A Catch-All Catch-Up: Part 2

Well, here we are again. Me putting off a new set of homework projects and you reading my long ramblings. Yes, I have ten hours of video to watch before tomorrow and another 30 pages of essays to write before Saturday, and I just spent the last 3 minutes and 22 seconds of my life watching the “I’ll Make A Man Out of You” scene from Mulan and contemplating my ability to do any of the fight moves. I am starting to think that grad school doesn’t actually make you smarter, it just improves your procrastination stats.

Speaking of Mulan, we had a Mulan-esque moment in class last night. We came to Security Studies having read the esteemed Stephen Biddle’s work Military Power. I had read extra carefully because last week our class collectively dropped the ball and could not discuss anything. Since the class is entirely participation-based, our professor was not happy about it. That is probably why he had us get up and do a little exercise for the first half of this class.

We walked outside and he had all the students who are or have been in the military step to the side. About half our class hung out on the sidewalk and were not allowed to say anything. The rest of us civilians were divided in half again and made either a French or a Prussian soldier. We were going to reenact war in Napoleon’s time. Being a slightly chilly night, my shivering caught the professor’s attention and he made me the Prussian commander–he said the power would warm me up. After going over the weapons technology and capabilities of that time, he asked me how I would direct my troops against the French. I guessed that the soldiers with the further shooting muskets should approach first. I instantly gathered how wrong I was when one of my military classmates was shaking his head and waving his hands. My professor: “No! No! Let’s see how this plays out! Come forward.” He motioned to the Prussian soldier on my left and he marched toward the French side. He died pretty fast.

We tried it again. On the third try I learned that I had to keep my troops massed together. We continued on and alternated sides so the French had a chance. Then we fast-forwarded to WWI, which Biddle discusses in his book. Conveniently, there was a mini amphitheater thing right next to us so we used that as make-shift trenches. The battle continued until we had covered the rough outline of Biddle’s theory on force employment and what causes victory in battle. (Feel free to read the book if you want more on the theory.) It was quite fun and illuminating. With our new knowledge fresh from experience, we went back inside and discussed for the next two hours.

Aside from the mountains of homework, classes are going well. I still have to remind myself that General Hayden, former CIA and NSA director, is not just my professor but someone prominent in the political world. I also went to a talk last week with another prominent scholar, Stephen Rosen, and met Professor Deitz who has also been head of the CIA. He kept turning around and making jokes with us whenever Marine Girl said something ridiculous–which was often. Grad school is pretty sweet, guys.

Something else that is pretty sweet? I am no longer unemployed! Technically… I am now a part-time researcher/video editor for Dr. Monty Marshall, a member of a task force that monitors conflicts all over the world and works in tandem with the intelligence community. I forget that I have an official job because there is no office I go to or designated desk. It is a pretty flexible gig and the pay is not too shabby! At least I will have the option to go home more often, eat at real restaurants, or maybe buy pants without holes. This opportunity was definitely a blessing and took some divine intervention.

I am counting on divine intervention in another area. K and I have probably broached more personal topics than I have with anyone else in my cohort just because we have spent hours traveling to Jordan and the Fairfax campus together. I have shared more with her about my beliefs and religious doctrine that I thought I would be able to. She has also heard about all my friends who collectively speak a billion languages, all the Mormons in prominent political positions and careers, and all my social events that are a consequence of being part of a ward. Having gone to a catholic school and taught by angry nuns, suffered through depressing sermons, and pined for a social life in Virginia, she has been pretty impressed by the happy, connected Mormon world. Her new catch phrase is, “This is why I should be Mormon!”

Most recently she has expressed a desire to go to church with me. (The little voice in my head screamed out, “Yes! Yes! A thousand times, yes!“) She assumed that you had to be Mormon to attend a service or even an activity. I immediately corrected her and emphasized how much Mormons love non-members! In fact, my ward talks to investigators more than its own members. She is more than welcome! In fact, bring the whole cohort along! She thought that would be a great cohort activity. We joked about whether Marine Girl or Potty Mouth Guy would stand out more. I don’t think Potty Mouth Guy is ready to attend any church at this moment but maybe Marine Girl? There could be a slight chance. Anyway, hopefully we will pick a day and I push K over that proverbial edge and become one of us. 😉

K actually helped me realize how much we take our Church activities for granted. While we often look down on cheesy ward events or consider ourselves too busy for FHE or too cool for ward game nights, there are others out there who are reduced to Tinder because they don’t know how else to meet just friends. (For real though. Marine Girl is trying to convince K to use these dating apps so she won’t be so lonely anymore.) K was in complete awe and even jealousy of our singles wards, weekly FHE, and stake activities. The moral of the story? Be grateful for those “silly” activities. Remember where your friends came from. There are so many others out there who don’t have the support circle that we are blessed with.

In other news, my roommates are hilarious. Living with these girls has taught me so much about myself and others. Just tonight Jane leaned into the fridge to pull out some lemons and exclaimed, “Next week I am going to start my very strict diet!” She then handed the lemon to Lydia who proceeded to grate the peel for the asparagus Jane had just covered with olive oil. “You seem to eat pretty healthy to me,” I chimed in as Jane pulled out cauliflower next. “Oh, it isn’t that. I just snack all the time!” Last week these sisters told me that their family was starting a health challenge. They all had some weight they could stand to lose and it was going to be a team effort.

These girls are tiny. Like, super tiny. And there I was drinking my chocolate milk straight from the carton.

Jane is officially dating a new guy now. This guy is definitely a Bingley on account of his wealth if nothing else. His parents own some company that does something with aircraft building or contracting… all I know is that his family name is attached to the Air and Space Museum down by the Dulles airport.

I guess Jane could be similar to Jane Austen’s Jane in the sense that she assumes this new Bingley doesn’t actually have deep feelings for her. She thinks that she is just a passing fancy of his. But only because she feels that she can’t be as ambitious as him and she assumes that is what he wants. She is very different from Jane Austen’s Jane in how she passes judgement so quickly on men and also demands so much from them. The first day it was official with this new Bingley, Jane was walking on air. Even the neighbors noticed she was glowing. But a couple of days later she was in despair and complaining that he did not offer enough words of affirmation. She is big on love languages and even though this guy has had multiple expensive bouquets of flowers sent to our apartment, Jane insists that she is not a “gifts” person and that she really needs him to speak her love language.

To be honest, I met this guy when he was in town last week and I wasn’t impressed. I mean, he is not a jerk by any means but he definitely doesn’t have the disposition of Jane Austen’s Bingley. I was going to make conversation but then he busied himself with his phone. He also seemed to drop a lot of expensive adventures he has been on.


Well, that is probably enough catching up for now. I am too tired to think of a smooth conclusion so we are just going to go with the blunt end. Ta ta for now!

P.S. I have learned that I am most definitely a morning person and that my brain shuts down at 8:30pm. After that, all I am good for is doodling. Check out these bad boys. My cohort was entertained.




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