Sunday, December 4, 2011

Consummatum est

In the words of Dr. Faustus, it is finished - my exam that is, not a deal with the devil or anything like that.

I'm sorry it took me a few days to get my response up here but truth is, I don't really have a firm hold on how I'm feeling about all of this. I'm thrilled it's over, sad it's over, I don't really realize that it's over and part of me doesn't even believe that it was that big a deal looking back. The exam had seemed so impossible and difficult to me initially that I just couldn't even imagine getting to this point. But then when I was sitting in the chair in front of the computer, question in hand and fingers racing it all seemed so doable and not that crazy after all. 

Here's a little breakdown of the questions so that you know why I wanted the "Milton Question" vs. the "Shakespeare Question."

Milton: This question asked us to discuss villains and their impact on Renaissance audiences from 4 plays/texts from the Renaissance period and the only required one was Satan from Milton's Paradise Lost. I chose to also examine Faustus from Christopher Marlowe's play Dr. Faustus, and two of Shakespeare's villains, Claudius from Hamlet and Richard III. 
While we dubbed this question the "Milton Question" it in fact was the only question in which I got to deal with 2 Shakespearean plays, one of them being my ultimate favorite, Hamlet. The Milton question was my last chance to write about Hamlet and I dearly wanted that chance. 

Shakespeare: For this question we had to deal with the presence of "others," those being Jews or Blackamoors in Renaissance texts and discuss the investigation of these figures. For this question I could only use 1 Shakespeare play. I chose The Merchant of Venice, Christopher Marlowe's The Jew of Malta, a story by Giraldi Cinthio that serves as the source material for Shakespeare's Othello, and a novel by Margaret Cavendish entitled, The Blazing World. 
I liked this question a great deal but overall I had dedicated less time to it than the villain one, I didn't enjoy the texts as much as my Milton selections and obviously, no Hamlet.

So here's how it went, it's a short story:

Dana and I met at the library about an hour before the exam, she was still studying (I do NOT know how) and I tinkered with a piece of string while I pretended to pour over my notes. As it got closer to exam time we walked over to the building where we chatted nervously with some other fellow students & friends who were taking the exam with us. I gave my sweet husband who accompanied me a quick kiss goodbye and we were off through the doors that led into the exam room. As we entered the hallway leading to the room I saw that there were other students also prepping for the exam sitting on the floors with books and notes around them looking miserable, as if they were all ready to throw up. I felt how they looked. It was the closest I have been to the kind of panic I imagine people feel when they are waiting in a bomb shelter. We all looked like we were awaiting a terrible doom, as if at any minute all our false senses of security would be blown to bits, and then, a professor of ours opened the door to the exam room - and the bomb hit. I walked in nervously, chose a random computer, Dana sat next to me and then they handed us our questions. Dana got hers first and from the "YES!" she cried out I knew that she had gotten the "Milton" question and that it most likely meant I would get the "Shakespeare" question - the one I did NOT want. I tried to tell myself, "no, it's ok, you could get the Milton one, it's ok" - I don't know why I did that. I didn't get the Milton question, my professor handed me a paper with the Shakespeare question circled, my spirit fell a little but my will took over.
With earplugs in place courteous of a sweet and thoughtful friend next to me I began my paper. I wrote it almost from beginning to end and three hours later printed up what I believe was about a 9 1/2 page paper. It went so quickly, writing-time always does. It flew by, the words poured out and I'm pretty positive I made the points I needed to. 4p.m. came and the exam was over.
Dana and I walked outside numb, not talking, just stunned. I had anticipated that I would cry, breakdown with the burden gone and task completed but I sheepishly yelled out to my husband who was waiting for us and he ran over looking far more excited than I felt. He kept saying, "it's over, it's over, you did it!" Words, words, words. 
He whisked me home to coffee and a quick Seinfeld break that was followed by dinner with my family at my favorite restaurant where my dear in-laws surprised me with their warm smiles, champagne and avocados (thanks again!). Then we headed down to the Grand Californian Hotel for some drinks where many unexpected friends also happened to be waiting for us when we got there. It was an amazing day.

So that's the story and a bit longer than I had intended. I'm still processing this "done" idea two days later, it doesn't make sense yet. 
The most rewarding aspect of all of this so far though, has been the overwhelming support that I have received from my friends and family through phone calls, text messages, surprises in person and the countless times I was told "I'll be praying for you". This was an accomplishment that I have largely done in private and frankly, didn't expect many people to care about. I have been floored by the encouragement that God has poured into my heart through this experience. 
And despite getting the Shakespeare question, my cup runneth over.

(*if you spotted my little hamlet quote or my nod to dr. faustus congrats, you have my respect and the full right to be very pleased with yourself)

Thursday, December 1, 2011

on the brink

Tonight I finished studying. 

Tomorrow I have my comprehensive exam where for three hours I will answer a question that I have been preparing to answer for the last two months and in some ways, for the last seven years. Seven years of preparation and somehow, tomorrow, it will all be over. Somehow, Lord willing, tomorrow I will have earned a Master's Degree in Renaissance English Literature

The last few days have been full of joy when I had anticipated them being full of stress, fatigue, anxiety and frustration. God has given me this incredible peace that has also come with a joy that continues to creep onto my face whenever I think about the exam. I just can't stop smiling. I've had so many little notes of encouragement, phone calls & texts and they all have blessed me, overwhelmed me with gratitude, love and hope. I didn't expect many people to care about this but so many of my friends and family have shown me that sweet care that I am positively overwhelmed by God's gifts to me. This has been a great week and today was the perfect end to these last few months of studying.

Tonight was surreal to say the least. My dear friend Dana and I spent the better part of ten hours studying today. We had a lovely coffee break courtesy of my dear, sweet mother and a for our last break we headed down for some delicious seasoned french fries with ranch dressing and coca-colas courtesy of the Nugget. At 10p.m. we called it quits, packed up our computers, turned in the books we had with us (approximately 20) and walked the long, cold, empty way down to our cars giggling, sighing and silent in disbelief. We are done - at least as far as studying goes. 

But there is still tomorrow. 

Our exam starts at 1p.m. and goes until 4. We both would really appreciate your prayers during that time. Specifically, that we would remember our critics & their arguments, that we would have clarity of thought & structure, that we remember the nice little points we really want to get across, and most importantly, that we both get the Milton question!! Thank you so much!

I'll let you know how it goes!


Sunday, September 11, 2011


I've asked a lot of people over the last week or two where they were on 9/11 & what they remembered. It is fascinating to hear person by person their reactions (i.e. "i thought it was a movie," or "i thought it was the end of the world") and the concerns for the country, for New York, and for those poor, poor innocent fellow citizens of ours. - If you shared your story with me this week thank you for sharing with me. I loved learning about you in that way. - If you didn't get to yet & would like to, I'd love to read about it. please share. if there's anything I've learned about pain like this it's that we really do feel something right when we talk about it, especially when other people are certain to understand what we mean.

The memories I have of that day are binding. Like every American who witnessed the horrors of that day I will never be able to forget what I saw. I wanted to just share my morning with you because I want to honor the day with what I can give it, my memory & my story. it's short, here it goes:
I was getting up to go to school (sophomore year) when my mom told me to go turn on the television and watch the news. She was in her bathroom toward the back of the house getting ready and listening to the radio. I knew something serious was happening. I flipped on the television and saw the images of the first building on fire. I'd never heard of The World Trade Centers, I certainly gathered that they were important and that this was terrible but I had no idea of what those buildings could hold, what they meant to America or what they symbolized to the terrorist. I watched as the second plane hit the second tower. I couldn't believe it. I ran to my mom & told her what happened, she was so serious & that is so not like my mom. I ran back to the television and watched until the 2nd tower that had been hit fell. I ran back again and told my mom. This time she was crying, I didn't know what to do. I didn't know what any of this meant, I just knew it was going to be terrible, beyond that even.
I was pretty young/naive being just a sophomore and I remember vividly months after the event saying to a pastor of mine in his office, "I just don't get 9/11, why are people still so upset about it? why is the news still harping on it? Move on." - I have regretted saying that from the minute after I said it. After that I began watching documentaries & learning about the tragedy of the day from perspectives I will never be able to comprehend. I learned through the footage, the audio of last voicemails, the incredible unity I felt amongst my countrymen of the honor & grief that day deserved in my heart. I regret that it took a while before I could grasp the meanings of that day but I have grasped them now.

It is a day every American that witnessed it can join me in saying that they will never forget. What comfort & unity there is in that knowledge; that WE will NEVER be able to forget that morning. We are united in that memory, linked by that national experience. 9/11 is a day that reminds me fiercely of my patriotism, my loyalty to the ideas of this country, to the ideas that were attacked on that day, to the ideas that caused that enemy to hate us. 
I can't wait to watch the ceremony tomorrow, I feel odd saying that I'm looking forward to something filled with so much pain but I find so much glory in remembering & participating with my nation as we remember together. I love my country. And I'll be watching tomorrow with a fixed gaze and bent heart just as I did on that Tuesday morning 10 years ago.

God bless you today as you remember & God bless this place, our home.

Thursday, September 1, 2011

fall semester

fall semester is the most lovely of the semesters. I feel relaxed as I walk onto a campus that is drifting away into the sleep of scarfy winter. I avoid the main thoroughfairs on campus & take a slow and quiet route to my classes. my stroll is peaceful, almost empty of other walkers save for two or three other souls. I feel deeply contented walking past the multi-storied brick buildings full of rooms where I have sat & learned for fifteen semesters. these places are sanctuaries in my mind, places I dearly love looking into & imagining my younger self inside learning some random bits of treasure that hopefully are still stored away in my mind. wandering on campus is nostalgic & magical. it is a place where I always feel that I belong more than anywhere else. somehow I feel as though I have earned this campus, these feelings, these treasured memories & thoughts. after all, fifteen semesters is a very long time to be in a relationship & somehow that's what I have with the campus, a complete & deep relationship.

I am enrolled this semester in "The Age of Milton," a class where we explore the contemporary authors of John Milton's time & end the class with a five week reading & discussion of his epic, Paradise Lost. it is going to be a phenomenal semester. the renaissance period is my favorite, after all, and I have my favorite professor teaching the class. but beyond what I will be learning from my professor & Milton, I will be learning something completely new that I really don't know how I will handle. I will be learning to say goodbye to this place, to my campus, to a place that brings me inexplicable comfort & joy. I fear leaving this place more than my final paper or comprehensive exam. I am so wrapped up in the rhythms of semesters, winter & summer breaks always broken by returning to class that I am at a real loss for knowing how the end of january will feel next year.

I will graduate in December with my Masters in English Literature & I feel caught between a sad disbelief & a sort of rushed sense of the end. "bitter-sweet" sums up my feelings almost exactly.
pray for me. this is going to be the hardest academic semester of my life, but beyond that I expect it to be one of the most difficult for my sentimental & romantic mind as it is forced to say good bye.

It seems most profound to me that I will read Paradise Lost this final semester. The title echoes in my heart as I will learn the meaning of my own paradise lost.

Monday, July 18, 2011

Gaskell & Ephron

Here are my summer book picks for all you avid readers. While I was a little late in beginning my summer reading I started off the tradition with two fantastic & extremely quick (which, when they're as good as this means way too quick) reads.

The first one I picked up was my lovely, green Penguin edition of Elizabeth Gaskell's Cranford.

 I recommend this book to anyone who has enjoyed Jane Austen's novels. Written in a similar style that blends delightful irony with quaint but serious tragedy, I was quite literally laughing out loud and not moments later crying (& all out of a singular paragraph!). I delighted in this book, in its sheer "britishness" but also in the sweet heart that felt & told these stories so dearly. Elizabeth Gaskell wrote two other novels that go along with Cranford  and that are woven into the television mini-series starring Judy Dench and Michael Gambon. The series has been wonderful so far, even Bryce is anxious to start the new disc (whenever Netflix graces our mailbox). I've come to understand through Bryce that British Television is somewhat of an acquired taste, however, he seems to have jumped into this particular series more quickly than any other I have made him watch. In fact, as I write this we are fixing up our famous (amongst ourselves, anyway) homemade pizza in anticipation of a Cranford night (white wine was invited as well)! 

And next we have the hilarious Nora Ephron's book, I Feel Bad About my Neck

In a word, this book is scrumptious. I laughed so many times & had to read so many parts of it out loud to whoever was fortunate enough to be sitting near me. To say I am recommending this book is really not accurate. You must read it. For those of you unaware of Nora Ephron & her work, she is responsible for one of my dearest & most treasured movie treats, You've Got Mail. Not only did she write it, she directed it as well. The same wonderful sensations that tickle my brain when I watch the film are found in each page of this short (only 120 page) book. She writes the way she talks & about midway through the book Bryce caught me referring to her on a first name basis - "Nora just said yatta yatta yatta . . . " - that is always a great sign. Take my word on this one, you will not be able to, nor will you want to put this down, much less have it end. It is a perfect little book on life, on lovely writing, on aging, cooking, the Apthorp, & what being a real person is actually like. 

I invite you to come visit me at my "Fox Books" (to quote my father who relishes in reminding me that I work for a nasty book chain - but please note all of you Got Mail fans that I know who Noah Streatfeild is!) & pick up these two titles. If you have other recommendations for me I'd love to hear them. 
I'm picking my way through Wilkie Collins' The Woman in White right now & it is turning awfully & chillingly mysterious. Look for my review on that one sometime next month.

*Pictures of these books are included for those of you who go into book stores armed with only the information about what color the book is. Thankfully these two are very bright & I will at least know what you mean by "the yellow funny one". But please, do try to remember the titles!


Thursday, July 14, 2011

Harry Potter

have you?
if you have never been stuck to a Harry Potter book than i'm telling you now, go get stuck. i was a doubter of the phenomenon myself being an accomplished english major and was convinced the books were below me, far, very far down below me. i was wrong and happily i discovered this about five years ago, in time to make it to the midnight premiers of movies 4 to tonight. TONIGHT.  i'll be camped out starting at 7pm (which is when i get off work) with my wand in one hand & a venti quattro-kajillion shot white mocha in the other. but while i look forward to tonight it is an ending and like all great things in life, there comes a time when we have to say goodbye. i am going to lose the thrill of eagerly anticipating the next movie/story & while other things will come along there is precious little out there that will keep me happily in a line till midnight. i hate the feeling of loss that comes with endings & farewells. tonight will be like finishing the books all over again & if there is something i loathe about a good book, it is the end of it.

in this moment of fandom i would like to just say a few things,

You have been a wonderful friend, I don't have the words right now to truly tell you of the joy, zeal & depth of feeling that your story has led me to. I'm so happy to have gotten to know you & happier to know how many others feel the same as I do.

I have stuck with Harry until the very end.

i'll see you all in line tonight i trust - with a lightning bolt on my forehead.
until then,


broken legs

pray for my husband will you? he's speaking at a camp and while he only has one night left, it is often that one last night where all the changes finally take root and show themselves. so if you'd pray for him, not only i, but i'm sure a great many souls would be thankful.

i wanted to just share a small thought, one that i absorbed from my father, a very wise man who shared with me over a chocolate shake & bacon burger his thoughts concerning our struggle in this life to model Christ. this is what he told me:

-  we are all dancing on broken legs  -

this has been a week of failures. i failed to move the car in time for street sweeping (something b normally does for me) and as a result our month just got a little tighter. i've had some frustrating customers this week as well & while i'm confident i didn't deserve or provoke their anger i'm not as confident that i cared at all to diffuse or be extra kind to them. i've had other small things go wrong that no one has noticed but me, and always in my mind are flawed thoughts that i turn around & around, and scold myself for thinking. ive never had a perfect day & even when i have that shift at work where just maybe i won't have that customer they inevitably show up. in short, i have felt a lot of shame this week, anger & frustration. but you know what i tell myself? grace abides. ah yes, i was blind but now, oh now i see. 
about a month ago i was sharing the story of my numbers, 925 & that exact phrase about coming out of blindness. my friend asked me, "is it better to be blind or to see?" and while the answer seems obvious it holds so much pain at the same time. to see & really see what is to be seen is a difficult & tricky business. i've confronted a great deal within myself that i didn't know was there; new flaws, new failures, new things to be ashamed of & learned that having my sight is in someways a true burden. my response to the question was, "i would rather see, but i am afraid of what i will have to look at". but in all of that looking i have seen a theme emerge and that (surprise!!) has been grace. 
i am trying to dance through the path God has purposed but i am doing it with a body that is broken, a body that hurts with each graceful leap. dancing on broken legs is precisely how i feel, but i take heart in my lord who has  overcome the world & who also delights in my poor but determined dancing.