Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Rejecting Wanderlust

As a child, my deepest desire was to visit Indonesia, my father’s home. Once I checked that off the list, I wanted to see the rest of the world—every inch of it—besides perhaps, some of the  chilliest parts. I had what is known as wanderlust, what Webster defines as a “strong longing for or impulse toward wandering.” It took a good deal of wandering before I found a healthier way to view the world.

In the summer of 2012, I set off to go to Ecuador for five weeks. Before leaving (and to be terribly honest, spilling into while leaving), I read the required reading for the trip, a collection of writings by the missionary Jim Elliot who had ventured to Ecuador at around the same time and for the same reasons that my grandparents moved to Indonesia. Elliot made manyprofound statements, but one of the most famous, and most powerful in my life, is the command, “Wherever you are, be all there!”




I went to Ecuador and I was. I lived there for five weeks—truly lived. I woke up early in the mornings and ran. You read that right. I, Jenna Pinkston (a) woke up on my own will (b) very early and (c) ran, as in moved at a faster pace than a walk for multiple miles. More in line with my traditional character, I also stayed up late every night and blogged. Perhaps that’s why it’s easy for me to write about Ecuador. I’ve already assigned it so many words.

And in between my runs and blogs, I tried new foods, experimented with language, made new friends, wandered new streets, and learned about the world and myself. I missed little about “home.” I was all there. But then I came home, and for that journey, there was no required reading.

And I wasn’t all there. I realized that, when I looked at a world map, which I often did and still do, I’d left pieces of my heart all over the place. In an Indonesian smile. In a set of particularly empty eyes in China. In a 22 year old woman trying to turn her life around in Costa Rica. In a tent in Haiti. In the hands that yanked the hair on my tender head of a child in New Orleans. On our bench in the language department of a university in Ecuador.

And here I am, wherever I am, making it my mission to be all here.

No matter how much I’ve left behind in my travels, I’ve gained more. The experiences that have created me make me an increasingly complex person with more insights, experience, love, and self to give. So I gather what’s left of me and what has been built on and I use it here, because, ultimately, adventure is dependent on attitude more than location and willingness more than happenstance.

The word wanderlust, a deep desire to wander the world, is thrown around social media as a romantic and desirable notion. Just do a quick Pinterest search and marvel at all of the lovely hipster edits of photos of far off places and romantic travel quotes that always tug at my heart. However, as the second part of the word, “lust,” implies, it is a longing for something that may not be rightfully mine.  I propose a deeper way of experiencing, one that abandons notions of false entitlement. I am an advocate for intentional living wherever you are, even, and for now, especially, in Indiana. When you leave, by all means leave, and when you return, return changed but intact.

I had spent my whole life wanting to be elsewhere, justifying my discontentment with a love of travel and a love for the world. These loves are value, beautiful, and part of my identity, but they are excuses for discontent only for as long as it takes to propel me into action. For the times where I must stay, I choose now to do so contentedly, continuing to love life.

My father worries about me, but not in the ways you might expect. Sometimes, he worries that I am not free enough. My first response to such concern comes from the words and the promise of Jesus as told by his good friend John, that if He makes me free, which He does, I am free indeed. That is a freedom of spirit and living that no one can ever take away. Freedom, like adventure, is not all about the scope of my wanderings. It is about choice. If I choose to stay for a time, I’m no less free than if I chose to leave.  

When I think about the things most captivating about travel, it isn’t the architecture or the views or the foods. It’s the hearts of the people.

So many of the adventures get bypassed when I choose not to be here. When, instead of being on the bus, my mind is already on campus. When my soul skips to break or student teaching or anywhere I’m not. I believe that what I and many people love so much about travel is who they are when they are out of their comfort zones and away from the familiar. I challenge you, and I challenge myself, to live everyday life in the boldness and urgency of travel, making strangers into friends and scheduling time for adventure.


Even in new places, things quickly lose their charm and become routine. Wanderlust shouts “move on” whenever that happens. With that mentality, I could never be content in a place for more than a few weeks. I am learning to listen to a quieter voice, the voice of love, which often begs, “STAY.”

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Graded

In the past weeks, I've set out to question something I've always taken as fact: the traditional grading system. It has come to my attention that other ways of grading are being used, and I have been quite curious.

In my pursuit of knowledge on this topic, I looked to experts who have not authored any books and are not published in any journal. I asked friends, family, and classmates how grades made them feel. These people have spent years under the microscope of grades.

I am passionate about identity. About knowing. About being known. About Avatar-style "I see you"-ing. So that is the lens I took for this project. Here are the results:

Who are you? What makes you YOU?

When you think about your grades, how does that make you feel about yourself?

To look at another perspective, I used an online tool called Wordle to point out repeated themes. Here is Wordle's insight on the matter:

Group 1:

Group 2:



Maybe you feel or have felt the same. For those of you feeling oppressed by the traditional system of grading, know that others are being explored. For those of you feeling accomplished, keep working hard. And for each and every one of you, know that your grades will never show who you are. And know deep, deep down that you are very truly loved.

That's all for now,
Jenna


Sunday, October 6, 2013

Orange Elephants and Treasure

Being a self-professed crazy college kid, I live with four other girls. Two of them just so happen to be photographers. Perhaps the art trapped deep in me tries to display itself in the people with whom I surround myself. While my major is generally confined to traditional academic spaces - classrooms (of higher education and elementary schools), libraries, and the proverbial "home" of homework - the photography major is required to do the majority her work deliberately outside of those traditional confines. On my luckier days, my nomad soul is allowed to drift alongside the photographer. Photography suits me well, as long as I need not take photographs.

Today's adventure winded towards Lake Monroe, eager to use  the Indiana State Parks Pass of which I am so proud. However, when an abandoned gas station boasts three giant, orange, plastic animals, as well as a reclining giraffe of more realistic coloring, a photographer and her sidekick do not simply pass on by. (Perhaps they do, but assume they turn around in a nearby driveway.) We wandered around the property. Though the gas pumps displayed yellow stickers verifying that 2007 found them perfectly suitable, it looked like ages had passed since any car had stopped there. 

We meandered to the field across the road and I pretended to talk on a pay phone that reminded me kindly to hang up and try again. Its functionally seemed oddly out of place. After Caitlin shot several light-themed photos, we walked back over to the giant cow, elephant, and giraffes. They stared at us as we stared at them, knowing that we couldn't leave without using them, but not knowing how. 

The bright red building behind them, which had previously been shut off from the world, revealed an office inside a door swung open wide. A car then pulled up, and an older gentleman got out, watching us watching the animals. What would he assume? What good could we possibly be up to? Then again, what bad?

He took a few steps towards us, as we backed away from plastic zoo. "Do you want one of these?" he asked amiably. "YES! DO I EVER!" I screamed in my head. Oh! How cool we would be! What excellent pranks we could pull! "I wish," we expressed verbally. "We have no place to put it." He was disappointed, but no doubt understood our quandary. 

This semester, I'm taking a class on museums and artifacts. We study objects, which in itself is a reflection of culture. This giant elephant is an object of great interest to me. Why was it made? Where was it used? What was it used for? Why did it end up by an abandoned gas station? What will become of it?

This class has prompted me not only to ask questions about objects, but about my relation to them. At first, and yes, this is probably just me, adopting the elephant sounded like the best idea that had ever crossed my path. Realistically, the elephant would become a burden. How would I transport it? Where would I put it? When I broaden my scope, I realize just how many elephants are in this very room with me. Objects that seem like a great deal. A 99 cent sweater may not take as much room as a life-sized elephant, but things add up.

Here I am, 20, and in danger of becoming weighed down by the things I possess. At what point does it all flip upside down, allowing my things to possess me? I left the elephant with just a picture on my phone. Even that photo occupies storage space, but the space is small. I need to be a collector of things that occupy less physical space - of photos and memories and words and writings and friendships - and occupy more of my heart. It reminds me of the wise words of my Savior:
Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys, and where thieves do not break in or steal; for where your treasure is, there your heart will be also." -Jesus
I hope I grow in strength and wisdom to leave behind all kinds of elephants and to take up spirit of freedom and adventure and meaning.


Much love,
Jenna

Monday, September 2, 2013

Not Glowing in the Darkness

At 18, I moved into the infamous Wright Quad. I toted as much matter as I calculated could squeeze into my cookie cutter dormitory. It was perfect. So college, so festive. Lofted beds, free-standing wardrobes, and desks with attached bulletin boards crowded between cinderblock walls bathed in white, ready to tough out another year without air conditioning, another set of baby college students, and another shade removed from remembering the carpet's original color.

In our attempts to make our box of campus space look homier, my roommate and I tacked up posters, made out beds (for the first of the three total times that would happen) with colorful bedding we had tie-dyed ourselves, and strung lights left over from Christmases to brighten the dark corners of the room.

As a top priority of decor, we found a tall new friend and recruited him to help us in covering our ceiling in all one hundred of the glow-in-the-dark stars I had purchased. Those stars brought us such joy! We showed them off proudly to all of our room's visitors in those first weeks.

When you are a little Christian like me, they warn you about big secular schools like IU. Parents, churches, friends, friends' parents, they all tell you how very dark it will be.

Of course, they are quite right. And here we are, us Christians, stuck trying to figure out what to do with all of this unsupervised darkness. We have options. Some join the dark side. Statistically, we are reminded every Sunday of our senior year of high school, that will be most of us. 75-90%, depending on the pessimism and sources of those whom you ask.

Then there are those, and I fear they are too numerous, who function like the stars stuck to my ceiling my freshman year of college. They glow brightly in the darkness, at least at first. They are different than the dark. They even have properties of light. But, over time, the light dims until a ray of light - maybe CRU on Thursday evening, church on Sunday morning, an occasion phone call from an old Christian friend, or even a summer back at home - recharges the glow. This cycle is predictable. Worse, it is totally dependent on the situation. Worst, no matter how brightly that glow-in-the-dark star glows, no matter how much it sticks out in the dark, all it allows you to see is itself. Perhaps it is comforting and perhaps it is fun, or even inspiring to look at, but when night comes and you need to read or to find your way out of the rooms or the woods or the night, you won't grab a glow-in-the-dark star, or even a pack of them. They are only a weak regurgitation. They make no dent in darkness.

I want to be more like a flashlight . Receiving light directly from the Light Himself, I want to shine the darkness out of business. If God is always Light, and I am placed in Christ, I can always shine. I don't need to wait for a pep talk. Darkness simply cannot exist where light makes an appearance. That is the goal: I want to shine so that people just see Jesus, the destroyer of the dark.

Light is a crucial component of God's kingdom. Revelation tells us that in our eternal home, night never falls, and that God Himself will illuminate everything. That is a clean, inexhaustible energy. I don't want to glow in the dark. I want to inexhaustibly, regardless of circumstance, just plain shine.

Saturday, August 3, 2013

Thursday Happened


The day after the grand light show extravaganza of the century (a white light on a canyon wall, read all about it in my last post), we decided we had just not spent enough time in the car, which truly was a poor decision. We went to the Four Corners National Monument first. At first, this location was a bit intimidating to me, as I read a sign about the illegality of dispersing body parts upon entrance. What kinds of people come here? What dangers await us? Upon reading further, the sign explained that the Native American culture of the area found cremation to be extremely disrespectful, and I felt a lot better about the whole situation.

After being in four states simultaneously, we went to Mesa Verde National Park in Colorado. Though we faced a bit of rejection, we were accepted for our second choice, the tour of Balcony House. This park is unique in that it has the remains of cliff dwelling communities. 

As previous experience has taught me, a tour guide can totally make or break (ok, mostly make) a vacation (see http://jennareallyspeaking.blogspot.com/2012/06/el-museo-de-eternidad.html). We were greeted by a park ranger and our tour guide. This young lady's most prominent feature was her unceasing smile. Well, almost unceasing. One time, after telling a joke, she stopped and I just did not know what to do. Other than that, whether tour guide was telling about the food of the cliff dwellers, summoning of ancestors, or, believe it or not, the smashing of heads with stones, Laura's eerily perfect pearly whites glared at me. In addition to all of these smiles, we faced an uncomfortable pause at the end of each phrase, as if there was a hidden question we needed to answer, or a deep piece of knowledge upon which we needed to ruminate.

This tour was much more academic than anticipated. We explored ancient living spaces through a progressive lens of Maslov's Hierarchy with a call to action in leaving a legacy at the end. Very well put together.

On the way back to Moab, as the sun set, we witnessed the most incredible storm. The sun loomed as a small but brilliant explosion of orange at the horizon that I thought for a moment was fire. The lightening kept coming, ripping across the sky every few seconds, but strangely elusive of photographic attempts.

'Twas a lovely day.

Love,
Jenna

Thursday, August 1, 2013

Marmot

As a child, my deepest, most pressing desire was to go to Indonesia, my father's homeland. Finally, when I was 14, I got to visit that beautiful country. For the trip, Dad bought us Pinkstonlets Marmot brand backpacks that were, to speak his language "way cool!" 

These backpacks are true beauties: neutral colors and a kind of long and skinny that could hold a small flock of geese. They have an impressive array of pockets, including one that is padded and perfect for that rad digital camera or hip iPod nano (keep in mind that these were given to us in 2007, when surely words like hip and rad were utilized, as they should be).

In the years to follow, I have traveled the world with that pack on my back. I have been to over a dozen countries, and I'm fairly certain that this Marmot backpack has accompanied me to all of them, plus many more local destinations. From visiting friends in China to a mission trip in Haiti to exploring in Europe to summer project in Ecuador to college in Bloomington, my companion has been ever faithful.

However, the selfish beast I am, it was really always all about me and never about the backpack. The other day at Capital Reef National Park, Mother dearest noticed that a pamphlet declared marmots among the wildlife found in the park! Marmot, like the brand printed proudly across our backpacks. And not just any marmots, but yellow-bellied marmots! This raised questions I had never really pondered. What is a marmot? What kinds of animals would they name after belly coloration? "I thought it was like an elephant," marveled Dad. "Is it...a bird?" I inquired. "It's like a prairie dog," stated Mom.

What. A prairie dog. I've been traipsing across the globe proudly bearing the mark of the prairie dog? My luggage boasts of relation or aspiration to a rodent that 0.03% of the population could take seriously, given that they had received extensive training? You know what they say. It is what is is. Que serĂ¡, serĂ¡. And all those cliche phrases about accepting the nature of your pack.

Well, now you know. Now you can judge me, or anyone else proudly carrying the name of the great woodchuck-like beast.

Slightly embarrassed but all the better for the education, 

Jenna

A Darn Good Day


On the way to the hotel in Torre, we saw the entire town. Except Jack; he blinked. Dad saw a police car on the side of the road, and so he pulled over to ask for directions. Unfortunately, the policeman was a literal dummy. I want to know who has the time and resources and willpower to set that up. It's probably the same guy who must have intentionally brought white paint and driven out to the county border to change WAYNE COUNTY to an almost convincing DWAYNE COUNTY. Five dollars his name is Dwayne. An additional five dollars that we would be friends.

We dined at the restaurant right across the parking lot from our room that claimed no affiliation with or connection to our hotel, though it was literally connected. A high school dude, overheard to be named Brock, was our waiter and a true gem. Very pleasant and built like a football player, but unable to play since his school is so very small, this guy was the only person I've ever met who could pull off the one little braid in the back that my cousin used to call "the jedi braid." Seriously, I was so impressed. When we awoke in the morning in our room with an excellent view of rocks and cows, we ate again at the separate but not restaurant. Waiter boy was either there again or had never left. We had very hearty breakfasts and then started to pack up the car.

Mom sent Joely and I to get ice. We scoffed at the fact that we, two fully capable women, were sent to do what was clearly a one man job. Little did we know what danger lurked right outside the door. Our room opened up to the parking lot, and the ice machine rumbled just a few doors down. Joely boldly grabbed the bucket and headed to the ice. I, on the other hand, decided to hop from the sidewalk to the little concrete car parking marker thing (you know exactly what I'm talking about) and hop from parking thing to parking thing. Alas, I missed the first parking thing and totally wiped out. Sitting on the ground in the parking lot because I was laughing to hard to get up, I heard Brock peek out the restaurant door and holler at us to be careful. Here is where, in the style of old school Avril Lavigne, I write a song entitled "w8r boi." 

Once recovered and still laughing, we rolled down the road to Capital Reef National Park. Much to the disappointment of Jack, we watched an 18 minute video about the history of the park. Dad told us to give "the signal" if we wanted to leave the video early, but though Jack gave every signal he could think of from the first moment the video started, we watched all 18 minutes. As you can imagine, I found it utterly fascinating, as I do most things in life.

We decided to do a longer hike, but Jack and Dad were only able to join us at the beginning, since Jack still wasn't feeling 100%. It was very hot with almost no shade. Compared to the other parks, it was eerily empty. We passed only 2 people in two hours. There were tons of rocks to climb on, and I'm sure it would have been a favorite had the whole family been able to enjoy it. Interesting facts about Chimney Rock Trail: you only see Chimney Rock for the first 20ish minutes and you can see Chimney Rock even better from the road. Still, we had a nice hike and saw many, many lovely rocks before leaving the park.

Now, we are in Moab. I know all kinds of things about Moab after our lights and sounds boat tour, but I figure if you wanted to know them, you'd probably use Wikipedia, you technology wizards, you. Really, my main goal is to keep my brother away from the women, because besides Ruth, who is about as exceptional as any exception ever has been, my time studying the Bible suggests that Moabitesses lead God's chosen ones astray, and we can't have that.

Our tour was just swell. Ranked in the top 100 tours in the good ole U.S.ofA., this tour featured dutch oven cooked supper and then a boat tour lead by Preston, a retired man who reminded us many times that his jokes "don't get better; they only get worse." A personal favorite was the narrative that "our cook uses a special method to cook the baked beans, putting only 239 beans in each pot. You know why? Because one more would make it too farty." He, like the other staff, wore a cowboy hat and boots, and said "darn good" at every possible opportunity.

I had never experienced a light show. Now, this wasn't a laser light show. Preston did, however, sport a laser pointer, such as one may use in a classroom. For the first part of the tour, Preston talked about the area, the sights to sees, the impressive line up of movies and commercials filmed in the town, and pointed out shapes on the canyon walls with the laser pointer. It was thoroughly enjoyable.

For the more official part of the program, a truck on the highway along the river pointed a light at the canyon walls as it moved with us. We listened to a contradictory and slightly confusing history of the area as we, unrelatedly, studied the canyon walls. Occasionally, we were a bit lost. For example, on the topic of mountain men, with no explanation, the recording claimed "And the wearing of one's own hair came only at the cost of eternal vigilance." Please let me know if you've decoded this cryptic message.

My favorite part was by far the stars. The first time they turned off all of the lights to allow us to look at the heavens, the glaring light of a construction zone stared us all straight in the corneas. As we lifted our hands to block the beam of straight sunpower, the construction people waved back at us. I like them. 

Now it is late. Blogging has kept me up for what I'm sure is not the last time.

Fondly,
Jenna

Wednesday, July 31, 2013

The Pinkstons Don't Really Take on Bryce Canyon at All


As predicted in my previous blog post, that final evening in Zion, we went on another hike. Starting out at 5:28p.m. (really though, I often remember exact times and I'm sorry if that weirds you out, but I was asked to keep a record of our vacation goings-on, so you're going to have to be tough), we figured that we should experience some cool of the evening goodness. Plot twist: it was probably the hottest hike we'd been on up to that point. 

After the hike, in a similar fashion to after every hike I ever hike ever, I deeply desired a smoothie, and this time, I even got my family on board, so we had SMOOTHIES FOR DINNER. I love smoothies for dinner. Or for lunch, or breakfast, or snacky-poos, or just for funsies. Mine was mango and it was giant and it actually tasted just like almost ripe mangoes and it was perfect and I'm so sorry I can't share but I ate it all. 

The next morning, I awoke after a great night of sleep to learn that I was in the minority for having had such. Jack had vomited way more than anyone ever should have to and was unable to keep down food for the rest of the morning. It seems the invincible super boy of excess energy was taken down by a brutal bug of sorts. We should have known something was wrong when the last evening sported no rainbow for us. Our fate had changed, and not in the romantic, Brave the Disney movie, Irish-accented "If you had the chance to change yer fate, would ya?" kind of way.

That morning, the Pinkston girls enjoyed one last Zion-y hike, and it was one of our favorites. Canyon Overlook had mountain sheep to observe, lovely views to take in, and paths to accidentally lose track of and then find again. 

You also may want to note that at this point, all Pinkstons are wearing coordinating outfits, drawing from the blue and orange color families, in hopes, however feeble, that a snapshot could emerge that would free us from an awful, forced, pale photoshoot in Fishers at the end of November in a scramble to let all of the family friends we've ever had see us at the ugliest time of the year.

Moving right along, we drove through the park and for a couple of hours to Bryce Canyon National Park. The town on the edge of the park was smaller and less cute than the one outside of Zion. It sported a unified Western theme. As Jack wasn't feeling the best, we drove through and saw the sights of Bryce, but didn't venture on any hikes. We did, however, drag the sickling out of the car for a couple of optimistic snapshots.

We then drove the rest of the way to Torre, Utah, right outside of Canyon Reef National Park where we would spend the night, which is where you'll find us in our next post.

Love,
Jenna

Monday, July 29, 2013

The Pinkstons Take on Zion National Park

Yesterday morning, we headed out to Zion National Park. Though we received mixed messages about the moderate/strenuousness of our first hike, we attacked "Hidden Canyon" trail full force. Jack, particularly, was forceful, attempting to follow to path while spending as little time actually on it as possible. The majority of our hike was beautifully shaded. The most frightening of areas was less frightening than anticipated, which was totally fine by me. When we reached the top, we were still uncertain about where exactly the canyon was, so I suppose it was very well hidden. Venturing past the end of the trail, past the sign saying that scrambling would be required, we made it to a small stone arch. 'Twas a fun mini adventure.

Now, I realize that Utah may not be at the very tip top of everyone's "Too See" list. In fact, a lot of people I know have opted to go to Europe this summer, as silly as that may sound. I used to be a bit jealous, but now, upon seeing how many Europeans are hiking around Zion National Park, I pity all you travelors in Europe. It must be terribly lonely there with all of the natives hiking in national parks in the Southwest of the United States. 

In addition to Hidden Canyon, we "hiked" Weeping Rock. It took an approximate 15-20 minutes round trip, I think the rock was weeping because it wasn't as cool as so many of the other rocks. It needs a confidence boost, but I wasn't going to be the one to stick around and provide it. I had other things to see.

We went to hike to the Lower, Middle, and Upper Emerald pools. These could have been more aptly named the Lower, Middle, and Upper Brown Ponds. However, that would have been less enticing. If you haven't recently, Google Zion National Park. Now imagine all of the pictures in person, but all of the water as chocolate milk colored. That's what I've experienced. It is really lovely. Lots of sandstone and rainbows two nights in a row!

Today, heeding warnings of potential flash floods and opting not to hike in the river, we decided to hike to the iconic Angel's Landing. This hike was to be 4 hours, and we were uncertain as to if we would continue to the peak or hike to the highest spot that was not terrifying. Many of the landmarks in the park are named with reference to the Mormon faith. This peak appeared to its namer as a place that angels would land in the presence of another landmark named the Great White Throne. I think that this logic is ridiculous. If you could fly, why would you land somewhere where you had to hike for a couple of hours to get down? Unless, of course, the angels were just landing briefly and didn't want to stop anywhere for food or anything, which sounds highly unlikely to me. 

We decided, with much wavering, to not do the final part of the climb. We chose life. On a grosser note, Joely embarrassed the whole family and all of nature with the biggest, slowest, middle-of-the-pathest snot rocket ever to bless Zion National Park.

After the long hike, we lunched at a cafe that specialized in BBQ and crepes. It is in the beginning stages of inspiring my up and coming burger and donut shop. Now, Jack is bursting with weird amount of energy and wanting to run on a treadmill before another hike. 

Love and sweat,
Jenna

Saturday, July 27, 2013

Rainbows and Baby Animals and Other Cute Occurrences


Howdy folks. I know it's been awhile, but I've come crawling back, as I always do. My parents have requested that I document our family vacation.

This morning, we departed from Indy and landed in Las Vegas. Along the way, I re-realized my calling, as I do most times I fly, to write for Sky Mall magazine. Really, it is great. I believe I could do an awesome job of getting genuinely excited about sketchy products that no one needs but everyone secretly wants. I would also have a lot of fun with naming things in entire sentences.

Once in Vegas, we, along with everyone in the city besides the two people who had an early lunch and the one gal who decided brunch was enough to hold her over until dinner, dined at In-N-Out Burgers. It was well worth the crowd, the wait, and the looking up of the Bible verses on the bottom of the food wrappings. Afterwards, we drove through the city a bit. It was very festive, but as it was not cute, it is not the focus of this post.

After a bit of a road trip, a near run in with the Walmart Distribution Center, a terrifying glimpse into an ostrich farm, and one too many ancient tunes, we arrived in Springdale, Utah. I don't know about you and your experiences, but this is my first time in Utah, and, especially considering the rocky road here, I am shocked by the sheer adorableness that has confronted us. 

After checking into our precious hotel, it started drizzling outside. This drizzle produced, just to the left of where I am now sitting, a lovely, full, brilliant rainbow bending gracefully over a mountain. The drizzle swiftly ceased and we walked off in search of new horizons, a reason to stretch our legs, and dinner. Before long, we crossed paths with two babychild deer. They were even cuter than the rainbow. These critters are at the stage of life when their ears are double the size of the rest of them. It truly is darling on them, but I sincerely hope that this same stage of development has never befallen you. We snapped a few photographs and watched them eat. I know not if this is a rule amongst all deer or simply the one I observed, but this youngster chews like a camel. A tiny, adorable, spotted, humpless camel.

We walked on and everything is adorable. The ridiculousness of it all hit me when I observed that even the Shell gas station is adorable. There is hiking gear for sale everywhere and there are ice cream and candy shops, probably the kind that like to be spelled with a s-h-o-p-p-e, if you ask me. The outdoor gear, the prevalence of art, and the presence of veggie specials even at the most carnivorous appearing restaurant, add a hint of hippie to the atmosphere. 

My sister is teaching me to do the camp thing where you create a rhythm with cups, so look forward to my shining career in a collegiate a cappella group soon. (That was a pop culture reference to the movie Pitch Perfect, for all of you who needed a hint.) 

Tomorrow we will take on Zion National Park, and I will probably have more adventuresome tales to tell you. Until then, rest well, live in the cuteness, and hope we don't melt out here.

XOXO,
Jenna

Thursday, May 2, 2013

Summer Bucket List Challenge: 2013 Edition


Summer Bucket List 2013
You asked for it! What’s that? You say you didn’t? Well, you wanted it somewhere deep down within you. Here is my 2013 bucket list for the summer: a giant list of all of the things I wish to do before summer kicks the bucket. Some may be repeats from past years, but that’s how you know what summer is made of, at its core.
1.       Crick stompin’
2.       Picnic
3.       Roadtrip to visit friends
4.       Roadtrip with a friend
5.       Read The Great Gatsby
6.       Ride a roller coaster and put my hands in the air
7.       Go to a zoo and try to overcome my fear of emus and the like
8.       Go to the quarries
9.       Read my Bible every single day
10.   Use a grass whistle well
11.   Star gaze
12.   Catch a lightening bug and treat it respectfully
13.   Go to the state fair. Eat something fried.
14.   Go to the county fair
15.   Go to a country concert
16.   Go to a museum
17.   Take lots of photographs
18.   Make a new friend
19.   Paint
20.   Draw with chalk
21.   Blow and pop bubbles
22.   Blog
23.   Water fight
24.   Go to a pool and engage in a handstand contest
25.   Kayak
26.   Learn to drive the boat
27.   Ride a bike (I actually didn’t do this one last summer. This summer, I’m determined.)
28.   Make homemade ice cream
29.   Go to a farmer’s market
30.   Watch a sunrise
31.   Teach someone the Four Constipated Men of the Bible song (accepting volunteers)
32.   Hike
33.   Ultimate Frisbee
34.   Volleyball
35.   Go somewhere in Fishers I have never gone before
36.   Go somewhere in Bloomington I have never gone before
37.   Bonfire and s’mores
38.   Make a friendship bracelet for a friend
39.   Do something spontaneous
40.   Go to Holiday Park and assess if the spiderweb is as massive as my childhood declared it to be
41.   Find a geocache
42.   Write a letter and send it
43.   Get some henna tattoos, because I know all about being a rebel. I took a class about it.
44.   Watch fireworks. OOH and AHH loudly.
45.   Work on the art of rock skipping
46.   Go to a baseball game
47.   Tie-dye
48.   Fly a kite. I haven’t done this since I was probably four.
49.   Quarter flip trip
50.   Eat a snow cone
51.   Have a good, old-fashioned sleep over
52.   Find a way to play DDR
53.   Watch something on Disney Channel
54.   Go to a 4th of July parade
55.   Do something to inconvenience a goose
56.   Date with the sister
57.   Date with the brother
58.   Do something nice for a stranger
59.   Go to the library
60.   Burn some homework
61.   Babysit
62.   Reconnect with friends at a Campus Life event
63.   Go to Conner Prairie. You know, since it’s in town. That is something you can still do, right?
64.   Go tubing
65.   Shoot some hoops
66.   Make homemade lemonade
67.   Use the term “yolo” as a verb unexpectedly
68.   Eat graduation open house cake
69.   Have breakfast with my dad
70.   Memorize Scripture in Spanish
71.   Drive with the windows down and sing loudly
72.   Become obnoxiously familiar with our summer playlist
73.   Play nuke’em (really, how is that spelled?)
74.   Go to a free Tuesday evening Fishers concert (still never have, sigh)
75.   Walk on the Monon trail
76.   Walk on railroad tracks
77.   Go to the fire tower
78.   Get through the first Lord of the Rings book
79.   Celebrate a half-birthday excessively
80.   Play kickball
81.   Go to a garage sale
82.   Take a barefoot walk
83.   Sit on the wall at Handel’s and eat some Peanut Butter Parfait
84.   Pick strawberries and make a pie
85.   Watch 500 Days of Summer
86.   Watch a meteor shower (there is supposed to be one this weekend)
87.   Run/walk/dance/hop through a sprinkler
88.   Wash a car old-school style
89.   Hang out with college friends in Indy
90.   Hang out with Indy friends in Bloomington
91.   Try once more to like watermelon, cantaloupe, and blueberries
92.   Get unfortunate tan lines, even if temporary
93.   Sleep on my back
94.   Start journaling again
95.   Wear a wild flower crown in public
96.   Rock in rocking chairs outside
97.   Take five solid minutes to do nothing but listen to crickets
98.   Catch a toad
99.   Go to the IMA
100.     Buy a state parks pass and be on my way to getting my money’s worth.
101.    Go to dunes. Frolic.
  
The CHALLENGE:
1.       Do everything on this list, and more. The individual who completes the most of these activities wins icecream with me. That is negotiable for those with special concerns. I’m looking at you, lactose intolerant friends.
2.       If you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em. So join me! Make it sound all top secret, and just text, message, or comment the number of the activity you want to do with me. We have our own language!

XOXO,
Jenna B.

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Bonfires and Juice Boxes

Last night, I say to Sarah, my Bible study co-leader (a.k.a. partner in crime), WE SHOULD GO TO MONROE FOR STUDY BECAUSE IT IS SO NICE. She suggests the Cut Outs, a more specific location on the lake. This was on my IU Bucket List so I was all in. Luckily for me, Sarah is as flexible as she is enthusiastic, so plans were made (really, that’s it, go to the cut outs, that was the whole of the plan) and we were ready.

Then Sarah texts me, “I forgot that guy is coming to study tonight!” Not that guy! You know, that guy. The one who asks if he can sit in on and record your study for a class. The one who neither of you have ever met or heard of, but of course you said yes. Of course you did. The one who, it didn’t occur to you until you email him about how he is welcome to join in your bonfire, could be absolutely insane. Or creepy. Or mean.

So off I go to Walmart to pick up a box of all-natural firewood (And s’mores fixins and juice boxes and the blue Kool Aids with the twisty tops straight from your childhood). There is some disconnect, people, when I go to Walmart to buy firewood. Nature and I aren’t as close as we should be.

We met up at Briscoe, us and that Guy. Sarah says she called up a chum and got directions. RED FLAG. Ain’t NO WAY we are getting there on the first try. I know that, Mia knows that, that Guy will figure that out, but we get in our cars anyways.

That Guy turned out to be not creepy or mean. Insane? Well, finish reading the rest of the narrative, and then I will let you decide, dear reader, for you are entirely competent.

About a stinking year, a few too many bad country songs, and about five u-turns later, we make it there, by a miracle of the Lord. We hike up a mountain. We boisterously ruin some poor couple’s mood and find a different spot to construct our fire. The box of all-natural Walmart wood, Mia’s notebook paper, a brand new lighter, and all our intense boy-scout skills had a fire rip-roaring (well, burning) in no (well, maybe some) time!

S’mores, Ephesians, Hi-C fruit punch juice box, starry skies, a giant spider on my little leg, some of the most beautiful people I know. We also had the privilege of introducing a brand new friend from Alex’s floor who is new to the country to bonfires, s’mores, Reese’s, AND Bible study for the first time! And, icing on the metaphorical cake, Emily brought her ukulele and Google brought the praise chords.



And so, a “leaving for Monroe at 9” became a returning home at 1. And I couldn’t have asked for anything more ridiculous, more unpredictably successful, or, really, just more.

Happy that bonfire season is upon us,
Jenna

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Silence, Tornado, Ferret

I learned many things in elementary school. I hope you did, too. One of the biggest, most important things I learned was how to be silent. I could talk when I raised my hand if the teacher called on me, during recess, and during lunch. Even recess and lunch were dependent on behavior and became silent before really ending.

Today, we had a tornado drill here at Indiana University. Elementary school never really ends. As I begrudgingly shuffled into the hall, not missing out on class like in the good old days, but on valuable homework time, I thought of all of the reasons we wouldn’t be safe if there was a real tornado:

1.       The glass door a few yards to my left
2.       The open doors of the classrooms with windows
3.       The fact that tornadoes pretty much do what they want anyways
4.       We were all chatting

Wait, I and you say simultaneously. Talking is not particularly dangerous during a tornado. Indeed. Who would have thought? Elementary school so deeply ingrained in me the habit of silence. Some of those habits I have long since broken. Though in middle school I initially felt guilty speaking aloud in bathrooms or hallways during passing periods, I have come to terms with those arenas of speech.
The tornado drill is going to take a little time.

When I re-entered the computer lab, seated across from me was a young man. This happens, as this particular computer lab is a hoppin’ place during the school day. However, this specific young man had a ferret pelt sprawled next to his keyboard with its dead eyes pointed at me (to say nothing of this kid’s hat). This does not happen. Or so I thought. But, alas, it does.

Please, you tell me, how you sit down and you read a Spanish article on violence (the 10 millionth this semester) with a ferret pelt staring at you. I did not even ask him about it, which is a big personal regret of mine, because I have SO MANY questions.

What is that? Where did you get it? Why did you bring it to school? May I smell it? Can I pet it? Did you name it? Him? Her? (Sorry. I couldn’t tell.) Did you know it in its real life days? Do you get asked about it often? Do you get weird looks? Do you useful bring your friend around with you or is today a special occasion? Do you consider your behavior strange? Have you ever met anyone else who does this?

But there I was, so wrapped up in essay planning and article reading that I just tried to avoid the poor ferret’s ceaseless gaze. The moral of the story is twofold: 1. Silence is a lame defense against natural disasters and 2. Never be so wrapped up in your homework and societal norms that you neglect to ask an unmet friend about his dead ferret.

Love to you and your kin,

Jenna B.

Saturday, March 23, 2013

The Rainbow


Friends,

Here I am, after literally years of procrastination. I realize you probably became skeptical of this entire operation when you saw me use the word “literally,” but I am not using in a figurative sense, as is ironically the case with many hooligans who are my age. For years, I have been telling my mom, my friends, and probably several near strangers that I am going to write about my family’s vacuum cleaner, and now marks the departing unto that journey.

Everyone has a least favorite chore. For those of you who say “taking out the trash,” I will never understand you. For 87% of us, the chore that leaps to the front of our minds is vacuuming. Vacuuming is simply the worst. It hurts your back and requires moving furniture. On top of that, it drowns out the rest of the world, not even allowing you to listen to music, and totally consuming you in the task of vacuuming.

Maybe I wouldn’t feel so strongly about vacuuming had I been raised with any other vacuuming device. But I hadn’t. Meet the Pinkston family vacuum:
                
Complete with faux wood paneling, this device is primarily a large bucket of water. This bucket is attached to a plastic disc with three wheels, for what I assume to be mobility purposes. A hose hooks into the bucket and connects it with an attachment that is more typical looking and sucks up dirt. However, the attachment and hose must be held together by the vacuumer, or you will be doing re-attaching while wasting valuable vacuum time. I am really out of words, so here is a visual I found from when Google snuck into my laundry room closet:
Essentially, it’s a leviathan.  In addition to its size, this device is ancient. I found this real life graphic on the interwebs comparing the sizes of different dinosaurs, to scale. “But Jenna,” you say, “I spy something on that graphic that isn’t a scientifically verified dinosaur.” Reader dear, I noticed that as well, but you will have to find it in your heart forgive the interwebs (take as long as you need). They simply included the approximate size of a modern day human to give you some context.



Now to address to nameage of this beast. If I were on a committee of people that had the grand opportunity to name a product like this, I would have several, what I think we can all agree, are stellar ideas:
  • The Leviathan
  •  Cleanasaurus
  • Claude
  • Some clever pun with the word “suck”
If you have a product and want to hire me to name it, I totally understand. However, the namers of my vacuum must have been having an off day. I am giving them the very undeserved benefit of the doubt. They named my vacuum The Rainbow.
Observe:


As you, dear reader, are extremely intelligent, I am certain I need not tell you which of the above pictured is bitter about having its title stolen.
                According to dictionary.com, one of the best resources on the web, the following described a rainbow:
A rainbow is a beautiful thing. It is pleasing to the eye and serves as a symbol of hope, a symbol that the rain just might end and the sun just might shine. It is a symbol of God’s love for the earth and his unfailing promises (see Genesis, post flood). Calling this vacuum a rainbow is borderline heretical.
               
Since this item preceded me as a member of the Pinkston family, it was all I ever knew. When I came of age, I learned of alternative vacuums, and begged my parents to consider obtaining one. My dad pointed out that The Rainbow was a significant investment and worked just fine. As much as I complained, I could not argue with his logic.
              
Then, it happened. When I moved away to school, The Rainbow sucked its last suck. I don’t know specifics. I don’t know if it ended valiantly, I know only that it ended. Great rejoicing was had, as the reign of terror of The Rainbow (see why it needs a new name?) ended. The cry went out through the kingdom: Live in fear no more!
              
This last 0.2 seconds. The family betrayed me and betrayed justice. A knew Rainbow was already purchased and in my families possession. HOW? I cried. How, but by the hand of a friend once so dear. We will not mention names, but Secret Agent Mrs. M. had picked it up for my family. Confusion flooded my innocent head. Who could be trusted in this world?
               
No one. That’s who. Not my mother, not my father, not my friend’s mother/mother's friend. No one.
             
So, dear reader, that is why I hate vacuuming. I hate it not only as an activity, but as a symbol. I symbol of justice sought so long and wrenched from my reach. However, in the face of adversity, we mustn’t lose hope. Somehow, someday, The Rainbow will die, once and for all, as larger brand names of vacuums slowly obliterate it. Until then, never stop dreaming.

For justice,
Jenna

P.S. And with that, I am back here on the blog. Hopefully, for keepsies.