Quote of the day and finals

4:45 PM Posted In , Edit This 4 Comments »
So I'm blogging. I haven't done it very consistently this semester, because I've been so busy with school. I'm currently knee-deep in finals, which means I should be the busiest I've been semester. Naturally, this means that I'm doing everything I possible can to procrastinate, like: cleaning my room, playing with a purple feather boa, blogging, organizing picture files, eating chips, downloading music, watching funny videos on youtube for the 100000000th time, facebooking every 30 seconds, and calling everyone I can think of "just to say hi." I just completed the world's most hilarious hypothetical research paper ever written, and if my grandparents didn't occasionally peek at my blog I would copy/paste it on here. But I don't want to scare them with my gross humor. Even the title would be too much I think.

Quote of the day:
S: "Miss Palmer, can we go shopping with you?"
Me: "No..."
E: "Please?! But it would be like a mother-daughter date!"
Me: "But I'm not your mother."
E: (Wistfully) "I wish you were."
S: "You'd be a cool mom! My dad used to have a green mohawk!"

No, I haven't grown a mohawk. But apparently I'm equally as cool as her dad's old green mohawk.

Another reason I love my job...

7:01 PM Posted In Edit This 4 Comments »
...I get paid to do this:

Nothing like a little photobooth during the school day to ease the pain of putting someone's hair in a ponytail. The little munchkin I work with wears pigtails EVERY DAY, and is totally inflexible about them. In 5th grade, pigtails aren't so cool anymore. So we're working on introducing ponytails, and right now we can get her to wear them for about 2 hours at a time. But only after she calls me "a mean old witch." No joke.

I like my new job almost as much as I like my new glasses

7:37 PM Posted In Edit This 3 Comments »
So I haven't posted in a while... So sue me! I have a full-time job, I'm working on a Master's degree, and I can't ignore my social life. So, to tide you over, here's two photos of my enjoying my new job and my new glasses:

Please ignore the dust from my scanner.

Quentin's Laughter

5:36 PM Posted In , Edit This 2 Comments »
Here's a 30 second video of me making my nephew Quentin laugh. It's the first time that I've heard him laugh, and I loved it. Please ignore how silly I sound. And yes, I do have a life outside of my nephew... it just isn't represented very well on my blog.

I'm unashamedly obsessed.

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Here's Grandpa Carmack holding his Great-Grandson, Quentin. How could you not love them?

Just to share a little wisdom:

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Leftover pizza is infinitely better toasted in the toaster oven than zapped in the microwave. In case you didn't already know.

Tufts Health Plan 10K for Women

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Surprisingly enough, I participated in a 10K yesterday! I use the verb "participated" instead of "ran" because I had a walk a large portion of the course, but I showed up and finished nonetheless. Last week, meaning exactly one week ago from yesterday, I started jogging. I decided that it was time that I started running again: when I was in high school, I used to run 3 or so miles everyday, and not only was it a great workout, but it really improved my mood and emotional well-being. When I was frustrated, I would go for a run and the world would be a lot brighter at the end. I also had great glutes back then, but I won't expound on that for fear someone sees something in their mind that they don't want to see.
So, I made a goal to run 5 times per week. Using google maps (a tool that we didn't have back in my high school days) I plotted out a course in Allston that's roughly 3.75 miles. I go from my apartment, down North Harvard Street past Harvard Stadium to the Charles River, run on the Charles River path to Western Ave, then jot down Western Ave to home. Again, I use the term "run" very loosely... I'm currently on intervals of about 8 minutes of jogging and then 2 minutes of walking. I wish that I could just go out and run the whole thing, but I'm getting there.
One of my big motivations to start my new jogging regime came from the ladies at church. A bunch of my friends are pretty avid runners, completing half and full marathons, doing relay races together, and knocking off various 10Ks and 5Ks. Some friends and I started chatting about getting people together to do the Tufts 10K, and before I knew it there was an email going around with MY NAME ON IT saying look! What a fun idea! Well now that it was sent to 100 people crediting me as the idea-maker, I decided that I had to participate. So with 1 week of jog/walking and 15 miles total under my belt, I showed up at the Boston Common yesterday morning. Feeling like a real idiot for being there at all.
Because I'm so out of shape and under-prepared, I did a really good job of psyching myself out. Luckily, of the 6,020 participants, lots of women walk the entire way. I was far from the last lady over the finish line, as I was envisioning all morning. And the best part of the whole thing, by far, was seeing my friends at the finish line cheering me on. Even though I was so slow, and they finished so far ahead of me, they recognized what an achievement this was for me and duly celebrated for me. I was so excited! It was so fun! I won't enumerate just how slow I went, but according to the official times online I ran this race a minute faster per mile than I've been running at home, and that's only half the distance! Clearly I was motivated and excited, and I'd say I definitely came away with a personal best. This first race was a great one, and I feel even more motivated now to continue with the (fun!) hard work and be ready for the next one.

In December we're running some 5K called the "Jolly Jaunt," and I couldn't be more psyched! By then I'll be able to run the whole distance without stopping to walk, and that's going to be a huge deal for me. This whole thing has taught me a lot, and given me a nice kick in the pants. Good times! I can't wait for the Jolly Jaunt, and I can't wait for the Tufts 10K next year, to see just how much my time improves!

Above is the map of the course for anyone who knows Boston. It was an awesome course with breathtaking views of the city. I love Boston!

Quote of the Day, from a 2nd grader.

12:42 PM Posted In Edit This 1 Comment »
"Whoa! Are you a 5th grader??"
"Are you a teacher?"
"You look like a 5th grader."

Quote of the Day, from a 5th grader.

7:21 PM Posted In Edit This 4 Comments »
"Ms. Palmer! Your name is Lauren?! I just never thought of teachers having names!"

Mini Reunion

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Four of my friends from London Study Abroad got together for conference this weekend. I've been telling everyone for YEARS that Boston is the right place to be... finally they're listening.
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Small Moments: Hale Reservation

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“You can do it!” “Go for it!” “Let her have a turn!” These exclamations may seem simply motivational to the average observer, but for me they are evidence of transformation. Usually from the same kids I hear “you’re mentally retahded!” or “he wants to make out with you, because he’s gaaay” while they barrel down the hallways of the elementary school. Oh, fifth grade.
Last week the fifth grade at the elementary school where I work went on a field trip to Hale Reservation, a nature reserve just outside of Boston that functions primarily as a summer camp for youngsters. We spent the day on ropes courses, doing team-building exercises, and playing silly games. Sounds easy, right? Well, as an aide for a 10 year-old girl with autism, I had some apprehension. I was worried about having my little friend scamper up a tree just to freak out 100 feet in the air, and I could just see myself having to climb a tree to retrieve her and being scratched and clawed the whole way down. I had visions of the munchkin being excluded from group activities, not necessarily openly, but definitely passively. But what I saw last Wednesday gave me a new respect for the children at school.

First of all, my darlin’ scampered up those trees and then dove down the zip line like it was nothing. She was much less inhibited than even some of the tough guys in her class. Then what I saw during our next activities was really amazing. The kids had to get from behind a log to a wooden platform several feet away without touching the ground between the two. There was a rope swing that they could use as a tool, and so the plan was to swing, one at a time, from behind the log to the platform. It would have been easy for the kids in the class to send the little lady across first to get her over with, or even to save for the end and hope for instructor aid or for someone to say that they could just call it a day. But they didn’t. They coaxed her across halfway through the class, with cries of “it’s your turn!” “Come across!”
I’m not saying that these kids are angels 100% of the time. They make each other cry practically, and sometimes they practically knock me over in the halls when they’re sprinting to the bus with instruments and basketballs. Perhaps that’s what made the moments we shared so special. To quote Dr. Seuss, my heart grew three sizes that day.

Four Generations of Palmers (missing one link)

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First Interview of this Round... and it's a winner!

2:47 PM Posted In Edit This 3 Comments »
No, they didn't offer me the job on the spot, but they may as well have! I had an interview today with a local public elementary school for a Behavior Therapist position, and I think that it went amazingly well. (So well, in fact, that I promptly put on the Wu-Tang Clan song "C.R.E.A.M." to celebrate. For those who aren't rap aficionados like myself, "C.R.E.A.M." stands for "Cash Rules Everything Around Me." It's a gangsta ode to the dollar bill... several of which I hope to be retrieving soon.) Two women interviewed me as a team, each of whom is in charge of a different position that I am being considered for. Boring play-by-play aside, I knew I slam-dunked when one woman wrote "GREAT!" at the top of my resume. Maybe she should have been sneakier about that little note-to-self, but hey. I'm not complaining. Then, 20 minutes later, one of my old supervisors called to say that they had contacted her for a reference, and she would be giving me a great one. They had back-to-back interviews all day, and they checked my references first! "Dolla dolla bill y'all!"

The New Digs

8:00 PM Posted In , , Edit This 4 Comments »
One of the extremely scary but convenient things about the internet is google maps. I just google my address, and it totally eliminates the need for me to get off my butt and take a picture of the front of my house for this blog post. Convenient, yes; stalker-scary, of course; eliminates the need to run up and down a flight of stairs, how lovely.

I live in Allston. For those of you not familiar with the area, Allston is like a borough of Boston... it's technically in the city of Boston, but is a big enough neighborhood to have a name of its own on the mail. Serviced by Boston Public Schools, the Boston Police and Fire Departments, etc. Weird thing, maybe kind of like Queens or Manhattan is to New York City. It's also where a lot of Harvard is. I live 4 blocks up the road from the Harvard Stadium, literally on the same street. Pretty sweet digs. It's an incredibly central and convenient location, and teeming with youngsters. I made the move to "Lower Allston," which is just a section of Allston that's a little older and a little quieter than Allston Village. Hallelujiah. I'm loving the new place, and the new roommates. There's only three of us here, as opposed to 4 or 5 at the last place (there were always visitors staying for 3+ weeks at the last place) and there's actually a COMMUNAL LIVING SPACE. My last apartment's closest approximation to a living room was the front steps, but here we actually have couches and a TV. It can get a little crowded in there, though, with our friends crashing the couch all of the time:

One of my roomies has two cats. I don't have much to say about that. Except maybe to point out the piece of paper taped to the couch in the above picture says "Do not sit, Cat pee!"
My bedroom in this apartment is literally half the size of the colossal creature cave at my last place, but it's much nicer and now that I'm actually on a lease and I know I'll be here for a while, I'm unpacking and making myself at home. It starts to feel like I really live here once the art goes on the walls, like this particular wall. I'm kind of proud of the way it turned out... it seems very "me." (And it looks much better in real life!)

As you'll notice, the walls are an intense blue/grey color, kind of like a sea-foam blue. At first I was little put-off by the color, and was going to promptly paint it a more respectable color, but the more I live in it, the more I like it. The particular paint choice contrasts the dark wood of the apartment really nicely, and has actually been working really well with my decorations and textiles as well. Much better than I expected. So I think I'll keep it... which will save a lot of man hours anyway.
I'll be stoked when there is no longer this pile of boxes in the corner:

I'm confident that it will be gone by the end of the week.
I'll just have to take care of it in-between starting graduate school and doing the thick pile of reading that I have to do (classes started today... exciting!) filing for unemployment, and applying for jobs. You see, I broke up with my job this last week over a scheduling snafu. Namely, they told me that I could either work there, or go to school, and not have both. I'm not going to go into the pain and trauma that this caused me... instead I'll mention how insane it is. My classes are twice a week at night, meaning that my schedule would have such a minimal change that no one would hardly even notice. But because of arbitrary rules, like only allowing schedule changes in June (?!) I had to choose a Master's degree that will sky-rocket my career or working at place with AWFUL employee relations and a sketchy administration. No offense, previous place of work, but seriously. At least I'm not mentioning the name of the company in this posting... that would just be in bad taste. So now I'm looking for new work, and feeling optimistic about the future. I'll honestly probably get paid significantly better, probably in a position that fits my qualifications better (aka supervisory) with the strong possibility of an administration that's easier to work with. I applied to seven jobs today! Go team Lauren!

Gripe of the hour:

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My iTunes plays much too much Christmas music for the Christmas-to-normal-music ratio that my library actually maintains. I wouldn't mind this in, say, November and December, but on this Labor Day it's kind of pissing me off. Because I don't happen to be filled with joy, and I don't like being taunted with Christmas joy when it's soooo far away. Bah humbug.

Freak-out of the hour:

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I'M STARTING GRADUATE SCHOOL TOMORROW! The funny thing about it is that I didn't even remember. Tracie* had to remind me. I've spent so much of the day stressing and freaking out about my recent unemployment that I completely forgot that tomorrow I'm starting classes! (Which happens to be the reason for my unemployment, ironically enough.) Thanks, Tracie, for reminding me that I'm starting classes tomorrow! :) I just have one class tomorrow at 5:00pm (real hard to accommodate, thanks ex-job) and then one class at 5:30pm on Wednesday. It'll be very exciting, I'm sure!!

*For those not in the loop, Tracie's my hetero-life-mate in Yuma, AZ who helps me keep track of my brain. Without her, I'd lose it forever.

A list of the random crap that makes me totally PSYCHED TO BE ALIVE right now!!

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In no particular order:
1. Ocean Spray's new powdered beverage that has the same amount of calories as Crystal Light, but comes in all of those delicious cranberry flavors. Especially White Cranberry Peach.
2. Cranberry bogs.
3. Massachusetts.
4. Sales and bargains!
5. Finding really decent furniture FOR FREE on Craig's list. I mean really, who wants to buy a dresser at IKEA when you can get a sturdier one FOR FREE!?!?
6. Classic rock on the way to work. Led Zeppelin, the Rolling Stones, etc.
7. The Lonely Island
8. Friends (the dope, down-a people, not the TV show. I don't have a TV! Ha!)
9. Hot tubs
10. Losing 7 pounds
11. Neon-colored nail polish
12. Starting graduate school in a month... ahh!!
13. My sister and one of my BFFs coming to visit... practically at the same time!
14. My nephew
15. Looking at the Boston skyline whenever I drive anywhere
Seriously, I could keep going... but I'm too psyched! I'm going to pump up the jams and get down with my bad self!

I'm an uncle!

5:23 PM Posted In , Edit This 3 Comments »
...or maybe an aunt, if we want to be technical.

But I think it's funny when people ask if you're an aunt or an uncle, in order to determine the gender of your sibling's child. Four days ago, on July 10th, the Palmers welcomed our newest member, Quentin John Palmer. He's the first grandchild of Brian and Lisa, the first son of Megan and Christopher, and the first nephew of yours truly. Both mom and baby are doing well. I have the luck of living 2.2 miles away from the new little tyke, so I've been spending a lot of time cooing over babycakes and taking pictures. Mostly for the sake of my family, but also for those who love babies, I'm posting some pictures here from Quentin's first day out of the womb. Poor guy, he seemed a lot more comfortable surrounded by amniotic fluid.

But as you can see, Quentin is perfect. He has all of his fingers, all of this toes, and all of his internal organs. Being that he was produced by cute parents, he's cute. I've had a tendency in my life to think that babies are ugly, that they look like little aliens with shriveled faces. Maybe I'm biased, but I'd say Quentin is a major stud. Lock up your daughters, America! Here he comes!

When I showed a friend a picture of "Q-doggy-dog" on my phone, she said "FINALLY! A cute baby!" If you were wondering who calls a 4 day-old white infant "Q-doggy-dog," that would be my brother, the baby's daddy. I just call him Scooter if I feel nick-namey. When we get crazy, singing him Snoop Dogg songs and saying "What up, little homie?" to him, baby's mama just smiles and wishes we would shut up. She did a great job birthing him, so we oblige. He is most definitely hers, anyway.

As excited as Megan is about having her uterus to herself, she's absolutely radiant with her son. I don't think anyone is as giddy with the babe in her arms than his Nonnie, the first-time grandmother herself. How beautiful and excited are these women? How cute is this freaking child?

It's amazing how much you can love something so immediately and instinctively. I have only an inkling of an idea of how much this kid's parents must love him, but holding his little body in my arms makes me feel very maternal. Men of Mormondom: take me to the temple! I will gestate!

Vehicles currently parked on my street:

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1 skateboard, 1 unicycle, 3 cars, and 11 bikes. Way to be energy-efficient, Bostonians. Way to be.

Fill in the blank:

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It isn't a true summer in Massachusetts without _______.

And I eat them like this:

Okay, maybe not. Yesterday I had the pleasure of visiting my Uncle Stan's Cape Farm, and he and Ms. Heidi fed me these delicious lobsters. I didn't eat all of them, just one. But look how yummy! Today, when I was at the aquarium with Dave Bennett and I saw this picture, I reminisced. And salivated.

The best letter I've ever received, transcribed for your enjoyment.

7:09 AM Posted In Edit This 7 Comments »
So Saturday was my birthday, and obvs I got some sweet stuff in the mail. My mom sent me some birthday $$$, my two sets of grandparents sent me the same card from two different states, and one of my little sisters sent me a sweet package with a card and a letter in it, among other things (like melted fun-sized chocolate, probably leftover from Halloween.) I know that she gets embarrassed sometimes when I blog about her, so I'm going to let you guess which one of my three sisters sent me this amazing letter. By transcribing it into a blog post, it loses some of its charm; she wrote it in three different colored pens. The punctuation is all in orange, the body of the letter is green, and the salutations are blue. This girl is amazing, as you're about to find out. I'm transcribing it exactly how it is, spelling, punctuation, etc. ENJOY! (P.S., it's necessary to know that this little lady isn't even in High School yet. That adds to the wow-factor of the letter.)

"Dear Lauren-
Happy Birthday!! I hope you are doing well in Boston and are making many friends (I have no doubt in my mind that you are alread immensly popular.) You always have had the funny gift of making such remarks and speaking so indirectly that it feels direct and pierce's one's being in to initial shock, which then is replaced with a quick assuredly to positive liking, and wanting of friendships. You pierce and treat them in such a way that they walk away feeling as though they've known you all their lives and you are a very close friend.
Anyway, as our dull, unfathumness lives continue, devoid of much drama right now (much to my weary relief) I will recount to you things you may or may not have heard. I will be focusing more on the little things because you most likely have heard of the big. To start from the back and move up, I will start that I was slightly pleased and shocked that you were indeed correct about me (I don't mean that offensively). During the last two days of school, which were dull without purpose and should have been cut out altogether in my opinion, we had an award cerimony. The award in which I had the pleasure of recieving was the "Writers with Style" award: which means that I am one of the top 7 best creative writers out of my whole grade. When you commented on my writing as, how you put it "eloquent", I did not believe you, but as it is, my teacher loved my writing. In fact, they even quoted a passage in one of my essay's! The essay was about how in the future the world will come to an end and bla bla bla I'm sure you don't care much about that. The Merill's are here, although unfourtunatly John is coming on Thursday, and Dad's leaving on Thursday! Oh well, I can be patient, and I must.
So, enough with the dull entrieties of our quiet (but it can't be quiet, because we live in California) life. Mother never tells me a whit about you, even when I ask earnestly and tenderly!! So tell me everything that's happened, spare no dirty detail pos favor. I'm longing to see my dear brother, sisters, and soon to be nephew along with the sweet air, and green of Boston!! Oh how I long for it!! But not this year anyway.
Now, in regards of framing the piece I sent you. It would be best if you consulted with Sister Gaz on a proper a good framing store. She told me once of one that does a superb job, but it has slipped my mind, and I fear that I did not soak, absorb, and ponder her ways as I should have, I had just always assumed that she would be there, a quite short car ride away. Please send my regards to her and everyone else. The page lines are against me and I do not want to go onto another page so I will end her, with the small demand that you HAVE to answer my questions somehow, if by email, phone, or letter! I care not.
Everyone sends their love!!"

This girl is fantastic. Don't you love all of the big words she's using, and spells them all wrong? You can't blame her, she's part of the spell-check dependent generation. Love her! No wonder she received the "Writers with Style" award! She even uses the Oxford comma, just like me! Happy My Birthday!

Time to get out the prune juice and metamucil...

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It's my Dad's birthday today!

Happy Birthday, Dad!
How does "old" feel?

remember that time...

5:32 PM Edit This 2 Comments »
...that I kvetched about bad spelling and punctuation? Today, while facebook chatting with someone and simultaneously reading another website, I accidentally wrote "their" instead of "they're." I immediately blushed, apologized, and self-loathed. Turns out I am still human, in case you were wondering.

Things that make me happy and things that make me sad, with bolded subtitles for easy skimming.

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Things that make me sad.

Bad spelling and punctuation
Or, worse yet, when I notice something that I've typed with bad spelling or punctuation. Like when I noticed that I pluralized something with an apostrophe before the 's.' Something in me dies when that happens.

Not acknowledging that autism exists
For example, this blurb about John Travolta's deceased son:
"In a new development, reports are coming in revealing that official documents concerning the death of John Travolta's young son, Jett, confirm that the boy suffered from autism.
In fact, the report has John himself using the terminology, which is against the beliefs of Scientology.
Within the religion, there are rules concerning the practice of medicine, particularly ailments that are considered psychiatric diagnoses, such as autism. Scientoligists believe that diseases such as this are "fake" and rather than seeking medical treatment, practitioners are advised to stick to a Scientological detoxification regime.
There is no word yet if there will be a backlash against the actor for acknowledging his son's autism, but as a high-profile Scientologist, it is bound to send a stir in the community."

At the last company that I worked for (in LA) we had a client whose parents thought that his autism was really just a demonic possession, and regularly had him exorcised. People, there's a reason your priest can't cure your son. No amount of holy water will reverse a neurobiological disorder.

'Nuf said. I went to the track this morning fully intending to run 10-12 laps, depending on my will power, and only made it to 5 because I felt a blister swelling with every thump of my right foot. Dear blister: 1.25 miles is not going to make me skinny. GO AWAY, YOU AREN'T WELCOME ON THE ARCH OF MY FOOT. Affectionately yours, Lauren Kay Palmer.

My boobs
Sorry to anyone who feels uncomfortable with this topic of blog-ersation, but really they're making me crazy enough to remark about them. Who thought it was okay to have 5XL boobs, and yet be a medium everywhere else? It makes buying clothes really difficult, and sports bras REALLY uncomfortable. Anyone want to surgically borrow some flesh from me?

Phew, that's over. Things that make me happy!

People watching
The way Brazilian women dress to go grocery shopping. The way I walk down two blocks in my neighborhood and hear five languages spoken. The way Bostonians dress as if they've earned the right to be shlumpy through their PhD's. Because here, ratty hooded sweatshirts and flip flops aren't just an outfit, they're a way of life.

The little things
Like, for example, buying new razor blades (such smooth legs!) and getting free shaving cream with them (thanks, CVS, even smoother!!)

My 3,000 year-old Chinese landlord, who speaks no English
Except for "pay car now" for parking, and "hellololo" for hello. I love how his face lights up whenever I say "hi" to him (and he says hellololo back) as if no one ever talks to the man. And somehow he's developed some crazy drug that makes roses grow to insane heights and widths. Good job, old man.

Because I can sleep in until 10am, sit on my bed with the windows open and listen to the trees rustle, and peruse the internet for hours at a time.

My mom
Happy Birthday!

Sheepishly giving in to the pressures of Pop music
and downloading songs that a person would hear on "JAM'N 94.5" or "KISS 108." I don't want people to know that I just downloaded that song featuring T-Pain, but when no one's looking I'm going to get down and boogie to it!

Photo Thievery

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I went ahead and stole this from facebook, mostly so that my mom could glance at it.

Four pictures from Anne Bennett's wedding reception.

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Unfortunately I didn't take more pictures... Anne looked amazing though!

My brother Christopher and his preggers wife Megan

Dave Bennett and Chase Kimball, brothers of the bride and groom

Megan and I

Mary-Lu Nelson, holding it down at the crêpe stand

Northeastern University!

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Guess who got into graduate school? 2 weeks from application to acceptance... pretty fast, eh?

Greetings from Boston... an e-postcard chock-full of pics!

8:25 AM Edit This 5 Comments »

My sentiments exactly! I've been back in the grand Commonwealth of Massachusetts for two weeks and three days now, and it's been mighty eventful. I started my new job shortly after I got here, MY CHURCH BURNED DOWN, etc. No trips to the hospital yet, but that's probably because I haven't unpacked my kitchen knives and my blender is MIA. I'll keep you posted. So even though I'm insanely busy, sometimes I get "bored" and I don't know what to do with myself. Usually, said boredom leads to napping or reading. Other times, it's effective enough to get my grad school applications finished and submitted (yay!) Today, boredom yields to blogging, and I think it was about time. For some reason or another, there are crazy people out in the blog-o-sphere who are interested in what I'm up to. So here's a brief glimpse at the crazy world of Lauren Kay Palmer, formerly of 756 Greenridge Dr., now of 20 Greylock Rd.

This is the house I live in. The landlord lives in the bottom, and we live on top. See the door on the far right-hand side? That's our door. Notice the three front-most of the top-story windows? Those are my bedroom windows. That's right, my room spans the whole length of the house. Because I'm gangsta like that. If you couldn't tell from that last picture, the house is painted toothpaste green: and is accented in bright yellow (doors, light fixtures, mail boxes. I don't think you can see the bright yellow in that picture.) It isn't the Taj Mahal, but I'm already feeling attached to my gigantic bedroom and my proximity to everything hip, or "the student ghetto" as some of my friends lovingly refer to it. Dying to see my bedroom? Oh, alright, fine. Here's a picture of half of it (because I had to stand in the other half to take the picture, duh!): and yes, I do actually consistently make my bed, except usually not on the mornings after I've been strangled or otherwise assaulted at work. I'm really tired those mornings. So it's pretty huge, this bedroom! The picture only shows half of it, but the other half isn't special, so I didn't take two pictures. The bedroom being phenomenal makes up for other short-comings in the apartment, like the fact that the only communal living space is the kitchen because the living room is a walk-through bedroom now, or the oven situation. I won't gripe, even though I love to cook and find an oven essential. Instead, I'll just show this picture, which is worth 1,000 words:

That's right, no numbers on that dial. And I'm not very astute at sensing temperature to the degree yet. I may just develop that talent though.
Another downfall (probably literally, at some point)? The stairs.
Some people, especially my family, my dentist, and the kids of my 5th grade class, know that I don't do stairs. Yes, the rug smells as bad as it looks, and yes, I fear for my life whenever I walk down them. I'm just that clumsy.
I don't think I have much more to say about the fast times I'm having in Allston, so I'll just leave you with one more picture, the poster on my front door, which classifies it as an establishment (yes, I live in an establishment.) More fun to come!


Houston, we have a problem.

8:41 PM Posted In , , , Edit This 3 Comments »
People, we have a problem. The problem that we speak of regards one of my sisters, and her egregious lack of historical knowledge despite a public education. I'm still nauseous from this conversation:

Both of us- Blah blah blah gasoline crisis in history, blah blah blah.
Her- "they happened during Nixon"
Me- "oh, I thought there were rationings during WWII. maybe there were gas rations during WWII and then a gas crisis during Nixon" (I don't know much about gas crises, so since she was telling me the story, I gave her the benefit of the doubt)
Her- "yeah, they're the same thing Lauren... while Nixon was pulling the troops out of WWII"
Me- "WWII was during the 40's, sis"
Her- "Yeah, and Nixon pulled out the troops from WWII"
Me- "No, Nixon was like the 60's and 70's"
Her- "Oh, uh..."
Me- "Are you thinking Vietnam war? Because Vietnam isn't WWII. Please tell me you weren't thinking Vietnam was WWII (!)"
Her (cautiously backpedaling)- "No, because WWII is Korea..."
Me- "Holy Crap"


Me- "No honey, WWII is Hitler and Germany, and the 40's. Holy Crap, are you serious?"
Her- "ehhhhhh they don't teach me anything"
Me- "I don't care what they do or don't teach you in school, there's no excuse for you not to know that WWII = Hitler and Europe and the Holocaust. Oh. My. Gosh. H-o-l-y C-r-a-p"
Her- More whining
Her- Slams doors.

This really just happened to me. In America. In an affluent suburb. Please someone, if you can foresee more of this in the future, please come to my home and shoot me. In fact, I'll have Rosie the Riveter over, and she'll want to be shot too. WHAT HAPPENED TO AMERICA?

Why I drink Diet Coke...

2:05 PM Posted In Edit This 6 Comments »
...and not Diet Pepsi:

Okay fine, it's actually because Diet Coke is more savory and Diet Pepsi is more sweet. But this cartoon makes me chuckle.

Hasta la vista, Los Angeles

10:11 PM Posted In , , , , Edit This 5 Comments »
"The time has come," the walrus said, "to talk of many things."

That line from a Lewis Carroll poem just popped into my head, but it's strangely applicable to what I've been thinking about lately. First and foremost, it's set at the sea. Even though I live in a place that most people associate with the beach, I don't. I've only hit the beach a handful of times since I've been here... as far as that goes, I associate Los Angeles with highways and chaparral-covered hills. I am more apt to associate Massachusetts with the ocean, and I've had it on my mind a lot, because... I'm moving back to Boston!

I don't think that it's a secret that I haven't been a fan of Los Angeles. To avoid offending the few Angelenos that I'm friends with, I'll just say that it's not my scene. That tends to satisfy inquiring minds. I'm an East-coast girl through-and-through, and while I've only ever lived for extended periods of time in London, Utah, Boston, and California, I know for a surety that SoCal is not the place for me. A few more stanzas from the poem mirror my sentiments quite well:
The Walrus and the Carpenter
Were walking close at hand;
They wept like anything to see
Such quantities of sand:
"If this were only cleared away,"
They said, "it would be grand!"

"If seven maids with seven mops
Swept it for half a year.
Do you suppose," the Walrus said,
"That they could get it clear?"
"I doubt it," said the Carpenter,
And shed a bitter tear.
There are a lot of great things about Los Angeles, some of which I don't appreciate. Some of the things that I hate the most about LA are other peoples' favorite aspects of the place. Like the Walrus and the Carpenter, I would love to sweep away those parts of LA life, but they're what gives LA its flavor, and are so intrinsic that they couldn't be removed anyway. I'll just say that Los Angeles will forever be a fun vacation spot, but I will never move back.
I am absolutely thrilled to move back to Boston! I gave my two-weeks notice today at work, so I'm done with all of my commitments here by May 1st, then I make the trek across country before starting my new job on May 11th. It's going to be a hectic two weeks, trying to get everything I own packed up and across country in a time- and cost-efficient manner, saying good bye to family and friends, etc., but it's worth it! I have dozens of friends in the Boston area that I'm still in touch with, my brother Christopher and his wife Megan live in Cambridge, and my Uncle Stan just moved to Cape Cod this week. It's meant to be! I'm going to continue working with children diagnosed with autism and other developmental disabilities at a school in Natick (with 7 weeks of paid vacation,) and hopefully my campaign for admission to graduate school in the area is successful. It's the start of a new, exciting chapter in my life, and I can't wait!

In case you happen to be curious about what kinds of things I have on my extensive "To Do" list, here's a taste:
-Finish up the quarterly progress reports for my clients
-Return the 10+ binders and manuals to work
-Pack up my entire life
-Ship items that won't fit in my car, probably on Amtrak
-Find someone to drive across country with me
-Find housing in Boston
-Make a budget (I have to pay for rent and food now, yikes!)
-Get tickets to Red Sox games
-Be nice to my family for the next two weeks (Caroline told me today in a fit of rage that she couldn't wait for me to leave.)

Let me know if you have any helpful suggestions for how to accomplish these daunting tasks, or if you want to help!

Jack of all trades

8:52 AM Posted In , Edit This 6 Comments »
We all know people who are amazing at EVERYTHING they do. You may even be one of those people, but might not openly admit it because you've also mastered the art of humility. I've been 'blessed' to be surrounded by a lot of truly awe-inspiring people, though maybe sometimes it feels more like a curse, and I know how it feels to not measure up. To be seemingly eclipsed by that grandeur. I'll offer an anonymous example: a student accepted to the Ivy League, but decided to go to BYU for financial and religious reasons (quality #1: level-head.) Quality #2: good artist, #3: good musician and in one of BYU's more advanced orchestras, #4: straight-A student in a difficult major, #5: phenomenal athlete, etc. I could probably think of even more intimidating 'Jacks,' but there's no point. We all know them. Maybe we call them by a different name, 'Domestic Goddess,' 'Renaissance Man,' even 'Mormon Diva.' But today, I'm focusing on a different breed of 'Jacks,' those of us whose lives are defined by mediocrity.
Being surrounded by amazing people, I've often looked at myself and seen how I don't compare. I'm pretty good at several things, but I'm not amazing at anything. The fate of being a 'Jack of all trades, master of none' seemed to loom around every corner. I felt like Jack and Jill, who made it up the hill, but didn't have much to show for it. That is, of course, until the Elephant came along. Here's the story of Elephant-butt:
My sister-in-law is pregnant. In the quest to be the favorite aunt (I'm getting a head start,) I've started nesting. I have all of these plans, and one of them was to make a stuffed animal for the fetus. I was a little intimidated by the project, because I haven't done nearly the amount of sewing and such as some of my family members. But I tucked my inadequacies in and shlepped over to Joann. I asked timidly, "do you guys have patterns to make, uh, stuffed animals?" I probably looked pretty dumb, but hey, I got the pattern, I bought some sweet fabric, and I got to work. I wanted to make at least one practice elephant before I made the fetus' to ensure a high-quality product, so that's why this one is pretty feminine-looking. Caroline has announced that she wants it, so I just have to sew on some eye-balls and it's good to go! It came to be named Elephant-butt, don't ask...

So, I could pretend that I shared this experience to give hope to those who feel like they're 'Jacks of all trades, masters of none.' I could pretend that the point is to motivate, to let you all know that if you keep trying, someday you might find something to be proud of. But no, I'm just bragging about my success. So who needs an elephant?

Vaccinations and Autism

7:58 AM Posted In , Edit This 0 Comments »
A lot of people ask me what I think about vaccinations and autism (since I work in the field...) and usually I assure them that I'm a Behaviorist, that I can analyze and shape a kid's behavior, but I don't know a thing about Chemistry and Neurology and if giving someone a shot can cook their brains better than scrambled eggs.
Working in the field and listening to a lot of frantic moms, I went through a brief phase of feeling like I wasn't going to vaccinate my children. Then one event changed my mind. It's going to sound totally tacky and weird... get ready... I was watching the HBO series "John Adams" with Paul Giamatti and Laura Linney, and there's an episode where John's away doing something that politicians do, leaving Abigail alone with the kids during a smallpox outbreak. So, strong-willed Abigail calls up the doctor and strong-arms him into vaccinating her family against smallpox- a procedure which at the time was highly controversial. The scene was pretty gross, with the doctor scraping this oozing puss... I'll stop there. Abigail effectively saved her family. What touched me about that scene was how brave Abigail had to be to do something that scared her so badly, but that ended up saving her family. And we have the luxury of doing that for every person in our country, with years of experience and science to understand how and why it works.
This morning I was reading a blog that I really enjoy (dooce - go there and scroll down to the Vaccination post) and my views are almost perfectly reflected by the author's views. I'm going to vaccinate my children, though maybe I'll space the shots out a little more so that they aren't getting 5 immunizations in one visit. But I'm going to do it, so that my kids don't get yellow fever in Africa and kill half of the Elementary school. Oh, and vaccinations don't cause autism.

Help me!

9:59 AM Posted In Edit This 4 Comments »
Who wants to write my grad school application essays for me? They're HARD! And I'm not used to writing anything that isn't data-based anymore! Help!

An Armenian Tale, Chapter One: The People

6:55 PM Posted In , Edit This 4 Comments »
It’s a tad facetious to think that someone as unqualified as myself could summarize an entire culture/people in a few paragraphs on an amateur blog. I’m not pretending to do that... I only took two anthropology courses in college. All of the information to follow is a matter of observation and opinion: don’t hold it against me.
If I were to sum up the people of Armenia in three adjectives, they would be: proud, resilient, and generous. Pride often has negative connotations in religious America- we have the handicap of the English language, which only has one word for pride, be it good or bad. If I were writing in French, the word I would use would be “fierté”. That is righetous pride- pride in family, civic pride, pride for your accomplishments, etc. For example, I have “fierté” that I took some pretty decent pictures when I was 15, so I am not embarrassed to include them here. The Armenians have raging pride in their country and their church: when you step into someone’s home, they immediately search for your Armenian heritage. You don’t have any? No problem, they’ll make you an honorary Armenian. They’ll say “oh, but you have a prominent nose, you must be Armenian.” (I almost got offended at that one) “You speak with such a good accent, you must be Armenian.” “You are such a good person, you must be Armenian.” And so you become Armenian. Some anecdotal evidence: when my brother was a missionary in Armenia from 2002-2004, he was in the home of a family with young children. (Side note: my brother is even blonder than I am.) One of the little girls in the family offered to cut her hair to make my brother a wig, so he could look more like them. Because to them, he is Armenian. A fluid sense of ethnicity helps the matter for us blondies that want to integrate: Armenia was formerly occupied by the Soviet Union, which sent lots of Armenians to Russia, and invited some Russians in. Furthermore the borders of modern-day Armenia are a fraction of what they once were, so ethnic Armenians live throughout the Caucasus region. Not to mention, there are more Armenians living outside of Armenia than there are within its borders.
This pride is a symptom of another characteristic: resilience. The Armenians have been kicked around for centuries. Have you ever heard an old Jewish lady talk about the woes of the Jews? That tirade was nothing compared to what an old Armenian could go on. And rightfully so: Armenia’s Mt. Ararat (now within the borders of Turkey) is traditionally where Noah’s Ark landed at the end of the flood. Armenians are very proud of this history, but can’t just go over and hike this holy mount. Turkey-Armenian relations, for those of you who have been living under a rock, are volatile. Armenia was the very first country in the world to accept Christianity as its official state religion. Christianity has flourished, but between the Pagan invasions and Soviet scorn of religion, the Armenian people had to practice in secret. No matter, Armenian Orthodoxy has survived all of that. There is no wonder that Armenia is the land of many churches... that’s what you see. Everywhere. Carved into mountains sometimes. Literally carved into stone. It’s amazing, and a testament to the ability of Armenian people to flourish under oppression. Take that, Stalin!
I saw a lot of day-to-day resilience too, just in my simple interactions with regular people. Armenia, though once a beacon of scholasticism, has an incredible unemployment rate. When I was there, it was at 74%. We complain during the worst recession since the Great Depression that our unemployment rate is high, but it’s less than 10%. I wonder what the recession is doing to Armenia. People don’t let it discourage them that they can’t get jobs: they go to school, get their PhDs, and do what they can for their country. Teachers in Armenia have a monthly salary of $10, and they rarely get paid. But kids don’t sit at home and do nothing, they still get an education, and they still fight to improve their country. I knew a teacher who went to school and taught every day, but hadn’t been paid in months. Of course poverty is obvious on the streets, with people living in squalor and hoards of children running loose. A rich person in Armenia has running water 24 hours a day. My brother knows much more about the economy of Armenia, as he did research there as part of his Undergraduate Honors thesis. You can get in touch with him for more on that.
Even in the face of unemployment and poverty, I have never been among a more generous group of people. I was regularly forced to eat fresh vegetables and succulent pastries until I was past the point of nausea, even though I had no way of knowing if the family would be eating for the rest of the week. And the food is gooooood. Once, I was writing in my journal at midnight after a long day, assuming everyone was in bed already: “Zara’s mom just ran in very cutely and handed me a plate with 4 apple slices and 4 apricots... it was so cute and kind... how could I say no? I ate all of the apples, which are perishable, and 2 apricots to be polite... AH! She just brought me cake too!!” We were constantly showing up in villages where hundreds of people would be there to greet us, thrilled to see strange faces. We visited a small mountain village, and someone let slip that it was my birthday. I had dozens of roses from strangers by the end of the day, and no idea what to do with them all. They were beautiful.
So, here are some pictures of Armenian people, accompanied by journal entries describing them:
“We again went into the oven to watch the preparation of the lavash, where Joanne got to make one and was absolutely pleased as peaches. I also got to make a cake or two of the kind that we had at Aghod... ohh they’re so good.” (Traditional Armenian ovens are kind of like Indian tandoors.)

“Another melancholy stop was the deaf school. Miss Karine translated for the principal as he told us all about their school, and how the children come from as far away as Georgia because it’s the only deaf school around. He took us to their sewing classes and their art classes and showed us the students’ work. It was really quite miraculous to see deaf children learning such life lessons from a school that just replaced lip-reading with signing two years ago.”

“A whole bunch of adorable village girls swarmed around us (including three little girls who I referred to as my fan club, for they followed me around waving and blowing kisses for hours) ...”

“Old ladies, I think, were created to bargain. Short, stopped, wrinkled, mangled, toothless, and absolutely brutal. They are absolutely relentless and so hard to haggle with! One would think, what can they do, gum me to death? But oh geez... it’s indescribable. Thus I never get my mother’s tablecloth at Vernisazh market, but I did get two bracelets for myself (from male vendors: pushovers really.)”

“Eventually we got to take showers in the public showers, one U.S. dollar per hour split to 4 people, and it was beautiful to lose all of the grime. Afterwards Will and I played street soccer with the neighborhood boys, who were absolutely nasty! They were so good.”

Finally, a quote that I came across when cleaning my desk, and for some reason didn't throw away (now I know why...): "I should like to see any power in this world destroy this race, this small tribe of unimportant people, whose history is ended, whose wars have been fought and lost, whose structures have crumbled, whose literature is unread, whose music is unheard and whose prayers are no more answered. Go ahead, destroy Armenia, see if you can do it. Send them from their homes into the desert, let them have neither bread nor water. Burn their homes and churches. Then, see if they will not laugh again, see if they will not sing and pray again. For, when two of them meet anywhere in the world, see if they will not create a new Armenia." -- William Saroyan

The MoTab Expands

12:29 PM Posted In , , , Edit This 3 Comments »
...as does the list of celebrities that I am personally acquainted with. This just in from the Newsroom: "The Mormon Tabernacle Choir announced today that Ryan T. Murphy has been named associate music director. Murphy will assume the associate music director position formerly occupied by Mack J. Wilberg, who was appointed music director in March 2008." (You can find the full article here) Ryan "T-bone" Murphy was my piano teacher for a brief stint in 2003-2004, when I decided to take lessons back up after a brief hiatus. Piano is a love-hate relationship in our family... my previous teacher had required an hour and a half a day of practicing. Do the math? That's over 10 hours a week. Add to that puberty and an active social life, and there were blow-ups all the time at my house over the clavier. My mom had a rule that when we started High School we could choose to quit piano, and I did it without blinking an eye. By senior year, however, I missed lessons which forced me to practice and improve, so we asked the new guy in town to be my teacher (and Caroline's too... I think our old teacher may have been pregnant?)
Ryan was an awesome piano teacher. He was really good natured, and very relaxed. I didn't work as hard for him as I had for Cara, probably because I wasn't afraid of him, but I really enjoyed taking lessons from him. Ryan's also incredibly talented at the piano and the organ. My dad and I had the privilege of a daddy-daughter date to see him play the organ with the Boston Symphony Orchestra. That's dope.
Back to Ryan being good-natured: my sister Caroline is "full of life" and "a spitfire." At least that's how adults describe her vivacity. So Caroline also took piano lessons from Ryan, and she would have been 8 at the time. Well, as many piano teachers do, we had these notebooks that would have all of our assignments for the week written in them. Caroline, for some reason, decided to make her notebook a correspondence log, and would write Ryan little notes that he would find before her lessons began the next week. Here's the first (and probably funniest) of the serious of hate-mail Caroline wrote to Ryan:

Basically, Caroline had the same love-hate relationship with piano that the rest of us did, and tried to enlist Ryan's help in getting out of it. "I want you to tell my mom that I should stop playing peano!" After some increasingly violent scribbles in the book, (including Caroline actually writing "I hate you" over and over again in circles on one page) my mom let Caroline off the hook. She just couldn't take it anymore... she was so embarrassed when Ryan showed her the notes in the book! But the rest of us loved it, including our good-natured teacher. Congratulations, Mormon Tabernacle Choir... you've picked a winner! Good luck Ryan!

An Armenian Tale

12:20 PM Posted In , , Edit This 1 Comment »
My favorite thing to do is travel. My second favorite thing to do is relish in my travels... look at photographs, chat about cultural experiences, and generally brag. I really like maps with the pins in them for that reason. Much to my chagrin, however, I haven't been able to leave the country since my London Study Abroad in 2006. I know I shouldn't complain about that... but I do. Luckily, (and definitely not by chance) my friend Laura was called to serve a mission for our church for 18 months in Armenia. I spent 3 weeks in Armenia in 2002, and so now I get the chance to reminisce, with the excuse that I'm educating Laura about her future home.
The time that I spent in Armenia has meant the world to me. I learned a lot about the world, humanity, and myself in the short time that I was there. I also learned about the way God works when my brother was assigned to serve a mission for our church there in 2004. It seems like it must be pretty common to go on these missionary excursions to Armenia if I know two people now to do it, but to give you an idea: .5% of all missionaries assigned per year go to Armenia. That's right, one-half of 1%. It's one of the smallest missions in the world. And when the church assigned my brother to go there, they had no way of knowing our family's connection already. I will never be able to deny the hand of God in that.
So why the heck was I in Armenia as a 16 year-old? Well, it turns out that one of the cities with the most concentrated Armenian Diasporas in the world is Boston. Growing up, I thought that everyone was Irish Catholic or Roman Catholic, and knew at least three Armenian kids. Boston is a funny place. So a large group of these Armenians in Boston set up a sister-city gig with Yerevan, the capital of Armenia. And the Cambridge-Yerevan Sister Cities Association (CYSCA... don't laugh if you speak Russian, it was an accident) was born. CYSCA is involved in education, outreach, relief efforts, etcetera, and they came to school and made the call for hosts for Armenian exchange students, as well as the opportunity to be an exchange student. Being culturally aware even at such a young age, I eagerly signed up. Our efforts were funded jointly through the State Department, and we were given the aim to promote "Democracy and a Civil Society" through our efforts with our Armenian counterparts. This little program was deemed so important by the State Department that they funded the Armenian students' entire trip to the U.S., and gave them each a computer for their schools. They also funded half of our trips. There were about 30 students in all, I believe: 15 American and 15 Armenian. This was no small endeavor. (Here's a link to the CIA World Factbook information on Armenia.)
Having the students in our home was fascinating. We weren't allowed to take them to normal malls (in Boston, the Burlington mall was forbidden, and Chestnut Hill would have been punishable by death) for fear of extreme culture shock. They came to school with us, lived with our families, and did some fun excursions of their own. My exchange student, Zara Tepelikyan, was very shy at first, but eventually opened up, showing us her sweet, fun personality. I could share a lot about their trip to the United States, but I'd rather focus on the outbound side of the journey, in the name of educating Laura (and her friends and family) and generally bragging about how awesome my life has been.
This has been a very long prologue to my Armenian Tale, and has taken much longer than I expected. So instead of continuing on with Chapter One right now, I'm going to sign off and give y'all a break, transcribe old journal entries, and scan my old negatives from 2002 and make some pretty pictures for the next post. Stay tuned!