Littles and Childbirth and STD (it’s clean, I promise)

fam2I was awakened by loud music reverberating from my phone.

It was midnight and I, being an early riser and, therefore, a terrible college kid, was already dead asleep.

Groggy and confused, I rolled over and nearly fell out of bed, wondering why an alarm was going off while it was still dark outside and why it was on my phone when I only set alarms on my desk clock.

I had a vague sense that I was forgetting something.

I picked my phone up and swiped to make the annoying noise stop. Then I realized that it was a call and I had just answered it.

“Hello?” I murmured in a soft, sleepy voice.

“Hi!” an incredibly awake voice chirped. “Want to find out who your Littles are?”

Suddenly, I remembered. I had set my phone ring to the highest volume possible because tonight we found out who our Littleslillarissa were.

Littles? I got more than one?

The rest is hysteria.

I mean, history.

Nah. I mean hysteria.

The rest of the week was a crafting frenzy. When I wasn’t working on something for the Littles, I was studying or working on our school newspaper. Meals were irregular. Sleep was a sweet dream.

Day Three of Big/Little week, I was initiated into the English honors society, Sigma Tau Delta (STD, for short. Apparently English nerds are terrible at stringing together Greek letters). I was given a certificate and a pin. (I get a kick out of telling people I’m wearing my STD pin.) After obligingly mingling for a few minutes, I power-walked to my dorm (in heels) and began frantically painting for one of my Little’s basket. She likes “Despicable Me,” so I decided to paint a minion with the words “one in a minion.” I grabbed a scrap piece of paper to see if I could even paint a 2015-10-01 22.09.52decent minion. Thankfully, I could, and I managed to successfully deliver her present. As I cleaned up, I picked up the piece of paper to throw it away.

Then I realized that I had actually painted the back of my STD certificate. (Wow, that really is a horrible acronym.)

That about sums up my week. In a figurative and also very literal way.

I was sleep deprived, stressed, and my “To-Do List” kept growing longer while my time to accomplish items on said list kept shrinking. It was the craziest week of my life.

But when I look back on it, I don’t remember any of that.

12088354_900358566722147_837717110339071424_nI think of the notes my Littles wrote me, telling me how much they loved their gifts and how excited they were to meet me. I think of jumping out from behind one Little and hearing her shriek, “You tricked me!” Immediately followed by, “I wanted it to be you!” I think of dragging my Big and one Little backstage to surprise my other Little after her performance and being unceremoniously kicked out. And I think of standing in the lobby, holding her family shirt, when she walked out in the reception line. I think of how surprised she was when she realized what was going on and how another cast member had to tear her away from our first family gathering to thank the audience.

I never understood childbirth before – how a woman can undergo such intense pain and forget about it when she finally gets to hold her little one.

I get it now. At least a little bit.

I love my babies. And, given the choice, I would go through the entire, chaotic week for them all over again.

I would even paint a cartoon figure on the back of a certificate of high academic accomplishment. Or, if it came down to it, not be a part of STD at all.

You know what I mean.

Ohana means family. And I have the best family ever.

Ohana means family. And I have the best family ever.

A Girl’s Mancave

SuperheroesHave you ever had a moment when you realize that you completely missed a crucial phase of life that all of your friends have already gone through?

Not only did that happen to me, but it happened to all of my roommates. All four of us missed the same critical part of life.

You can tell the second you step into our room.

Somehow, we all missed the magical moment where girls just inherently know how to make their living space home-y, chic, and/or cute.

Maybe it’s because we spend too much of our time on Pinterest looking at Myers-Briggs charts and not enough time looking at dorm rooms. Maybe it’s because we aren’t crafty.

Our interior decorating go-to: superhero posters.2015-09-12 22.36.20

We now have seven superhero posters: one Marvel, six DC. (We have very strong opinions on the Marvel vs. DC debate.) Above our snack shelf is a dartboard. Next to Melvin the Drunk Christmas Tree, we have a light-up Christmas reindeer that was stolen from one of the frat houses. Recently, we bought a large TV, which, immediately after setting up, we used to watch Youtube videos about llamas wearing hats.

We call our dorm The Mancave.

There is no “woman’s touch” to our room. It’s more like a slap on the back.

The only relatively feminine aspect of the room is a collage of canvases featuring our sorority. (They look particularly out-of-place next to our poster of the Joker.)

It may not be the cutest dorm on campus. (In fact, it definitely isn’t.) But it’s a place we can put our feet up at the end of the day, crack open a soda, and watch all of the “Superman” movies, including the bad ones.

And in a weird sort of way, it fits us. It’s quirky, eclectic, nerdy, and one-of-a-kind.

And, most importantly, we love our Mancave. To us, it’s home. It’s perfect.

Or, it will be, as soon as we get some well-stuffed recliners. And our Xbox.

Melvin the Drunk Christmas Tree and Giorgio the Pilfered Christmas Reindeer

Melvin the Drunk Christmas Tree and Giorgio the Pilfered Christmas Reindeer

What to Wear

According to commercials, the success of your education relies on one thing: the right supplies. Namely, the right first-day-of-school outfit.

The logic of the marketing industry is that stylish clothes fill students with confidence, giving them the buoyancy and courage they need to swagger through the school year.

Last year, for the first day of college (ever!) I wore a cute pink pocket tee with dark skinny jeans.

This year, my sorority issued an “outfit schedule” for the first two weeks of classes.

They have legitimate reasons for doing this: increased presence on campus, boost pre-rush spirit, etc.

Rebellion was my natural reaction.

I have several pictures of school events where everyone is obediently wearing the maroon “uniform” shirt for United Methodist Preschool and I’m rocking a yellow shirt and overalls or a bright blue sundress or something equally anarchistic.

I like to look cute. And I hate being told what to do.

But I’m not the same girl who walked into her first class with feigned bravado. I only had a few acquaintances and no true friends (yet). I was adrift, with no identity outside of my own inherent charms, which (honestly) mostly consisted of a non-intimidating resting face and the willingness to go along with any activity that I didn’t have moral objections to.

Now, I am a part of something. Many things, actually: I am life editor and A&E co-editor for our school newspaper; treasurer of the broadcasting society; secretary of the Rutledge Honorary History Society; a mentor for handicapped students; and Sisterhood Enrichment Team leader and student government representative for my sorority.

I am quite possibly involved in too many things.

We, as a society, place a lot of responsibility on clothes to communicate both who we are and who we want to become. I am proud of everything that I am a part of and glad to represent them, even if it’s only by wearing a t-shirt.

And if that means following an outfit schedule, then I guess I’m ok with that.

Isn’t family – sisterhood – sometimes about forcing a smile and agreeing to go along with whatever they have planned?

One value that my sorority emphasizes is confidence. A childhood full of watching “What Not to Wear” taught me that it can be expressed through clothes, but confidence ultimately comes from the individual – not the outfit.

Take that, marketing majors.

How I Found my Sorority Home

KDbiddayI didn’t realize that I was home. Until two fistfuls of shaving cream were dumped on my head.

I’ll get to that in a moment.

Moving to Union University, almost 900 miles away from my home in Florida, gave me what I wanted – a fresh start. An entirely new chapter of life, full of blank pages and endless possibilities.

I figured that one thing I should add to my new life was friends.

To that end, two of my roommates, who I met during freshman registration, convinced me to rush.

“We’ll do it together,” they bubbled. “It’ll be fun!”

Despite my suspicions about Greek life, I filled out the form for sorority recruitment, mentally replaying every moment (there were a lot of them) in the past year that I said I would never join a sorority.

My two roommates transferred to the University of Memphis before school started.

And I still wasn’t sure about the whole “sorority thing.” But I had absolutely nothing to lose. I figured this would give me a chance to meet people. If nothing else, it’d be an experience. That’s what college is for, right? To be stupid? To make mistakes? Someday, I’d reminisce about my dorky freshman days and laugh with highbrowed maturity about how I almost got sucked into the hard-partying, unendurably vapid world of sororities.

Instead, as I shuffled up and down Greek row in 4-inch heels, I found houses full of kind, welcoming girls. Girls who were held together with strong bonds of friendship. Girls with intelligence and ambition. Girls with welcoming smiles and contagious laughs. Some adorably goofy co-eds and some gently poised young ladies.

I can’t really remember why I was so skeptical of Greek life anymore. I guess that during rush, I had a revelation: stereotypes aren’t always true. What we expect isn’t always accurate. (Shocking, I know.)

But even after discovering that, I still wasn’t sure which sorority I wanted to invest the time and money into, if any of them. Among the muddle of Greek alphabet soup, no letters seemed to spell “home.”

Not until bid day.

After running to the house, taking (a rough estimate) 20 gazillion pictures, and casually getting to know each other, we played games with balloons filled with shaving cream, which (naturally) morphed into a shaving cream battle.

I was somewhat on the outskirts, amusedly watching my new sisters get covered with white foam, when someone came up behind me with hands full of shaving cream lathered my hair with it.

Shrieking, I whirled around to see a tall, blonde girl standing behind me, laughing.

Unless you’re a terrible, obnoxious person, you don’t play a prank on someone you don’t know. You do something like that to someone you have a relationship with. Someone you know will give you a hug and try to get you back.

As strange as it sounds (and is), when that shaving cream hit my head, I knew that I was a part of something bigger than myself, but something that would swallow who I am. I found friends I could be my nerdy, awkward self with. I found girls who would accept, encourage, and love me.

Some girls are smart. They figure out where they belong a lot sooner than I did. And stay much cleaner in the process.

But one thing you realize at college is that most of us don’t know where we’ll end up or even where we’re going. We take grasp at whatever chances are dangled in front of us, we offer people our hearts and cross our fingers, hoping that – maybe – they’ll like us, despite our quirks and insecurities.

I’m starting to think that may be how life goes.

Maybe we’re all looking for people who dump shaving cream on our heads.

I’m just thankful to have my sisters.

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KD

My Chair, My Insanity

I have a first-day-of-class ritual.

I arrive early to scope out the seats. I find a chair, far away from any air vents, centrally located on the first row, where the professor can take note of my perfect attendance and that is where I sit for the remainder of the semester. 

(I’ve already admitted to being a Goody-Two Shoes, ok?)

I’ve discovered that most people will sit in the same seat all semester (though the majority of them haven’t put the thought I have into it) and I usually arrive at class early, so keeping my seat usually isn’t a problem.

However, one class, one girl (who I will call “Lane”) decided that she wanted to make me sit in a different seat.

And so the battle  began.

One day, Lane walked in class just a step ahead of me. She dropped her bag by My Chair and stood in front of it, talking to someone across the table.

So, naturally, I squeezed in behind her and sat down.

The class got a kick out of that.

Once, Lane did succeed in stealing My Chair.

I saw her riding her bike to class. I ran to try and beat her, but I knew it was useless. I watched helplessly as she parked her bike and walked in, not even noticing me, several paces away. 

I kept cool.

I walked into class, looking calm, frosty and deadly. I didn’t even glance at My Chair. I sat across from Lane.

I stared directly at her.

She laughed.

I did not crack.

I did break silence eventually, and said something about some men just wanting to watch the world burn. (Some smart aleck, either not getting the Batman reference or just wanting to be difficult, pointed out that she wasn’t a man. Whatever.) 

Anyway, a minute or two later, she had to leave to print something, so I ended up with My Chair after all.

In fact, I sat in My Chair all semester. Until the very last day.

When Lane walked in, there was a note at My Chair: 

Dear Lane,
You fought well. Happy end of the semester!
Lots of Love,
Ali

I sat in a chair (no capitalization) on the opposite side of the table.

Another girl in our class told her, “I hope you realize that that is the most sincere gift of love you are ever going to get.”

I did want to show Lane that our battle was all good-natured. (And I won!)

But I wanted to show something else, too – things change. People always move forward, whether they want to or not.

And I accept that.

Besides, sitting in the exact same chair at the exact same time over and over? Wouldn’t that be like insanity?

How College Made Me a Criminal

I am an accessory.

And I don’t mean that as a metaphor, like, “I am a silver necklace in a world of oversized t-shirts.”

I mean like the criminal kind.

In the past, I have been what laymen commonly refer to as a “Goody-Two Shoes.” Or, as my more technical-speaking sister called me, a “Goody-Goody.” (I never saw the insult in this statement, which is a defining characteristic of the Goody-Two Shoes species.)

But, as I’ve said before, college changes you.

It gives rise to crimes of desperation. Sheer desperation.

I mean, there’s no thrill or glamour in stealing toilet paper.

Sometimes, it’s just kind of necessary.

Coming out of class today, I saw my friend, Lydia. I ran up behind her and tapped her on the shoulder.

“Hi,” she said, taking out her earphones. “I’m going to the PAC to steal some toilet paper.”

That’s the thing about Lydia. It doesn’t matter whether she is watching Netflix or planning murder. She will tell you exactly what she is doing in the same frank, outright manner.

“Oh.” I looked up at the building. “I’ll go with you.” We live in the same dorm building. I figured we could walk back together after stealing a roll or two.

But Lydia was a woman on a mission.

We went to. Every. Single. Bathroom. In. The. Building.

It isn’t actually that dramatic. There are only three bathrooms, all on the same floor.

And we walked away with only one roll.

My roommate did the same thing once, when we were out of toilet paper. And, to be completely honest, I have, too. (Fine. I’ve been an accessory twice and perpetrator once.)

Still, if the punishment fits the crime, I cannot imagine we would have a harsh sentence.

It reminds me of a case in New York where a man was found guilty of stealing a loaf of bread. The judge fined everyone in the courtroom for living in a city where a man had to steal a loaf of bread, then gave the collected money to the man.

I sympathize.

Though, thankfully, we’re not starving. Thanks to mandatory, pre-paid meal plans, we feast like kings on greasy cafeteria food.

We just need something to clean up with.

My College Addiction

2014-10-20 10.32.39You know how when you spend a lot of time with someone, their habits start to rub off on you? And when you live with them, becoming them, even in every terrible way that you swore not to, is inevitable? (Since going to college, I’ve discovered that I am/will be exactly like my mom. Completely unrelated to the previous comment.)

I think that is one of the most potentially dangerous things about college. It is nearly impossible not to be influenced by the people you live with, and in college, at least your first year, you are likely living with someone you have never met before in your life. Who knows what habits they have that don’t show up on the room request form? I won’t even dive into all of the horrifying possibilities. And, despite the well-intentioned, valiant effort that your parents made to raise you right, sometimes you cave.

But I have decided to get myself back on the straight and narrow. I am staging a self-intervention. I am completely cutting myself off. No gradual decline, I am just ripping the bandage off and exposing a dark, ugly wound for the world to see.

My name is Ali Renckens and I am a popcorn addict.

I blame it entirely on my roommate. She has a love for microwave popcorn, so our dorm room always smells like a movie theatre. When the smell of butter and salt greets me before I even put the key in the lock, I know Hannah is home.

Naturally, with Orville Redenbacher as a third roommate, I started buying popcorn. And consuming several bags a week. Kroger was my enabler, being open 24/7 and selling Skinny Pop for $1 a bag. (As a college kid, I have a new appreciation for sales.)

If I get the freshman fifteen, it will be entirely due to popcorn.

The situation came to a crisis one day when I strolled into Kroger, basket over my arm to fill with bags of air popped goodness. Turning into the aisle, I stopped. There it was, or rather it wasn’t: the red sale sign.

I’m a broke college kid! I can’t afford full price at the dollar store!

Foam pushed out of the corners of my mouth. My eyes rolled back for a view of my convulsive brain. I realized then and there that I had to quit before it destroyed me.

Then I saw it: 479 degree popcorn on sale.

That’s right; I’m typing this in between handfuls of artisan popcorn.

I suppose it could be worse. I could be addicted to marijuana. Or One Direction.