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This year for Christmas I visited my dad’s side of the family, as I usually do. I love it because it’s big and often chaotic. My grandparents had four children – three girls and one boy. They now have ten grandchildren. My Aunt Sue, Uncle Mike, and their two children aren’t usually at the family gatherings, but the rest of us are. My Aunt Jeanne, Uncle Steve, and their three boys stayed at their house, but my Dad, Cindy, my brothers, their dog Jock, my Aunt Cathy and Uncle Rob are here with their children, too. I’ve probably lost you by now, but here’s what it comes down to – there were eleven people and one dog staying together in one house. I love this family (even if sometimes we get on each other’s nerves), and Christmas without these packed gatherings would not be the same.

Just some highlights from the four days I was at my paternal grandparents.

  • My cousin Christopher actually wrote about how much he wanted Grandma’s gingerbread cookies in his Facebook status.
  • Everybody loved Jock and gave him lots of attention.
  • My grandma cooked for an army, and made sure she had something for everyone to eat. What a woman! (Although she didn’t do all the cooking – Cindy, Aunt Cathy, Aunt Jeanne, and Uncle Steve helped out a few of the days)
  • I was Grandma’s helper by wrapping gifts, peeling apples for applesauce, and cutting out aforementioned cookies.
  • I’m almost twenty-one (tomorrow!) and I still sat at the “kids’” table with my six-year-old brother.
  • My brother Alex got his fingers slammed in a door for the second Christmas gathering in a row. I guess it’s not a family gathering unless someone gets hurt.
  • My older male cousins and my uncles got into a snowball fight while we were trying to leave for lunch.
  • . My cousin Kaity and I always share a room, since we’re the only female grandchildren (besides Kelly, who we haven’t seen in a while). I called dibs on the couch, since for the past few years I’ve slept on the floor.
  • The only “private” place I could call Alex (boyfriend) from was the laundry room – and even then, my aunt had some things in there and interrupted me five minutes in.
  • I didn’t sleep well, but as it turns out, no one did and we were all up and in the kitchen by 7:30.
  • We took at least three cars to go places, and no one knew who was going to be in what car.
  • It was (as always) fun for people in restaurants or at church to figure out how the sixteen of us are all related.
  • My aunt Cathy beat out the rest of us to put the last figure in the advent calendar.
  • There was no room to sit at church, which prompted me to have a panic attack.
  • My aunt Cathy hit Uncle Rob in the face with a snowball. It was hilarious.
  • Grandma made delicious sloppy joes.
  • My brothers were fidgety during family pictures.
  • The tree was so small compared to the pile of presents that were crammed underneath it. See the below picture.
  • I was up at 5:50 on Christmas morning, and we didn’t even open presents until 7:00.
  • Everyone liked my gifts. David wore his hat all day and wouldn’t take it off, and then on Sunday, he sent me an e-mail praising my cookies.
  • I got some really nice items, but it was better to visit with my family.
  • Dad made the Bouche de Noel and let me lick the beaters from the frosting.

Sunday, Mom picked me up and we went to Ohio to visit with my maternal grandparents. My aunt Jo and uncle Dave were there too, and it was nice, quiet, and calm. We had a delicious dinner and dessert, but Mom and I had to leave early because it was snowing. We left at 6:00 and it took us three hours to get home. We were exhausted, but it was so nice to be home.

I hope all of you have had a nice holiday season, and I wish you all the best in the New Year.

The past semester has been a rough one. I had to adapt to a lot of changes I wasn’t used to, and I had to deal with old stresses. I’ll admit that I probably cried a lot more this semester than the past four. In fact, the first week of classes, I probably cried every day. I was miserable, but I’ve made it through.

I was on Opening Committee, like I wrote about before, and it was fun to work with my friends. It was a little frustrating because some people didn’t work as hard as others, and the elevator was broke for our move-in, it was fixed, and then it broke again after we moved all the incoming freshmen (and then it wasn’t repaired until Thanksgiving or so). We went to the awards ceremony, and even though we didn’t win “Best Decorated,” we won “Most Knowledgeable,” which I guess is fine because brains trumps beauty any day.

Anyway, it was hard not living in the Honors dorms, mainly because the new residents are dumb, lazy, greedy, and loud. I often have to wake up around 5:45 to go to work, and my neighbors would be screaming at each other at 1:00 in the morning. There is so much disrespect on my floor, and I’m really just tired of it and I can’t wait to move out.

In addition to that, there’s a girl who lives on my floor, has a lot of classes with me, and was my confidant at some time basically gave me flashbacks to middle school/high school. Guh. I’m working on putting that behind me, even though we’ll have two classes together next semester and we have a lot of mutual friends. But even more so, I can’t wait to move out of Botsford/Swinford. Ruu, Faryn, and I want to move to an apartment together, and I think Jessi’s in on it too. We just need to finalize everything, pick either Silvertree or University, and sign a lease.

I celebrated one year at Ed Resources. I still love it, though there were some rough days, and not everyone works to their full potential. I’ve been working very hard, and I think my supervisors have taken notice. Julie says she’s going to allow me to have every other Saturday off next semester – I’m really excited! I’ll actually have free weekends for the first time since I started my job!

My classes were a mixed bag. All of them were challenging in their own right, except for creative writing, I think. It was fun because Ruu and Zach were there, and we made some new friends, too. People really liked my writing, and it sparked my then-dead writer’s block. I think it’s back momentarily, but I’m going to try to write more, and possibly get published.

I hated my Early American Literature class. The first day, the professor said we had to have six novels for the class, but hadn’t submitted the book list to the store. Thus, I thought I had bought all of my books for the semester, and at that moment, I wanted to throw myself in front of a bus. Being an English major sucks because you have to buy a dozen or so books and then you can’t sell them back for anything. Then, this same class went online for the last two months of class because the professor was on maternity leave. I know that having a baby is difficult, but she made it very inconvenient for all her students to not update grades when they were supposed to be.

My debate class was difficult at first, but then it became a lot of fun. I don’t know what it was that changed the climate in that room, but we all became very relaxed around each other. My final was a presentation of a logo I designed for BSU’s Knit/Crochet Community. It’s not everyday you can combine something you love into something for a grade.

My language and society class was boring, but not complicated. I’m just frustrated now because the professor hasn’t updated something pertaining to the class, and it is keeping me from registering for one of my classes next semester, which then might keep me at this college for another semester or two. Rawr.

The group-decision-making class was rather pointless, but I liked how we were in small groups throughout the class and had to work together. However, I felt like I had taken a dozen classes on group work before, and even though I did learn some things, I still prefer to work on a task on my own.

Then there was the class where we focused on teaching reading in the classroom. I learned a lot from this class, and it’s probably one of the most helpful courses I’ve taken at this school. However, I still only got a B for my work. Oh well, all the rest of my classes gave me As, and I’m still kicking ass and taking names when it comes to school.

One of my big adjustments was the fact that Alex moved to Dehority, where a lot of my other good friends, like Sarah, Thom, Geldes, Nick, and Scott moved. For the past couple of years, we’ve been in close proximity; my freshman year, I was in the dorm next door, and my sophomore year, we were in the same building. Often, I’d come back from class and he’d be in the lounge and greet me with a hug and a kiss, or vice versa. I really struggled with it the first month or so, but we’ve made it work. We’ll often meet for dinner, and we spend a lot of time alone or with other friends, but we at least try to talk/see each other every day, even if it’s for a short amount of time. I understand that he needs his space, but I think that he understands that he keeps me from going completely insane with all the stress of work and school. I also think this is sort of a warm-up for the next obstacle we have to face; he’ll be graduating in May (I think), and so he won’t even be in the same city next year. I love him so much, and I’ll do anything to keep him.

So that’s how “Hell Semester” went. Not exactly my best experience at Ball State, but I’ve been learning about myself. I’m glad I don’t have a roommate this year, because I think I’ve needed the space to myself. I just need to wind down at the end of the day, stop freaking out so much, have a better outlook on things, try not to be so clingy with Alex, and socialize more with my friends. Most of all, I decided that I was going to cut down on my classes next semester. I’ve been doing eighteen credit hours (with a job) for the last three semesters. I wanted to get out of school in four years, but what’s more important is my well-being. My mom has even encouraged me that it’s okay if I go an extra semester or two, she just wants me to be happy.

And happy I hope to be next semester, next year, and for the rest of my life.

I’m home now. I had my last final this morning and rocked it. I’ll be home for the next three weeks or so, and I’ll see if I can’t write some more.

But for now, I’m just glad I survived the Semester From Hell, and I’d really rather not talk about it right now.

I’m not a huge football fan, but I like to root for the Colts and the Saints. They are both having fantastic seasons, but I swear this is not a total bandwagon thing. I have family ties to both Indiana and Louisiana, though I’ll admit that this year was the first time I actually watched a football game for the game. I just had to see the Saints whomp the Patriots, and I wasn’t disappointed.

I usually side with who I feel are the underdogs, and in this case, it’s the Saints. The Colts have won a Super Bowl. The Colts have been to a Super Bowl. The Colts have never lost their city to a hurricane and had to rebuild it.

Even after all these years, it is still hard to think about what happened. I tear up when thinking about New Orleans. I really miss it, because it is a lovely city. It has its problems, as all cities do, but it has a huge heart.

So I just wanted to share this article that my stepmother passed on to me. I dare you not to feel some emotion. This is New Orleans – not exactly how it used to be, but it’s getting better all the time.