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.

Thursday, June 26, 2008


Happy Anniversary - Giffy!

WOW - it is incredibly hard to believe that 26 years have passed since we said "I do" at Norfield Congregational Church. There has been a LOT of water under the bridge - but somehow we continued to bob up for air and not drown in the flood.

Who would have thought 26 years ago that we would be living in Kansas?! My image of Kansas was corn fields and cows as fas as the eye could see (Yankees tend to think that the world stops after Washington, DC). While there is a certain element of truth in that image (especially when taking I-435 from the airport in 1990), we have come to love the midwest way of life. It is hard to believe that we have spent more of our married life here than any other place we have lived. Kansas is now home - the east coast is now a vacation destination.

Who would have thought 26 years ago that we would have 3 children - all nearly grown - and one son-in-law? I always knew that we would have children, I just never imagined that they would grow up to be adults (or more specifically - that I would ever be old enough to have grown up children). How blessed we have been with 3 terrific, healthy, intelligent, responsible, independent, loving, Christ-centered kids! God is good.

Who would have thought 26 years ago that Geoff would be in retail sales and I would have a "career" as a teacher!! Geoff was going to take New York City by storm and have a 40 year career in the financial services industry -- and I was going to be the stay-at-home mom. While we lived that life for a while - it has certainly taken many twists and turns along the way. I will not go so far as to say the entire ride was joyful --- but I can honestly say that I have enjoyed the ride. We have learned a lot about our own individual selves - a lot about one another - and a lot about ourselves together as husband/wife. I would not trade this life I have now for anything. It was the life designed by God for me, and it is indeed perfect.

Who would have thought 26 years ago that I would be spending this anniversary 900 miles away from home in a 6x8 Santa Fe dorm room while Geoff was tending the home fires in Kansas City? This is the first anniversary we have been apart - and it is an odd feeling. It is nice to be at a point in the marriage where you know the relationship is strong enough to withstand a 6 week separation - and yet it there is something ironic in the fact that we are separated on this momentous occasion. I am deeply grateful to Geoff for allowing me -- actually, for pushing me -- to take advantage of this opportunity. It is truly the best anniversary present!

So.....26 years on the 26th of June.....I think that is an sign. This year will be our "magic" year; this year will be filled with old reliable comforts, and new exciting beginnings. This year will mark the change from every cloud has a silver lining......to there is a pot of gold at the end of the rainbow. Here's to another quarter of a century of walking hand in hand on the journey that God has set before us.

Sunday, June 22, 2008

Mama Mia -- I will miss you

My dog died last night --- and I was not there to tell her good-bye. I was not there to hold her head - stroke her paws - and whisper in her ear how much I loved her. This was not not supposed to happen this year -- not now; not when she was only three years old; not when I was off pursuing some silly academic study.

Mia was not the smartest dog on the block - some might even say she was stupid. But I knew differently. I could look into her soft brown eyes and connect with the intellect that was behind them. Mia was intuitive and the epitome of female companionship for Ralf. Mia knew how to fetch -- but she would allow her alpha male dog to fetch instead. While Mia appeared to be on the sidelines watching, she actually created her own game: she would let Ralf fetch for a while - and then one time when he least expected it - she would be the first to grab the toy and immediately run outside. She was always cordial and considerate and eventually allowed Ralf to secure the toy (and his masculinity) -- but she knew what was going on.

Mia was my "farm pup" -- that girl loved the outdoors. Sometimes she would run around; sometimes she would tree a squirrel; and sometimes she would just sit in the sun and observe the landscape. Mia knew a few commands - like sit and "hi five" --- but the command she obeyed most often was "Mia - find the squirrelies". She would dart out the door as fast as possible and immediately go to one of the two trees in the back yard. She wasn't meaning to hunt the squirrels - she just wanted to play - and could never quite understand why they weren't so willing to come down and take part in her festivities.

What Mia lacked in intellect - she made up for in affection. She would sit in my lap for hours on end -- just to be near me. She would follow me everywhere in the house - hence her nickname "Me Too" For the past several months - much to Geoff's concern - she would sleep in our room and very often at the foot of our bed on top of my feet. It wasn't comfortable, but it was secure. While some viewed my feeding Mia by hand as spoiling her, I cherished the closeness that it allowed us to share. She wasn't afraid of the silver bowl - she just preferred the human interaction.

Mia was a wonderful mom. She had three litters of puppies - way too many for a female dog of only three years old - but she simply couldn't say "no" to Ralfie. Mia tenderly nursed each one of her 20 puppies for a full three weeks - and then she instinctively weaned them and taught them independence. All 2o puppies were a pure delight and we will be forever grateful to Mia for those experiences. I am afraid that the last litter may have been too much for her, though. We all noticed how gray she seemed to become. That was truly the ultimate sacrifice, Mia - to give your life for your puppies - and your humans.

I hope you did not suffer, Mia. I hope you just went upstairs to lay in the sun and you quietly passed on in your sleep. I hope you knew how much joy you brought to our family and how much we will greatly miss you. You were truly "man's" best friend.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

One week down.....5 more to go!

Well, this officially marks the passing of one full week at Bread Loaf. I have had 3 class sessions - a trip to the downtown area - many walks to and from the student union (it is VERY hilly) - the pleasure of watching spectular sunsets every evening - and a boatload of first experiences. I am still overwhelmed, but have learned that this is a natural feeling at Bread Loaf - and I am not the only one feeling these emotions.

The professors are VERY understanding and are truly here to help the students learn - not to try to eliminate students from the 2009 class roster. I need to keep this in mind: we are working for the same goal - we are not in an adversarial relationship.

I have learned an incredible amount in only 3 short class periods. I have already taken a ton of notes and know how to improve my literature classes for next year. It has been well worth my time and anxiety for this benefit alone.

This weekend will be a bit more stressful than last. I will need to finish memorizing the first 18 lines of Chaucer's prologue to the Canterbury Tales (in Middle English, no less) for Monday - of which I have only about the first 8 done so far. This will take quite a bit of short bursts of studying over the next 5 days.

I will need to somehow review the 950 pages of Bleak House and be prepared to discuss in class on Monday. This is a stretch for me. I normally try to re-read a book prior to class -- but it is physically impossible to do that this time around. At the same time, I need to be developing a paper idea so that next weekend I can write a compare and contrast paper for Villette and Bleak House on one small detail/theme that is evident in both stories. This will be a huge step outside of my comfort zone!!

It is still overwhelming - but the knowledge that everyone has felt this way at some point and time - and some still feel this way - somehow gives me comfort.

Prayers are still appreciated. Thoughts are still in Kansas.

Sunday, June 15, 2008


Well, for those of you who have been following this (short-lived) blog - you have noticed that I have not posted in a while. Truthfully, that has been intentional.

After my first day of classes (I have two classes on Mondays and Wednesdays: Chaucer's Canterbury Tales is from 9:00 - 11:45 and Victorian Literature is from 2:00 - 4:45) I felt totally overwhelmed and truly not certain if I could do this. I was also wise enough to realize that I had not had much sleep in the past 48 hours, so I decided to go to bed early and see if things wouldn't look a little brighter the next morning.

Well, the Santa Fe sky was bright - but my outlook was pretty bleak. I spent most of the day Thursday trying to analyze the syllabi and to break it down into more manageable pieces. The Chaucer course will either be fairly manageable OR.....I will fall flat on my face. Here is a quick breakdown of what I will have to accomplish over the 6 week period: memorize the first 18 lines in Middle English by June 25 (although the instructor insists that all students will pass this no matter how long it takes); write a 2 page "close reading" of one tale (due July 4); write a 5 page "brief research paper" on a separate tale (due July 18); and teach one class on a very close reading of one tale (should be at least 10 minutes in length --- date to be announced). I spent most of my "Chaucer" time this weekend reading the cliffnotes version of the tales so that I would be able to take an educated guess as to which tales I would like to read and research closely. I have the first 4 lines (more or less) memorized --- and I have read the reading for tomorrow's class (the prologue in Middle English - although I did use a modern day translation to help me). I hope this will be satisfactory - I suppose I will find out tomorrow.

My second class was a bit more intimidating. There are only 7 students in the class (vs 14 students in Chaucer) - so there is no hiding from the instructor. Also, the instructor is VERY interested in class discussions - and she expects lots of interaction between the 7 of us (for those of you who know me --- that is NOT my favorite class environment to learn. I much prefer to take copious notes while the expert enlightens my mind). We will have two papers in that class as well - the first one will be due on June 30. That will be a compare and contrast paper for the novels Villette (540 pages) and Bleak House (975 pages). We will need to pick one reading from each book (about a page in length) and compare and contrast in terms of writing style, theme/topic development, etc. So far no page length has been announced. The 2nd paper will be due on July 16 and as of now it is a very open ended research paper on any of the themes/topics discussed in class. Again, no page length has been indicated. For tomorrow, we had to read Villette and bring to class 3 prepared questions that will elicit class discussion. That does not sound difficult -- unless you are like me and wonder how involved/in-depth these questions need to be. Consequently - I spent the rest of my weekend re-reading the novel and taking detailed notes - trying to track the themes/motifs of about 25 different topics. I have managed to come up with 5 questions that I think might be open-ended enough to elicit some conversation. Again, I guess I will find out tomorrow.

So, there you have it. LOTS of reading; 4 papers; some "teaching" or leading of class discussions; and lots of nerves to go with it. I am hoping that tomorrow I will have a better idea of class expectations on a day-to-day basis. I will still continue to sweat out the expectations of the writing assignments.

Lest I leave you with a negative impression of this experience - let me say that I absolutely LOVE the classes (so far), the people, and the learning experience. If I didn't have to depend on a B- grade --- I would have no anxiety whatsoever. This is exactly the caliber of learning that I expected from Bread Loaf, and anything less would have been a disappointment. I only hope that my brain has the capacity to keep up.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

A Day of Firsts

Well, I actually did it. I got on that plane and did not chicken out. Actually, there was a part of me that wanted to back out - but I am simply too stubborn to back down from a public commitment (and you can't get more public than a blog and a facebook message).

The plane ride was uneventful - and I even managed to get both suitcases (net weight 87 pounds!) off the conveyor belt by myself without causing any bodily injury to myself or others (I considered this the first major success of the journey).

As I was standing in line to register for the shuttle I met my first Bread Loaf attendee - Marjorie - who has been to two other Bread Loaf sessions and is NOT an English major - I felt quite relieved already. Marjorie is very outgoing and was willing to share lots of useful information.

Once the shuttle actually arrived we met another Bread Loaf attendee - Emily - who will actually be graduating from the program after this 6 week session. She was also a wealth of information and both of them tried to calm my fears of inadequacy.

I also managed to lug both suitcases (although I did have to do it one at a time) up 2 flights of stairs. The 7,000 ft altitude causes one to become winded very quickly - so even though I know I am out of shape - I REALLY felt out of shape after accomplishing that feat.

The dorm rooms are very nice - small but nice. You walk into one person's room as you come through the front door (this room is about 10x8) and then the 2nd room has its own door off to the right (and it is about 6x8). I have the 2nd room - but it is adequate to suit my needs. There are four of these rooms per floor with a common hall bath (not ideal - but better than what I had when I was at Gettysburg College). The bathroom is right across the hall from our room, so that is rather convenient.

My roommate is from "the bush" part of Alaska - and she is absolutely fascinating! I told her that I will receive half of my education from Bread Loaf professors and the other half from her. She attends the Church of Christ and we are going to try to attend the local church together on Sundays. God is Good!! Marjie is my next door neighbor - so I feel as though I already have a couple of friends on campus.

There was a lovely, low-key reception for us this evening, and then a great dinner of some real Santa Fe cuisine: fajitas - chicken enchiladas - jicama salad. The professors spoke very briefly, but they all seem to be very approachable and low-key as well.

It was a huge days of firsts for me - and for an introvert like myself - it was exhausting! Tomorrow is another day of firsts: I have both classes tomorrow - one from 9:00 - 11:45 and the other from 2:00 - 4:45. However, I only have class Mondays and Wednesdays - so I will have a 4 day break --- good, I will need time to recuperate from all these new experiences --- and to begin the 6 weeks of work. From what I understand there will be a LOT of papers -- so perhaps this blog has been good practice.

Thank you all for your prayers, support and encouragement. It has meant more to me than you can possibly imagine. I am truly blessed!

Monday, June 9, 2008

Well....this is it!

It is now 1:00pm on Monday, June 9 and I am completely packed - I think. Somehow I fit all the items that I think I might possibly need over the next 6 weeks in two large suitcases. It still remains to be seen if I can actually lift these suitcases (they are on wheels, so "carrying" them shouldn't be a problem) - but perhaps there are some very kind good Samaritans in NM who would feel inclined to help a damsel in distress (or at least a middle-aged teacher with a bad back). I will have to cross that bridge when I come to it.

I will take my laptop and some "light" reading material in a backpack as my carry on; who knew that I would get more than one use out of the neon blue and orange EF Tours backpack!

This must be what they call "the calm before the storm." I am amazingly at peace right now. I intentionally packed early so that I wouldn't be stressed out tonight - the family deserves my last few hours at home to be on a good note :) I am sure the nerves will be in high gear tomorrow morning as we drive to KCI to catch an 8:35 flight, but I suppose I have come to realize that I have reached the "point of no return" and perhaps this calm feeling is actually a reluctant acceptance of the inevitable. Whatever the case, I give God the praise for providing me with this opportunity - and allowing me some meditative time to rest, relax and regroup before leaving tomorrow. Now I will just pray for strength - literally - to transport this luggage from my Olathe home to my new Santa Fe dorm room.
The next post will be from New Mexico --- so for now this is over and out from Kansas!

Sunday, June 8, 2008

Time and Relativity

Each morning when I log onto my google account I have a google countdown. For the past two years the countdown has been set for my trip to London. With great anticipation and excitement I watched the numbers ever decrease from 435 days to London - to 30 days - and then just 1 day to the magical journey. For this particular countdown it seemed like the days were passing ever so slowly and the day would never arrive. However, there are always 24 hours in a day - 60 minutes in every hour, and while it may have seemed like time had slowed down, the reality was that time passed at the same speed as it has since the beginning of, well.....time.

Since April, however, I have kept a second google countdown on my homepage --- days until I leave for Bread Loaf 2008. When I began the countdown it was approximately 65 days until I was to leave and to be quite honest, there was a TON of stuff that had to be accomplished in those 65 days. While I was excited about this new journey - it truly was on the backburner until the end of school and the trip to London. However, since returning from "across the pond" the google countdown has gone from 12 days to 2 days in what has seemed like a brief moment. Again, I know in reality it has been the same 24 hours in a day - 60 minutes in every hour - but this time rather than going incredibly slowly (as with London) it has gone way too fast.

I think I secretly hope that time will stand still - at least for a little while. I don't want to wake up tomorrow and my google homepage shouts out: Just one more day until you leave your comfortable life in KS for a totally unknown world in NM. I want to remain in my comfort zone for a while:
  • I am not ready to leave a split-level house for a 10x10 dorm room;
  • I am not ready to leave my private bath and shower for a shared bathroom in the middle of the hall;
  • I am not ready to give up eating what, when and where I want in order to eat institutional food NOT of my own choosing in a cafeteria full of strangers;
  • I am not ready to leave the unconditional love of my puppies who follow me everywhere for a place where I know no one;
  • I am not ready to leave my family and friends - who know me and accept me for who I am - to be among those who might perhaps pre-judge me on the first meeting and not like who they see;
  • and I think most importantly, I am not ready to switch roles from teacher (the one who is in charge and knows more than those in the classroom) to student (who is not in charge and probably knows less than most in the classroom). I suppose I am more of a control-freak than I originally suspected - and I am sure that this in an area where God would like to show me that really HE is the one in control.

Time is not standing still, however. The minutes continue to tick by and pretty soon there will only be 24 hours left in the comfort of home. While I know this experience will stretch me (in more ways than one) - and while I know that the initial 48 hours of this new experience will be VERY unsettling, I also know that I will learn a new definition of comfort --- and I will grow to appreciate more fully the blessings of my life in Olathe, KS. It is time to Let Go and Let God.

I'm off to pack!

Friday, June 6, 2008

How does one pack???

Ok, I have packed for one week stays overseas (one 50 lb suitcase and one carry-on) ....and I have packed for a semester at college (all that will fit in a Ford station wagon circa 1978) .....but I have never packed for a 6 week long-distance trip in just two suitcases that I must carry myself! Where do I start???

First of all, I was told to bring a spare towel and a blanket - as the college will only provide one towel and a set of sheets. Being extremely cold natured - I MUST find room for the blanket (and possibly my pillow). Secondly, I must bring all books for class - this includes the 7 books for Victorian Narratives, 2 books for Chaucer (plus my modern day translation to help me out) AND my laptop computer, various notebooks, pens, pencils, etc. My guess is this will take up one entire suitcase. That means that I must fit 6 weeks worth of clothes, shoes, accessories, makeup etc in only one suitcase (ok - those who went to London for only one week - you KNOW how this difficult this is for a female traveler!!)

I suppose I must take the attitude that I will probably not see these people again (or at most next summer) and so if they see me in the same 6 or 7 outfits for 6 weeks that's ok. I will probably want to burn those outfits when I arrive back in KS - but such is the sacrifice for the sake of education, right?

On the positive side -- the 21st century offers some luxuries and conveniences that I did not have available to me in 1978. For example, I do not have to worry about long distance phone calls as our cell phone plan allows for thousands of minutes of free long distance and unlimited text messaging (although I must confess that my text messaging skills are severely lacking). Also, I have my laptop computer and ethernet access (I pray that it works in my dorm room) and that allows me to keep in contact through other cyberspace methods such as Facebook, blogs, email and AIM. I even have a webcam - although I have yet to figure out how to set that up - so I may even have the opportunity to talk AND see my loved ones! In the dark ages of the 70s we had the choice of long distance phone calls or old-fashioned, hand-written letters!

In addition, I do not have to worry about a television, DVD player, stereo and radio alarm clock. My trusty cell phone can act as an alarm clock and my laptop computer will allow me to watch DVDs, listen to iTunes music and even catch up on television shows - if I ever watch any. In 1978 these appliances alone took up the entire back seat of the station wagon.

Well, enough of all this nostalgia - I best get to packing!

How did I get here?

Since I have 4 days to go before I actually start this blog - I thought I might record my journey to this point. This is truly for my own records, but some of you may be interested in reading.

I suppose if I were to truly trace this journey I would have to start when I was 8 years old and went to the house of some family friends whose son just returned from his "junior year abroad" in Paris, France. I had just started taking French in school and I was absolutely fascinated by his pictures and stories of living in that foreign city. I decided that night that I was going to do that too -- spend my junior year in college overseas in Paris, France.

I loved French and continued taking it from 2nd grade through college (it was my major). I never had the confidence to feel that I was truly fluent in the language, but I did enjoy reading it and hearing others speak. I was fortunate enough to attend a high school that offered an annual exchange program. Each year the high school would take 15 students to France for 3 weeks (stay with French families and attend French school) and then we would reciprocate and host 15 students here in America. While I thought I was a "shoe-in" to go my sophomore year, I was not accepted. This was a huge disappointment to me - but it was also a tremendous lesson in perseverance. I continued to study French and was accepted my junior year. This ended up to be a true blessing for I had one more year of French under my belt and that extra year of desire enabled me to truly experience all that I could while I was over there.

I returned from that experience even more desirous to spend an entire year abroad. So, I applied to Gettysburg College as a French major and continued to pursue that path. However, I never dreamed that I would meet the love of my life (which I did) and that I would choose to spend time with him rather than abroad (which I did). I knew that my experience in high school was enough to make this decision without any regrets - and I can honestly say that I have NO regrets to this day.
Geoff and I both have a desire to travel and at one point we plotted and schemed to take a trip to Europe. We had planned to stay at Bed and Breakfasts from Paris to Rome - and tour some of the great French vineyards. Again we never dreamed that we would be blessed with a family so soon (which we were) and that we would choose to stay in America and raise three children rather than take this trip of a lifetime (which we did). Again, we can both honestly say that we have NO regrets in making that decision.

When I graduated from college I truly had no idea what I wanted to do with that education. I used to think that I wanted to teach, but I quickly realized that I did not want to teach French to high school students. I then considered becoming an international flight attendant (we called them stewardesses at the time), but decided that my personality did not fit with plastering a smile on my face for 12 hours at a time. Since my favorite subject of all time was Constitutional Law I also briefly considered going to law school, but my LSAT scores were only mediocre and besides - I was ready to get married and stop studying. So, I "endured" the career of financial market research analyst until I became a mom. At that point I knew that was my chosen profession: I wanted to raise my own children and not have a daycare do the job for me.

I was fortunate enough to have that dream come true for 15 years. However financial circumstances dictated that I needed to do something - at least part time - to help with cashflow. I was asked to be the part-time secretary for the private school that Mandy was attending and I readily accepted. This would allow me to remain in touch with Mandy (my youngest) on a daily basis, and it would bring in the necessary cash to help with financial obligations. Never in my wildest imagination did I dream that two weeks later I would be asked to take the full-time position of 6th grade teacher at this same private school. I thought they were crazy for even considering me in this position: I had no training nor any desire to teach 13 adolescent students (my own children would attest to my lack of patience!) However, it was VERY evident that this was God's will for my life - and I reluctantly accepted. I am ashamed to admit that I was really quite angry with God for the first 3 months of this new " career" and I was unable to rest in His divine wisdom. However, something happened between Thanksgiving and Christmas that year that turned my thinking to His way instead of my way. Once I accepted His will for my life, I truly began to see what a glorious profession this truly is.

It was quite a journey from 6th grade teacher of all core subjects to high school English teacher - but nevertheless, here I am. I have always enjoyed grammar and began this journey by becoming the elementary grammar teacher for another private school. This, in turn, led to becoming the junior high English teacher (somewhat natural progression) to the English 4 - British Literature - teacher (NOT a natural progression and one that, to be quite frank, absolutely terrified me). Most of the literature that I would be teaching in this class I never read before - and I was lucky if I could keep just two steps ahead of the students. I spent hours and hours reading and researching each of the unit studies. It was only after we made it through the first semester - and Shakespeare's Macbeth - that I began to relax just a little. Then, in January of that year, I had the idea - what I truly believe was Divine Inspiration - to travel to England and learn first hand about the history and authors that I was trying to teach. Through online research I found an educational travel company that would allow me to travel to England for FREE if I enrolled 6 students on the trip. This seemed too good to be true.

However, nothing is impossible if it is truly God's will - and I enrolled a total of 12 students - which meant that Geoff was also able to go with me for FREE. In addition, I also earned a FREE 3 day trip to Paris (see photo above). Isn't that amazing?! While I had to wait 25 years after graduating college, Geoff and I were both able to achieve our dream of traveling abroad. GOD IS GOOD - and He truly does give your heart's desire if you are willing to be patient and lean on His perfect timing.

While this trip to England enabled me to bring some new found knowledge back to the classroom, I still felt as though I was lacking the true qualifications to teach these students British Literature. I casually researched the possibility of becoming certified, but because my major was in French and not English - I would need to obtain an undergraduate degree in English, as most graduate programs deemed that a prerequisite. In addition, most graduate programs were geared toward the full-time student, and I simply could not give up teaching to pursue this advanced degree. There was one program, however, that truly fit the bill: Middlebury College Bread Loaf School of English. I applied to Middlebury as an undergraduate (they have one of the best foreign language programs in the country) and was waiting listed. This is an excellent school and truly one that I would consider out of my league. The Bread Loaf program is geared toward teachers -- so the classes meet for 6 intensive weeks in the summer - perfect for my schedule. The program does not require the GRE (thank goodness!!) AND there is not thesis (another major plus with a full teaching schedule). In addition, they do not require a undergraduate degree in English - just a desire to learn English literature through intense immersion - and, of course, a writing sample. I was very leery of the writing sample - and yet somehow they deemed it worthy enough for acceptance into the program.

Of course, masters programs are not free - and this one is certainly not cheap. I had no idea how we were going to pay for it, but I knew that I had followed the Lord's leading this far, and I would continue to follow Him until the door was completely closed. I mentioned this opportunity to my mom who was thrilled that I was pursuing this course. She immediately volunteered to pay for the program: tuition, room, board, books and travel expenses. I NEVER expected this response and am still somewhat in shock that all has truly come together so quickly - and easily. God is Amazing!!

So, here I am -- 4 days away from leaving for my first Bread Loaf summer. Nerves are frayed - anxiety is high - but knowledge that God is in complete control of the situation is reassuring.

Thursday, June 5, 2008

My First Post

Well, in 5 days I will leave for a 6 week intensive study of English literature in Santa Fe, NM http://www.middlebury.edu/academics/blse/campuses/

This represents a HUGE step out of my comfort for several reasons. First of all, it will be the longest time I have ever been away from my family since I was married - and that was nearly 26 years ago! Secondly, it involves going to a new place where I know absolutely no one and I have no idea what to expect -- in short, the worst imaginable environment (to quote Armageddon). Thirdly, I will now be the student rather than the teacher - again, this is a situation that I have not experienced for nearly 26 years. I have NO idea if I am capable of this role reversal. English was NOT my favorite subject in high school and I am just not sure that I have what it takes to analyze and draw noteworthy conclusions on my own.

However, I do feel that I have been blessed with this opportunity (however scary it might be) and I intend to make the best of the situation. While this is a 5 year program, I am only going to take it one summer at a time. If I learn that this is really not the program for me I have only lost 6 weeks of my time and I still will gain invaluable information that I will be able to use in my classroom.

I am a life-long learner. I LOVE to learn - and whether I have a MA after my name or not, this will never change. I have learned so much just by doing the pre-reading assignments -- I simply cannot imagine what insights I will gain from the instructors. So while I may or may not succeed in the Masters program, I know that I have succeeded in taking the next step to enriching my own life for the better.

I will covet all prayers while I am away - and I will try to update this blog on a daily basis, for anyone who would care to follow my progress.