Miss Woodhouse's Musings

…about life, the universe, and everything. Don't panic!

A Different Kind of Streaming

Friday Frame-Up is back again! This picture is from Christmas break, when our family visited the Creation Museum in Kentucky. I’ll write a blog about the visit over the summer, but for now I’m just going to share a photo from the outside landscaping. When you walk out the back doors of the museum to the grounds, there’s this long staircase leading down to the gardens. Running beside the staircase is this little stream that burbles over rocks. Even with how cold it was, the sound of the trickling stream was nice and soothing.

So, without further ado, the photo:

“No man is an island, entire of itself; every man is a piece of the continent, a part of the main…any man’s death diminishes me, because I am involved in mankind….” -John Donne

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The Anti-Garden Path To Insanity

I’m posting to prove to you, my dear readers, that there is a reason I’ve not been posting more often- I’ve been writing papers like this. Thank you for being so faithful to check in with me! Over the summer I hope to be a little more faithful with my posting.

This paper is based on about the only enjoyable story I read in my American literature class this session. The story is narrated by a woman who is suffering from a slight nervous breakdown, and her doctor/husband takes her and their son to a new house for the summer. Unfortunately, he chooses to put them in a room with hideous, mottled, fading, peeling yellow wallpaper. This wallpaper eventually drives her to insanity; she first imagines that there’s a woman trapped behind the design of the paper, and in the end she thinks that she is that woman attempting to escape.

There’s another angle to the story, this connection with nature that she has in the beginning slowly fades as the story progresses. It is this perspective that I look at in this paper. So, here goes:

In Charlotte Gilman’s short story “The Yellow Wallpaper,” Gilman explores the inner workings of a woman’s mind. This is not a story of an ordinary, happy, carefree woman though. Instead, this woman is struggling with her grip on her family, health, and even her sanity. Through her decline and eventual mental breakdown, the only change in her life is in the amount of contact her husband, John, allows her to have with nature and the outside world. Thus, “The Yellow Wallpaper” exemplifies the idea that disconnection with nature facilitates a decline into insanity.

From the very beginning of the story, the woman admits to having had health issues recently. So far she, under her physician husband’s direction, has coped very well with her infirmity due to certain measures which included “air, and exercise.” Her only complaint with this method of treatment is that she wishes for a little more excitement, but overall she is content with her life and her stabilizing health. As she describes the summer home they have rented for the summer, she goes into raptures about the state of the grounds.

The most beautiful place!…It makes me think of English places that you read about, for there are hedges and walls and gates that lock, and lots of separate little houses for the gardeners and people. There is a delicious garden! I never saw such a garden—long and shady, full of box-bordered paths, and lined with long grape-covered arbors with seats under them.

The garden is the real focal point of the house for her. She is not fond of the building itself, nor of the room that John assigns to them for next three months of living. Again, her dissatisfaction only comes out of her love for, and need to connect with, nature. The room she wanted opened out on to the rose garden, but the room John chose is on the top floor—as far from the garden as is possible.

With the room and the hideous yellow wallpaper providing an effective barrier between the woman and the garden, she finds herself growing weaker and increasingly unable to leave her room. Despite her physical weakness and the ugliness of the paper in her room, the woman still does her best to connect with the natural setting that she cherishes so much. She writes about the views from the windows:

Out of one window I can see the garden, those mysterious deep-shaded arbors, the riotous old-fashioned flowers, and bushes and gnarly trees. Out of another I get a lovely view of the bay and a little private wharf belonging to the estate. There is a beautiful shaded lane that runs down there from the house.

Here the reader gleans the first inkling that the woman is not going to be mentally stable for much longer. As she glances out the window to the lane, she admits to the fact that her vivid imagination is beginning to take over reality, and she fancies that she sees people walking about.

As the summer wears on, she tries to keep her tenuous grip on her connection with nature. Even into July, she is able to get out from under the spell of the mysterious and all-consuming yellow wallpaper and make it into the garden. She writes that “I walk a little in the garden or down that lovely lane, sit on the porch under the roses, and lie down up here a good deal.” At the same time, her focus turns inward to the room and the wallpaper. By the middle of July she is spending hours gazing at the wallpaper, and ignoring her direct examination of nature. In fact, the only mention of natural elements comes from their attempts to make contact with her. She talks about that moonlight, and how “the moon shines in all night when there is a moon.” Even though she is not consciously attempting to connect with nature, it does its best to reach out to her.

These attempts at connection fail. The woman finds herself fixating on an unpleasant odor permeating the house, and she blames it on the natural elements she appreciated just weeks before. Too, she projects her paranoid tendencies on the natural setting; when she does look out the window at the natural settings, she sees the result of her dark fantasies:

I see her in that long shaded lane, creeping up and down. I see her in those dark grape arbors, creeping all around the garden. I see her on that long road under the trees, creeping along, and when a carriage comes she hides under the blackberry vines.

Nature, in the woman’s mind, has turned from being an escape and a respite to being just another arena for her imagination to dominate. Nature is tainted by her dark fancies, and by all apparent signs her madness is, at this point, complete.

As a final interaction with nature and a last example of how far her mental breakdown has gone, the woman uses a plantain leaf to hide the key that locks her husband out of the house. The transformation from health to insanity is complete in her life, and her use of nature proves this. Where at the beginning of the story nature provides an escape and a link to sanity, here at the end of the story nature has become a tool to aid and abet her madness.

While it is impossible to tell if the outcome would have changed had the woman been able to maintain a healthy connection with nature, during her lucid times she seems to think that nature would help her in her illness. She seems to know instinctively that a room opening up onto the gardens would be better for her than the horrid room at the top of the house. Although she tries her best to make the most out of a horrible room and living situation, her best efforts fail. In the end, she becomes as warped as the wallpaper in the room, the antithesis of the lovely, unblemished, holistic beauty that she could once admire in nature. As distortion sets into her brain, one of her last acts of madness is to turn nature to suit her own insane purposes. Her disconnection with nature is complete, as is her lapse into insanity.

Photo of Crepe Myrtles, taken at the Botanical Gardens last summer.


Everything Glorious

Recently I’ve had the words of David*Crowder*Band’s song “Everything Glorious” running through my head. Specifically, I’ve been hearing the part of the song where they ask God that if He makes everything glorious, “what does that make me?”.

It’s a question that’s been running through my head this week, especially at work. Every day we see a stream of people, never stopping, never ending. Overworked and overtired, it’s far too easy to become frustrated with the customers who are rude and difficult to please. Yes, I know you don’t like milk in your cappuccino. No, the reason your drink looks like that is because I did shake the soy. Yes, I do know how to make a caramel frappucino. Yes, I’d be glad to make you a new drink because you didn’t know what you were ordering. It’s like the demands and questioning of my abilities never end.

Sometimes I feel wracked with guilt that I find myself frustrated. God made these people glorious; what right do I have to be annoyed over their search for the perfect drink? I should just love them, accommodate them as best I can, and not let them bother me.

However, just when the guilt becomes unbearable, I remember that I’m a part of God’s creation as well. That means that He made me glorious too! I don’t have to mindlessly submit to their tyrannies, putting up and shutting up. Not that I should be mean to anyone, but I really should stop mentally beating myself up because these customers aren’t happy with me giving my best.

Gloriousness is a two way street. If you want people to treat you like you’re special, you have to remember to treat others well too.

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The Birthday Bard

It’s poetry in its purest form- browsing Books-A-Million brooding about the Bard’s birthday. Think I used enough “b”s in that sentence?

But yes, you read that right. Today is supposedly William Shakespeare’s birthday (I subscribe to the 25th, but that’s a story for another time), it is indeed the anniversary of his death, and it is also St. George’s Day, the patron saint of England.

‘Tis a lot to take in.

Therefore, friends, Romans, blog readers, lead me your ears! For indeed I am a friend of the Bard, a fan of his witty sayings and dramatic tales of star-crossed lovers. Forsooth, even I turn a blind eye to his obvious copying of others’ tales, and his shameless borrowing of his own best-loved plot turns. For what great a man he was, still to be revered ev’n in this modern age in which we live.

Yet, my meager words cannot express the genius of this great man; actor, poet, playwright. Let us all instead divert our attention to a different vein; let us turn to the words of the man himself, and let us listen to his thoughts near the end of his life. For it is said that the character Prospero, that wizard and magician banished so many long years on a deserted isle, is meant to be Shakespeare himself, a means by which the Bard expressed his feelings and a plea to his devoted fans:

“Now my charms are all o’erthrown,

And what strength I have’s mine own,

Which is most faint….

…Now I want

Spirits to enforce, art to enchant,

And my ending is despair

Unless I be relieved by prayer,

Which pierces so, that it assaults

Mercy itself, and frees all faults.

As you from crimes would pardoned be,

Let your indulgence set me free.”

–The Tempest

So, then, dear friends, ‘tis nobler indeed to laud the life of a man who spent his time well, and did so faithfully devote his hours to writing for the entertainment of many.

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Stormy Weather

“Don’t know why there’s no sun up in the sky, stormy weather….”

The Friday Frame-Up this week is a two parter. I saw these clouds over by the county line about a year ago; the picture quality isn’t great (my old phone camera was only 1.3 mp), but the clouds are dramatic enough to make up for the poor quality. So, here’s the dramatic close-up!

Now, in order to appreciate the atmosphere, you have to see the bigger picture (so to speak!). Man, sometimes I crack myself up.

Pretty cool, is it not? There’s one thing that they say in our area: if you don’t like the weather, wait!

So, I know it’s been quiet around here, but take heart dear readers! The semester is almost over and I’ll have the freedom to blog some fun stuff over the summer. One week, three days…bear with me.

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Twelve Hours and Counting….

Due to a death in my Starbucks family, I offered quite willingly to pick up a shift so that my coworker could have the weekend off to process and recover. Remember, I said quite willingly.

However, a few red flags should fly up right about now. Firstly, it was a Saturday shift. Secondly, I was closing that night for five hours. Thirdly, it was a seven hour shift. Fourthly, it was an opening shift. Wait, what???

Yes, I said opening shift. Never let it be said that I don’t *heart* my coworkers.

Anyway, I really was quite willing to do it, and help things move along. Remember, willingly. Just so we’re clear.

So now, here’s what my fun little day looked like!

3am– Dozed off for a little bit of sleep in preparation for the day.

3:30– Already back up and getting ready for work.

4– Grabbed my two Starbucks doubleshots that I bought the previous day. Downed the four shots while eating and sandwich and talking to Dad (he couldn’t sleep either).

5– Pre-opening at the store. Unfortunately, the new manager moved everything around the day before, so shift and I can’t find half the things we need. Two sets of customers drive up at 5:02 and 5:04- sorry folks; too early!

5:30– Open for business! Kinda quiet.

6– Did I say quiet? I meant that we have customers in the store, but few enough that I can handle them on my own in between doing prep work. Lots of iced coffee and Americanos.

7:30– Manager comes on as our third person for the morning. Of course, we get SLAMMED!!!!!!

8– Slammed and barring.

8:30– Still slammed to the door, still on bar

9– Slammed to the door, still on bar.

9:30– Slammed to the door, still on bar.

10– Slammed to the door, still on bar.

10:30– Slammed to the door, still on bar.

11– Slammed to the door, still on bar! However, coworker comes on early to help out.

11:30– LUNCH BREAK!!!!!!! No barring for 30 minutes!!!!!!!

12– Back on floor; grab my till before anyone can throw me back on bar.

12:30– Supposed to clock off; instead get caught ringing, fixing the pastry case, and catching up on dishes.

1pm– First shift down!

2– Home to rest my feet for a bit.

3– Went to the phone store to get my new phone in preparation of my busy week.

4– Came home to show my new phone off to Mum.

5– Left for work to meet up with a regular customer. We talked books for a bit.

5:30– Clocked on for round two!

6– Back on bar, but really rocking. Able to handle drinks and ringing on my own without breaking a sweat. Yay for practice!

6:30– Solely barring at this point; also running into the back to wash dishes and help out the precloser.

7pm– Hit the wall. Staring off into the distance….

7:30– If I have to make one more something-chip-frappuccino I might scream!!!!!

8– Took a ten, had a croissant. That helped a bit. No longer want to kill customers for merely walking in the door.

8:30– Still barring. Not thrilled to still be steaming milk, but coping much better now.

9– Sent the precloser home due to slowish business. Did lots of dishes.

9:30– Barred some more. Did lots of dishes.

10– Closed for business! Did lots of dishes and ran around with the shift like a chicken with its head cut off.

10:30– OFF!!!!! Clocked off on time too. We rock!

11– Home to rest a bit and chat with Mum and Dad.

12– To sleep, at last!

So there you have it- my very exciting day! I’m so glad that I have Sundays off; I don’t think that I could have gone back into work.

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Ha’penny Loaves

Memorial Day is slowly, agonizingly, interminably approaching (can you tell I’m ready for summer to come?). This picture is from our Labor Day celebration, which will from here on in be called “the day that officially began the horribly cold winter.” We didn’t know on that happy day that we would spend the next five months huddled in blankets by the fire.

Anyway, this shot was declared to be the best one of the night on another site, so I thought I’d post it here. No one could quite put a finger on what made it stand out, but stand out it did. The framing of the shot puts me in mind of a Dickens novel for some reason.

So, I’ve told you what other people have said about the picture, now why don’t you tell me what you think of the photo!  Don’t forget to click on the picture to see it full size.

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Getting To Know You

We know you by drink. Two venti double blended coffee Frappuccino lights. Two grande lattes, one with one Splenda. Two venti double blended mocha Frappuccinos. Quad espresso macchiato- two raw sugars three equals. Iced decaf double venti no ice extra caramel caramel macchiato. Grande no foam latte and grande breve no foam latte. Grande pike in a venti cup.

They are just drinks, to be sure. Yet, it’s nice to know as these customers walk in what they will be ordering; it’s fun to spot them in the parking lot and have their drinks on the counter before they get to the register. It’s nice to have a little respite from the endless stream of customers and see a familiar, friendly face. It’s wonderful to know that they aren’t going to complain about the seating, make a fuss about who makes their drink, argue about the cost and tell us that “the store down the street only charges for such-and-such.”

You don’t tell us how to do our jobs, or how to make your drink. You trust us to listen to your order, to remember those tiny details that make your drink uniquely yours.

In return, we care about you. When you miss a day, we worry. When you miss a few days, we really worry. We try to listen about your lives; we learn your stories. Your joy becomes our happiness- your sorrow becomes our pain.

We notice when your son’s college schedule changes and you come in on your work break alone. We tell you to say “hi” to your wife when you get her drink to take home with you. We fight back tears when you tell us that your daughter will only live two more years. We try to cheer you up with conversation before you have to go spend 10 hours fixing boring mechanical issues. We rejoice when you tell us that your little girl is getting a baby brother. We pray for you when you tell us your son is caught in the middle of devastating earthquakes, and breathe a sigh of relief when you tell us that he’s okay. We ask your advice on where the best auto-mechanics are located.

This is what makes our job worthwhile; this is why we show up day after day, night after night. Brewing coffee isn’t what we planned for our lives. None of us dream of being Starbucks corporate one day. However you, our dear customers, make it all worth doing. You aren’t related to us, we don’t know you outside of the four walls of the store. However, you open up your life to us, you share what you are thinking and feeling, you take an interest in how we are doing. You make it enjoyable to get through our shift, you keep us from quitting when things get tough.

Thank you.


Branching Into Spring

This week’s Friday Frame-Up features the photo I currently have as my desktop background.That is, the background on my newly updated Windows 7 operating system laptop. Man, I still love saying that! (and for those of you following along at home, yes this means my laptop is back!)

The photo is from a few springs back, a picture of one of the crepe myrtles in the front yard. I took this from the second floor, looking out the window during a rain storm. If you look closely at the bottom of the berries, you can see droplets of water suspended. It’s pretty cool.

Anyway, enjoy. As usual, click on the picture to see it full size!

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This is one of my favourite Easter songs. A few years ago I had the privilege to perform it with one of my music groups, and the words really hit your heart hard. “Arise, My Love” by Newsong:

The words are on the video, but in case you don’t have the time to stream the song (and I really encourage you to do so!), then please at least read the lyrics.

Not a word was heard at the tomb that day.
Just shuffling of soldiers feet as they guarded the grave.
One day, two days, three days had past.
Could it be that Jesus breathed his last?

Could it be that his Father had forsaken him?
Turned his back on his son, dispising our sin.
Oh hell seemed to whisper, “Just forget it, He’s dead.”
Then the Father looked down to his son and he said..

Arise, My love.
Arise, My love.
The grave no longer has a hold on you
No more death sting
No more suffering
Arise…Arise…my love.

The Earth trembled and the tomb began to shake, and like lightening from Heaven
The stone was rolled away.
And this dead man the guards they all stood there in fright
As the power of love displayed its might
And suddenly a melody filled the air
Riding wings of wind, it was everywhere
The words of creation had been longing to hear.
The sweet sound of victory, so loud and clear.

Arise, my love.
Arise, my love.
The grave no longer has a hold on you.
No more death sting no more suffering

Sin, where are your shackles?
Death, where is your sting?
Hell; has been defeated. The grave will not hold, the king.

Arise, my love.
Arise, my love.

Happy Easter! Christ is risen indeed!

“Why do you seek the living One among the dead? He is not here, but He has risen. Remember how He spoke to you while He was still in Galilee, saying that the Son of Man must be delivered into the hands of sinful men, and be crucified, and the third day rise again.” Luke 24:5-7

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