect straight lines and let myself just be, without thinking about the things I needed to do or the things I needed to think.

 Thanks, world. I really needed that.

Saturday, June 1, 2013

Welcome Diversion

On Wednesday, I convinced a good friend I hadn't seen in weeks to accompany me to Orange to drop off some parts for my pump.  We soon realized that our driving directions were taking us through an absolutely beautiful part of Virginia.

On the way back, inspired by the adventure of the drive, I pulled off the road and stopped at the Exchange Hotel and Civil War Hospital Museum to check it out.  We definitely enjoyed it although the lady telling us about paranormal activity before we went in more than freaked us out.  Even though it was day time, I think I stayed a little closer than is considered normal to my friend every time we entered a new room.

But the experience was definitely worth the $5 it cost for the self-guided tour.  It was definitely very Confederate in it's approach and presentation (which was fine by me) but let me just say, that Confederate or Yankee, I'm so glad I didn't live in the days of Civil War health care.  Did you know that only 5% of the doctors had only seen or performed surgeries on gun shot wounds before working on injuries in the Civil War?

For lunch, my friend and I stopped by Tastee Freez and then by Kohr brothers for frozen custard.

Overall, it was a wonderful afternoon and my friend and I parted feeling that we had created some wonderful memories.