Miss Woodhouse's Musings

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

Romance Or Something Like It

It’s rare that my classes fall on a holiday, so I was so excited last night when I realized that not only was my British Literature class meeting on Valentine’s Day, but I didn’t have to report for jury duty!!! This meant I was free to deviate from our study on the Romantics (which aren’t as romantic as the title would have you believe…but that’s a post for another time) and give the kids a whirlwind tour of how England’s famous writers created the Hallmark company. Erm, excuse me. I meant to say “Valentine’s Day.” Same diff?

So, we all have the basic idea that Valentine was some sort of martyr/saint/good guy, right? What you may not know is that there are actually *three* Valentines in the Roman Catholic Encyclopedia (yes, there is such a thing): one from Rome, one from Terni, and one from Africa. Their lives had nothing at all to do with love, romance, poetry, or hearts (except for the fact that theirs stopped beating because of their faith in God and their dedication to the gospel). In fact, there’s absolutely no reason why Chaucer, while writing a poem to commemorate the engagement of Richard II, would reference Valentine…but he did so.

It’s actually a lovely little poem called The Parliament of Fowls that I enjoy reading very much. It’s also 5 hundred million or so lines long, so I’ll just post some pertinent stanzas.

For this was on Saint Valentine’s day,

When every fowl comes there his mate to take,

Of every species that men know, I say,

And then so huge a crowd did they make,

That earth and sea, and tree, and every lake

Was so full, that there was scarcely space

For me to stand, so full was all the place.

Saint Valentine, who art full high aloft –

Thus sing the small fowls for your sake –

Now welcome summer, with your sun soft,

That this winter’s weather does off-shake.

 

Well have they cause to rejoice full oft,

Since each a marriage with its mate does make;

Full joyous may they sing when they wake;

Now welcome summer, with your sun soft,

That this wintry weather does off-shake,

And the long nights’ black away does take.’

 

And with the cries, when their song was done,

That the fowls made as they flew away,

I woke, and other books to read upon

I then took up, and still I read always;

I hope in truth to read something someday

Such that I dream what brings me better fare,

And thus my time from reading I’ll not spare.

The rest of the poem is a bunch of birds talking to each other about love and classic pairs of lovers. As one of my students said, it’s like Narnia. If you have the time, Norton has a lovely rendition online in the Middle English. Delightful!

The next major writer to start a Valentine’s tradition is Edmund Spenser, writer of The Faerie Queen. Do you know what he started? Here’s a quote to give you a hint:

She bath’d with roses red, and violets blew,
And all the sweetest flowres, that in the forrest grew.

Did you figure it out? Oh yes, the much maligned “roses are red, violets are blue” verse! I’m as big a fan of plays on this as the next person, so it made me laugh when the lovey Ponderiss shared “Roses are red, violets are blueish. If it weren’t for Christmas, we’d all be Jewish.” I laughed for a good 5 minutes over that one.

Shakespeare? He didn’t neglect the fad either. In his famous Ophelia scenes (where she runs in and out of court singing songs, throwing around flowers, and generally running mad), she sings a Valentine’s Day song!

To-morrow is Saint Valentine’s day,
All in the morning betime,
And I a maid at your window,
To be your Valentine.

England continued on in this same vein for the next several hundred years, making them one of the most dedicated countries when it comes to this holiday. Did you know that in the 1700’s they even had Valentine factories??? Whole factories that churned out nothing but ornate, flowery Valentines. It’s a pretty cool idea.

So, there you have it! A whirlwind tour through the beginnings of Valentine’s Day! What did you do to celebrate this year?

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Wyrd

I’ve graduated!!!!!!!!

I was so, so ready to graduate. I’m tired of the endless papers, of trying to cram interesting readings into a ridiculously short amount of time, of reading badly spelt post after poorly structured post, of listening to students whine and professors drone. I love to learn, but college will suck the life and joy out of discovery.

The more I talk with other graduates, the more I realise how lucky I am. I have a teaching job, a steady income job, music students, and plenty of other things to keep me busy while building my resume. At the same time, I’m already looking at Master’s programs. While that sounds like I’m all on top of things, really I’m very far behind. But here’s the deal: I’m tired. Stressed out. I’m carrying anywhere from 30-40 hours of work on top of a full load of credits, and have done so for some time. I rarely sleep. I forget to eat until nearly midnight. Why should I kill myself with more school when I’m plenty young yet and have teaching jobs already? I’ll take my B.A. and be happy with it for a year or two.

Still, there’s an element of urgency in my search for a Masters/Doctorate program. There are so many out there: do I go with a dual Masters/Doctorate, should I do them separately, should I stay in the US or go abroad, do I complete my advanced degrees in general areas, or should I specify my degree down to one area of expertise? Oh, and don’t forget about the battery of tests I need to take in order to apply to programs, the grammar review I’ll need because I am the WORST grammartician out there (see, I even make up silly words), plus becoming proficient in TWO foreign languages. Yes, I said TWO. (Because speaking English properly isn’t hardcore enough, I guess.)

It’s all very overwhelming to think about.

Then, the other night, I heard this song. I’ve heard the song before, but never really listened to the lyrics much. (WHAT? I have other things to think about, silly people!) However, this one line of a song really jumped out and slapped me across the face:

You see, I think this is what a lot of us graduates do when we get ready to enter the “real world,” we get scared, freak out, and do ourselves a disservice by acting out of that fear. So here’s my challenge: let’s not act out of fear. It doesn’t matter if you graduated today or 20 years ago, don’t let your fears decide what kind of life you’ll lead. It’s never too late to change your fate, so let’s do it!!! All together now….

 

That's me!

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A Thanksgiving Memory

Challenge: In class, we had to write a Thanksgiving memory in 2 minutes, highlighting the use of one sense.

It is not the bright sun that wakes me up early in the morning on Thanksgiving – no, it is the seductive scent of freshly roasting turkey which drifts up the stairs and gets me stirring. In the kitchen, I can hear my father at work, puttering around, opening the oven to baste the bird and letting loose more aromatics. Going into the kitchen, the smell of turkey mixes with the lemon scent of the sink, all freshly scrubbed and waiting for the onslaught of cooking. The stovetop pan bubbles with a combination of cinnamon, cloves, and apple juice, making a welcoming cider for the impending guests.

Your turn! In the comments, why don’t you share a quick Thanksgiving memory with us? I’d love to read it!

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Eight More Weeks

It has recently been brought to my attention that my blogging of late is…spotty, at best. Naturally, this is due to an amazingly complex life workload right now, and (if we’re being honest) a general lack of inspiration. But no more! Today marks my last first-day-of-a-session, and I intend to milk these last eight weeks of university for all they are worth.

This morning, I started Hebrew. After a long struggle with Greek, Hebrew seems even more incomprehensible (if that’s even possible). However, I’ve always wanted to learn Hebrew, so I’m attacking it like it’s a language out of a fantasy book. So what if it bears no relationship to English??? A dalet totally reminds me of the word Dalek…this is doable. Oh! Here’s a picture of what I did in class this morning!

I’m continuing with Oral Communication, the only class that is staying the same over the whole semester. It’s a great class though, almost a brain break of sorts. Really, the class should be called The Art of Storytelling, because that is what we do. We read about orality and the ideas of oral culture (slightly ironic, I know), and then we tell stories! Next week we have to tell either a Teaching or a Vision story. I’ve not yet decided which I’ll go with, but so far all of my stories started out as blog posts here. Look at you all, helping me get an A in this class! We are reading this really great book by Walter Ong titled Orality and Literacy that is awesome! If you’re a word/language-geek looking for an interesting read, I encourage you to pick it up! This guy is scary smart.

Last, but not least, I’m doing Mystery Fiction! Due to being one of the first English majors on campus (and helping start the English Club as well), I’ve spent quite a bit of time in the English Suite talking with our awesome English professors. (By the way, that sentence just won an award for overusing the word “English.”) During one of those chats, I was asking our department head about the likelihood of creating certain courses. One of the things I asked about was a mystery class. I’m a huge fan of the genre, and I thought that it might be fun. While I was told that there were no plans to create such a course for the university, the department head mentioned that she had taught such a class at another college in the past.

Fast forward to last May when I realized that my current degree plan left room for one more elective course. Problem was, I’d taken any and every class that I was even slightly interested in. So, I casually asked the department head if she would be willing to do an independent study with me. She was! So there you have it…the brief and tedious history of my university’s first Mystery Fiction class.

I had the honour of drawing up my reading list, and it’s a pretty awesome one:

Week One – The Woman in White by Wilkie Collins

Week Two – Murder in the Rue Morgue, The Purloined Letter, The Tell-Tale Heart by Edgar Allan Poe

Week Three – A Study in Scarlet by Arthur Conan Doyle

Week Four – The Maltese Falcon  by Dashiell Hammett

Week Five – The Murder of Roger Ackroyd by Agatha Christie

Week Six – Gaudy Night by Dorothy Sayers

Week Seven – Death of an Expert Witness by P. D. James

Week Eight – The Service of All the Dead by Colin Dexter

A bit heavy on the British side of things, but we both prefer British literature anyway, so it works out. I also have two supplementary books for the class: The Perfect Murder, and Bloody Murder. I’m sure after ordering those two books that I’m now on some Amazon watch list. Also, please ignore the fact that I’m ordering from Amazon. Desperate times and all that jazz.

Add to that teaching British Literature twice a week, American Literature twice a week, a few music students, and 20+ hours at Starbucks, and I’m really in for an exciting two months. Oh well…l’chaim!

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Light At The End Of The Tunnel

Today was the first day of my last semester.

No, I can’t believe I’m typing those words either!!!! As I drove to school this morning, I got to thinking (dangerous, I know…but it can’t be helped). It seems like just a few days ago that I drove the same car to the same parking lot, walked into the same building, and wandered the same halls searching for the elusive room numbers.

At the same time, I remember every agonizing moment of each quarter: the growing pains as I adjusted to a classroom setting, the frantic pace of the eight-week classes, and the never ending panic attacks ensuing from technology that would never behave quite correctly.

I tried to focus on the good parts of today. Sure, there were the frustrations. Like large classes being shoehorned into awkward rooms, annoying freshies whining to their mummies about poor time management on the phone in the library, and the sneering arrogant attitudes of “those” students on campus.  BUT there was good too. Like the people in both my classes. Like getting to sit next to classmates that I’ve known for years now, catching up on summer fun, sharing class schedules and plans for the future. Like sitting in the library for a few hours and getting homework done. Like discovering hidden gems in my textbooks that I can instantly start applying to my life. Like loving my professors. Like enjoying the beauty of campus on my two LONG WALKS from one end to the other.

None of this hit me until halfway through my last class. There I was, laughing at my professor’s jokes, swapping whispered comments with my friend sitting beside me, and I realized that I was having fun. I was finally sitting back and enjoying the process. I wasn’t worrying about what classes I’d have to take in the spring, if the course schedule would come out soon, if my grades would dip my GPA below scholarship standards. I wasn’t worried about having to save some brain cells to make it through the next semester too. I was just enjoying the process.

My goal is to keep that zen feeling throughout the next 17 weeks. 17 more weeks…then I have my Bachelor of Arts.

I’m excited.

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This Race Can Be Won

You know, I really love when God uses music to minister to us…especially when He uses special people to bring said music to you. For today’s Music Monday, we are going to jump back in time a few weeks, back to the days of stress, strife, and suffering. Those deep, dark, dreary days known as…Spring Semester.

I don’t remember too much about this last semester. All I remember is being exhausted, reading and writing lots of words, and basically mainlining caffeine in any form possible. I spent whole days and nights at the dining room table, articles spread from one edge  to the other, a few bottles of caffeine scattered in the midst of the papers, and me and my laptop valiantly plugging away.

In the midst of one such session, I received a message from a dear friend in the form of a YouTube video link. I almost ignored it – how important could it be? It could wait a few days. Then, I glanced at the time. It had been over six hours since I last took a break from this paper. It was time for a little brain vacation. So, I clicked the link.

Boy, was that the right choice. Such an amazingly encouraging song!!!! I could literally feel energy running back into my soul. The song was instantly downloaded from iTunes, and I used to to get through the next hours of crunch time.

My friend didn’t know what I was going through. He didn’t know how weary I was. But he sent the encouragement to me anyways, and that means the world. Thank God for friends (and songs!) like this to keep us focused and motivated on life’s journey!

Happy Monday! Stay strong.

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I Will Hold On Hope

So, I know that I said I’d be away for a bit. But I’ve been at homework for 17 hours straight now (including Blackboard wiping my test clean and a professor pulling reference information off the website). I’m a little…stressed. Just a bit. Yeah.

Since it’s Monday, I thought I’d share some of the music that is getting me through the week. Sarah first introduced me to Mumford and Sons a few weeks ago because of the song Sigh No More. Being the awesome English major that she is, she was quick to point out the major selling point: the words to the song were taken  from Shakespeare’s Much Ado About Nothing.

Well, that right there is enough to win my heart!

Besides, look at that crazy arrangement of strings! Bass, cello, violin, viola, drums, guitar, banjo, etc…right there we are looking at something unique.

A week or two after this, one of my classmates chose their song The Cave as the topic for his paper. Sitting in a drab university room, the words really hit home with me…and I think with a lot of us sitting there overall. This one is a little rawer than Sigh No More, but excellent in its reality.

You can understand dependence when

you know the maker’s land.

So make your siren’s call

And sing all you want

I will not hear what you have to say

‘Cause I need freedom now

And I need to know how

To live my life as it’s meant to be

And I will hold on hope

And I won’t let you choke

On the noose around your neck

And I’ll find strength in pain

And I will change my ways

I’ll know my name as it’s called again.

It’s good stuff there…a little rough, but good. I like the fact that their lyrics can be honest, yet they still find a way to make them hopeful.

If you are looking for a slightly mellower sound from them, I have two more for you. The first one has a beautifully British title: Thistle & Weeds.

But plant your hope with good seeds

Don’t cover yourself with thistle and weeds

Rain down, rain down on me.

The other one I love is Awake My Soul. It’s laid back and lyrically poignant.

Awake my soul, awake my soul

For you were made to meet your maker

Caveat time: there is one song of theirs that made me unhappy with them. It’s called Little Lion Man, and despite all the awards it’s won, I don’t see any good excuse for the word they used throughout the chorus. So, I just want to make it clear that I am NOT endorsing that particular song. The others…well, they are just really, really good.

Oh, and you can now pick up the album Sigh No More at your local Starbucks! And, you can hear the songs there too! It’s a nice change from some of the weeping and wailing we’ve had in the stores recently.

There you have it. I hope you enjoy…and have a good week.

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ll = Pause

Well.

Huh.

Ugh.

Brilliant blog ideas are bouncing around in my head. Words that need to be written, want to be written, demand to be written. I want to blog!

But, it’s after midnight here. In 9 hours I have to be in class…haven’t done the reading for this class in 2 weeks (funerals and class cancellations put it on the back burner). Then I have to prep to teach at 2:30. Then, class at 6. Paper is due in that class…I’ve written the title so far.

And so life goes. I’m starting to drown a bit, so I need to step back, take a break. Hopefully in March I will be back on a regular basis. Until then, the posts will be sparse.

Stick with me?

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My *Hopefully* Last Spring Semester

It dawned on me today that unless my university totally messes up the class schedule for next Fall (and that is not beyond the realm of possibility), this will be my last Spring semester, the last time I’ll take sessions C and D. Trust me, this is totally sweet with no bitter-ness anywhere in sight.

I’m ready to be done with college. For reals.

With that end in mind, I’m tackling 5 classes this semester, something I’ve only tried once before. Due to a professor who apparently didn’t understand the difference between a 100 level and a 400 level class, it didn’t go too well – I ended up dropping a class. For those of you who don’t understand why this is even a big deal (because, let’s face it, most traditional students take 5 classes a semester), allow me to explain. My university is nontradional. Because we started as a graduate school, undergrad classes were an afterthought mostly just so people a few credits short of a Bachelor’s could finish up and move on with life.

Undergrad classes, then, only lasted 8 weeks.

Before you go all “how cool is that” on me, let’s make sure we are on the same page. Imagine all the class work you do for an entire semester. Essays, papers, research, projects, tests, midterms, finals, the works. Now, instead of having 4 months to complete those assignments, you only have 8 weeks. To top it off, you either don’t get a class on campus, or you only get a two hour class every week. To make up for that, you write mini-essays every week and then reply to your classmate’s essays. This is ON TOP of everything else.

Recently, the undergrad program underwent some changes, and we are starting to transition to more traditional schedules. New classes are 16 weeks and on campus, meeting twice a week for an hour and some minutes. To be honest, after 4 years of rapidly cramming information into my head in a two week period, it can be hard to adjust to the pace of a slower class. The temptation is to put the assignments on a back burner because they feel less “urgent.” Or maybe that’s just me.

This semester, I have one 16 week class. We’re studying the Psalms, and the class is amazing! It’s taught by one of my favourite teachers, and taking it means that I’m almost finished with the Biblical Studies minor part of my degree. For the next four months, we are taking apart the book of Psalms, looking at structure, form, meaning, cultural relevance, and spiritual application. If you are interested in a non-scholarly approach to the book, I can’t recommend C. S. Lewis’ Reflections on the Psalms enough. It’s simply brilliant.

“Finally, as will soon be apparent to any reader, this is not what is called an ‘apologetic’ work. I am nowhere trying to convince unbelievers that Christianity is true. I address those who already believe it, or those who are ready, while reading, to ‘suspend their disbelief’. A man can’t be always defending the truth; there must be a time to feed on it.”

Yeah, this is going to be a great class, and is already sparking some ideas for blog posts. You’ve been warned!

Then, this session I have two 8 week classes.

Tuesday nights are helping me finish up my cognate (mini-minor) in Speech and Communication. We are studying Rhetorical Criticism- a research method that helps you identify the purpose and effectiveness of various communication symbols. Over the next few weeks I’ll be writing papers on song lyrics, the State of the Union Address, SuperBowl commercials, and print ads. It’s going to be great fun, and I have a feeling that some of those papers will end up here too!

Last, but not least, I’m taking Milton and the 17th Century. This makes my English major’s heart very, very happy. I’ve never been a huge Milton fan, but his writings are so foundational to other English works that I know it will be a great course. Frustratingly, I can’t seem to get that textbook to come in (*mutters under breath about university bookstores not being quite forthcoming with information about shipping issues*)…but I’m hoping to have it tomorrow. I’ve taken every English literature class with this professor, and she’s awesome! It’s nice to have this class with her.

That’s the bare schedule that I have going on. There are a bunch of other things going on in the next 8 weeks too, but they’ll have to wait. I’ve got to go study!

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How To Survive Finals

 

Step One: Place syrup in cup. I use vanilla.

Step Two: Fill cup with milk

Step Three: Add ice

Step Four: Add espresso. I'm using Christmas Espresso Blend.

Step Five: Drizzle with yummy caramel

Step Six: Enjoy...and get back to the books!

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