Tuesday, December 22, 2009

just Heidi and me: a few thoughts to end the year

It's late. I'm sitting with my dog on the couch. Tonight Mom came home from a meeting and came bearing the mail, specifically Christmas cards. I think that is one of my favorite parts of the season: opening and reading the Christmas cards. I still need to send a few out. Tonight we got one from my Aunt Kathy and Uncle Craig, which was cute because their two daughters are so small. We got another one from England, from our former nanny Liz. I wrote her a letter earlier this year, which she responded to months later, but it was nice to hear her mention it in the note. I'll have to write her another.

Another came from a nurse Mom used to work with at Jewish Hospital. The picture is usually of her, her husband, and their dog. This year it was just her and a new dog. It turns out they got divorced after 18 years of marriage. 18 years with someone and then, it's gone. From the way the letter was phrased, it sounded like the marriage had been on the downfall for a few years now. It's very sad. Dad made some comment about how this is why kids are necessary in marriage, how having kids taught him how to Love different ways, how kids were the best and hardest part of marriage. I hope I have a huge family; it's definitely not for everyone, but I think it is the best way to raise a family. ("The more, the merrier!" as Dad always likes to say.)

Sitting with Heidi (my doggie dear), I wonder if my future family will have such a wonderful pet. We had mostly hamsters growing up, pre-Heidi. I think Heidi is a perfect example of an unplanned addition to the family: she was abandoned, found in a public restroom by the dog park during one of the hottest summers. She was only 3 months old and the vet said that if we hadn't taken her in, she would have died. From the first day, though, her presence in the family was felt and embraced. It was like she had always been with us; she had always been a Robison. I remember my grandfather suggested we get rid of Heidi because he was allergic to her hair. The kids went in an uproar and protested. Heidi is obviously still around, but the experience certainly proved her unifying powers and the strong attachment and love we all feel for her. I might grumble over the Heidi hair on my clothes, but it can be quite comforting to find at school when I've been gone a while.

This will most likely be my last post of the year, unless I feel the need to share more about my Christmas break at home. Cousins party tomorrow, Reconciliation Wednesday night, Christmas Eve at my Uncle Mark's house with my dad's side, Christmas at my maternal grandparents' house with my mom's side, leave for Florida Saturday till early January. In between, I'll be running, reading, spending time with the siblings, taking Heidi on walks, working on applications, larding, working on my thesis and potentially seeing friends. I don't know what is wrong with me, but I can't bring myself to leave the house. I normally see people within hours of being home. It's been almost 3 days now. It's not that I don't want to see people; I would just rather be with my family. I saw a lot of people over Fall break and Thanksgiving break. I think I'm starting to pull away from my home friends, as much as I love them. I'm not going to stop being friends with them (no one gets off the hook that easily!), but I am prioritizing my family over them, which is something I should have done more over past breaks. I think it's the growing up in me. I'm preparing myself for a whole wide unknown and at the end of the day, I'd like to know I was a good big sister for the little kids, Katie through Megan.

I should go to bed soon; I went on a long run today and I am going to feel it tomorrow. Trevor wants to go to mass (non-Catholic friend who likes going to mass, so we go together), I need to work on Christmas presents and my thesis outline, as well as go to the library to find two books to review for next semester, so tomorrow will be busy, busy, busy!

Heidi is twitching a little--that means she is dreaming :) Happy holidays, friends! Enjoy home.

This song is stuck in my head:

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Francis and George

George and Francis are--were--the two oldest sons of the Robison family. George died when he fell into the oven while Mom was cooking. Francis was naughty and the monsters under his bed ate him. George disobeyed Mom and Dad, went into the closet and was never seen again. Francis' demise came about when he heedlessly ran out into the street without looking both ways.

Francis and George, if you can read between the lines, are fictitious members of the Robison family. Dad would deny they are not real and Mom was laugh. Francis and George serve as examples of what will happen to us if we are naughty or disobey Mom and Dad. Now, obviously, this has hardly swayed us from our courses of action, but they are enjoyable stories nonetheless.

Most of the fun comes from talking about them in regular conversation. People, understandably, get confused over who Francis and George are and how we can talk about their deaths in such a nonchalance, goofy way. A classic example of this was today's Robison family Sunday afternoon guest, Mrs. Freeman.

Mrs. Freeman has been friends with my Mom since they were little girls on Alpine Terrace. She, Mrs. Bolan and Mom have been friends for 45+ years, which is why she should not have been so confused when George and Francis were mentioned. Or, from at least the background knowledge of knowing my Father, should have been more perceptive that he was pulling her leg.

It was rather hilarious to watch the family erupt into various fables of the George and Francis saga. "Then George..." and "Well, I guess you have to know Francis to know why he did it..." Even though I was not technically part of the conversation (we were all in the family room: they on the couches and chairs, kibitzing, and I at the kitchen table, typing), I calmly explained to a slightly-frenzied Mrs. Freeman who they were exactly. As Mom so aptly put, George and Francis are different ages and die different ways depending on pending situations. The only constant is that my Father swears up and down they were his first sons and to suggest otherwise would be to dishonor their memory.

Mrs. Freeman: "This whole family is like the da Vinci code!"

Mrs. Freeman, I should also add, only has one child. Her house is therefore composed of her, her husband, and their son, who is friends with John. It is a slightly quieter house. When I was a freshman in college, I told "Julie stories," which always seem to make sense within my own family's setting, but not in a collegiate one, where people have less to say and are more respectful of each other's conversations. Unless you've experienced the full throttle of my family, that mini-background makes this so much more funny:

Mrs. Freeman: "I don't know what's happening! There are five conversations going on at the same time!"
Dad: "This is our life: everyone talks at the same time and the person who has the best story wins."

Mrs. Freeman is gone now, as is the rest of the family. I am listening to Bob Dylan and working on Muffy's laptop, attempting to finish an article due at the end of the year to a journal. I have another piece I have to write for my high school's publication on Tradition. Dad and Muff went to the grocery store, Mom's doing errands with Katie, John and Meg, Mike's disappeared again, and Heidi is larding nearby. She was by my feet, but ultimately decided to curl up on a much cozier chair. We're going to Uncle Mark and Aunt Tracey's tonight for dinner. Still have the sniffles, but nothing more sleep won't solve. Cincy weather is cold, but manageable. Now thinking about finding the Muppet's Christmas Carol and continuing typing to one of my favorite Christmas movies. Or re-watching Charlie Brown. Or a Miracle of 34th Street or It's a Wonderful Life...

It's good to be home!

Friday, December 18, 2009

Good day!

This is one of my favorite pieces from Art History this semester. It is called "The Magi Asleep" and it is found on the nave of St.-Lazare in Autun, France. It was done around 1132 AD and I like it because A) the kings are all wearing their crowns to bed and B) the third king whom the angel is touching, has one eye open and one eye closed (although this makes it look like both eyes are open). I also like the way the angel lightly touches him hand with one finger and points to the Star of Bethlehem with the other pointer finger.

Art History was this morning, 8 a.m. Rocked it. For the past three tests, we've had to memorize all the information and then fill-in-the-blank, give-it-back-verbatim for whatever slides she picked, as well as give cultural significance, compare and contrast cultures, etc. This time around? MULTIPLE CHOICE, BABY! I think I did well on the essay too. I wrote about how different cultures honor the dead and what that says about the society and the prominence the art gives to the dead people and to death itself. I gave lots of examples, not enough dates, decent amount of detail and had a strong ending. That being said, I wish I had gotten more sleep. It was hard getting up this morning for another hour of studying...

Today is good because
A) it is Friday, so I only have one more exam left
B) it is Friday, so tomorrow I will be home
C) it is Friday!

Today is also good because I found out today my merit and journalism scholarships were both definitely renewed, which is such a blessing. One more semester, folks.

Kappa is emptying our quickly. I'm pretty sure half the house left after Wednesday. Now the other half are leaving. A few underclassmen stopped by to say good-bye because they'll be studying abroad next semester. That was a little sad but in this age, it's so easy to stay in touch with people if you really want to that I am not too heartbroken.

My little stopped by with her sister and her sister's boyfriend on their way out of Hillsdale. I'm now going to organize myself for my two separate study sessions this afternoon for Founding. It's nice when people want to study with me, but I'm feeling like I need solitary confinement at this point making sure I've got the IDs and essay down. Oh well. It will still be good making connections and talking big ideas.

This is a really great short film called "New Boy" if you have 11-12 minutes. It is about an African boy named Joseph with "a haunting past story" who now attends school in Ireland; this short shows his first day at school.

Have a wonderful Friday! One week till Christmas!

Did you know, by the way, that Christmas is considered the feast day of Christ's birth, not the actual day of his birth? I had an agnostic friend give me gripes about that and I wasn't quite sure how to respond, so I looked it up! I love feast days.

"In Jesus we contemplate beauty and splendor at their source...no mere aestheticism, but the concrete way in which the truth of God's love in Christ encounters us, attracts us and delights us, enabling us to emerge from ourselves and drawing us towards our true vocation, which is love." --Pope Benedict XVI, "Sacramentum Caritatis"

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Good-bye, Microsoft Word - Hello notecards!

I have now finished and turned in my last paper of the semester. My academic paper count for the semester now totals 11. Yee-haw! AND I used the word "oftentimes" on page 4 of my paper; it was used correctly and in context, Haynes. Welcome back, "oftentimes," to the 21st century! I wanted to use it at least three, but I restrained myself and only used it once.

I babysat the two youngest of my advisor's 5 kids this afternoon. I can't believe the baby is 2 1/2 years old. I remember when he was born! I rode my bike to their house and made the mistake of forgetting my gloves; bikes may get one from Point A to Point B faster, but the windchill factor increases as a result. I had to stop back at the house to get my gloves before I could carry on to the library.

I was told outside the library by the girlfriend of a friend that everytime she sees me walking around campus with my hood up, it makes her want to put her hood up too. In other words, Julie, you look ridiculous with your hood up and bill tucked back (I have to tuck the bill back or I can't see), but you pull it off, so I'll do it too! I say, if your ears are cold, who cares how ridiculous you look?! Vanity will only get one so far in life. Think of all the body heat being lost to the chilly and uncaring Michigan air.

I read an article today in the American Scholar (a journal I highly recommend reading, if you do not already do so) entitled "Blue-Collar Brillance" and it ruffled my sensibilities because the whole basis of the article is the presupposition that if you are born into a lower social level, you are less intelligent. I completely disagree with that to a point (and, of course, so does the author of this article--hence the point of the article). But is this really a mindset in America? I think the lower classes need to be more liberally educated, but I would never suggest they are less intelligent. Intelligence is not a scale based on one's pecuniary accumulation, but on the broadening of one's mind so as to comprehend and make connections, a capacity of mind per se. Intellect is inate first, then developed secondly. It never stops developing either. That's how old people get famous for things they picked up in the middle of their life; it's all about applying and dedicating one's self, prioritizing.

'84, Charing Cross Road,' for example, is the correspondence between Helene the American reader and Frank the British bookseller (whom I just wrote about in my last aforementioned paper) and though she never went to college, she continues to read and self-educate herself. I think that drive and desire to self-educate is being lost in our society, and that loss of edification in our daily lives is what should alarm people, not a concern of where one falls on the social scale. One of the saddest things I hear is when people say, "when I leave college, I'm never reading another book again." Really?? How horrid!

That's another reason why I loved my Robert Frost class and the need for people to be "versed in country things." He did not write the poems for elite academics with esoteric knowledge to dissect, but regular Americans. His poems are good because they can be read and understood on a more local level as well as analyzed by an academic.

It's the same with Flannery O'Connor. I read a letter by her to an English teacher who wrote about how he, a few other teachers and their students analyzed "A Good Man Is Hard To Find." O'Connor was shocked that they made the story so metaphorical and that the Misfit was only inside Bailey's head and what happened was really a dream, etc. One of the most beautiful and daunting elements of O'Connor's work is that it can be taken extremely literally and that the dark grace shown in it cuts like a sword to allow light and a change in the mind and/ or actions of the main character. It is not always pleasant to read perhaps, but it shows evil for what it truly is, which I think is a gift. Lewis wrote in the Screwtape Letters that they (the Devils) purposefully keep things hazy in the mind of the people now, so that they can have eternity in Hell to make reality lucid.

But I digress. Here is my selection for poem of the day, compliments of NPR's Writer's Almanac.

"The Tulips" by Ricky Ian Gordon

The tulips at that perfect place
crane their necks with liquid grace
like swans who circling, collide
within the lake this vase provides.

They stood like soldiers, stiff, before
as if they had been called to war.
In two days more, when petals fall,
I will entomb them in the hall

with trash; the morning's coffee grinds,
old newspapers, and lemon rinds.
It's bitter that such loveliness
should come to this,
could come to this.

But now their purpleness ignites
the room with incandescent lights.
Their stamens reach their yellow tongues
to lick the air into their lungs
through stems attached to whitish manes.
The pistil stains.

And even though there are no bees
about the room for them to please,
I take them in like honey dew-
and buzzing now,
I think of you...

I think of you who bought me these,
at least,
I wish you had,
as that might ease the ache
of passing hours.
A love is dying, like these flowers.

Now, back to the house for a KKG sisterhood! This will be the first one I've been able to attend all semester since the library swallowed me and my studies consummed. My little is going to be there as well, so I look forward to spend more time with her. We have not had proper hang out time in quite a while. Then study for art history...

word of the day: "ersatz"
go ahead, look it up!

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Merry Christmas from The Hillsdale Forum!

The Hillsdale Forum staff, from left to right: Nate, Julie Anna, Anna (back), Maria, Calvin (back), Catharine, Matt (back), Anna, Catherine (back) and Jim. We were missing Emilia, Kate, Sam, Catherine and Katy. We're adding in 3 new staff members next year, which is quite exciting, and we also have my friend Will takes pictures. It's a good little platoon.
My greeting to the staff at our final meeting of the year this afternoon. I gave out staff awards and discussed plans for how the paper is going to run next semester, and we ended surprisingly early for a staff meeting.

The "Joyeux Noel" was actually left on the board from my Frost exam this morning, but I think that is the prettiest way to say and write "Merry Christmas," so I left it and simply added the "Love, The Hillsdale Forum." :) The HF is coming out tomorrow, finally! I'm excited to see it around campus. I have two pieces in this issue: one on homosexual marriage and one on CCA etiquette.

Home in four days. Mom sent us an e-mail saying she got nominated for an award at The Christ Hospital (where she is the 4-West Oncology Nurse Specialist) and when I talked to Dad yesterday, he told me that Mom actually won 2009 Employee of the Year award at TCH! One of Mom's superiors called Dad and asked if he could go to the luncheon. It is happening tomorrow. He and Kato are going to be there. Mom is going to be so surprised!

Today I took my Frost exam. I wasn't very nervous at all, because I had prepared for the essays and picked out which poems I would use for each. I feel like you can't plan what you're going to write, though, you just have to write. Either you've been studying hard all semester or you've been floundering. My roommate would not wholly agree with me on this point, but a majority of my upper-level American Studies classes have midterms and exams like that--you can't think about it, you just have to write, or you're going to run out of time. She's a double Biology-English major (and Art History minor, talk about a renaissance woman!), and always knows what she is talking about, but she approaches exams differently than I do. We've never taken a class together before this semester and it has been interesting seeing the differences in our studying.

By the end of two hours, I had filled an entire blue book with two quite beautiful, coherent essays filled with parts of Frost poems and outside literary references, as well as discussions of the redemptive imagination, Emersonian self-reliance, poems lodged in the American consciousness as momentary stays against confusion, the necessity of being versed in country things (or rather, the reasons why the phoebes won't cry), the pietas found in stopping by the woods on a snowy evening and other things one can write about freely in Robert Frost English exams. It was extremely gratifying finishing the final sentence and walking to the front of the classroom to Dr. Willson, knowing I did a superb job. I love that feeling. I'm sure I was grinning like a fool.

Tonight is dedicated to finishing my last research paper of the semester, due tomorrow. When it is completed, I will be done with 3/5 of my classes for this semester. That will be a satisfying feeling indeed.

In addendum: Rachel, you will have a full thesis update...soon. Not this week. Maybe not even next week. Lots of books and articles being read, though, and I'm keeping it in this sweet plastic file folder box that Matt calls my "home-schooler debater box" because apparently they're really big in the debate circuit (as well as being an awesome place to store large amounts of research). I don't think he meant it as a compliment, but I was not home-schooled nor was I ever in debate, so that doesn't bother me as much as I'm sure it should.

Monday, December 14, 2009

Founding Fridays is a privilege, not a right

(This is a picture of my favorite fellow American Studies majors, minus E., who was taking the picture, by the portrait of George Berkeley. If you don't know Berkeley, I'm not surprised, but he played a significant role in our History of the American Identity last spring term. Photo taken when we were at the National Portrait Gallery in Washington, D.C. this past summer.)

Last week was a rawther stressful one considering all the work I needed to complete and the three things that got me through it were my roommate, coffee and my fellow American Studies majors.

Well, some of them. There are 15 of us total, but I am particularly close to four of them (my three fellow seniors plus a junior) and they really did keep me going. A definite perk of gchat is when you're on at 3 a.m. and you pop back to the screen only to see three familiar names also on, even if one was "busy" (lies, Matt).

We had our DPN Christmas "party" on Sunday evening (there were only seven of us there, I don't know if it is a party if half the honorary doesn't show up), but it was still so excellent ending it with the four favorites. K. and E. read their American Studies-inspired poems (see below for mine), M. read from Lewis' "The Weight of Glory" and D. listened (I'm still waiting for your couplet--no excuses!).

I feel I should caveat that I like the other majors tremendously, particularly two other juniors I am getting to know a lot better this semester. I've known these four the longest, however, and we've had the most classes together, not to mention most of us were in D.C. together this summer at various internships.

The AS major is small, but very solid. A lot of people get scared off by the requirements or they want to only do two of the three parts of the major (some combination of English/ History/ Political Science, but not all three). AS is not for everyone and I would never pretend to say that it is the best major (although I do say so below); like all majors, this is the one that fits us best. (There is a reason I am not a Physics or Accounting major.) So here we stand on campus, little, proud and fiercely loyal. I do not think we would be friends if we were all not American Studies majors, but we've become close and I am blessed daily at how they inspire me. I very much value their friendship and fellowship.

Anyways, here is an e-mail I sent to that select part of the DPN honorary, whom I knew needed a pep talk to keep them (us) going into the wee hours of the morning all last week.

(For those unawares, "Founding Friday" was named after our Founding of the American Republic class, which we are all in, and the day of the week we set aside for bonding. Dogwoodian refers to Russell Kirk (who helped found the AS major at Hillsdale) and his love of the Dogwood tree, which we as an honorary planted last spring for our adviser and his family. Dogwoods are significant because they are supposedly the type of tree Jesus was nailed to, but technically there is no proof of that, more legend. They are also apparently the honorary's tree and thus, we call ourselves "Dogwoodians.")

I wanted to share this little insight into my life because they are so important to me; I hope you enjoy it:

My fellow Dogwoodians,

When we're old and gray, we'll have DPN reunions and tell our grandkids we're going to Founding Fridays (no bingo for me!):

"Oh grandpa/ grandma," they'll say, "what are Founding Fridays?"
"Well, little Joe/ Sally," we'll say, "They were a time when a few members of Delta Pi Nu would get together to talk about the good, the true and the beautiful."
"The what?"
"The higher things in life!" shout we.
"Oooh, ahhh," replies all the underage drinkers.

So what am I saying? Beer is the highest good at this point in our career? It is both good, true and beautiful to behold. Mostly, that is; there are some other great things too, like virtue and Christendom and Republican forms of government and argyle socks. Tonight most of us (to the best of my knowledge) are pulling yet another graveyard shift (minus Katherine--she did that last week for the first and last time ever and for that, we commend you). My friends, my fellow American Studies majors: the few, the proud. To tweek from Shakespeare's Henry V--

From this day to the ending of the world,
But we in it shall be remembered-
We few, we happy few, we band of Dogwoodians;
For he to-day that studies his brains with me
Shall be my friend

Tonight we have to push through. We have to prove our prowess to why American Studies majors are the best dang students on campus, if not alarmingly alcohol-inclined. I've been listening to Christmas music, Scottish reels and Irish drinking songs all week, so I think you can imagine my mindset at this point. Too bad after the two papers I need to finish for tomorrow, I'll have another one and a thesis before I can dive into exams. Ho, ho, ho and a bottle of whiskey--an American Studies life for me!

So let's write till our fingers grow weak and our head gets dizzy and the clock blinks (can that really be the time?) because an entire week of graveyards shifts is as close to an absolute truth as we're going to realize at this hour. We'll look back on these days and laugh at the ridiculous amount of work we completed. And for what?! Two words: Founding Fridays.

Yes, it is for drinking in the later afternoon on Fridays throughout the semester that we work our way through the week. The fellowship we have keeps us going and going and going. Again, I know that's only partial to our reasoning and drive to excel, but for the sake of argument, let's make it the whole. :) Anyways, I hope this pep talk gave you the extra gumption y'all need to push through the rest of the night. And remember this: it is worth it.

Best of luck to Matt and Katherine tomorrow on your theses defense!! we'll be pulling for you :)

(that's MISS Delta Pi Nu Social Chair to you!)

I got positive feedback giving me the affirmative on late-night inspiration, so that is always lovely to hear. I also wrote a poem and will only share it because it is so silly and this seems the appropriate venue since I am loving on the DPN-ers right now:

In this holiday season of humble thanks and good cheer,
I offer up te deums for those noble souls
to whom I hold dear
to my Dogwoodian heart, like the Birzers and the late Russell Kirk,
Delta Pi Nu, T.S. Eliot and the great Edmund Burke!

Back to Frost essay--almost done, but writing something non-academic always helps me focus my mind after periods of immense focus. Start of exam week-eek! and versing myself in country things...

Oh, and Rachel? You told me before I left D.C. that I needed to keep updating so that you would be "in" on my life since I'm horrible at calling people and we (sadly) shan't be having kitchen conversations any more (that whole Hillsdale-D.C. distance thing). I thus dedicate this most likely unnecessarily long blog post to you-- I hope it livens up your Monday work day!

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Start of the final stretch...

Trace Bundy plays a great 'O Come, O Come Emmanuel' with Josh Garrels:

A poem in honor of it being the second to last Saturday in Hillsdale...

"Desert Places" by Robert Frost

Snow falling and night falling fast, oh, fast
In a field I looked into going past,
And the ground almost covered smooth in snow,
But a few weeds and stubble showing last.

The woods around it have it--it is theirs.
All animals are smothered in their lairs.
I am too absent-spirited to count;
The loneliness includes me unawares.

And lonely as it is that loneliness
Will be more lonely ere it will be less--
A blanker whiteness of benighted snow
With no expression, nothing to express.

They cannot scare me with their empty spaces
Between stars--on stars where no human race is.
I have it in me so much nearer home
To scare myself with my own desert places.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Spending the day in Kay Kay Gee 11 with the Bear

Today is the day of reckoning. I'll pull my final graveyard shift (of the week) in order to finish my Birzer and Wenzel papers. At 4:35 a.m. this morning I finished my paper on William F. Buckley. It should not have taken so long, but I was simultaneously editing pages for the Forum, which is going to press soon. Currently holed up in Kappa, listening to Christmas music and doing work with my roommate, whom, if you were not aware, I call Bear (or Bear-Bear). Now you do. Outside still ridiculously cold; the wind was a horrible and biting companion this morning on the way to class. More fluffy snow, on the bright side.

While looking for my annotated bibliography, I stumbled upon this essay, my final paper for Prose Style. I don't remember the prompt, but I am sure it had something to do with what we thought were the most important rules of writing. I turned it a little over a year ago and thought I would share it now. I broke up the paragraphs a little more to make it easier to read in the blog format:

Julie Robison
Prose Style
Tracy Simmons
December 9, 2008

Look, then, into thine heart, and write!
Yes, into Life's deep stream!
All forms of sorrow and delight,
All solemn Voices of the Night,
That can soothe thee, or affright, —
Be these henceforth thy theme.
—final stanza of Henry Wadsworth Longfellow's "Voices Of The Night—Prelude"

Looking into mine heart

Writing begins with a pace. Back and forth, back and forth; if I am not literally walking in circles, then I am sitting in front of my computer, thinking I should be doing something besides tapping the resident yellow pad of paper with a twice-sharpened pencil. I am frustrated because the ideas nor the writing are coming easily; even with my journalism training and my vast experience with working against deadlines, it may still take hours upon hours of writing drafts of anything remotely connected to the topic before my prose takes shape. I can write all day and not write one decent sentence.

At this point in the process, my sentences are sad, and I fear will this piece will end badly. I envy many of my fellow writers, those who are patient. Ideas come to those who wait for them. Those writers do not write until they have something to say. They sit in their chair and let inspiration hit them upside the head, and then, upon seeing stars, they write. I do not like waiting. I like finding ideas; around handle bars of bicycles, hiding behind corners of magazine pages, or in a glance out the car window. Then, upon catching it, I scribble it down into place and so hold it there until I am able to develop it more fully.

Writing is the art of ignoring time and learning patience. It also composed of three Golden Rules, the first being the practice of keeping my worst enemies close to me. I have been writing since grade school, and whenever I’m feeling particularly dry on ideas, I go to my closet, where there are many boxes. A few are labeled accordingly for high school memories, and others indicate grade school lies beneath, but I opt for the one box labeled ‘Writings.’ Inside is years upon years of drafts: essays I had written for school assignments, descriptions of people and places on loose sheets of paper, short stories, old clips, inspired ideas on scraps torn from an unsuspecting source, and my many attempts at poetry.

It is humbling to see how horrible your best writing used to be, and yet I know how proud I was of it at the time. I wonder momentarily if I will look back on my writing now, the same work I admire with mother's eyes, and shake my head in despair. Julie, I think, you were so young. The box serves as a reminder to never, never, never stop writing; only constant vigilance and the belief that, if I were to ever cease, my work would descend into metaphorical madness and be thrust into the cardboard darkness, keeps my hand moving.

The second Golden Rule of becoming a better writer is learning not to take rejection personally. Rejection does not just mean having a publication cross your “little wonder” off their ‘To Publish’ list at present. It also means learning to take rejection of ideas or words, and accepting criticism from others. I myself, although a mostly tough-skinned journalist, felt the sting recently when my thirteen-year-old sister, another aspiring writer, read a piece I gave to my father to critique and called me up to share her comments. To say I was not amused is an understatement. My father turned a deaf ear to my complaints and told me to think about what she said before I became critical.

Time did, eventually, show me that she made a few solid assessments, and I was forced to admit even a person without formal training is able to recognize faults in another’s work. Recognition of faults, a sub-category of Golden Rule number two, is necessary to any writer who wishes to improve, because having a critical eye towards one’s own work will save much heartache and many postage stamps in the years to come.

To advance in one's writing style, it is important to sample the goods. It is not possible to write well if one does not read well. The mind imitates what it sees and picks up on certain turns and phrases, unaware perhaps of how words coil themselves around the mind. The third Golden Rule, therefore, is to read, and to always be reading. The first place to start is newspapers, and then onto magazines and journals, before delving deeper into books. Writers should keep a diverse reading palate if they are to improve.

In the spirit of high school guidance counselors everywhere, it is important to be well-rounded in one’s reading tastes. Prose and poetry are necessary elements for any writer, because they both use words differently, and so I read when I do not write, and take notes and underline favorite passages, only to see another writer emerging from me when I later sit down to collect myself and my thoughts.

And so I compose myself, and shake off my self-doubts. It’s time to write, I think. I crack my knuckles before getting back to my work, and enjoy the rhythmic clicks of my fingers hitting the keys. Something I had written out earlier has caught my eye, and I am beginning to smile as I write more and more, taking sheer pleasure from being able to express myself semi-coherently.

It’s going to be okay, I think, this piece will be just fine. I feel like I have successfully navigated through the wrecking yard; I have scrapped my writing for parts and found success. I will keep the other writing for another day, but now I am focused. I will most likely not leave the area for hours, but I do not mind because I see now how my piece will end—not with whimper, but a bang.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Blizzard Aftermath

Up the hill! A glimpse of the quad from outside Lane. There was a huge snowball fight up there last night, when the snow was really great packing consistency. Now it's more rainy snow. If you look carefully, you can see the salt scattered like birdseed. People were around and hurrying to class, but they were passing me on the right and therefore not pictured. I snapped this right before my Frost seminar.

Front of Kappa this morning! The snow is at least half of what it was last night. Not pictured: now lopsided snowman built by three KKGs last night.

Editing Hf pages tonight, going to press tomorrow! Finally!

Currently looking for good F. O'Connor letter to share with epistolary seminar--we have our last meeting today! Matt wanted to eat lunch at Saga today, but Dr. Wenzel is buying our lunch from Oakley's (a really good local sandwich shop, which I like despite my overall unfondness for sandwiches), so I had to take a rain-check. I'm finishing up my personal letters now; I'm mailing eight today! To keep my mind working this weekend even when I was starting to get burned out, I would write a letter to a friend. I love writing letters, even brief ones, to drop people a line and friendly "hello."

Lacking sleep, but doing well. I think my body and mind are simply resigned to this week being over-worked. In Frost, we got a handout and when I passed it to Heather, she said "You taint these by your cheerfulness." I know she was teasing me, but I think it's rude when people take out their bad sleeping habits on other people by being crabby. When I do get crabby, I prefer avoiding people and sleeping, running, reading or praying off my irritability. I believe it's important to keep a genuinely happy exterior--you may make someone else's day better, which is more satisfying than being like Melville's Ishmael, bringing up the rear of funeral processions and methodically knocking people's hats off when I'm having a "damp, drizzly November in my soul."

I'm particularly enjoying "Christmas Carols Radio" on Pandora, but am feeling nostalgic for home of late and therefore have been intermittently listening to the Clancy Brothers as well. Nothing like Irish ballads to lift the spirits! I hope my wake is just as fun as Tim Finnegan's--no crying now; wakes are for remembering the good times and funerals for praying for the soul. Tears should be saved for scraped knees and broken hearts, not death. Death should be laughed at, since people don't really die, whether or not you believe in a Christian afterlife. A good reading of Dante's three-volumes of the Divine Comedy gives one a nice perspective on that topic.

The Gospel reading today is from Matthew. Quite appropriate, I think:
"Come to me, all you who labor and are burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am meek and humble of heart; and you will find rest for your selves. For my yoke is easy, and my burden light." -MT 11:28-30

Happy Wednesday! Snow flurries are picking up again.

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Happy St. Nick's Day!

This is a picture of my little Danielle and I at the house before informal. I picked her up this semester and feel incredibly blessed to have her my little. She is so sweet and hilarious--an excellent addition to the family and the Klassy Kore! I absolutely love her. I do, however, need to make sure I prioritize spending time with her next semester, even with my thesis, since I'll be graduating. I can get absent-minded about those things occasionally.

Today after church, Heather taught me how to make eggs in the microwave. This might sound gross to those who do not like eggs, but I love them and I'm excited to be able to make something quickly and easily, with not too big of a mess either. This new way of cooking eggs gives me more incentive to eat them in the morning before work when I'm a big kid, graduated from college and having to live and eat on my own. Eggs are also an excellent source of protein, which is a lot healthier and more filling than the numerous bowls of cereal I lived on this past summer. One of my closest friend's mom has mentioned making a cook book of easy recipes and since my expertise lies mainly in making fruit cobbler, searing chicken and baking extra-banana, no-nut banana bread, I could use Mrs. B's book. I'll have to ask her about it again over Christmas break.

Applied to a my first-choice summer internship last night, so now I have two applications in (one internship, one fellowship); many more to follow. Looking into the GRE for next February. Gaffney guilt-tripped me into it, which I see as a good thing. I was wavering on it and it's forced me to now look into programs, which is a bit tricky since American Studies programs seem vastly different from university to university.

We sang this song at mass today, all seven verses. It might be my favorite Advent song. Here is the Belle and Sebastian version:

Currently finishing up Frost presentation. My topic is Frost's portrayal of the mortality of mankind, which is really fun to delve into and explore within his poems. The poems I've picked are "To Earthward, "Sand Dunes," "Trial by Existence," "The Hill Wife," and "The Lessons for Today" (which is a rather long but excellent poem which famously ends "And were an epitaph to be my story/ I'd have a short one ready for my own./ I would have written of me on my stone:/ I had a lover's quarrel with the world.")

Here's a favorite Frost couplet:
Forgive, O Lord, my little jokes on Thee
And I'll forgive Thy great big one on me.
(from In The Clearing, published 1962)

Happy second Sunday of Advent, my friends!

Saturday, December 5, 2009

BFFs, Chicago-style

My best friend this weekend! Ours is a fickle friendship, but I let her live on my desk and she's always there when I need her.

I'm thinking about making cookies this weekend as well for a study break since exam season is coming up and 'tis the season to get stressed! I'm leaning towards chocolate chip.
I'll definitely be sending some to Bianca in NC and maybe a few other far-away friends as well as feeding the Hillsdale masses. Or I could make them for the Hillsdale Forum Christmas party next Friday afternoon!! Yay!!

If all goes well this weekend, my Robert Frost and James Otis papers and presentation (for Frost) will be done come Monday.

My poem selection of the day: "The Sound of Trees" by Robert Frost

I wonder about the trees.
Why do we wish to bear
Forever the noise of these
More than another noise
So close to our dwelling place?
We suffer them by the day
Till we lose all measure of pace,
And fixity in our joys,
And acquire a listening air.
They are that that talks of going
But never gets away;
And that talks no less for knowing,
As it grows wiser and older,
That now it means to stay.
My feet tug at the floor
And my head sways to my shoulder
Sometimes when I watch trees sway,
From the window or the door.
I shall set forth for somewhere,
I shall make the reckless choice
Some day when they are in voice
And tossing so as to scare
The white clouds over them on.
I shall have less to say,
But I shall be gone.

In other news, both Texas and D.C. have snow but not Michigan. I'm not upset or sad at all about it since, after Christmas break, the campus will resume its re-enactment of Narnia before the White Witch was killed--completely covered in blankets of snow, harsh winds and ice covering the trees and sidewalks alike. On the plus side, I look forward to awesome sledding!

Update: Four snowflakes spotted! We'll be looking for the fifth in the next hour...

Friday, December 4, 2009

O Kappa Kristmas Tree

It's a tradition in Kappa for the seniors to decorate the Christmas tree, as well as the surrounding area with garland and twinkle lights. A few of us decorated the downstairs and tree last night, which was a nice study break. The ridiculous amount of work due for classes kept a lot of girls away, sadly, but I think it still looks beautiful! The only sad part is that we couldn't get the angel on the top of the tree... I was the tallest there, but even at 5' 7", I tried and miserably failed at getting near the top of the tree. This may call for some male recruits... or some taller Kappa sisters!

One of my closest friends Vivy and I in front of the beeeeeautiful KKG Christmas tree, practicing for the traditional in-front-of-the-Christmas-tree picture everyone always takes at informal (which is tonight!).
Vivy's boyfriend Will gets competitive with me over time spent with Vivy, so we thought we would tease him by pretending to kiss under the mistletoe.

Hillsdale is frakin' cold, as my friend Hunter would say. No snow (it did come down very briefly yesterday--big, wet, non-sticking snowflakes that provided great excitement for the six kids under the age of 6 I was babysitting for in the afternoon), but the wind is a cruel companion.

Informal tonight--I'm going to go for a run now. Yay! The rest of my day: breakfast for lunch (every Friday!), do laundry (i.e. all my clothes from break lovingly covered with Heidi hair), organize the room, prepare for my Robert Frost presentation on Monday, go to class at 3, go to Dr. Schlueter's Last Lecture at 4 (DPN-sponsored event; it's going to be really good) and then run back to Kappa around 5 and be ready to go before Will arrives at Kappa! Ahh! Good thing I love adrenaline rushes.

Happy Friday! I'm definitely looking froward to my paper-writing weekend.

Thursday, December 3, 2009

More reasons I'm an idiot for forgetting my wallet at home

I specifically avoid shopping (I was no where near a mall on Black Friday), especially on-line shopping. I simply don't enjoy it. It's fine if other people do; I do not. I feel like even when you make good purchases occasionally, it does not make up for all the consumerism surrounding it and the potential bad purchases if one is not strong enough to say "no!" Besides the obvious downfall of going into the red, I find shopping, on a whole, too time-consuming and boring.

Few people would agree with me. Rachel, for one, I am sure is shaking her head at me as she reads this. My roommate Heather would not be happy to hear me say so, although she knows this sentiment of mine. She thinks I'm silly. She loves shopping. This is the same person who, on the drive down to Cincinnati for Fall Break, to me: "This is why I'm going home with Kate--we're going shopping! Julie's just going to drink and read." (Which I did, plus have awesome adventures with friends.)

My mother, however, recently asked me what I wanted for Christmas this year. My typical response was "running shoes" because I need them every year and they are not cheap. She says I need to ask for more (other people in the family buy for me too), so I started thinking. I found this great book in the Mossey library, so I think I might ask for that. If I can't find my copy of The Life Your Save May Be Your Own: An American Pilgrimage (a book about Catholic writers in the 20th century, specifically Walker Percy, Flannery O'Connor, Thomas Merton and Dorothy Day) that I left at home because Dad wanted to read it, then I'll ask for another copy. When I was home for Thanksgiving I looked for it but could not find it anywhere. Lame!

To continue, last winter, J.Crew had these cute ear muffs that I really liked, so I went to the website to see if they were selling them again. (They're not--at least, not the ones I want.) I casually clicked my way into the "Sale" section and then on the "Dresses," my favorite section. That's when I found this dress. (!!)

Fine, I can't drink because I don't have my ID. But really? Depriving me from buying this decently-priced dress that I happen to like very much? (I'm imagining summertime right now.) I can't help feeling like my parents are behind this, even though it is very much my own fault for not having my wallet on me at present. If someone out there doesn't like it, let me know, and I'll try to see your rationale. I think the green is the best color the dress is offered in, although there are 10 other colors it comes in currently.

Sigh. Back to work.

EDIT: Dean Pete's wife called me back. She's desperate for someone to babysit this afternoon. I really don't have time for this at all, but I know how my mom was when I wasn't old enough to babysit, so I'll offer it up as a sacrifice. This is the Advent season after all. AND I get to play with five little kids!! Less time to paper-write, more time appreciating God's gifts in small, rowdy packaging.

Oh, my favorite holiday commercial:

Happy Thursday!!

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Frostian Inspiration

We're doing presentations in my Robert Frost class right now. Most people have covered Robert Frost and nature, his perception of mercy and justice, marriage, labor as a redemptive activity, and other exciting topics like that.

Today, Dr. Willson posed a question at the end of lecture about why Robert Frost never wrote about beer. Since I have nothing else to do but write 5 papers, I was inspired after class today to write a poem as I thought it a very good question, deserving of a thorough analyzing and explanation. I have yet to title it, but I do hope y'all like it regardless.

99 bottles of beer on the wall!
And here comes Dr. Willson down the hall!
He poses the question to the class—
What kind of beer would Robert Frost have filled in his glass?
Jay Parini never specified what Frost liked to drink,
so this inquiry certainly makes me think.
Did he develop a taste for beer on his native grounds?
or did he enjoy brewery products only bought in British pounds?
Perhaps he thought pale ale would suffice:
but then again, a brown ale should have been just as nice.
A dark stout, then, for the dark, snowy nights,
and a lager or two, when the mood was just right.
It’s true Frost never wrote a poem on the virtues of a brew,
much preferring topics like Love and Nature found in a bird’s coo.
If analyzing is to come into play
(as it often does with poetry when scholars feel the need to share their say)
then maybe, dear teacher, here’s the kicker:
Robert Frost didn’t write about beer because he liked his liquor!

The bell just rang out for lunch! Eat quickly then back to prose/ papers, classes, more paper writing...

Oh, and in happy news, I just got an e-mail from Dr. Wenzel saying I was authorized for the Libertarian/ Conservative Debate class!! I was on the wait-list and had not heard anything, so I presumed I did not get in. I signed up for American Government instead, which I am sure would have been the same as my AP Gov class, but I have scheduling conflicts with all the other political science classes I wanted to take (like a course on the Federalist Papers, pure awesomeness!). I am going to have one of the best and hardest semesters ever, but good classes and excellent teachers are always, always worth the extra work and effort. So excited!

Deck the Kappa Halls with Boughs of Holly

Still the best Christmas song:

I apologize for the second post but I needed a break from my Otis paper and thus decided to delete and send e-mails. Then I remembered I had a draft saved of a blog post I shan't be publishing. Unfortunately, I was too impulsive with the 'delete' button. Mea culpa!

The Muppets continue charming and are still awesome. Miss Piggy is especially classic. I've loved this song since I was a small person and shall love it till I am old and wear my trousers rolled.

Excited to say I am made process on two of my five papers tonight. Had a lovely run with Marisa tonight, as well as a much needed amble with Vivy in the brisk Hillsdale air. The moon was especially full and bright tonight against the navy sky, which is to say, quite a sight to behold. The moonlight lit up our usual path with a gentle but generous outpouring. I hope our walks don't stop with the coming of deep snow.