Life and Other Matters

Most of my posts recently have been about books I’ve read or playlists I’ve created, and while those things are all awesome, it’s been a while since I’ve given just an everyday normal update about life. And I really should because life happens outside of the books I’m reading and the music I’m listening to.

You’ve seen a lot of mentions of my thesis in my blogs, if you’ve been following for awhile. Naturally, the thesis-writing eclipsed my life for a long time. I started writing on Monday, Jan. 25 and wrote the last chapter on Friday, March 9. In those six and a half weeks, I managed to write 96 pages with a 4-page bibliography.

I submitted my thesis, after several read-throughs, edits, and slight revisions, on Tuesday, March 20, and I finally heard at the end of April that I had officially passed. Then, I had to officially title that huge paper, check the formatting, print 5 copies on expensive paper, and attend a session to upload my thesis to the database. The hardest part may have actually been the naming. How does one summarize 96 pages of info in just a line or two? Here’s how:

Seeing that title page made it feel sort of real–as if I’d actually just spent years working on an M.A. and had managed to write extensive criticism of awesome books. Exciting!

The title quote comes from Patrick Ness’s The Knife of Never Letting Go, one of the three books on which I wrote my thesis. (The other two were Alan Moore & David Lloyd’s graphic novel V for Vendetta and China Mieville’s detective novel The City & the City.) “Heteroglossia” is an idea formulated by Russian theorist Mikhail Bakhtin; it’s the idea that the writers who are repressed manage to resist the dominant ideology of a political regime through becoming heteroglot, embracing a variety of languages and ideas instead of just blindly accepting the one hegemonic ideology they are being fed. I amended his theory and looked at ways that characters within these novels were able to salvage elements of language and culture in order to resist or overthrow a totalitarian governmental regime.

If I’ve lost you, I apologize. It’s hard to explain months of research and writing in a paragraph or two. Nonetheless, I have to say that writing my thesis was by far one of the coolest experiences I’ve had. Despite the long hours and exhaustion, I haven’t had nearly as much fun in a long time. I loved the books I was writing about, the theories I was reading, and the connections I found in three distinct literary works. And, honestly, in the few months following my thesis, I felt a deep loss that I was finished and didn’t have anything so huge to pour my life into.

Finishing the thesis was the last requirement for graduation, though. I am now an M.A. Here’s a picture of me in my regalia with my lovely thesis advisor, Dr. Shea Stuart:

Now, not only did I finish my thesis, I also won an award: the Gayle Bolt Price Award for Excellent in Graduate Student Writing. To celebrate, I went to dinner in Shelby with some of my professors and received the plaque then:

 From left to right:

Dr. June Hobbs was the English department chair during my time as a student at GWU. She taught a class on the American Renaissance in literature in Spring 2011. She is delightful, brilliant, and a woman of many varied interests. She’s also an expert on all things relating to death and cemeteries, a topic which I already found to be fascinating.

Dr. Shea Stuart: I never had the opportunity to take one of Dr. Stuart’s classes, but when I described my thesis idea to my academic advisor, she suggested I ask Dr. Stuart to advise my thesis. I sent an email describing my ideas, and from the moment I sat down in Dr. Stuart’s office during our first meeting, we were fast friends, bonding over our shared loves of China Mieville, Neil Gaiman, Doctor Who, and all things British and sci-fi. I never expected to find a thesis topic that merged so many of my academic and “fun” interests, and Dr. Stuart fostered and encouraged those ideas (and still does!).

Finally, Dr. Theado is the current English department chair (GWU has a five-year rotation, and his turn has arrived). He is the only professor that I had the privilege of taking for two classes. In spring 2010, he taught a class on African-American literature, and in spring 2011, he taught an incredible class on Contemporary Trends in Literature. Both of those classes introduced me to a wide variety of authors I’d never studied before, and Dr. Theado’s chill, laid-back, discussion-style classes were a great fit for a fast-paced summer school course.

I’m blessed to have studied under these brilliant men and women at Gardner-Webb, and I can’t imagine a better experience for my M.A. than what I found there.

Beyond grad school, other cool things are happening. Since I have a Master’s degree now, NGU has added another course to my load. In the fall, in addition to the 2 sections of developmental writing that I normally teach, I’m also teaching a section of 1320, the second level of freshman writing, which focuses on argument and literature. I am both excited and nervous because it’s been a while since I’ve taught a class for the first time. In fact, in August, I begin my FOURTH year as a college instructor. I cannot believe that many years have passed.

But for now, it’s summer time, and I’ve been trying to relax although, honestly, that’s not working out so well. I’m filling up my time with activities and friends, but it’s a different kind of busyness, unlike the school year. I have friends getting married and having babies (not the same friends, to be clear). I’ve been going to the movie theater a lot; Harvin and I have a lengthy list of films to see this summer, and we’re racking up Regal Club points for our effort. I attended my first comic book convention this past weekend, and the Fourth of July is next week, during which I will spend most of the day with my small group.

August quickly approaches, and I will, for the first time in a long time, not have to balance work/teaching and my own schoolwork. But for now, there are books to read and films to watch and people to see. Happy summer!

We shed what was left of our summer skin.

Back in May, I posted a to-do list for my summer. I expected my summer to unofficially end on August 31, the day classes started back at Converse. Instead, on August 18, I found out I’d be teaching developmental writing at NGU, and every bit of  free time I’ve had since then has been spent preparing for class or grading papers.

Nonetheless, September is here. School is back in session at both NGU and Converse, and it even feels like fall outside (at least in the mornings), although summer doesn’t officially end for three more weeks. It thus seems appropriate to wrap up my summer to-do list.

My goals:

1. Survive summer school. Done! History of the English Language was an incredible learning experience for me. I had to be more disciplined and focused than usual because I couldn’t rely on catching up in the classroom. I also learned a lot of material about the history of England (and the language, of course), and I learned about why we pronounce or spell words certain ways. It was really great. And I did well in the class, too. 🙂

2. Get my face rocked off. Most definitely. I’ve seen Civil Twilight three times (yay!) and the Winter Sounds twice. Of course, there was The Fray in June in Charlotte, which was phenomenal, and I met Jon Foreman after the Fiction Family show in Asheville. There’s still more to come, too: Muse’s new album is released in less than two weeks; Switchfoot’s new album comes out in November; Civil Twilight is playing Fall for Greenville (and we’re considering a road trip the next day to see them play in Nashville); and the Muse/U2 show is 29 days away!

3. Read voraciously. Of the four books I’d intended to read, I manged three of them: V for Vendetta, The Scarlett Letter, and the fourth volume of the Buffy comic books. Underworld, with its 800+ pages, which I attempted to start during summer school, proved to be too much of a challenge, however. Perhaps later. I read plenty of other smaller books, though.

4. Watch TV. We did indeed finish Angel early in the summer. And while I haven’t managed any of Lost yet, I did introduce Harvin to M*A*S*H, and I watched all of season 7 of The Golden Girls.

5. Play outside. Looking back, I don’t think I did enough of this. Sure, I caught fireflies with the Leisters at Look-Up one night, and I spent a few lunch breaks sitting in the grass with a book, and we finally played on a swingset in Salem, MA, but I could have played outside more. Autumn is almost here, though, and it’s my favorite outside-time-of-the-year. I can at least enjoy some fresh air when I drive with my window down.

6. Have a great birthday. Of course! My brother came to visit me for the first time, and he spent the night. Chris also came up for a few days. On my birthday, Berry, Chris, Harvin, and I went to P.F. Chang’s for dinner and then to a frozen yogurt place downtown called Blueberry Frog. Fun! Delightful! Then, the day after my birthday, I met Jon Foreman after the Fiction Family concert. Just in case I haven’t mentioned that enough yet. 🙂

7. Be consistently on time to work. Yep. I think I was only late one day, and it was only by about three minutes (thank you, slow drivers on 101). It’s continued into the semester, too, even though I have to be here earlier (8:00 on MWF, and earlier than that since I’m teaching an 8:00 class on Tuesdays and Thursdays). Go me for being punctual.

8. See the ocean again. Done. I went to Myrtle Beach for the state firefighters’ convention in July, and our hotel was right on the beach. Then, in Massachusetts, we saw the harbor in both Boston and Salem. That’s the North Atlantic, you know. It seems so much cooler than what we have in SC.

9. Write letters. Well, okay, I sent some postcards from Boston–to my parents, my brother, my grandmother, and Naomi. I could have done more, but it’s a start.

10. TRAVEL! Have I mentioned Boston yet? The most incredible, epic road trip ever? Yeah, I did that. 🙂

So there we are. It was a great summer–productive, enlightening, adventuresome. All that any girl could ask for. Now, autumn is quickly approaching, and I’m completely wrapped up in the world of academia. I’m teaching, dealing with students in the library, and taking my own classes. And I’m enjoying just about every minute of it. It’s gonna be a crazy semester!

#53: Catch a lightning bug.

lightningbugsummerwg1I know, I know. It’s incredibly sad that, at the age of 24, I’ve never caught lightning bugs. As a little girl, bugs of any sort freaked me out. And I guess when I got older, I just never took the time to catch them.

Last night, Ticcoa, Jess, and I headed to Look-Up Lodge, stretched out on the dock, and fed bread to the fish in the lake. Dusk fell, and I spotted a lightning bug. Unfortunately, we’d left the Mason jar at their house, but we did have a Dixie cup, which works in a pinch.

My first few attempts at putting the fireflies into the cup were unsuccessful. I was catching them with both hands so I wouldn’t squish them, but then Coa told me to scoop them out of the air with one hand. That method works much better. I only managed to actually get two into the cup. The fireflies are tricky–they knew I was after them, I think, and they kept flying into the trees or up this steep hill where I couldn’t follow them.

One of the girls whose dad runs the camp was also there, and she managed to capture one as well, so we had three in all. In honor of our upcoming trip to Boston, we decided to name them Louisa May, Henry David, and Ralph Waldo. When I noticed they weren’t lighting up much inside the cup, I tried to be more encouraging. I tapped on the cup and told them that I knew they didn’t like being trapped, unable to experience Nature, as they were, after all, named after Transcendentalists. When I said the word Transcendentalists, one of them actually lit up. I said the word a few more times, but didn’t get a response. I even tried baiting the fireflies by asking them what they thought of Margaret Fuller, but that didn’t get a rise out of them either, unfortunately. Eventually, I let them all out because I couldn’t bear the idea of them being trapped any longer. I’m sure they appreciated my kindness. 🙂

Next time, I’ll have to remember the Mason jar, with holes cut out, maybe? I’m sure lightning bugs need to breathe, too. (Maybe I’ll even take a jar to New England–Walden Pond is open until just after sunset–they surely have fireflies in Massachusetts, right? How much fun would that be to catch fireflies at Walden?!?)

A Summer To-Do List

summer-2006Summer is here (okay, not officially, but I’m a student–summer starts when spring semester ends!). That means that (theoretically) I have more free time to do stuff that I can’t do during the school year. So I’ve made a to-do list. I’ll post when school starts back in late August, and we’ll see how I did.

1. Survive summer school. It’s the first week, and HEL (or History of the English Language) is already proving to be a beast of a class. An intense amount of work to begin with, all the work is now crammed into a five-week period in which I am taking it as an independent study without the advantage of attending class. So far, each day this week has consisted of working all day, then going home and putting in many more hours of homework until falling into bed exhausted with a headache. But that sounds like complaining, so I’ll stop. I’m really enjoying the challenge, of course, and I’ve learned a ton already. Let’s just hope it all sinks in–I have my first test tomorrow!

2. Get my face rocked off. Dude–music! Shows that I definitely plan to attend:

Saturday night–Civil Twilight in Asheville!
June 11Fiction Family at the Grey Eagle Tavern in Asheville
June 13–The Fray in Charlotte (happy birthday to me and my roommate!)
July 8–Civil Twilight (again) at the Handlebar! (And, hopefully, they’ll add other shows, too.)

Not to mention new Civil Twilight and Switchfoot albums that I know off. Plus, I have until October to become a U2 fan. Summer + music = 🙂

3. Read voraciously. Without the responsibility of going to class (at least, after June 19, when summer school will be over), I hope to read so many books. Books that I intend on reading this summer:

Underworld, Don DeLillo. I enjoyed The Body Artist so much that I wanted to see what else the man can do. This one is about baseball, and it’s over 800 pages. A challenge that I hope I’m up for.

The rest of the Buffy the Vampire Slayer season 8 comic books that are in print. That’s 10 more issues right now. I’m not pleased with the direction the story has taken, but I need to know how it ends. 🙂

V for Vendetta. I’ve had this graphic novel for months now, and I’m just waiting for a time when I have no other books that must be read. Summer is the perfect time, I feel.

The Scarlet Letter, Nathaniel Hawthorne. Can you believe I made it through 4 years of undergrad and one of grad school, and this book was never required reading for any of my classes? I’m ashamed to say I’ve never actually read it. But since I’m going to Boston in August, I plan to spend a great part of the summer reading more New England literature that I haven’t yet.

I also have stacks of young adult novels and recommendations from friends, but I welcome any more. Comment if you have any suggestions!

4. Watch TV. My roommate and I are almost finished with season 2 of Angel. We have three more seasons to go after that, so we’ll probably finish relatively soon. I also have every intention of watching the first five seasons of Lost before season 6 premieres.

5. Play outside. Hanging out at Falls Park on Friday nights with the Leisters and others from their church. Swinging at playgrounds. Laying in the grass. Maybe swimming at the pool at my apartment? Whatever. It’s summer, and I love it!

6. Have a great birthday. Harvin and I will officially celebrate together by going to see The Fray in Charlotte on the weekend between our birthdays. But hopefully, my brother and Chris and maybe some other people will come visit on or around my birthday (which is June 10, in case you were unaware), and we’ll have tons of fun. Plus, I’ll be 24, which I’ve been waiting on for years just so I can play the Switchfoot song and feel like it’s actually relevent to my life. 🙂

7. Be consistently on time to work. You wouldn’t think this would be an issue with me, but sadly, it is. My boss gets irritated if any of us arrives even one minute late to work. By his standards, I’ve been late the past 2 days. I need to do better, and I don’t like him angry.

8. See the ocean again. I’m planning on going to Myrtle Beach with my family for a weekend in July, but it’s also been well over a year since I’ve seen a lighthouse. I want to go on another adventure, so I’m hoping that I’ll get a chance to day-trip down to Brunswick to climb St. Simon’s or at least head back to Savannah and actually climb the Tybee Island lighthouse this time.

9. Write letters. Raquel is in Ecuador, and I have other friends who don’t live near me anymore that I don’t always keep up with very well. I think this is a good idea.

10. TRAVEL! The aforementioned beach trip, of course. But even better? We’re finally going to BOSTON in August! (Not to mention the stop in Baltimore on the way up to visit Poe’s grave and the stop in Hartford, CT, on the way back to see Mark Twain’s house!) This trip’s been in the works for over a year, and I’ve dreamed and planned, and now my two best friends and I are going on a whirlwind literary adventure to a place that I’m sure I’m going to fall in love with! I’m already working on some great road trip mixes that will make the trip even more epic. I’m so stoked!

So that’s it. Summer 2009, you and I are gonna have a great time!