Hello, stranger: A fall semester round-up

7 Jan

While this very well may have been the biggest break I’ve taken since I started this blog, rest assured that there is a story behind my absence. The story of a Ph.D. student struggling to stay on top of her classes and keep up on sleep while maintaining a small semblance of a social life. That being said — I wanted to update everyone on some of the greater happenings of this semester.

I’ll start by saying that Ohio University has been very good to me. My fall semester consisted of Introduction to Graduate Study, a journalism teaching seminar, Research Methods, Mass Communication Theory, Ethics, Internet and Society, and Thursday night bull-sessions at Jackie O’s.

It was a busy semester, especially toward the end, when I had to write two 15-page research papers and one 27-page research paper. There were moments when I thought I was never going to make it through finals, but the outcome was well-worth the struggle. I managed score a 4.0, as well as some amazing friends. Admissions couldn’t have selected a greater group of students.

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Spring semester starts Jan. 14, which is right around the corner. This year I’ll be taking Research in Journalism and Communication, Historical Research in Journalism, a seminar in Mass Media Research, a seminar in International Mass Media and another teaching seminar.

When I’m not in class I’ll be teaching multi-platform reporting, which is the same class I taught last semester. As excited as I am to meet my new group of students, it’s going to be hard to top the sophomores I had the pleasure of working with last year. If Scripps students are any indication of the future of journalism, the field is in good hands.

Addam had a successful year as well. He was in some difficult classes, but he managed to pull in A’s and B’s. I couldn’t be more proud of him. Next semester he’ll be busy with an English class, as well four audio/video editing classes for his major. He may not be excited about reading and writing, but I know that he’s going to have a fun and productive semester.

When we weren’t working, Addam and I were checking out shows, hanging with friends and attending family Casa nights. While seeing Jack White in Columbus was the highlight of my semester and possibly my life, #10 Fest was a good show, as was Machine Gun Kelly (MGK) and the plethora of local talent that made their way through Athens.

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Another cool show? Barack Obama.

He stopped at Ohio University while touring the midwest in the hopes of procuring votes before the November election. Addam, Emily and I sat in line for more than 10 hours for access to the field outside Memorial Auditorium, but the president was well worth the wait. It was a moving speech and an experience that I won’t soon forget.

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Of all the memories that spanned this semester, some of the best occurred when friends from Virginia came to visit. Addam’s best friends Chris and Stephen came up for two days in September.

They got in on a Friday afternoon, just in time for family Casa night. After dinner we shuffled through some of Athens’ finest bars, including The Pigskin and The Pub, before introducing the boys to Big Mamma’s Burritos.

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After sleeping in as late as we could on Saturday morning we met up with Ben, who drove the group over to Old Man’s Cave in Hocking Hills State Park for a mid-afternoon hike.

Shortly after Addam and I took Chris and Stephen to Jackie O’s for pitchers and pool, before grabbing some pizza at home. As soon as our stomachs were satisfied we met up with Emily and Connor at Broney’s to close out a great weekend with some after dinner drinks.

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The guys left on Monday morning, but “goodbye” was more of a “see ya later.” Chris was back with Jake the following month for the annual Athens Halloween celebration. For those who are not familiar with the festivities — Halloween is huge here. The yearly block party is literally on scale with a New Orleans Mardi Gras or an NYC ball drop.

I didn’t think the boys were going to make it, but they arrived on Saturday afternoon with costumes in tow. Addam was Beetlejuice, I was Lydia, Jake was a Mexican and Chris looked like he could have starred as an extra in Boogie Nights. After checking out the madness the guys and I settled into Jackie O’s, where we met up with Emily and Connor (Batman and Robin), as well as a few of my friends from the Scripps program.

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The guys left early the next morning, but as soon as the semester ended Addam and I jumped in Ben’s car and headed for Virginia. It was our first trip home in about five years, and while it was not exactly stress-free, it was much-needed and extremely appreciated.

We got in a wreck on the way to Harrisonburg. A recent snowstorm ensured that West Virginia roads were icy, and a truck that was turning left slid into our lane, making it impossible for Ben to avoid hitting it head-on. In the end the Tracker was totaled and we were towed to the nearest mechanic, where we received word that our good friend Daniel was going to try to come pick us up as soon as he got off work.

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In an effort to kill part of a three-hour wait in the most reasonable way possible, Addam, Ben and I walked over to a very local bar known as Spanky’s, where we were told we could “drink all our problems and gamble all our money away.” The place could fit about 15 people comfortably and offered five slot machines, three beer choices and absolutely no mixed drinks, but I’ll be damned if the little old lady who tended bar was not the sweetest person I’d ever met in my life. She served sandwiches and offered small talk while we waited for the time to pass.

Jim Butcher. Not so pleasant.

Butcher entered the bar half drunk, but made a friendly-enough first impression — until he started talking about politics and the outcome of the most recent election. He seemed to have a strong issue with Obama’s victory, which he very much blamed on us. He thought that I was the stupidest girl he had ever met in his life and absolutely hated everything about me except for my dimples, which is probably why he helped us book a hotel room before exiting our lives forever.

Daniel ran into quite a bit of weather on the way to pick us up, so we had to stay in West Virginia overnight. We met up with him first thing Saturday morning and were finally on our way. Within three hours we were in Harrisonburg, receiving news that the city’s only car rental agency was closed until Monday, extending our trip by the day we had lost.

As frustrating as it was to face another setback, the boys and I made the best of it and stopped by Daniel’s house to unwind and stretch our legs. It was the first time I’d been in Grottoes, the small town that raised me, since I left for Chicago about five years ago, and I am happy to say that not a thing has changed. I still know the town like the back of my hand, and there is something comforting in that fact.

That night Daniel, Ben, Addam and I went to the Quaker Steak and Lube for drinks and light appetizers. It was a pretty cool place, mainly because of the motorcycle decor and the fact that they serve beer in 100-ounce “lube tubes.” It was kitchie but fun.

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After drinks the boys dropped me off at Heather’s house and met up with some of Addam’s friends at Dave’s Taverna. The time allowed me to give the kiddies their gifts and catch up my best friend, whom I have missed immensely since I left Harrisonburg five years ago.

Words can’t explain how good it felt to finally wrap my arms around Logan, Maggie and Stella, or to have a drink by pit-fire on Heather and Eric’s front porch. I wanted to nurse Soco and cranberries by the fire all night, and if I wasn’t so exhausted from the previous night I just might have. After so much time and distance it was hard to tear myself away.

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The guys picked me up from Heather’s once the bar closed, which was right around the time we all headed back to Chris’s house to continue the party. Late night or early morning — we had a raging time all the same.

On Sunday morning I had the pleasure of meeting Eli, Chris’s adorable and well-behaved two-year old boy, as well as Kaityn’s two girlies. We were all starving, so the guys and I loaded up the car and headed to Jalisco’s, which I had been missing since the day I left Virginia. It was just as good as I remembered and absorbed every ounce of hunger I had been feeling prior.

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Chris had Christmas shopping to do, so Addam and I hitched a ride with Ben and Daniel and met Andrew in Rawley Springs.

Addam and I haven’t been off-roading in years, so it was fun to hit the backroads again. After riding through some trails the guys built a huge campfire, which kept us warm while we nursed a few beers that had been cooling in the creek.

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It was a comfy, cozy night, which we followed up with dinner at O’Charley’s (Addam’s favorite) before making our way back to Chris’s house to pass out.

Ben had rented a truck by the time Addam and I woke up on Christmas Eve morning, so the ride home was relatively uneventful. After unpacking we made our way to the Evans family commune to pass the holiday with family, food and cranberry Christmas cocktails.

Believe me when I say that Christmas was absolutely incredible.

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I made snickerdoodle muffins as everyone one was waking up on Christmas morning, courtesy of Emily’s wish list. We ate breakfast and opened mounds of presents, within which I think everyone got exactly what they wanted most. Addam got me a White Stripes collectors set; I got him a home beer brewery kit. I got beautiful trench and pea coats, which will both come in handy this semester, as well as a ton of movies, books and clothes. Addam got a skateboard, which he picked out and built himself, an Omaha Steaks package and some new kicks. It was definitely a very merry Christmas.

While I went all out on Thanksgiving, a turkey and a couple of side dishes sufficed for Christmas dinner, especially since everyone literally ate cheese and guacamole all day. I didn’t think I was going to be able to roll myself home at the end of the night, but I somehow made it back to my comfy little home. After such a hectic week, I had been missing it.

As an unexpected treat Addam’s entire Ohio family was able to visit for New Year’s Eve. This included his Aunt Ginny, Uncle Kevin and their four kids — Kelly, Karla, Karmen and Kyle; and his Uncle Dave and his three kids — Abbey, Jim and Tom. It was a full house, but a great time was had by all.

Everyone took turns gathering around the holiday roundtable, and after dinner we met in the family room for a family gift exchange. I gifted a white chocolate cake, which Emily received (even though she hates them). I ended up with Emily’s nerf gun, which the guys had quite a bit of fun with later. The big winner, however, was Jim, whose lottery tickets ended up totaling $34.

Addam and I rang in the new year at The Union with Ben and a few of his Ruby Tuesday friends, which was a great way to kick off 2013. Since then I’ve been preparing myself for the upcoming school year, reading Life of Pi and watching countless episodes of Dawson’s Creek while Addam brews beer. It’s been a fabulous break, but I’ll be back to the grind in T minus one week. As excited as I am to settle into my new classes, a large part of me wishes winter break would never end.

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I’ll try not to go four months without an update, but time always seems to get away from when classes are in session. In the meantime, I hope that you guys will try to be patient with me. I’m a busy girl. 🙂

“But what minutes!  Count them by sensation, and not by calendars, and each moment is a day.”  — Benjamin Disraeli, British Prime Minister, (1804-1881).

One Response to “Hello, stranger: A fall semester round-up”

  1. MommaE January 16, 2013 at 9:41 am #

    SO happy to have The Novitiate back!!!
    I love reading it and I especially enjoy the selected photos 🙂
    Looking forward to the next one 🙂
    Hugs

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