Busted Foglights & Foster Dogs – Scott Oslin in Focus

What do I do outside of TAD?

This is one of those biographical take-stock-of-the-backroom type of assignments. I spend so much time managing the front end of ‘Scott Oslin Writes and Plays Video Games and Walks His Dog Sometimes’ LLC that I don’t think much about what happens when no one’s looking. I’m more of a motivated by the prompt kind of writer, less of a self-directed one; except when I’m on a bus. I have a lot of poems about people on busses. Continue reading Busted Foglights & Foster Dogs – Scott Oslin in Focus

The Life and Times of Natalie Miller

I am a young TADpole with very little experience of life inside of the office. My existence outside of the TAD-osphere, however, is busy and often ridiculous.

I write for The Breeze, so regularly attending meetings and conducting interviews always fill my schedule. This can be hectic, but I love the energy and excitement of a new assignment. The greatest part about writing articles is meeting passionate people and learning about new Harrisonburg-area happenings. Having backstage access to people’s lives and speaking with them about what drives their souls keeps every story new and fresh in my mind.

Writing inhabits a great part of my being—often it’s impossible to decipher the words from myself or be sure of who is creating whom. Sometimes I like to shock my brain and do other things with my life, too. I tutor a middle school-aged Puerto Rican girl twice a week. Gabriela and her family are beautiful humans. The De Jesus-Martinez family treats me like a Hermana and always offers me Oreos and hugs when I visit.

“Foreign” things fascinate me beyond what can probably be considered a healthy interest. Any and everything new and exciting renders me helpless to its novel beauty. I love learning new languages for fun, and have made my own German and Spanish vocabulary notebooks. Before college I studied French for five (unsuccessful) years and have taken four semesters of Italian at JMU. I just love words. I don’t even have to know what they mean; I just like admiring them and listening to their sounds.

Often I need non-wordy time, too. Adventure is the momentum that keeps my body moving forward. I like to take walks alone or go for quiet drives in the country. Some days I disappear for hours, getting lost on roads or in my head. I’m an incredibly introverted being and require personal space to remain sane. At night I love star gazing and emptying my head of everything but their glittering eyes.

Another one of my oddly favorite things to do is sit quietly in pretty places. My head is always so full of thinks and commitments that I need an escape every now and again. Getting in my car with a journal and some books to find a nice secluded area for listening to music and doodling is a small reward for behaving well in normal society.

Contrary to previously confessed habits, I’m not a complete loner. I love hanging out with my friends and getting into shenanigans. My friends are incredible humans because they’re always up for anything and have amazing, bizarre ideas. Sometimes we like to listen to music while making collages and chomping on messy popcorn balls. Sometimes we go out and come home with stop signs and new buddies. Regardless, every day is an awesome adventure and I’m always excited to wake up and see what kinds of trouble comes my way.

Basically, I’m a mess of a person, but I wouldn’t want to live any other way. I’m down for just about anything and like being in the company of  humans who share the same sentiment. I enjoy getting into crazy situations, or laying in a field with solitude for miles.  This old soul finds TAD to be a wonderful new environment to explore and develop into a true writer.

Life Outside the Office

What do I do outside of TAD?

Well, I could go a couple routes here. I could tell you that I’m extremely passionate about sexual assault and intimate partner violence advocacy, and that a majority of my time is spent working on that. Or, because less of my time is spent on leisure activities, I could focus on those, since those parts of me don’t get as much airtime. Or I could talk about how much I love writing…but that must be obvious right?

So here’s a (by no means complete) list of stuff and things you’re likely to find me doing during my down time:

  1. Cat’s Cradle. ‘Nough said? It’s a short walk from my apartment, offers unlimited fuzzy friends, and it’s free. This is often a great stress reliever, though sometimes the occasional grumpy cat with twitchy claws makes me a little too nervous.
  2. Hanging out at the Artful Dodger. Their Pot O’ Tots (a literal terra cotta pot of tater tots) is one of the main attractions, but otherwise I go for the drag shows, salsa night, or to enjoy the relaxed atmosphere with a good Mocha. How very hipster, right? In actuality it seems to be one of the most queer-friendly place in the burg, so it has a little piece of my heart.
  3. Baking! The TAD friends who knew me before my life became way too busy know I used to occasionally bring homemade treats into the office. Fun fact: I have a whisk tattooed on my wrist because I’m that much of a hardcore baker. My next kitchen adventure will entail making homemade marshmallows.
  4. I do have a few, so sometimes we will do the things friends do, like going on impromptu runs for Ben & Jerry’s at 11 o’clock at night; or when we’re feeling really adventurous, we cook dinner for each other (no boxed macaroni allowed). Our latest and greatest escapade involved a mediocre bottle of Reisling and homemade pizza—it was great.
  5. Living out my old lady alter ego, Myrtle, by sequestering myself to bed with a book, ODESZA Pandora, and (if it’s an ideal day) a surplus of the bulk red licorice wheels from Martins.
  6. Crafting is probably one of my most favorite and treasured leisure activities. DIY is probably also my favorite acronym. I specialize in making bow ties and cards, but my craftiness has no discrimination, so nothing if off limits.

I like to pretend that this list indicates a rather full and cultured life, but in reality more often than not, you will find me on my couch with my partner watching whatever Netflix show is our new obsession. Right now, The Good Wife is seriously dominating my time in a way that could be described as problematic…but nonetheless I would highly recommend it (though it’s only available on Hulu, so start that 30 day free trial ASAP). I would also like to say that I recognize that the majority of the above items involve food. This is very telling.

I think a great conclusion to this piece is the famous Annie Dillard quote, “Follow your own weirdness.” While she was referencing writing, I think it’s still applicable to daily life. Students don’t often get a lot of time be still or indulge in their favorite, often weird (read old lady alter ego) pastimes outside of school and work. So my advice to you is to embrace the tiny moments in life where you have even just a half an hour to be your bizarre, genuine self. Enjoy!

Behind the Scenes

You might find it hard to believe, but I, along with my fellow writer companions at TAD, do more than just write eloquent blog posts and cover the many events and news that occur within University Unions.  Like Nelly Furtado said, “[we’re] not a one-trick pony.” We each have separate lives outside of TAD that are wrought with adventures and hobbies and passions that we are just dying to share! So, our blog posts for the month of February will be like a literary MTV Cribs; we’re inviting you inside our lives to check out where the real magic happens!

So what am I up to when I’m not prancing around TAD’s lovely new home at Taylor 205?

One of my biggest time-occupiers is being the Big Events Coordinator for WXJM, JMU’s only student-run radio station. Along with my Big Events sisters Kea and Marley, I plan and book concerts downtown on behalf of the radio station. One of our biggest challenges this year will be planning the radio station’s 25th Anniversary event. Contract negotiation, nailing down venues, and communicating with band managers and agents can be a bit demanding, but little things, like having the band sleep at your house at the end of the night, make it all worthwhile. I never imagined that I’d be showing some of my favorite YouTube videos to one of my favorite bands (Tonstartssbandht) in my own living room while dipping foot-long Jimmy John’s sub rolls into olive oil and pepper—but I did! On top of that, my other radio responsibility is my actual show: a weekly, freeform two hour slot on Saturdays which I informally named Big Pants Beluga last semester. What makes all of the work worth it? My obsession with devouring as much music I can swallow—that, and my desire to promote and support underrepresented music.

Aside from that, I spend the rest of my time quite informally. On any given day before 12PM, you can find me scribbling m morning aggressions (I am NOT a morning person, but writing it out always helps) and bizarre-o dreams from the night before in my moleskin before I head out for the day. Also true to English major form, I am obsessed with reading. I’m currently knee deep in Federico Garcia Lorca’s esteemed play “Bodas de Sangre.” When I’m not consuming information through written word, I am probably sprawled out on a couch somewhere absorbed in my latest TV show; I’m currently on the last seasons of Mad Men and The Sopranos. And when I’m not absorbing any of the media previously mentioned, it’s probably because I have the money to actually do something which, if I can swing it, will always be cooking. If I can’t create using words, trying a new recipe on friends and family is always my next choice.

Stay tuned for more blog posts detailing the intimate lives of our writing team throughout the month!

20 Reasons Why Winter Break is the Best and the Worst

Why it’s the Best:

  1. No homework! Finals are over and you’re at peace with the fact that cramming may not result in the most impressive of grades. But it’s over, right?
  2. Upon staying with your parents (or other family members) for a month, you revert back to the helpless state of a middle schooler and allow them to make you PB & J’s and wash your clothes.
  3. The potential for taking up the old hobbies you’ve neglected like skateboarding, close up magic, or cooking is endless.
  4. Netflix. All the time.
  5. All the food, just a short walk to the kitchen away.
  6. All of the best holiday movies are on repeat.
  7. Staying up late, and sleeping in late. That is, if college hasn’t ruined your ability to sleep past 8 am.
  8. You start to remember what it’s like to live a life free of stress, sleep deprivation, and too much campus food.
  9. You finally get to return those pesky textbooks that have been weighing down your backpack and, consequently, your spine.
  10. You can finally drive somewhere without worry of getting a ticket for being in the wrong lot. You can also ditch the constant worry of finding a parking spot, or deciphering the bus schedule. Cherish it.

Why it’s the Worst:

  1. You find yourself stranded in your old room, potentially still decorated with outdated pictures of yourself sporting either bleached blonde hair or wearing a choker.
  2. Frozen reruns dominate TV.
  3. The chore of wrangling those last minute classes, and the hysteria that ensues when they remain closed. All. Break.
  4. The inevitable small talk you must engage in with family members, neighbors, friends, or the mailman feels endless. (“So what are your plans after graduation?”)
  5. Chores, am I right? The driveway isn’t going to shovel itself!
  6. Accepting that you forgot (insert important item here) in your dorm and that you won’t see it again for a month.
  7. Packing to go home, packing to visit family, packing to come back to JMU; not to mention the eventual disarray your suitcase will end up in as it gets messier and harder to close every time.
  8. The separation from your JMU friends feels like an ill-timed breakup.
  9. You run into people from high school while at home and remember that some social interactions are still, and always will be, awkward.
  10. You neglect your email all break and come back to find you have 100 emails. The overwhelmed feeling that results is all too familiar.

The above section of this post was meant to be funny, but its larger purpose was to provide a platform to briefly shed light on an issue that often remains shaded. While most of us can relate to many of the above statements, some students may be facing a winter break in which they can’t go home for any number of reasons. Others may be facing a break with limited resources such at food, shelter, or warm clothing. Should you find yourself in one of these positions, consider the following: seeking out locals who need pet sitting or house sitting services, short term subletting, or staying with friends. For help with resources, head over to this site. And lastly, if transportation is your issue, make use of carpooling as a way to get home! Check out your options at JMU here.

What Harrisonburg Sounds Like to Me

What would your answer be if someone were to ask what music means to you? It’s one of those questions that can be tantalizing and frustrating, not because of our lack of a response, but because it’s sometimes difficult to put such an intangibility into words that do it justice. Music has the amazing ability to make us smile, laugh, cry, and even write about it in a long list of clichés. For me, music has played a huge role in preserving memories and even defining periods of my life. Hanson will always remind me of the first time I bought a cassette (I know. Laugh it up), the Smashing Pumpkins bring vivid recollections of my first girlfriend, and Rage Against the Machine will forever be tied to the day I realized a white, affluent pre-teen from the suburbs could raise his middle finger to the government. Now as I get ready to leave college and reluctantly watch another milestone of my life fade into the distance, I’ve thought a lot about the ways music has made a difference these past few years and how it will resonate with me in the future.

When I came to JMU two years ago as a transfer student living off-campus, the change in scenery was intimidating. Adapting to a new school and friends was something I had all but forgotten how to do. During this time, music played a crucial role in the process by helping me connect with those around me to establish meaningful relationships. The first day I met my new roommate Michael, it was easy to overcome social barriers because of our shared interests. Even if the conversation was something as simple as discussing what the best Weezer album is (Pinkerton of course), it provided us a relaxed topic through which we could easily connect.

As my time at JMU progressed, I continued to use music as a means of extroversion. After only about a month, my good friend Nate and I had our own radio show through WXJM. Airing during the primetime slot of Saturdays at 12 am, this outlet provided the incredible opportunity to share something that was so important to us with a wide (probably like 6 people) audience. Between WXJM and other chance encounters, music has proved to be a binding aspect of building the relationships that I still value to this day.

Whether bands were playing soundtrack to the good or the bad, they helped make these past two years become the unique and special times that they were. During my first month at school, The National’s brooding lyrics and soft piano melodies accompanied me perfectly. I will never forget listening to the new Vampire Weekend album while walking home to Stonegate, or watching my friend stand on his porch with a beer in hand, loudly singing Whitney Houston to anyone who cared to listen.

When I finally head home after two fantastic years here at JMU, my life will change drastically, but like always, music will remain a constant. It will be there to help me re-connect with the old friends that I’ve been apart from, as well as remember the ones I’m leaving behind. As I said at the beginning of this post, however important music is to us, sometimes it simply defies description. In an effort to try and share these feelings in the most direct way possible, I have put together a short playlist of the songs that define my time here in Harrisonburg. Whether you love them or hate them, it is my hope that at least one of these songs will resonate with you the way they did with me, and perhaps even become an important part of your life.

Eric’s Definitive Harrisonburg Playlist

Brainy – The National

Movie Star – Swearin’

Amenamy – Purity Ring

Everything Goes My Way – Metronomy

Klapp Klapp – Little Dragon

Genesis – Grimes

Every Single Night – Fiona Apple

Lodi – Creedence Clearwater Revival

The Mother We Share – CHVRCHES

Made-Up Dreams – Built To Spill

Breezeblocks – Alt J

T.S.R – Against Me!

Someone Great – LCD Soundsystem

The Drying Of The Lawns – The Tallest Man on Earth

Custom Concern – Modest Mouse

Pusha Man – Chance The Rapper

I Wanna Dance With Somebody – Whitney Houston

Money Trees – Kendrick Lamar

Obvious Bicycle – Vampire Weekend

Two Truths and a Lie

A month ago, I wrote a blog post entitled “Ask Me Anything,” about making the most of a job interview. If you’ve read that article, you probably assumed that I am some powerful and professional, all-knowing goddess of job obtainment. And although that perception looks fine to me from way up here on my high horse, I find it necessary to show the World Wide Web that I’m more than that—more than just an extremely successful and strong woman with a pretty face.

But in all seriousness, I am interested in displaying a different side of myself, and what better way to get to know someone than playing two truths and a lie!

Let’s begin:

  1. I am related to the Kellogg cereal people.
  2. I cut men’s hair.
  3. I want to be a professional volleyball player.

Now, take a second and formulate your opinion. Which one is the lie? [Cue Jeopardy music.]

Well, I am related to the Kellogg cereal people. My father’s grandfather was named Robert Kellogg and was a descendant of John Harvey Kellogg, the founder of Kellogg’s cereal. However, when his wife, Hazel, my great grandmother, kicked him out of the house and remarried a different man, hilariously named Oliver Hazard Perry Kenney, she took his name. And she didn’t stop there—without her children’s permission, she changed their names too. Imagine coming home one day after school and your mother telling you you’ll have to start writing a completely different name on all your papers. Difficult, right? And no, I’m not bloody rich.

I also do enjoy cutting men’s hair (or women who are unafraid of electric clippers). When I was a sophomore, a friend of mine asked me to cut his hair. Having had hairstyles that resulted in cruel nicknames like “trapezoid head” and “tiny face” (I don’t want to talk about it), I really wasn’t comfortable putting someone else’s social status—not to mention hair and flesh—in danger. When he insisted that I simply “look like someone who’s good at cutting hair,” my ego felt sufficiently inflated enough to take on the task. It’s safe to say my career took off from there; I have been giving the oh-so-unique “long on top and buzzed on the sides” cut for two years now. If you are ever in need of a cut, I give them for free!

As you may or may not have guessed by now, I do not want to be a professional volleyball player.  In fact, I’m very uncomfortable with the idea of sweating and rolling on the floor for my livelihood. If you asked me what I wanted to be ten years ago, this would have been the truth. But the real truth is that my volleyball career was stunted because, well, I am. After being the captain of my high school volleyball team for two years, I was cut junior year for being too short for my position as a setter. Although I was devastated, I used my newfound free time to start doing improv comedy, which changed my life drastically. In fact, I now see that as one of the most crucial turning points in my life because I not only started to become someone I liked, but it helped guide me to my passion for writing.

So, did you guess right? If you liked this post, be sure to keep your eyes peeled for more personal blog posts coming from the other wonderful members of the TAD writing team later this month!

The Heart and Soul of James Madison University

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