Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Adios, Santa Fe

Well, my roommate left this afternoon, as did half the campus. I am nearly packed, and 24 hours from now I will be landing at KCI. It all seems so very surreal right now; in fact, if I didn't have the graded papers as evidence, I would swear that this was all a dream. I so vividly remember getting on the plane in Kansas City 6 weeks ago - absolutely scared to death. I remember landing in Albuquerque wondering if I would ever be able to carry the two suitcases to my dorm room. I remember meeting Margie at the shuttle counter and I knew when she asked, in her deep southern accent, "Are you with Breadloaf?" - I would be ok. I remember stepping into my dorm room and realizing that all was going to be fine -- as I had a private room and the internet cable worked! I remember thinking that God had truly blessed me when he gave me a wonderful, Christian roommate who immediately set my mind at ease. I remember the first day of classes, staring at all the other students around the round table, wondering if I would ever remember all their names, much less any of the material that was to be taught. And then.......it is all a blur. I remember reading a TON! I remember writing - and worrying - about the 4 term papers. I remember the 3 seconds of relief when I saw that I actually received A- on the first set of papers --- and then immediately plunging into writing the second set. And.....I remember the last day of class. It truly did pass by that quickly. The professors were amazing - although they are so amazing that most of them are not returning next year as they have prior engagements: my Chaucer professor will now be teaching at the Folger's Shakespeare Library in Washington DC during the summer; another teacher will be attending a seminar in England; another will be doing a book tour of the book she just proofed this summer; I am not sure why the professor from Princeton is not returning (which I had hoped to take his Bible as Literature class), but I am sure he other academic engagements. So.....I am not sure if I will return to Santa Fe next summer - or venture to Ashville, NC - or, dare I hope, join Jenna at Oxford. BUT...I will definitely come back. And hopefully next year --- it won't be such a blur at year's end.

The pictures posted are from a tour that Margie and I took today at the Pecos National Park, where there are remains of an old pueblo. The church is the most visible structure left standing, but there other remnants of pueblos and other mission ruins. It was very interesting, and a great way to end a trip to this very historic area of the United States.

Monday, July 21, 2008

I DID IT!!!!

Well, it is official.....at 11:55 this morning I walked out of the last class for the summer! I received my last paper for that class -- and I earned an A-, so there is a huge sense of relief that I have definitely passed Chaucer. The lesson plan for the Victorian Narrative class has not yet been returned as the professor had a conference to attend in England - but hopefully that will be a good enough grade to warrant a passing grade for the class. It is simply amazing that 6 weeks has gone by soooo fast. I remember arriving on this campus like it was yesterday - feeling like a deer in headlights - and here I am 20% done with my Master's degree. It has truly been an amazing experience --- overwhelming and intimidating -- but amazing none the less.

I know that some of you may be thinking that I have holed myself up in my dorm room for the entire 6 week period, only to emerge for meals and classes. Well, while you are not that far off-base, I did manage to make a few friends and since this was a weekend without papers, we have taken some time out to play. Tonight we went to a restaurant called Gabrielle's where they make homemade guacamole at your table -- WOW was it good!! The picture at the top is obviously me - standing behind my roommate Jenna (from Alaska) and standing next to our suitmates: Marjie with the short hair from Atlanta (she was the very first Breadloaf student I met at the airport!) and Deborah from San Antonio who has just graduated!! I tell you, if it weren't for these 3 ladies and their strong encouragement, I am not sure that I would have lasted.

This is a picture of Robert and Ann. Robert is from Colorado and has the dryest sense of humor you have ever heard! It took me about 4 weeks before I stopped believing all his stories. He teaches 6th grade, so that may explain part of it. He roomed with Charles from AZ, but Charles had to leave on Saturday since teachers in his district had to report to school today! Charles is an even more intense student than me -- if you can imagine. Ann is a delightful lady from Boston. She drove all the way out here by herself - so she will be spending Saturday night with us on her way back east. All these people were very integral to making my first Breadloaf summer a successful one. I owe them a lot.

Well, I am not sure that I will post again before leaving for home. Tomorrow I will spend time re-packing the suitcase (minus the 20 pounds of books that I mailed today!) and we need to be out of the rooms on Wednesday at 10:00am. I will go see Deborah graduate, have lunch, and then catch a 3:15 shuttle for the airport. I want to thank each and every one of you for your prayers, support and encouragement during this time. It has truly meant the world to me!

Sunday, July 20, 2008

Time out for Play

I am down to the wire here --- finally! I have turned in all papers and only have one more class tomorrow morning and then I will have successfully (hopefully) completed my first summer of Breadloaf. Yesterday I truly relaxed all day - but today my roomie and I actually took some time to sightsee. We went to the Georgie O'Keefe museum where there was a joint exhibit with Ansel Adams. It is a very small musueum, but it was very worthwhile.

We then drove up to the Santa Fe National Park - which also houses a ski lift - so we were definitely up in the mountains. It was very peaceful and great to get away from the campus for a few hours. Santa Fe is an interesting, artistic town and I have enjoyed seeing this part of the country. However, I have learned that I am probably more of a Colorado Rockies kind of girl rather than a Southwest desert lover. The dry, brown terrain really gets to me after a while.

This has been, overall, a great experience. I have met some great people who are life-long learners just like me. I have learned that I can succeed in this highly rigorous academic environment and hold my own. I have learned that I am not too old to still have attainable goals. I have learned that not all professors teach in the same way - nor do all students learn in the same way --- and this will definitely transfer into my classroom next year. I will try to teach the same concept in a number of different ways in order to accommodate those different learning styles. I have also learned that I LOVE my own bed and I really do like to have a pot of coffee waiting for me first thing in the morning. I have learned that my family can indeed get along without me just fine - and that is a good thing. I have also learned that I really miss my family and appreciate them so very much.

So....one more class to go......two more days to go.....and then I return to the comfortable routine of home. I am ready!

Sunday, July 13, 2008

This is the Home S-t-r-e-t-c-h

Well, I logged onto my google homepage today and noticed that I have 10 days until I come home! That is absolutely unbelievable! The time has absolutely flown by - and yet I am ready to come home - to family, to pets, to routine, and to my own bed! The next 5 days will be absolutely intense. I have almost completed the lesson plan for my final project in Victorian Narratives --- 50 pages and counting! It was a massive undertaking, but I am so glad that I pushed myself to try it. I have no idea if it is what the professor is looking for --- but it will suit my needs when I decide to teach Lady Audley's Secret at school. I now have an entire unit - including vocabulary lists, tests, discussion outlines, writing assignments and rubric, etc --- for the book It is 13 sessions long -- that is a month's worth of lesson plans! YIPEE!

The Chaucer paper has me stumped. I met with the professor and she revised my focus -- but now I seem more lost than before -- NOT a good sign. I have a lot of research completed, but not in any order whatsoever. I think I may use my original thesis - and tweak it to represent her suggestions. I think that is the only way that I can write the 5-7 page paper by Friday and still keep whatever sanity I have left.
It is not like the only thing I have to do is write final projects -- we still have the daily lessons to complete as well. I feel like I am barely able to keep my head above water --- but I know that God will not give me more than I can handle, and I know that this time next week I will be breathing a sigh of relief. In fact, my roommate has rented a car for the week, so perhaps next weekend I can go see some of the sites of the southwest.

While I have learned an enormous amount while I have been here, I think the most valuable information I will take away is how to read for the classes next summer. I will definitely register EARLY so that I can get started on the reading early AND....I will be using the dialectic journal technique that I teach to my students (much to their chagrin). I'm telling you, guys, IT WORKS!

Well.....enough chit chat --- I must go prepare for the last week of the session. I SO appreciate all the prayers that you have sent my way. I have truly been encouraged the entire time I have been here.

PS -- Photos are slightly different this go around. One of the projects I have included in the lesson plan is to have the students look at paintings and determine what gothic and/or sensational elements are represented. These are a couple of the paintings that I will be using

PPS ---- just in case some of you have been wondering -- I did receive my first set of grades and I received an A- on each paper --- I was absolutely thrilled!!

Sunday, July 6, 2008

No Rest for the Weary!

Well, I turned in my 2nd paper on Thursday - actually one day ahead of schedule - and have spent most of this weekend gathering information for the last two papers that I have to complete by July 18! These papers are even longer - and more complex - than the first two. The paper for Chaucer will concentrate on the Franklin's Tale and the role of "contracts" in that tale. There are basically 3 contracts made: chivalric code of honor; marriage; and a "rash" promise that was made in jest. My thesis (as weak as it is right now) asserts that the Code of Chivalry trumps everything in this aristocratic, medieval society. I plan to meet with the professor next week to help make this thesis sound more professional.

The paper for my other class is leaning towards a lesson plan. I have never completed an "official" lesson plan, so this will be a great exercise for me --- incredibly time consuming, as you have to develop all handouts, tests, class discussion questions, writing assignments AND match them to state standards of english education --- but very valuable. I will be using the book, Lady Audley's Secret, which is a wonderful 'sensational' novel of 1860. I will be meeting with the professor tomorrow to discuss how to go about this, and perhaps how to add a gothic novel to the mix as well. English 4 class --- watch out ---- it will be a fun, exciting, hard-working year!

I did allow myself a treat this weekend. I went to the flea market with a friend - and had a blast. It was so much fun to see all the booths of Indian jewelry, woven rugs, native clothing, etc. I even bought myself a piece of jewelry -- which is highly out of character for me! However, the jewelry does have an educational value - so that redeems my reputation. Did you ever hear of DaVinci's Divine Proportion? Well, it was news to me and there was an artisian at the flea market who made beaded jewelry that can either function as a bracelet - anklet - or necklace. Apparently our bodies are designed so that 4 times around the wrist = 3 times around the ankle = 2 times around the neck. VERY COOL -- and pretty at the same time.

Well, I must go have breakfast for sustenance so that I can WORK the rest of the day (too much play yesterday). I simply cannot believe that I have past the half-way point in this summer's endeavor. The time just flew by!

Friday, July 4, 2008

Happy 4th of July!!

It is hard to believe that today is the 4th of July. This is somewhat monumental on several levels. First of all, I am spending this holiday 900 miles away from family -- I guess you could say I am being very independent on Independence Day. Secondly, I can hear the fireworks sounding over the Santa Fe mountains, but I cannot see them. This is the first year I haven't seen fireworks in --- well --- a really long time. And finally, this is the first year that the dock in Bella Vista, Arkansas has not been used for the Totoro Family Firework display.

We christened that dock in 1993 and it became a new family tradition. Many laughs, giggles, oohs and ahs were shared around that dock on the 4th of July. Each year the display would grow larger and brighter, and each year we would marvel at what a great time we shared. Graddy was able to share in that celebration one last time - July, 2005 - and we will always hold that holiday as God's special gift to us. A lot has happened over the past 3 years, and we knew that last year's July 4th celebration would be the last one shared at 97 Mayfair. Sometimes moving on can be hard.

But a new tradition has begun this year. I was not able to be a part of it, but Mom's new apartment has a balcony that allows for a perfect view of Olathe fireworks. All can fit on that balcony and ooh and ahh at the professional display. Not quite as spectacular as the show off the dock, but a colorful celebration nevertheless.

So, here's to a celebration of freedom; here's to old traditions in new ways; here's to continuing the journey that God has set before us; here's to Graddy.

PS - I couldn't watch fireworks displays, but I could watch beautiful sunsets. Here's to God's natural beauty in the sky every night!

Friday, June 27, 2008

Which is Worse....

So I have two papers to write this weekend. One is a 5-7 page compare/contrast paper that will closely analyze two narrative passages. My thesis for this particular paper is something like: The ideal Victorian woman was not only subservient to her husband, but was also a dutiful daughter as evidenced in the novels, Villette (550 pages) and Bleak House (950 pages). The other paper is to closely analyze - in terms of style and form, rather than content - 15 lines of Middle English from the "Pardoner's Tale" in Chaucer's Canterbury Tales. My thesis for this 3-4 pages paper is something like: The old man in the Pardoner's Tale functions as a cautionary character for the three rioters who seem intent on finding Death.

My dilemma is this: is it worse to have to write the papers OR to have to grade papers? I always enjoy reading student essays, but I have never enjoyed the grading process -- trying to quantify, and give constructive feedback, to 20+ papers. I also don't mind the research and analysis of these papers I need to write this weekend, but I do not enjoy the pressure of presenting my findings in a "masterly" worded essay (do you like the play on words???) I don't think I have an answer to this rhetorical question.

I will however share a photo of a place here that makes me very happy --- there is a small pond, complete with waterfall, goldfish and lily pads -- just outside the student center. I find the waterfall so relaxing and the fish can sense when humans are on its edge. They are programmed to think they will be fed if feet are in this location - and so they all come swimming towards anyone who is standing nearby. It reminds me of my dogs --- the devotion to humans when food is involved. Anyway, it is a great place to go and clear my head when the stress is getting to be too much.

Well, I must go write those rough drafts ---- to procrastinate will get me nowhere.