Month: August 2010

Perfect (?)

My schedule looks so neat and tidy on paper. Every hour of the day is accounted for; everything fits inside its nice little pigeonhole. Not a minute wasted. It’s compartmentalized. Orchestrated. Perfect.

I found a way to make all eighteen credit hours of classes fit in with a 23-hour-per-week work schedule, volunteer commitments, and weekends out of town. Perfect.

Tonight, on the dawn of a new semester, I took the opportunity to go over my perfect schedule one more time, to keep everything flowing seamlessly. And I realized: assuming I follow my plan without deviation, and nothing unexpected ever happens to interfere, I will have time to eat exactly one ten-minute meal each day, and to sleep just under six hours each night.


Next item on the agenda? Get better at making schedules. And at giving myself a break.

We are hard-pressed on every side, but not crushed; we are perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed. -2 Corinthians 4:8-9

A new year!

Move over, January 1st – the real new year (for students and teachers, anyway) starts with the beginning of the fall semester. For me, the first waves of cooler weather, the piles of textbooks, and the return of close-toed shoes are the clearest markers of a year to come. And some years just look and feel brighter than others.

Summer was awesome – I toured Europe, saw family, worked in an incredibly unique summer job, made new friends and connected with old ones… you’d think I’d be mourning the end of summer, especially as amazing as this one has been. But I’m just so happy for the new year to start. Weird, right? I’m excited. I’m loving my schedule – a heavy load, but I’m ready to embrace the challenge. I’m going to love working on campus. I’m going to love being insanely busy and reconnecting with friends, basically just diving back in to life at BJ and everything that goes with it.

So…. I don’t really have anything meaningful to say today, except that I am incredibly blessed. God has been so good to me, and He has given me far more than I would have thought to ask, though He did it in His own way and with His own timing. His Word is faithful; His promises are true. And on that note – welcome, Fall!!!

A rose by any other name…

Some things just sound better in Spanish. My middle name is not one of them. “Erin,” a solid Irish name, sounds more like “ED-een” off the tongue of a Spanish speaker.  After several failed attempts to teach my Spanish-speaking coworkers how to pronounce “Erin” correctly, I decided to try my first name instead. Enter my alter ego: Steffani.

I’ve known for some time that Steffani comes from a root word meaning “crown.” My coworkers seem to agree with the idea; when I tell them my name is Steffani, they inevitably react with a smile and favorable comment (as opposed to the furrowed brow when I tell them I normally go by Erin). Apparently in Spanish, Steffani becomes Estefania. Not only can my coworkers say it, they like to say it. Among the old men I work with, I’m princesa Estefania. Princess Steffani – now, that’s a title I can live with. But Steffani isn’t the real me.

“Erin” cannot be sung like Estefania can. You can’t say it with a lilt, and it’s not particularly frilly or feminine. Erin means peace. It’s more me than Steffani is, whether I like it or not. Erin works in a food processing plant. I’m pretty sure Steffani/Estefania is somewhere having her nails done and sipping a latte while Erin is in the real world making peanut butter & jelly sandwiches. And that’s probably how it should be.


I don’t remember much about my first shift at the PB&J factory, but I can remember the morning after like it was yesterday. Thinking: What a weird dream. And then… I remember trying to roll over in bed to reach for my alarm clock, and feeling muscles I didn’t know I had. Everything hurt. Welcome to factory work.

I’ve now been at my new job for about a month. It’s gotten a little better, though there are still days I feel like drowning in grape jelly would be preferable to picking up one more PB&J. This happens particularly towards the end of eleven- and twelve-hour shifts. I’ve experienced a new level of exhaustion that I never thought possible… and kept working. Those first few days passed in a blur of monotony and dull pain.

After the first week, it got a little easier. And more interesting. Once I started trying to speak to my coworkers (most of them only speak Spanish), I found out what unique stories they have – they’re immigrants from Peru, Colombia, Guatemala, Honduras, Salvador, Cuba, and Mexico. While I practiced listening to and conversing in Spanish, they told me about their countries, their families, and their plans for the future.

I’ve overheard some interesting conversations between my Spanish-speaking coworkers, as well… conversations that, if I interpreted them correctly, led me to believe that many of my new friends aren’t completely legal. Seeing the faces and hearing the stories behind the immigration debate doesn’t change my opinion. I believe, like most conservatives, that immigration laws should be enforced and that people in the country illegally should be treated like illegals. They do not have the same rights as United States citizens, and they need to go home and do the correct paperwork before coming back.

I grew up near the border in West Texas, so illegal immigration is nothing new to me. I’ve been to Mexico multiple times, I’ve spoken to the border patrol agents, and I’ve seen the struggle firsthand… right down to being asked my citizenship when getting off a Greyhound bus. My hometown has a large majority of Spanish-speaking people, and I’ve spent time with them through various volunteer projects and outreach ministries. I thought I knew the face of immigration, but I didn’t understand half of it. It doesn’t just have a face – it has a personality.

I’ve spoken to Jorge, Raul, Yolanda, Juan, Pedro, Sandra, and others for hours on end as I worked next to them on the production line. The thing is… I like them. They’re kind and sincere. The guys are chivalrous on a level that’s unmatched even at BJU, the women are friendly and compassionate, and they’re all optimistic and willing to help. When I feel like a zombie with an attitude problem, they’re smiling. When my fingers fail me and I can’t seem to work fast enough, they cover for me on the assembly line. The old men call me princesa (princess) and the old women call me mija (my daughter).

This is the face – and personality – of the immigration debate. Many of these parents, grandparents, sons and daughters are criminals in a country that’s not their own.

Like I said, my opinion on illegal immigrants hasn’t changed. But… at 2am, when my hands are bleeding, my eyelids feel sandpaper-lined, a smile feels more like a grimace than anything else, and the world starts looking like an impressionist painting, there’s no one I’d rather be working next to on the line. Qué va.

Summer #19

I’ve had nineteen opportunities to perfect the art of enjoying the summertime. Fourteen breaks from school, nineteen Junes and Julys and Augusts to seize the season. And… I’m happy to report that my performance is improving. Summer #19 has been among the best.

I do a lot of journaling – the old fashioned kind: ink pen, notebook, and floor space to spread out at the end of the day and just write. And every year in recent memory, I’ve kept a sort of map/list of all the places I traveled during the year, mostly because I’ve done a lot of traveling and it works pretty well to help me keep things sorted out in my  mind. Last year’s map was good – it included Chicago and Houston (among other incredible cities), five different beaches and around twenty different states. This year’s journal-map-thingy takes the cake, though. It’s all about Italy, Germany, Switzerland, England, and France (with a few different U.S. states and a couple of beaches thrown in for good measure).

Yes, Summer #19 will be hard to beat. But now that I’m more experienced in summertime awesomeness, I think #20 might have a chance.