Thursday, April 17, 2014

Breathing Room

Good news!  Yesterday in class, my professor moved our paper due date back until May!  I feel palpably relieved.  As she announced it, I felt the muscles in my shoulders loosen ever so slightly.  An almost giddy smile crossed my face.  Now, instead of writing blindly just to have written something to turn in, I can take a little more time, research more, restructure, edit, write with a bit of finesse.  Ponder word choices.  Maybe the paper won't turn out so badly after all!

Plus, I can turn my mind to the next pressing assignment (due this coming Tuesday): my medieval lit paper!  Instead of rushing through this one in a day, so as to complete my Tudor paper, I can spend some time on this project over the weekend!  I'm planning on writing about "Pearl," but the rest of the idea is still rather amorphous.  I spent a few hours in the stacks today, though, and found some really cool books on youth, desire, and death in the middle ages.  I'm pumped to get this started!

I received an e-mail today letting me know that summer starts in 24 days-- at least, according to the academic calendar.  I just need to push myself for 24 more days (less, really) and then I know I can make it through this program.  Since I did not buy any Georgetown swag after Fall Semester, despite a promise to myself that I would, I've decided that as soon as my papers are in for this semester, I will get a hoodie.  Maybe a bumper sticker, too.

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Pushing Through

I suppose it's time for another April catch-up post, in the midst of the busy-ness.

On Friday, Kay and Brian were in town!  They came over and made dinner-- wonderful salmon quinoa cakes, sweet potato fries, and a mayo-sriracha sauce.  Zan and I provided salad and wine.  Yum!  After dinner, we headed into the city to see Mike and Josh in their operetta, Iolanthe.  I really enjoyed it-- Mike and Josh both stole scenes (so luckily, they were hardly ever in the same scene!).  It was really great to see a lot of people from GGSS, too, since I haven't been around much since February.  I guess that's what comes of not working on the spring show AND not being a law student!

I spent the weekend in Williamsburg.  My mom and I drove down on Saturday.  We hit heavy traffic, but we made it fun with a before 11:00 AM stop at a Dairy Queen for onion rings and an M&M blizzard.  Upon arriving, I visited the Shoe Attic to use the gift certificate that my dad gave me for Christmas.  I got a really fun pair of see-through Oxfords, a pair of basket-weave heels, and a new dress.  I'm very excited to wear them, now that spring has arrived!  After the shopping spree, my mom and I ate an early dinner at La Tolteca, stopped at Wawa for a vanilla coke, then returned home so I could write...and write... and attempt to write some more.  This paper for Tudor's has proven very difficult and demanding.  I really feel the labor involved in putting together paragraphs, constructing something from nothing.  I write a lot of papers, but for whatever reason, this one feels a million times more challenging than any paper I've written recently.  By midnight, I had finally churned out a solid page.  I tried to go to sleep, but my mind was churning with thoughts, brainstorms, worries... I got up, wrote a bit more, then finally fell asleep sometime after 2:00 AM.  Sunday was more devoted to writing.  For a break, my mom and I took a walk down DoG Street, got Cheese Shop sandwiches for lunch, and another vanilla coke.  Then I wrote some more.  I took a short late afternoon break, and we ran some errands, then I settled in for more writing.  I took my computer out to the screened porch to enjoy the warm air.  I drank sweet tea as I wrote.  I completed nine good, solid pages, and I managed to get direction for the rest of it. 

Sunday night and Monday I felt confident, but that confidence-- and my motivation--waned upon returning north.  The dreary weather today hurts, too, along with the added pressure to begin my paper for medieval literature in earnest.  Tomorrow I present what I've written so far for Tudors, then hopefully my mind will concentrate on medieval lit for a while without feeling guilty for not working more on my Tudor paper.  I know that once I finish it all, once I return home next Wednesday night, I'll feel a million times better.  But this is perhaps the toughest week I've had in this program so far.  I just need to find the will-power to push through, because a brilliant summer-- and a class I'm really looking forward to taking-- wait just around the corner!

Monday, April 7, 2014

April So Far

April so far has mostly felt like one giant anxiety attack, but that's not terribly interesting to read about for you all, so let me tell you about some of the good things that have happened in April.

1) I completed my teaching practicum for my pedagogy course, and it went really well!  I did a 20 minute lesson on Hemingway's The Sun Also Rises, and I'll be continuing with that novel into my final project.  I'm excited about this one, because it's so different from the research I usually do, and it's one of my favorite books.  It's pretty cool to read some literary criticism on it.  I especially enjoy the articles on Brett Ashley and the code hero.  Mind-blowing.

2) Today I made a Funfetti cake.  Because I could.  It smells good.  Icing was involved.

3) Yesterday Zan, his cousin Lily, and I went to IKEA together.  Besides getting to know Lily better (the obvious perk of the outing!), we got a desk!  This allows us to clear off our breakfast bar and actually use it for dining purposes, instead of as, well, a desk.  Huzzah!

4) Got to start working on some paleography skills in my Tudor seminar, reading a document dictated by Henry VIII to his secretary.  Very cool.  Very difficult to puzzle through, but worth it.

5) Made it to a milestone in Rosetta Stone (though I'm still in Level 1).

I'm sure other good things have happened in the past seven days, but I can't think of any offhand.  My time has been consumed with worrying about finding *perfect* paper topics and writing *perfect* papers.  I think I've found one paper topic.  I haven't started writing either paper.  Logically I know I still have a bit of time left, but that tight, fluttery, nervous feeling that grips my heart at the end of every semester set in early this year-- perhaps because my papers are due so much earlier-- and I'm so overwrought that I'm psyching myself out of paper topics left and right.  In an effort to keep my heart rate normal I'm watching television because opening books and reading works me up so much.  But I need to open those books if I'm going to get these papers done.  It's a vicious cycle.

If I can just get through the next couple of weeks it should be smooth sailing. *fingers crossed*

Thursday, April 3, 2014

All of the Unknowns

After reading "The Clerk's Tale" from Chaucer's The Canterbury Tales this past weekend for class, I've been thinking a lot about Grizzle Cale again.  I came across Grizzle in the 1750-1800 August County Court Order Books back in 2010 when I was working as a research assistant.  All I know about Grizzle is that she had a husband named Jacob Cale and that at one point they came into court to certify a deed of gift or something.  That's all I know.  Likely, that's all there is available to know.  Perhaps if I really dug deep, I could find a record of their marriage, but that's assuming those records weren't burned or destroyed.  Maybe I could find something more on Jacob Cale-- maybe a birth record, or if he owned a little plot of land?-- but even so, what would that really tell me?  It wouldn't tell me the things I long to know.

I wonder what Grizzle looked like.  I wonder what color hair she had, what color eyes she had.  I wonder if she and Jacob had children, and how many, and if they lived.  I wonder if she loved Jacob and if he loved her.  I wonder if they hated each other.  I wonder who she was friends with, and I wonder if she ever visited market fairs.  I wonder what colors she loved.  I wonder what she liked to eat, and if she brewed beer (likely), and if she did, what it tasted like.  I wonder if she could read (as I recall, she made her mark, so probably not-- but some people could read even if they couldn't write).  I wonder what stories she knew, and what stories she told, and what songs she sang.  I wonder if she embroidered, and what the things she embroidered looked like, if she did.  I wonder what her maiden name was.  I wonder if her name was really Griselda, or if it was Grizzle and if it was pronounced Grizzle like "grizzly bear" or if it was pronounced Grizzle like "Giselle" but with an 'R'.  I hope her story was nothing like that of Griselda in "The Clerk's Tale," unless she got to have just the happy ending part with her husband loving and cherishing her, and her children living. 

Grizzle sticks out to me, because of her name, but there were countless other people in those order books just as inscrutable.  I remember one time having the macabre thought that everyone I read about in the order books had died and no one would ever know anything more about most of them than the sentence or two they were allotted in the books for securing a bond or certifying a deed.  Just name after name.  Then, I turned the wheel and the microfilm revealed a blank page with a little drawing on it, a doodle of one of the clerks in the court, to judge by the name written under the tiny informal portrait.  It made me feel relieved to see a picture.  To see that, for at least one them, there was something more than a name.  All of them, all of them were flesh and blood.  All of them had thoughts and feelings and lives.  And even if most of it is unrecoverable, isn't it enough to know that they were there?  Aren't these glimpses of the past worth it, just to remember that we are not alone in our strife, or in our joy, and that none of this is new?

I'm not really sure where I want this post to end up, or what I mean by this.  Perhaps all it means is that I should really be a historian, or a biographer, or a story-teller.  But somehow, it means more.  I can't exactly articulate what I mean, but I'm very glad to know that one person, at least, remembers that once there was a woman named Grizzle Cale.  She's not forgotten, even if she's mostly unknown.