Debt and higher education (part 2)

“You educate a man; you educate a man. You educate a woman; you educate a generation.”
-Brigham Young

Yesterday I wrote a post about the financial aspects of my undergraduate and graduate school education. I was attempting to refute claims from my least favorite blogger that men find women less desirable as potential wives if they have debt incurred from higher education. To take it even further, this woman doesn’t approve of college at all for those of us of the female persuasion. To use her own words, “There’s nothing biblical about young women going away to college.” It’s easy to unravel this argument, though. First of all, college as we know it today did not exist millennia ago when the Bible was written. Of course there were institutes of higher learning, especially in the more wealthy and powerful nations, but I don’t think even those are addressed in the Bible. (Please correct me if I’m wrong!) Second, women had almost no rights or autonomy at that time so I’m sure they received little to no education. They had so few options in their lives simply because of their gender and the male-dominated society they were born into. (This is slightly off topic, but as always, I am unbelievably grateful to all of the women who came before me and made the world a more equitable place for future generations.) Later in her post this blogger continues her rant:

“They [women] will be taught to be strong apart from the Lord and independent of Him and in no need of a man. In fact, they will be taught that there are no differences between men and women and be encouraged to be a man and take on his role. They will be taught about birth control, overpopulation, and the inconvenience of having children. They will be taught to pursue careers so they can make a name for themselves and have money of their own. They will be taught nothing about God’s ordained role for them but instead, spend a lot of money for their college education and gain a mountain of debt.”

To start with, what individual could possibly have the right to determine what God’s ordained role for any person other than themselves? That’s arrogance of the highest order. There are a number of reasons that women want to further their education, but most want to prepare for a career. I was in a sorority at UF and a majority of my sisters had lofty professional dreams that they were pursing, similar to my own. In this day and age a college degree is almost a requirement for any line of work. Of course, I understand that this isn’t universally true, and that college isn’t right for everyone. And that’s perfectly OK! I don’t judge folks for their educational choices, unlike some “Christian” bloggers I know. (I read another article by a different author recently that got me all fired up on this subject, but I’ll have to address that at a later time.) On the other hand, most of my sorority sisters were also eager to fall in love, get married, and start having children. So even though they had ambitions outside the home, they still wanted the traditional house with a white picket fence and a loving family to go with it. We are lucky that thanks to women’s rights advocates and feminists that there’s no reason we can’t have both! For example, where would we be without female-dominated professions like nursing, teaching, and social work? Let me use another quote straight from my least favorite blogger herself. In a recent Instagram post she asked, “Many women believe they are being ‘called’ to their careers but are they really?” For myself the answer is a resounding YES! And I’m sure most of the working women that I know, many with husbands and children too, would have a similar response.

The last point I want to address is single women such as myself. How would I be able to support myself if I didn’t have a good job thanks to my college education? Granted, my situation is unique since I made the choice to be single rather than having singleness thrust upon me. I divorced my ex-husband because he was abusive and cheated on me, but not all women have that luxury. What about women who are widowed or whose husbands leave them? Also, what about married women whose husbands become disabled or unable to work? How do they feed their children, keep a roof over their head, and satisfy their most basic needs? As I mentioned earlier, it’s difficult to get a good job without a college degree now. This is the reason I believe that all women who are inclined to go to college should do so, even if they plan to be a stay-at home wife and mother, just in case they are required to be their family’s breadwinner for one reason or another. It seems prudent to plan for whatever the future could bring rather than relying on a man to fulfill the provider role for the rest of your life. Of course this is just my opinion and I would encourage all women, couples, and families to figure out what works best for them. God gave us free will for a reason and he wanted all of his children to be happy, including members of the fairer sex!

P.S. In case you were wondering, one of the reasons I continue reading posts from this particular blogger is because they inspire me to think critically about the subject at hand and write these responses/rebuttals. Blogging has always been good for my soul. So even if I get angry reading her posts about how ladies these days are apparently loud, improper, and far too independent, I won’t let it affect how I feel about myself as a woman. I will simply use my visceral reaction as an opportunity to explain how not everyone fits into the same rigid box. Use your God-given gifts and live your life in whatever way you wish, ladies!

Debt and higher education (part 1)

“Imagine being born and finding out that because of your gender you’re expected to do one thing. Boys can be anything, but you, you’re only expected to stay home and cook and clean and make babies. I refuse to believe that that is my only purpose in life and my reason for existing.”
-7/3/18 Facebook comment

I was fairly young when I decided that I wanted to be an engineer. Math and science were always my favorite subjects and my parents, as well as all of my teachers, encouraged me to pursue my dreams. For me, college was a given. I never had any doubt that I would head straight to a university after graduating high school. However, I knew that my family wasn’t rich so my higher education options weren’t unlimited. I think I only applied to two schools, and one of them (Georgia Tech) fell off the list quickly because I didn’t get any substantial financial aid. Fortunately I grew up in Florida and our state has an amazing scholarship program called Bright Futures. When I finished high school over twenty years ago all you had to do to get money for college from the state was graduate from a Florida public high school, earn above a certain grade point average, and receive over a certain score on the SAT or ACT. So I had 100% of my tuition covered, plus a stipend for books every semester. (Granted, it was never enough to cover all of the insanely expensive textbooks I had to buy, but it certainly helped.) This means that I went to the University of Florida basically for free. Since I wasn’t living at home (Gainesville is about two hours away from Tallahassee) I did have room and board expenses, but I was extremely fortunate to have a college fund that my grandparents had sent up for me when I was young. They provided invaluable help to all four of their grandchildren in this manner. I got my Bachelor of Science degree with minimal cost to my parents, and without incurring any debt whatsoever. For this reason I know I am one of the lucky ones.

My least favorite blogger insists that men prefer debt-free virgins without tattoos. I already addressed the purity aspect in my 7/27 post, and now I’m going to tackle the debt portion of this hypothesis. After college I had no debt, but then I headed to graduate school at UCLA for two reasons. 1) I always planned to earn a Master’s Degree, and 2) the job market wasn’t great in 2002. I already had my foot in the door at Boeing due to my three internships, but the managers I knew there weren’t hiring when I graduated. So in the fall of 2002 I started my out-of-state, meaning not cheap, graduate school experience. Fortunately I was offered a position as a research assistant, and sometimes teaching assistant, which covered my tuition (four times more expensive than at UF) and earned me a paycheck every month. The drawback is that it was a very meager salary that didn’t cover the rent on my studio apartment close to campus. I lived for two years on the money I earned working at Boeing in 2000, 2001, and 2002. Usually an internship is an unpaid position, but Boeing is extremely generous to their temporary employees. I had saved a significant amount before starting graduate school, but I still needed additional financial aid to afford my continued education. So for the first time I got student loans. I still count myself as one of the lucky ones because in two years I only racked up about $17k worth of debt. In contrast, my ex-husband had attended MIT for undergrad and his student loans were much more substantial than mine. However, since our education had assisted both of us in finding fulfilling and lucrative jobs, neither of us considered the other’s student loan debt to be a point of contention when thinking about our future. Not that you’ll ever get rich as an engineer, but it comfortably pays the bills. I’ll reiterate the neither of us was religious so we weren’t viewing each other through the lens of Biblical suitability for marriage.

I have a lot more to say on this subject, but this post is already pretty long. Come back later this week so I can use my personal life experiences to refute some of the claims made by this “Christian” blogger about women and college. Educated women need to push back on the antiquated, male-dominated conventions that would prefer to limit our options. To be continued!

Sixteen years ago

Over the weekend I was looking back at some of my posts from previous years and found a couple of gems from January 2001. The first presidential election after I was old enough to vote was in 2000 and what a doozy it was! Especially since I was still living in Florida. (For the record, Alachua County didn’t have any ballot irregularities. We colored in circles on a scantron with a Sharpie rather than punching holes in our ballots. No chance of hanging chads for us.) Some of the things I wrote about that election are eerily similar to the 2016 outcome. And as it turns out, neither case benefited my preferred candidate. History repeats itself, and much sooner than I ever expected!

“Speaking of the media, tonight we have a new president, George W. Bush. Don’t blame me, I voted for Gore!”
1/20/01 webpage post

“As I was waiting at a traffic light near I-75 I saw a billboard that caught my attention. It read ‘You Get the Government You Elect!’ My first thought was, ‘Not this year!’ At least we didn’t get the president that the majority of the population voted for.”
1/26/01 webpage post

Working – 7/2/99

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At 6:45 AM my alarm went off and I heard the radio turn on. This was the first indication that I needed to get up. The second came when my mom stuck her head in the door and said, “Lauren, it’s time to get up.” I had to get ready for my first day of work. Since it was Friday and the day before a long, holiday weekend I left my house at 7:30 AM instead of any earlier. I walked into the office at 8 PM almost exactly and they put me right to work. I was under the impression that I had to take some safety training courses and get some other preliminary stuff out of the way first, but apparently I was wrong.

My first job has to do with calculating how much more air conditioning will be needed in two rooms of the Biomedical Building. The department will be moving some freezers into the rooms and they will give off a lot of heat. I know this job doesn’t sound too incredibly interesting, but I am going to learn a lot about practical engineering applications. The version of AutoCAD that I am using is much newer than the one I used at the Magnet Lab last summer so I spent a lot of time finding the drawing tools I needed. By the time I left (I work from 8 AM until 4:30 PM) I had made floor plans of the two rooms in question and I had drawn rectangles for the freezers so we could determine where they would fit in the rooms. I guess that was a pretty big accomplishment for my first day at work. If I had been familiar with the software the job wouldn’t have taken very long at all, but I don’t have that luxury yet. As far as I know I will be working full time for the next five weeks so I should be proficient by the time I have to go back to Gainesville. Look at it this way – I am getting paid to learn how to use AutoCAD rather than paying to take the class at UF. That’s a good deal.

Imagine my surprise when I got in the car to go home and the radio was working! I didn’t notice at first because I had turned it off, but then I saw that the clock was actually showing the time (not the right time, of course) and I successfully listened to the radio for the first time in a few days. Even with this positive change in my ca’’s behavior I am still taking it to the dealer on Thursday for another new radio.

This entry was finished on Monday, July 5th so I can’t remember anything else memorable to write here. Stuart came to visit over the weekend, but that will be covered in my entry from July 5th. Please read the next entry to see how the weekend went. Thanks!

Taking Criticism – 6/30/99

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Have you ever had someone say something to you, maybe it was sort of an offhand comment, that you couldn’t stop thinking about? That happened to me today. I don’t know why it bothers me so much, but it has made me a nervous wreck. Sometimes people say things without thinking about their words first and that bothers me more than what they do say (most of the time). I try to make the most of my words when I am making a comment about a topic that may be sensitive to someone, and I make sure my words mean what I want to say. You can hurt people easily with a misplaced or misused word – it has happened to me many times.

As I was driving to FSU this morning to sign some papers I had plenty of time to think about what was bothering me. If I analyze the situation enough I get to the point where it seems ridiculous for me to be bothered by such a little comment. However, I have tried to avoid thinking about it because it makes me feel nervous (for some reason). I guess it makes me question actions that I would never think twice about before. Why do I put so much stock in what other people say? It has always been this way with me. My friends had a hard time joking around with me because I took things personally when they weren’t meant that way. I think that must come from being teased so much when I was younger. I do take everything to heart and sometimes it is overwhelming because I am trying to assimilate so much information. I really should try and take myself less seriously, but that is a pretty tall order. Since I have gone to college and lived with a bunch of young women in my sorority I have learned to laugh at myself, my mistakes, and my faults. Sometimes I feel like I have desensitized myself and that may not be such a good thing – even though I know I am the same person on the inside that I always have been.

In the past I have been the worst at accepting constructive criticism. It took a long time for me to not get offended when someone told me I needed to take voice lessons (my high school choral director) or asked if I could handle the upper level ballet class (my dance teacher). At this point I will listen to constructive criticism and then decide if it is worth following. Don’t approach me with plain criticism, however. What the point of telling me I am doing something wrong if you can’t offer a way to make it right? The way I see it, that’s just a rule of thumb.

I made a pizza for my dad and me for dinner and we both commented on how good it was. I couldn’t figure out exactly why since I have made similar pizzas before. Later tonight I realized what was different – I forgot to put any pizza sauce on it! We had eaten plain crust, cheese, and pepperoni and it was delicious! That was the funniest thing. My mom didn’t even realize it until after she had eaten her share later. What a crazy thing for me to do. I guess I was in a hurry to get it in the oven and I had only taken the cheese and pepperoni out of the refrigerator. Anyway, it was really good, so if anyone is adventurous with making pizza I would suggest leaving off the sauce for once.

One of Those Days – 6/29/99

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Have you ever had a day where nothing seemed to go right? I had one today. This morning I had to call over to FSU at 9 AM to see about my job opportunities and I couldn’t drag myself out of bed until 8:50 AM. Mr. Griffith, the person I talked to, said that I was definitely needed in the office and I should come down to fill out some paperwork. He expected me to be there at 10:30 AM (that’s when I told him I could be there) so I left my house at 10 AM. The first thing I noticed was that my radio had stopped working. AGAIN! My little car is on its third radio and they have all broken in the same way. It starts out with the clock not keeping time and then, one time when you turn on the car, it won’t even show the time at all. At this point the radio won’t work either and you can’t get out any CD that might be in the player. This is where my radio is right now. It is very frustrating. You can’t tell me that I have three faulty radios in my car, so there must be an underlying electrical problem. I guess it is time for radio number four. It was a major annoyance not having something to listen to on the way to FSU. It is kind of a long drive and I get bored listening to myself talk. Anyway, let’s get back to the day at hand.

As soon as I pulled out of the driveway I realized I had forgotten the directions to the building and I needed to get some gas in my car. No big deal, I thought. My brother had gotten up just as I left so I tried to call my house on the cell phone to get the directions but no one answered. Strange, but maybe Kenneth was just in the shower. I got some gas on the way, but it was one of those where you have to go inside to pay – add a few minutes there waiting in line. I called Kenneth again; no answer still! I remembered most of the directions so I went ahead towards FSU. One last time I called my house just as I was getting to the point where the direction were fuzzy and Kenneth finally answered the phone and read them to me. Apparently he had gone back to sleep after I left and hadn’t bothered to answer the phone when I called about five times before. What a lazy bum. Maybe he couldn’t hear the phone ringing, I don’t know, but that seems unlikely with the loudness of our phones. I got to FSU, had to park on the fourth floor of a parking garage across the street, had to ask directions in some random office I passed, and found my way to Mendenhall Building where Mr. Griffith’s office is.

It seems they are in need of an assistant as much as I am in need of a job! Mr. Griffith introduced me to a guy named Mark (I can’t remember his last name) who needs some help making AutoCAD drawings. At least I have a little experience with that computer program and I don’t have to learn from scratch. I will work from 8 AM until 4:30 PM, but I don’t start until at least this Friday because of the paperwork that needs to be completed. I am very excited that I am going to be able to get some practical engineering knowledge and earn some money at the same time. I think I am getting a pretty good deal with an $8 per hour salary. Let’s hope that I enjoy my work there. We’ll see what happens when I start working.

Back to my crazy day. It was pouring as I was filling out some forms for the secretary. I hoped it would stop before I had to leave. My car was parked farther away from the building than I wanted to think about. Around 11:30 AM I left the building and it was still raining. I can’t believe I didn’t think to bring an umbrella inside with me. I just had to put my hair up in a ponytail, clutched the OPS information folder I had been given, and started to walk to my car. By the time I got there I was soaked. Good thing I was wearing my good shoes and a nice pair of pants, right? Argh. It didn’t help much that my clothes and hair didn’t dry on the way home and I had to use the air conditioning because it was so hot outside. My radio was still nonfunctional, but one little place on the clock readout was illuminated. Whatever. By the time I got home it was sunny. My mom felt really bad that I had gotten so wet.

As I look back, I escaped from the day unharmed. I did get a job, but the broken radio must be added as a loss. I think I came out on the positive side, though. I may have to go back to FSU tomorrow to sign some papers. That’s kind of a pain, but it is necessary. Oh well.

On the Job Front – 6/28/99

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This morning I called the temporary employment agency that my mom’s friend suggested. The first question they asked me was if I would be available for the next four to six months. Reluctantly I had to say no and then they knew I was a student who would be going back to school in August. Apparently they had already hired enough students for summer work and they were not accepting applications for any others. That’s one opportunity that’s not available anymore. My dad has made a few calls already today, but no jobs as of yet. I wish I could find some work on my own so I wouldn’t be dependent on my father and so I could prove to him that I am old enough to take care of myself. I know that it will be hard to find a job now, though, since it is already halfway through the summer and most positions are filled. Sometimes I feel like a little kid who can’t seem to do things on her own.


Ha! I may have a job after all. After my dad has enlisted several people to ask around one of them came up with someone who I could be of help to. The job is at FSU (they may be worried that I am going to compromise their security as a UF student) in Facilities Planning and I might actually be doing some useful engineering work. I have to call someone tomorrow morning about coming in to work, but I think this is going to give me a job for the rest of the summer. It would be great if I could make some money (my main goal in this job search) and get some practical knowledge in the process. I’ll have to let you know how it goes. My biggest fear is that I will not enjoy the work I do and I will hate going to work every morning. That’s what happened last year when I was working at the Magnet Lab over at FSU. Let’s hope it is a good job and I love it.

Yesterday I said that I would relate Stuart’s story of getting back to Gainesville. He emailed it to me today. On Thursday Stu drove to Tampa with his sister’s car (she is in Europe now) and he was planning to get a ride home with one of four people. Apparently he called three of those people at various times during the weekend and never heard back from any of them. The last person was his roommate, Matt, and when they got in touch Stu finally found a ride. Stu was anxious to get back to Gainesville so he could watch the World Cup match tonight, but Matt didn’t pick him up until much later than planned. Here is the end of the tale in his own words. From this email I could tell he was annoyed.

“It gets to 4:45, and I call him. He was up and eating something before he left. He said, ‘About 20 minutes.’ So at 6:15 he pulls up; in his brand new Mustang (red instead of black). We made good time back, but it wasn’t in time to see the kick off of the game. I did get to see the second half, and that was all that was important. We scored all three of our goals in that half, beating N. Korea 3-0. That was my adventure.”

The same kind of thing has happened to me before. I got a ride home with Montse for Thanksgiving in 1997, but when the time came to go back to Gainesville everyone’s car seemed to be full. I called at least four people that I knew were in Tallahassee and none of them could give me a ride. I was forced to ride the Greyhound bus home. It really wasn’t that bad – I had ridden the bus before (and I rode it again in the future), but it made me mad that no one thought about me at all. It seemed strange that I found a ride to Tallahassee, but every available seat was filled for the return trip. I know exactly how Stu felt about his situation his weekend. At least he didn’t have to ride the bus, though. (Stu, there’s your tale related for everyone to read. Is it satisfactory? Did I leave any crucial points out? *grin*)

Here’s a random bit of information I thought I should share with you. When I was at the grocery store with my mom today I saw Caffeine Free Mountain Dew! The only thing I could do was point and laugh. I was under the impression that most people drank Mountain Dew FOR the caffeine. However, I can’t say that I wasn’t happy. I love Mountain Dew, but I have an irregular heartbeat and the caffeine makes my heart flutter. It is not life threatening, but it is uncomfortable and unnerving when it flutters. Just last week I bought a 12-pack of Mountain Dew because I wanted the Star Wars cans and now I can get the stuff caffeine free! I saw the new Star Wars Mountain Dew can has Obi-Wan Kenobi (Ewan McGregor) on it and I want one of those! I guess I can end this rambling on a cute, Scottish Jedi moment. Ciao.

The Joys of Life – 6/27/99

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I hate shopping for clothes. Whatever I like doesn’t fit me, and whatever fits me I don’t like. It’s a vicious circle that the fashion and retail industries use to keep me coming back. I went to the mall with Kathe yesterday, but I didn’t buy anything. There were several things I like at Burdines, but I had forgotten to bring my gift certificate with me and I planned to come back. My mom and I did go back today and none of the things I spotted yesterday were acceptable. It gets very frustrating after you have tried on several dresses and none of them are right. My mom knows that when this happens she need to feed me because I get cranky when I am hungry. I left Burdines with nothing. (I went back and bought a pair of pants later. Kathe, I bought black pants! Hee hee.)
Yesterday at the mall Kathe bought a bunch of stuff. Our goal was to find some “clubbing” clothes, and I guess we were semi-successful because Kathe got her black pants then. My sorority sisters are funny when they dress up to go out the clubs. They don’t want to wear black pants because “every other girl will be wearing the same black pants!” Now Kathe and I have become part of that group – we both have black pants. Our next project should be to find a place to wear our new clothes! That’s a tall order here in Hicktown, USA. Kathe, Meghan, and I may be planning a trip out of town soon, though, and then we will need some good club clothes.

My mom and I were at Target this afternoon (buying a graduation gift for Allen, no less) when we ran into a friend of hers. I told her about my plight in the job hunt and she recommended a temporary employment agency that her daughter had used before. I am going to call in the morning. If I can’t find a job or something I simply don’t know what I will do with myself! I can only hope that the meeting today was fortuitous and I can find some occupation from it. Starting next week, though, I have my first of three dentist appointments that promise to be really fun. I have also thought about taking a lifeguarding course while I am at home, but I have decided to give up my dream of going to summer camp for a little while. It seems impractical for the time being. Perhaps I can bring that idea back to light for the summer after I graduate from UF, because I would hate to give up on it entirely.

I just got an ICQ message from Stuart. I haven’t gotten an email from him since Friday night so I was beginning to think he had forgotten about me! Apparently getting back to Gainesville was not that fun (in his words, it “was a pain in my ass”) but he is there now and he is safe. Stu promised to tell me all about it later, so maybe it will turn out to be a good story. Maybe it will be a story worthy of tomorrow.

Thoughts of an Unemployed, Out-of-School Student – 6/25/99

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I do some of my best thinking when I am trying to go to sleep at night. Apparently my mind wanders from topic to topic and it does a better job figuring out enigmas that puzzle me during the day. Last night I was thinking about that survey email Stuart had filled out and sent to some other people and me. One of the questions was, “When was the last time you cried, and why?” That got me to thinking about crying, and since the last time I cried was last weekend the memory was still fresh in my mind. After a little while I realized that I was crying out of helplessness rather than anything else. Maybe other emotions were involved, but the main underlying feeling was of helplessness. I felt that way because I had no control over what was going to happen to my relationship with Stuart. When I think back on other times I have cried it has been for mainly the same reason. It is strange to realize that. Before yesterday I would have told you I was crying because I was sad, or hurt, or surprised. Now I know that I was only feeling lost in a sea of emotions where I cold no more determine my course than I could control when the Sun would rise. The experiences that I have had in life so far have taught me to be assertive and not let others direct me. I cried last Saturday because no matter how active I wanted to be it would not help me solve the problem at hand. I do believe in fate, so now I must test my faith by letting myself see where it leads me.

My dad came home from work during his lunch hour today to bring me an OPS employment application from the Department of Education. I filled it out and he took it back with him a when he went back to work. I am hoping I can at least get a little bit of work this way – it will provide some experience and some money that I desperately need. My brother told me that the Miracle 5 movie theater is hiring, so I should at least call over there and see what position is available. That place is old, run-down, and very dirty but I really need a job. I would prefer to do some short-term work for the DOE, but we’ll have to wait and see what happens.

Jennifer, Meghan, and I were planning to go see “Tarzan” tonight, but when I went to pick up Jennifer, Meghan had called to say she wasn’t coming. I was rather surprised since I had talked with her a few hours earlier and she had sounded excited to be going. Hmm. Anyway, Jennifer and I had a good time at the movie and I enjoyed it as much the second time around as I did the first! That will tell you that it is a good movie to go and see. I must buy the soundtrack the next time I am at a music store. The only problem I had with the movie was that the characters didn’t sing. Jennifer mentioned this also. It was different from all of the other animated Disney movies in that way and I’m not sure I liked that aspect. However, it was a good all-around movie that I have enjoyed twice. I recommend that everyone go and see it.

When I got home my mom had bought some chocolate Hagen Daaz ice cream. That’s exactly what I needed. As I was driving home I felt a little twinge. I really missed Stu at that moment. I knew it would hit me hard sometime and I guess that moment was as good as any other. I heard “Angel of Mine” on the radio and that made it all the more pronounced. Why does that certain song come on the radio just as you are thinking of the person it pertains to? Who knows, but it happened to me today. I haven’t even been away from Gainesville a week yet – how am I going to make it? Only time will tell. In the meantime I have some more stuff that needs to be done. Gotta keep busy or that twinge will return in greater force.