Life as a Single Duck

It’s spring, and all the ducks are in pairs now. Ethan and I went walking past the duck pond, which was empty. By the sides of the pond, little ducky couples just sat, sleeping. Probably waiting for the hen ducks to lay eggs, or for said eggs to hatch. In the park, there were little spots on the grass where mallards and hens were sleeping, side by side, couple by couple. I’ve heard ducks mate for life. At any rate, they’re adorable. And I don’t mean “cute and fluffy” adorable – but adorable in the same way that old couples holding hands are adorable.


Then Ethan and I noticed something. There were a few mallards just kind of sitting on their own. Or wandering around the park aimlessly. Or floating lazily in the pond. No hens. Just mallards. We realized that there was an uneven number of ducks – about a dozen too many mallards – which means one of two things has to happen: either a couple of these hen ducks go Jersey Shore and forget the whole monogamy thing, or these poor mallards just get used to being lonely this season.

Maybe I’ve spent too much time in single-and-trying-to-get-married wards in a college town, but I instantly felt a little sorry for these ducks. Biologically speaking, the whole point of surviving to adulthood is to propagate the species. And here these guys are, frustrated because there are literally not enough girls to go around. I mean, I’ve heard that excuse from humans before, but now there’s These ducks may not even know there are other ponds.

We started narrating what we felt the lone mallards were saying to one another. Things like, “Dangit, Rosalee, that guy’s nowhere near as good-looking as I am. You don’t know what you’re missing.”

Or the really creepy, jealous mallard: “Yeah, yeah. No mate this year, whatever. But next year, I’ll be dating Rosalee’s duckling.” Cradle-robber.

Or simply guy talk between single mallards. “Hey, Doug. You watch the game yesterday?”
“Yeah. I got a pretty good seat up at the bleachers. Some kid gave me a hot dog bun.”
“Meh. It’s better on TV. Lucky score with the hot dog bun, though.”
“Yeah. You wanna go do something?”
“Nah. I just figured I’d float in circles a bit.”

Or, you know, maybe I’m just thinking a little too hard about this. Maybe ducks don’t sympathize with the human college experience as much as I think. But they are Botany Pond ducks. I mean, they live on campus. The pond is practically a ducky dorm. And they might not follow the BYU Honor Code (these ducks were stark naked, I tell you!), but they looked pretty bookish to me. I’ll bet they know more than they let on. ♦



It’s a Christmas Miracle!

Yesterday, there was a great and mighty happy dance.


We were totally on budget (or at least close) until about a month ago, when we stopped and thought, “How are we going to pay tuition?” Oh, snap. That’s about $2400 we weren’t counting on.

Fortunately, I have a job. Yay! We did some quick math, and discovered that we could probably afford rent, tuition, and bills for December and January, provided I keep said job and work at least 30 hours a week, and still have just about enough. Of course, that meant eating only food storage for a month. Boo. (But we have a working oven now, so that means homemade pizza! Yay again!)

In the course of all this, we starting considering financial aid again. I haven’t applied for financial aid since my sophomore year, because my taxes didn’t look poor enough for a need-based grant, and my grades didn’t look good enough for a scholarship. But with some help from friends and family and a little elbow grease at some part-time jobs, I managed to graduate without any debt. Ethan had a trust fund that took him up through this last month, and he didn’t apply for aid or scholarships because he figured there were others who needed it more. But now – we needed it.

It didn’t take too long to fill out a FAFSA, and apparently we’re pretty poor. Just got married. Not much in the bank. Independent, but only one of us working part-time. One of us going to school. Yup. We’re actually kind of ideal for financial aid. Woohoo.

So Ethan went into the financial aid office yesterday to follow up on his application. He called me up to tell me that we’ve got over $5000 coming in a Pell grant – which means we won’t have to pay it back. The government will cover the coming semester, reimburse us for last semester, and give us the extra for future schooling.

It’s kind of amazing how much pressure that takes off my brain. I’m not exactly relieved to need the extra help – but, boy, am I relieved it’s here! I did a sort of office-chair version of my Thank-you-Jesus dance (later followed up with a much more reverent prayer), and did a little bouncing around. Taking pressure off my brain apparently takes pressure off my body as well. Merry Christmas! ♦

Lessons Learned: Freshman vs. Senior Year

Lessons learned from my freshman year of college, 2007-8:

  • Thirty dollars is all in how you spend it.
  • You can buy a lot of black beans with thirty dollars.
  • If you don’t like someone, don’t let them eat your bread; once you feed them, they’ll never go away.
  • Manbrownies don’t taste as good as regular brownies, but most women still prefer them. Maybe we just like the attention. Or maybe it’s the convenience. In some cases, maybe we just like the men who make them.
  • Men’s soap is cheaper than women’s soap.
  • Men’s razors are cheaper than women’s razors.
  • Men’s pants are cheaper than women’s pants.
  • Men’s pants don’t fit me.
  • Poltergeists bring brownies. Men also bring brownies. By deductive reasoning, then, men are poltergeists.
  • The words “you did what?” usually indicate a flagrant breach in social etiquette.
  • 3-person dates aren’t really much fun.
  • 4- or 6-person dates, however, are a blast.
  • Masked men, though dashing, are seldom to be trusted.
  • Cameras are never present when you need them.
  • If your door rattles during the night, you can wedge your roommate’s shoe against it to keep it still.
  • Hillary can condense an entire truckload of junk into six square feet beneath her bed.
  • Nine blankets in wintertime are not enough.
  • You never realize God is carrying you until He puts you down and you see how far you’ve come.
  • I can go exactly three days without Matchbox Twenty.
  • Ancient Romans had a brilliant language. Don’t ever learn it.
  • Some TAs will give you extra points on an essay for knowing the names of obscure alcohols.
  • Missionaries may write their mothers, but they never tell them anything.
  • Chewing annoys me. Reading over my shoulder annoys me. Both, apparently, incites homicidal tendencies.
  • Constant movie quotes, on the other hand, are perfectly acceptable, as is hysterical laughter.
  • Jenna and I were squirrels in a former life. Phoenix-squirrels. Tshaiga, I call them. If you can pronounce the word “chmig’pa,” you might be one, too.
  • Rochelle’s hiccups are violent.
  • Finishing an essay a week in advance is much more fun than finishing it the night before it’s due.
  • Multiple-choice history tests are amazing.
  • Multiple-choice religion tests are a crime.
  • I’m a freaking pansy.
  • Rhapsody in Blue relieves stress.
  • Some men just don’t know when to shut up.
  • Jackie’s nervous baking + my nervous eating = 5 lbs. gain… and somehow, a smaller pants size.
  • Some people never stop dancing.
  • Irish dancing produces man-calves.
  • Knee-length boots and man-calves don’t work well together.
  • My mother really doesn’t understand Homestar Runner.
  • Sugar burns. Spectacularly.
  • I hate cold weather.
  • If you put the peanut butter on the counter, Jackie will eat it in a day. If you put it in the cupboard, she’ll eat it in a week. If you put it on a high shelf, it might last a month, depending how long it takes for her to find it. But if it’s under your bed, she doesn’t touch it.
  • God is merciful. Were this not the case, I would have been struck down by now.
  • Lightning doesn’t strike indoors.
  • Nothing makes you appreciate your parents like moving in with roommates.
  • Nothing makes you appreciate your roommates like moving in with your parents.
  • The gospel is true; if it weren’t, its teenage members would have destroyed it by now. Instead, somehow they survive, thrive, and grow, as does the church. Miraculous.

Lessons learned from my senior year of college: 2012-13:

  • If you’re a good cook, you can go weeks (or months) without buying groceries. Especially if your roommates aren’t good cooks.
  • The most attractive thing to be is yourself. If your self needs work, work on it. But make sure you’re working on the parts you want to change – not the parts you think a guy would want you to change.
  • If you like someone, tell them.
  • If you want to date someone, tell them. Then ask them on a date.
  • A date is not a marriage proposal.
  • If a guy won’t call it a date, you’re not dating.
  • If you’re not dating, ad you wish you were, stop. Just stop. Go find someone else to wish you were dating. And then date him.
  • If you’re in danger of failing a class, talk to the professor. They don’t want you to fail.
  • Being on a first-name basis with your professor isn’t sucking up. It’s spending enough time to prove you want to learn the material.
  • Finishing an essay a week in advance is much more fun than finishing it the night before it’s due.
  • Multiple-choice history tests are horrifying.
  • If your essays are good enough, sometimes the professor will overlook a failing grade on a multiple-choice test.
  • If you still think your answer is right, go talk to the professor. If you can prove him wrong, he might still give you points.
  • If the food is really good, it will cause dancing.
  • I’m a super wimp in cold weather.
  • When biking, slow down under bridges.
  • Cool river water will do a wonderful job of icing a broken hand. Same goes for frozen vegetables. Smoothies help, too.
  • It’s simply amazing how many things you can do with only one hand.
  • It takes a really long time to put on women’s jeans with only one hand.
  • Tying a ponytail with one hand isn’t worth the time and effort. Chop the hair off.
  • I look good with short hair. Who knew?
  • Chocolate milk makes everything better.
  • Martin Luther King, Jr. was a boss. So was Fred Shuttlesworth, Rosa Parks, Ralph Abernathy, and Diane Nash.
  • People get mad at you if you turn off your cell phone for a day.
  • Turning off your cell phone for a day and “unplugging” is well worth the trouble.
  • Park City is beautiful,has clean air, and is about 10 degrees cooler than Provo.
  • “Doctor De Soto Goes to Africa” is quite possibly the funniest children’s book ever written.
  • Love isn’t just about romance. It’s about sticking together when things get rough.
  • If you’d rather be in the hospital with him than anywhere else without him, you might be in love.
  • If he inspires you to be better every day, he’s a keeper.
  • God will take care of those who follow Him, and those who wait on His timing.

Why I Need Anger Management

I seem to suffer from selective anger issues. Insult me, and I’ll brush it off. Say something rude, and I’ll usually laugh. Hit me, and I’ll either walk away, or hit back – and then walk away. I just don’t get mad that often. At least, not at people.

Vending machines, however, are a different story. Thursday, I tried to buy a sandwich, and came away bleeding. I did everything I could to get that thing to vend, but it was just stuck. It only cost me a few dollars, so it shouldn’t have been a big deal – but it was the principle of the thing! I wasn’t going to pay twice for a mediocre, stale sandwich! I paid for that sandwich, and I should be able to eat it!

Problem is, BYU puts their vending machines all up against each other (probably so people can’t shake things out of the vending machines). Which meant I couldn’t shake the sandwich out. It just leaned against the glass, taunting me. So I pummeled that thing with all I was worth (which wasn’t much, let’s be real). After drawing blood on one of my fingers, I gave up on the fist-beating tactic, and tried reaching inside it. Didn’t work: short arms. Then I realized I might be able to shake it if I used all my body weight, and climbed up onto the opening and started jumping up and down on the front of the machine.

It was at this point that I realized there might be security cameras nearby. Defeated and a little embarrassed, I realized something: I’m 23 years old, and I’m jumping up and down on a vending machine for a $3 sandwich. I stepped down, assessed my bleeding finger, and paid for the sandwich again. Then I bought some chocolate milk to make myself feel better. It wasn’t a very good sandwich, but the chocolate milk tasted good. ♦

Just Creeping.

A couple weeks ago, I started dating a guy named Ethan.

In the past several weeks, we have discovered a few things. One is that we both love peanut butter.

One is that our relationship is not contingent upon peanut butter, peanut butter cookies, peanut butter cup pie, or peanut butter smoothies.

One is that we are both easily distracted by ducks.

One is that we make the  same sound effect when imitating a hippo.

But the strangest discovery is probably that, individually, we are blessed with a peculiar set of stalking skills. Combine forces, and we become a spy team of no maximum accomplishments. We first discovered this when Ethan was complaining about his eavesdropping skills getting him into trouble. “Excuse me, but I couldn’t help hearing your entire conversation, even though I was having a conversation of my own…” at which point, I suggested playing dumb, and acting like you’d only heard a snippet – because that’s what I do when I need to eavesdrop inconspicuously.

We later discovered that we remember people we really shouldn’t. He remembers the faces and full names of people whose ID cards he saw once at Taco Bell while they were paying for a taco. I once introduced myself to a neighbor as, “Oh, you’re Aine! I know you. I saw you play the bodhran in a concert in the Crabtree building three years ago in room 214.” It starts getting really awkward if either of us sees someone enter a password or a PIN, and I can’t tell you how hard it is for me to forget someone’s SSN. On top of this, our church callings could both be described as: get to know everybody in the ward, and make sure they’re taken care of. We’re semi-professional stalkers.

So, every now and again, as we’re walking across campus, we’ll cross somebody’s path. “That’s Kylie McQuarry. She was in my freshman ward. She’s really involved in the campus feminist groups.”

“Does she know you?”


I love us. 

Argentina Strikes Again!

The gods of irony must be laughing at me.

I spent most of the weekend working on a research paper for my Argentine history class. And when I say I spent most of the weekend working on a research paper… I mean that I spent most of the weekend in the hospital with friends, thinking, “Hmm. I should probably work on that research paper.”

Needless to say, I was hosed* come Monday. The paper was due Tuesday. I hadn’t even started the reading.

I don’t know if you’ve ever written a research paper before, but let me alert you to something: they’re involved. Now add that it’s a history paper, and let me say: they’re super involved. Most professors expect your paper to demonstrate that this has been your life’s work for the past three months. I now had approximately 24 hours.

The clock was ticking. My eyes were skimming. My fingers were flying. I’ve never written so much gibberish so fast in my life.** I showed up at the history department 5 minutes before the due date, to find the office locked. By a God-given miracle, one of my professors was just about to unlock the door to check her box. I was saved! The paper might be lousy, but I was going to get a grade!

Okay, now rewind to the weekend. Remember how life was upside-down? And that’s why I hadn’t written the paper yet? Yeah. That’s also why I didn’t check my email over the weekend. I logged in this morning, to find a notice that my professor has extended the due date to Monday. I still have half a week to edit that paper.

It’s an Easter miracle, Charlie Brown? ♥


* defines “hosed” as: utterly and undoubtedly affixiated in a troublesome situation.

**Lies. I wish.

Civil Rights Saga: Episode 4


Remember Brother Malden? What better way could you start a Sunday morning than hanging out in the Malden barber shop? We stayed and talked with Brother Malden for about half an hour, touring the barber shop (which was absolutely covered in pictures of celebrities who had come to the barber shop – either to get their hair cut or, like us, just to say they’d been there.


This is the chair Dr. King usually sat in.


Brother Malden is the definition of networking.

Now, I have no idea how Brother Malden got hold of these (I think I was looking at pictures when he explained it), but this man has a copy of Dr. Martin Luther King’s grades. And let me tell you, as college students, we were very interested to know what this man’s transcript looked like. And I think all of us were more than a little comforted to see his report card peppered with C’s. I said to myself, “Self: you do not have to be an A student to make a difference in the world!” And thank heavens, because… I’m definitely not.



Hey, Mom! Guess who else was bad at statistics?

Let’s be real here – this car has nothing to do with the Civil Rights Movement. But Brother Malden just got even cooler when we saw what he drove.


From the barbershop, we headed over to the Montgomery State Building. This particular weekend (as we had brilliantly planned) was the yearly anniversary celebration of Bloody Sunday. On March 7, 1965, Civil Rights protesters began a march from Selma, Alabama to this building in Montgomery. As the crowd came across the Edmund Pettus bridge in Selma, however, they met a line of policemen barring their way. After a few confusing moments, the police advanced and then attacked the unarmed crowd. Footage of police beatings was broadcast across America, and a few days later, another march was organized, led by Dr. King. This time, however, they marched only as far as the police line, knelt to pray, and then turned back and marched home. The third attempt was protected by federal troops, and days later the crowd arrived in Montgomery.  On the steps of this building, Dr. Martin Luther King gave a speech, asking “How long will prejudice blind the visions of men, darken their understanding, and drive bright-eyed wisdom from her sacred throne?…. How long? Not long.”



As the “cradle of the Confederacy,” the Montgomery State Building still has a statue of Jefferson Davis.

And then: on to church at Dexter Avenue! From the steps of the state building, you can see the Dexter Avenue Baptist Church, where Martin Luther King preached. The sermon that day (“A Filthy Rag Around a Leaky Faucet”) drew parallels from the Bible, from modern life, and from the Civil Rights Movement (the preacher was well aware that we were in town for Bloody Sunday). Everybody in the chapel wanted to say hello, and it was one of the most friendly, comfortable atmospheres I’ve ever encountered. My personal highlights were the organ player (who was good enough to play with one hand for half the service), the piano player (who was good enough to play with her eyes closed during the prayers), and the latter part of the sermon, when Rev. Handy took us through the ABC’s of sins that needed to be removed from our lives:

A is for Adultery – Kill it right now!

B is for Blasphemy (Kill it right now!)

C is for Covetousness (Kill it right now!)



I don’t remember them all, but I do remember that Z was for Zaniness and other buffoonery, because we all looked at Jonathan, one of our instructors – who looked a little sheepish and slunk down on the pew a little more. He later apologized for some of his zany behavior (which, of course, didn’t stop a sing-along later in the car).



Finally, we made it to Selma. After another run-in with the Secret Service (which was really less of a run-in and more of a traffic jam), we made it to the bridge and split up: half of us went to cross the bridge with the protesters, and half to watch the crowd surge over the top of the bridge. I opted to cross the bridge. On our side, the whole town was turned into a street market for the waiting protesters. Food vendors lined the streets, and the whole town smelled like cooking meat, fries, and soul food. In the middle of the streets, there were jewelry stands, souvenir stands, and CD vendors – who blasted music so loud that the entire block sounded like a party.


This is the greatest (and largest) cheeseburger I have ever eaten in my life.


Unfortunately, I already had that cheeseburger in my stomach when I saw this advertisement. I have no idea whether there was real alligator meat at this stand.

And then, we started to cross the bridge:





I think this was my favorite experience of the trip. It gave you a feeling of just how huge the Movement was – and continues to be today. As we marched, we saw protesters in the crowd, some for better treatment as black citizens, but most were protesting the unethical treatment of the Latino community. (I was surprised not to see any protesters from the homosexual community.) It was strange to be sandwiched between celebration and protest – there was a sense of pride in the rights that were fought for and won – not given, but earned. And there was also a feeling of hunger, that an end of injustice in one place could signal an end of injustice everywhere. There was definitely a feeling that those in the crowd knew how far we’ve come, but also knew that we have far to go before we really achieve a perfect people. It was a very moving experience to be there, a part of it.













One of our last stops was a little fenced-in memorial on the side of the highway. This was a memorial for Viola Liuzzo, a white woman who was run off the road and shot for offering rides to Montgomery Blacks who were boycotting the bus system. This memorial served as another reminder to me that this was not an issue of race, but an issue of hatred.





The complete absence of traffic seemed almost too good to be true.


It was. The Secret Service had caught up with us again. (This time it was Joe Biden, who had come to speak at the bridge crossing.) They had stopped traffic to take over the road again, and the traffic became absolutely hideous after they passed. I do wonder what they thought of our little group, chilling on the side of the road as they drove past. Fortunately, nobody got shot. In fact, one of the passengers waved.

The next day, we drove back to the airport and headed back to Utah (and 4 of us to Ohio). Nobody wanted to go home, and I think a chunk of my heart is still in Alabama. But it was a life-changing experience, and it’s really none of my business to keep it to myself. So I’m back to stay for now, and I’m here to change things – and people – for the better.