There Is a Time to Be Honest

I decided to share some honest thoughts and feelings today. Sometimes it is difficult to be honest, but this post is basically the thoughts that cycle through my head every single night before I go to sleep. And I know I’m not the only one who feels like this sometimes.

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My alarm wakes me up from a dream. Again. It’s a new day.

I drag myself out of bed, take a shower, eat breakfast, pack my lunch, drive to work, check my email, answer phones, organize, plan, work and more work, go to lunch at the same time every day, more work, drive home, binge-watch my current Netflix obsession, go to bed.

Repeat.

How many stories, books, and poems have been written about life’s monotony?

I’m sure some people would just say that I’m a stereotypical “millennial,” discontent and ungrateful. I’d agree that I tend to be discontent, but I’m not ungrateful.

Why am I discontent? My life is good. Full-time job, new car, my own apartment, master’s degree finished, family and friends nearby, my health.

Is this what being an adult is like? Is this what it means to be an independent 20-something? They told me it would be hard, but I never expected to worry constantly about how I would pay my bills or whether or not I could afford to go see a movie with friends—especially when I work 40 hours every week. People talk about de-stressing, but is that even possible? Stress does not go away; it compounds with interest. It is heavy and impossible to ignore – like a migraine on a hot summer day. No matter how hard you try to ignore it, there it is pounding itself back into your consciousness again.

This is not what I pictured. In all my naïve imaginings, there was one thing that is very absent in my current reality. That thing was a boyfriend and someday husband who would help, encourage, challenge, and love me. Someone to be a witness to my everyday life. Maybe that’s what makes life more difficult for me in particular, being alone when I wake up and when I fall asleep.

People tell me to enjoy being single—that I’ll miss it someday. Well, I’m ready to miss it. I’m done listening to well-meaning and trite advice, the good and the bad. I’m lonely and always trying to ignore a simmering anger and disappointment deep inside me. And it’s time to be honest.

I realize that compared to the pain and evil in this world, my “problems” are superficial and unimportant. But to me they’re very real and painful.

I am not unhappy. I am not ungrateful. I love my family and my friends. I’m thankful for my job. But something is missing, and I can’t ignore that empty space in my heart. I know that being in a relationship will not make life easier, but it will make my life brighter and fuller. Until then, I wait and keep trying to figure out this crazy life on my own.

My alarm wakes me up from a dream. Again. It’s a new day.

Women’s Circles Broken: Thesis Introduction

         I’m back! After five months of silence, I have finally finished my graduate thesis. I am publishing the introduction here on my blog for those of you interested in reading what has consumed my time for the past year. I may eventually publish the entire thesis in installments. The full title is: “Women’s Circles Broken: The Disruption of Sisterhood in Three Nineteenth-Century Works,” and I am writing specifically about Little Women, Pride and Prejudice, and the poem “Goblin Market.” This is definitely an academic paper and not the most riveting reading material, but for those of you brave enough to read on, enjoy! 

“It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man in possession of a good fortune, must be in want of a wife” (Austen 11). If rich men must go wife-hunting, then the women presumably are lucky to get them, spending their time scrambling and fighting to beat out the competition and become the chosen wife. However, Jane Austen and other nineteen-century women authors such as Louisa May Alcott and Christina Rossetti saw the truth played out in the society around them. Of course, on the surface, the frantic search for wealthy husbands was reality; women were trained to become wives. Since women had such limited opportunities available to them, marriage was the most viable option for survival. An interesting connection found, though, among the literature written by women at the time is the way in which women thrive together in communities with each other—up until the men enter the scene. Many women are extremely unhappy after marriage and mourn the loss of community they had shared with their sisters. Once the men, or more commonly, one man who is also the future husband, disrupt these women-centered communities, the close bond among women is severed.

Three works of literature sharing this similarity are Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice, Christina Rossetti’s “Goblin Market,” and Louisa May Alcott’s Little Women. Austen’s Pride and Prejudice was published in 1813, early in the nineteenth century, when many people had yet to question the societal relegation of the “woman’s place” to the home. By the mid-nineteenth century, however, when Rossetti published “Goblin Market” in 1862 and Alcott published Little Women in 1868, there was already an early push for women’s suffrage in both the United States and England. These three authors realized that women should have more options than marriage—although even they could not quite visualize what these options could be. What they longed for was a way for women to retain sisterhood after marriage instead of leaving it behind completely and to be allowed a place in the public sphere. They could see this better option, a supportive sisterhood—safe, loving, and uninterrupted. How and why did women thrive together in these three fictional nineteenth-century communities? How did they communicate? In what spaces did these communities exist? In what ways did men disrupt these communities, and was it possible for women to regain a similar level of closeness with each other after the disruption of men (i.e. marriage)? Some answers to these questions will become clear as this thesis looks at the various viewpoints and treatments each author brought to women’s communities, their importance, formation, and men’s intrusions upon them.

In each of the works discussed, one female character is affected most particularly by the male disruption. For Elizabeth Bennet in Pride and Prejudice, one of the most obvious instances of male intrusion occurs when Mr. Collins takes her dear friend Charlotte away from her. The loss of their friendship and intimacy deeply affects Elizabeth. Jo March in Little Women quite nearly despises the man who marries her older sister Meg and removes her from the cherished community of sisters, and after Laura eats the fruit offered to her in the poem “Goblin Market,” she drifts away from her sister Lizzie and moves swiftly toward death. Consequently, Lizzie is also deeply affected when she must discover a way to save her sister’s life. All of these characters navigate a world that shifts drastically with the entrance of men—and in the case of both novels, the changes brought by marriage.

The two novels use realism to illustrate aspects of female utopian spaces, relationships, and struggles, while by the end of the poem, Lizzie and Laura exist in a true female utopia—a world devoid of men and devoted to sisterhood. Coming hand-in-hand with the nearly inevitable event of marriage in women’s lives was the fact that they would be forced to leave these female utopias for the worlds mostly inhabited and controlled by men. In these writings by nineteenth-century women, women consistently pursue a space free from the overwhelming presence and power of men. Because of the transplants caused by marriage, these women constantly seek communities of women, new utopias and places of refuge with their own ways of communicating with each other that are often vastly different from dominant male forms of communication.

These women’s communities have been viewed as utopian alternatives to the patriarchal societies around them. The word “utopia” was created in 1516 when Sir Thomas More wrote the novel of the same name. He took it from the Greek word ou-topos for “nowhere” or “no place,” but the extremely similar eu-topos also means a good place. It is within this in-between area where women exist in these works of literature—the space between nowhere and a good place. The word “utopia” commonly connotes perfection and unity, but these women’s utopias do not quite fit this definition. The utopias they create are not recognized by the patriarchal society, and because of this, the women’s utopias are much closer to More’s original definition of “nowhere.” Where men often gather in large, boisterous groups, women gather in small, private spaces. From the parlor to written letters, the places and ways in which women communicate differ drastically from those of men.

In a search for a space away from men’s authority, women create their own. Many of these spaces are unique from their male-dominated counterparts. For example, the women in these works claim letter-writing as a space distinctively theirs. While not usually viewed as a literal “space,” letters create a location wherein women share their true, hidden thoughts and feelings with each other, free from the prying eyes of their husbands. Letters act as a private space for sharing intimate details about life, love, frustration, and loneliness—but also a space for sharing joyful news and encouragement. Writing and story-telling feature heavily in relationships among women—not only through their letters but through journals and stories repeated around the fireplace, in the drawing room, the kitchen, and other places women make their own.

In Space, Place, and Gender, Doreen Massey discusses the important roles that literal and metaphorical spaces and places play in women’s lives—specifically in the nineteenth century. Massey argues that critics should think “of social space in terms of the articulation of social relations which necessarily have a spatial form in their interactions with one another” (Massey 120). A few lines later, she elaborates:

Thinking of places in this way implies that they are not so much bounded areas as open and porous networks of social relations . . . It reinforces the idea, moreover, that those identities will be multiple (since the various social groups in a place will be differently located in relation to the overall complexity of social relations and since their reading of those relations and what they make of them will also be distinct). And this in turn implies that which is to be the dominant image of any place will be a matter of contestation and will change over time. (Massey 121)

Women construct their identities within literal and metaphorical spaces in these three works—most commonly the home or “private sphere.” However, as Massey explains, the women themselves also have varying definitions of identity as it compares to specific places. Women do not define their identities based solely on the spaces they inhabit; rather, the ways in which they choose to use certain spaces confer identity on the spaces themselves. In this mutual transferal of identity, almost any space available to women can be transformed into a female utopia, giving women a type of power all their own.

Massey also writes that “it is necessary to understand … gender relations as significant in the structuring of space and place, spaces and places” (Massey 182). By focusing on how women affect the spaces they inhabit, it becomes clear that they construct them differently from male spaces and specifically for themselves. For Massey, “It means that spatiality cannot be analysed through the medium of a male body and heterosexual male experience, but without recognizing these as important and highly specific characteristics, and then generalized to people at large” (Massey 182). Pride and Prejudice, Little Women, and “Goblin Market” were all born out of strict patriarchal societies, but the characters within them seek and discover ways of defining spaces and meaning without men. Further discussion of specific characters’ definitions of space and identity will be found in each chapter.

When reading and writing about relationships among women, it can be easy to come to the incomplete assumption that all women seek to be united together on common ground; and while that is true in one sense, there are multiple dimensions to women’s connections. Women in the nineteenth century were most often drawn together in their struggle for a place to call their own where their voices could be heard, but their methods of creating spaces were as diverse as their personalities. One critic, Helena Michie, coined her own term for describing one aspect of communication among women. In her book, Sororophobia Differences Among Women in Literature and Culture, she makes continual use of the title word “sororophobia,” which “attempts to describe the negotiation of sameness and difference, identity and separation, between women of the same generation, and is meant to encompass both the desire for and the recoil from identification with other women” (Michie 9).  It is this simultaneous longing and withdrawal from sameness that gives rise to many elements of women’s communication. In the three works discussed here, it becomes clear that women are different even within the same families, and it is often these dialogues among sisters and friends that drive the plots nearly as much as the impending marriages and disruptions by men.

Patricia Meyer Spacks writes in The Female Imagination that “Pride and Prejudice centers on marriage. In the society it depicts, marriage measures a woman’s success; mothers value themselves for marrying off their daughters; girls value themselves and are valued for their ability to attract and hold eligible men” (Spacks 148). In “Goblin Market,” there is a definite underlying theme of the girls preparing themselves for marriage. With so much emphasis placed on becoming “marriageable,” it is no wonder that it factors into the women’s communities. However, as we will see, marriage was not the sole focus of women’s lives. Even in the phase of “waiting” for men to arrive, the women—and especially sisters—in these works of literature create alternate, often utopian spaces for themselves. Each work discussed here displays varying differences in women’s communication, their level of closeness before and after marriage, the places they could call their own, and the ways in which they viewed impending marriages and probable separation from each other.

It has been argued that the communities of women in both novels are brought more closely together through difficulties that arise from the “lack” of men in their lives. Nina Auerbach writes in Communities of Women that “throughout Austen’s completed novels, women lead a purgatorial existence together … their lives are presented through an avoidance of detailed presentation as unshaped, unreal, a limbo” until men enter the scene (Auerbach 47-48). This statement simplifies the complexities that women’s communities can achieve. While it is true to some extent that the women in these stories exist in a culture of waiting and training until marriage becomes a possibility—until marriage ends the communities they have built together, their communities are not “purgatorial” as Auerbach claims. Rather, these communities are fragile and always at risk of disruption or dissolution caused by marriage. The clearest example of this can be found in the Bennet sisters, who exist in a close family unit until the marriageable men arrive in town.

          Pride and Prejudice specifically has been labeled a marriage novel. At first glance, the entire plot is moved forward by impending marriages. The first sentence itself seems to focus readers on the fact that all rich single men are searching for wives, but there is much more going on under the surface. Austen’s language here can also be read with sarcasm; rich men do not actually need wives because they are rich men, but their culture demands marriage. However, even though the plot does lead to marriages, the bulk of the novel is centered on women’s communities. Readers see the social aspects of balls and dinners and whispered conversations among women, but we also see Elizabeth Bennett strategically avoiding a marriage with Mr. Collins. For her, marriage is more than simply security, and she refuses to settle for a life with a man who would make her miserable.

Austen, Alcott, and Rossetti each had significant relationships with their sisters in one way or another. Most famously, Alcott’s novel is based on her childhood with her sisters, and Austen’s close relationship with her sister Cassandra has also been widely speculated upon and discussed. Rossetti’s tumultuous relationship with her sister is not as well known but influential all the same. For better or for worse, these sisterly relationships had a lasting impact on what and how these three authors wrote. Another significant similarity shared among the three authors is that they all chose to remain single. In a time when nearly all women married out of necessity, the fact that these three were unmarried is meaningful. It has become increasingly common to avoid authorial biography when writing about literature, but the strong parallels in this case create a space for inclusion and justification of biographical details. While biographical analysis will not feature heavily in this paper, each author had strong bonds with at least one sister and remained unmarried—common life experiences that are too important to omit.

All three authors knew one thing in particular that appears often in their writing: women create communities when they are together. They can transform unlikely spaces into female communities to strengthen and support each other. In these works of literature, the heroines struggle with the disruption and subsequent loss of these support systems most often through men and marriage. The characters we will discuss and befriend in these pages do not hate men, but they love their sisters more. The communities they create are not in opposition to male communities, but they are essential for women to function and thrive. for It is their resilient spirits that draw readers back to Elizabeth Bennet and Jo March centuries later. Lizzie’s devotion to Laura in her defeat of the goblin men is magnetic—it pulls us into the poem and challenges us to see beyond the words on the page. Nineteenth-century women’s communities are ephemeral, but even their weaknesses produce strength among women, binding them tightly together until the disruption of marriage and oftentimes continuing after marriage. These communities are spaces where women define and claim identities, challenge, and support each other. When women are forbidden to enter the public sphere, they create better spaces for themselves which are not defined by men—spaces that allow perseverance and rebuild community. For a first look at this type of strength found in women’s communities, we turn to Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice.

Christmas Music Before Thanksgiving?! The Great Debate…Plus My Top 5 Christmas Albums

There is something about the holiday season that can bring out the best in people. Christmas music also has a magical ability to bring back feelings and memories from past years.

I’ve always wondered why so many of us wait to listen to Christmas music until after Thanksgiving. I remember fighting the urge to listen to Christmas music in November for years. I didn’t want to “skip Thanksgiving.” But, I’ve come to the conclusion that Christmas songs aren’t only for the specific holiday.

Remembering Jesus’s birth isn’t reserved only for December. Listening to and enjoying songs about love, joy, and peace on earth should be part of the whole year—not just one month of it.

Of course, I do know that sometimes hearing the same five songs on repeat everywhere you go can get extremely annoying. If we listened to Christmas music all the time, it wouldn’t be different from any other music. I’ve decided that I will definitely listen to Christmas music before Thanksgiving. I might even listen to it at other times of the year when I need a reminder of how it makes me feel during Christmas.

For those of you who aren’t yet feeling the Christmas spirit, here are my Top 5 favorite Christmas albums. Give them a listen, and let me know in the comments if there are others you would add!

 1. Michael Bublé – Christmas

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How can you not love listening to Michael croon some classic holiday favorites?

2. Pentatonix – A Pentatonix Christmas

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This album was just released last month, and it includes a hauntingly beautiful rendition of Leonard Cohen’s “Hallelujah”—which is something different for a holiday album.

3. Josh Groban – Noel

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I really love Josh Groban’s voice. And one track on this album is called “Thankful.” It can definitely count as a Thanksgiving song!

4. The Time-Life Treasury of Christmas

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This 2 CD set was the soundtrack to every childhood Christmas for me. If you see this album, buy it. You won’t regret it—songs by Bing Crosby, Dolly Parton, The Beach Boys, Elvis, and many more.

5. Pentatonix – That’s Christmas to Me

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Yes, Pentatonix makes my list twice. I can’t choose just one. Listen to “White Winter Hymnal.” It will be stuck in your head in a good way.

Happy Thanksgiving everyone, and don’t feel bad for listening to Christmas music before December!

5 Ways to Enjoy Summertime When It’s Too Hot to Be Outside

This week the Midwest is enjoying the lovely July combination of triple-digit temperatures and 100% humidity.

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Photo credit: gravatar.com/nikolynamcdonald

I’m currently fighting off cabin fever. Don’t get me wrong, I’m very thankful for air conditioning, but I wish I could be outside for longer than a few minutes without feeling like I’ve been in a sauna for hours.

Since I’m stuck inside for the next few days though, I’ve decided to make a list of fun indoor activities. Would you add any others?

  1. Game Night

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Invite friends and family over for a game night! My favorites are party board games like Cranium, Quelf, and Balderdash. It’s also always fun to create your own rules to well-known games. When in doubt, just visit the party game shelf at any store for some good ideas. Disclaimer: you and your friends should be willing to act completely crazy in order to have the maximum amount of fun with party games like Quelf!

  1. Theme Movie Night

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Now there seems to be a theme to my list, but pick a movie genre and have your friends each bring a contender. Then you can all defend your favorites, narrow down to the top three, and choose the winner! Examples include: Rom Com night, Comedy night, Sci-Fi night, or Action/Adventure night. Of course, have everyone bring snacks to share too!

  1. Progressive Dinner

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You’ll still have to brave the heat traveling between houses for this idea, but it’s definitely worth it! Get together with some friends and decide how many courses your dinner will have. Then, assign each person a course, and the whole group will be together by dessert! You could even combine the progressive dinner with a theme movie night!

  1. Create-Your-Own Cooking Show

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Have you ever watched a cooking show and wished you could make cooking seem that epic? Then create your own cooking show! You will definitely need a sidekick to taste test the amazing recipes and some of those little dishes for measuring ingredients. Other than that, just have a friend with a smartphone record the show and let the hilarity ensue!

  1. Start a Chain Letter

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I wouldn’t be a proper English lit nerd if I didn’t have at least one very old-fashioned idea on my list. Remember when people used to write letters with a pen and paper? That is still possible! Convince a few willing victims (I mean friends) that a chain letter would be fun, start the letter, and mail it to the first person. Then, each friend can add to the letter. It’s a unique way to keep in touch in our world of Instagram and Facebook.

 

For the Beauty of the Earth

“For the Beauty of the Earth” is one of my favorite hymns. Every year at springtime, I’m reminded again of just how beautiful this world really is.

Before spring quickly turns to summer, I wanted to share these lyrics and some pictures of flowers I took this year.

I hope they help remind you too.

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For the beauty of the earth
For the Glory of the skies,
For the love which from our birth
Over and around us lies.
Lord of all, to Thee we raise
this our joyful hymn of grateful praise.

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For the beauty of each hour
Of the day and of the night,
Hill and vale and tree and flow’r
Sun and Moon and stars of light
Lord of all, to Thee we raise
this our joyful hymn of grateful praise.

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For the joy of human love,
Brother, sister, parent, child.
Friends on earth and friends above
For all gentle thoughts and mild.
Lord of all, to Thee we raise
this our joyful hymn of grateful praise.

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For each perfect gift of Thine
To our race so freely given.
Graces human and divine
Flow’rs of earth and buds of heav’n.
Lord of all, to Thee we raise
this our joyful hymn of grateful praise.

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Change.

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Change.

This is a short, difficult, and honest post for me. But it needed to be written.

I’m admittedly not the greatest at handling all the changes life seems to throw at me. I’ve also noticed that most big life changes love to hit all at once with absolutely no regard for my emotional and mental health!

Many times even my trust in God waivers, because yes, I know he will never leave me. But that doesn’t make me feel any better when I could honestly just use a hug on lonely nights when I’m too stressed to fall asleep—or when the hopes and plans I’ve held onto so tightly for too long are crumbling all around me.

When I come face-to-face with overwhelming changes, my first reaction is to withdraw inside myself, to try going back to the last place where I felt safe and comfortable.  This coping mechanism doesn’t help at all though. Instead of learning to face new situations with confidence, I constantly second-guess myself.  I wonder if I’ll actually fit in with a new group, if everyone will see how absolutely terrified I am, if I’ll completely fail.

Why don’t we share these stories with each other? Surely I’m not the only one who feels this way.

Why do we try so hard to hide behind facades of having it all together when we’re falling apart behind our Barbie smiles?

Honesty can be freeing if we’re strong enough to try it.

Maybe it is time for yet another change.

What do you think?

 

5 Perks of Being Single

It’s always very easy to think of all the downsides of being single. But when you really stop to think about it, there are so many perks to singleness! Here are the top 5 that I came up with today:

1) You get to watch whatever movie or Netflix show you want! There is no debating between an action adventure or a rom-com, Fuller House or a World War II documentary. You get to choose depending on your mood. Do you feel like watching the entire 5-hour BBC version of Pride and Prejudice? Then watch it! No arguments. No judgment. No problem.

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2) No fighting over where to eat. We all know the couple who spends an hour driving around town trying to decide where to eat—which usually leads to both of them sitting silent and hangry in the McDonald’s drive-thru. When you’re single, there is no arguing except with yourself when your conscience tries to convince you that Taco Bell twice in one week is probably not a good idea…

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3) You only have to keep track of your schedule. If a friend invites you over for a game night, you don’t have to check with your significant other before deciding whether or not to go. You never have to worry about how you’ll possibly get two schedules to line up or if you’ll both be able to ask off work for your second cousin’s wedding next month.

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4) You learn relationship mistakes vicariously. When you’re single, you get the chance to observe the relationships around you. Being the third wheel isn’t always such a bad thing. You can use your times of singleness to learn how much work relationships really are—and to think about how you’ll react in challenging dating situations.

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5) There is no argument over whether the toilet paper goes over or under. This is a constant debate. The lucky couples are the ones who agree on this incredibly important issue, but sadly they are a rare phenomenon. When you’re single, you don’t have to be frustrated every time you go to the bathroom. No passive aggressive toilet paper roll swapping is freedom!

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Obviously, this list is meant to be lighthearted. I could easily write a much longer one titled “The Perks of Being in a Relationship,” but sometimes it’s better to see things from a different perspective. And I think single people tend to get the feeling that we’re lacking something. We are fully complete whether or not we’re dating someone, and usually it’s when we’re single that we learn the most about ourselves. What other perks of singleness would you add to the list?

7 Shows to Binge-Watch in 2016

I have had friends recommend so many TV shows recently that I would have to quit my job and stay home for months just to watch them all. That being said, I already spend too much time watching my favorite shows. Netflix has only made it harder to choose which shows are worth committing hours of your life to watching. I know this blog post is only adding to the thousands of “which shows to watch next” articles already cluttering the internet, but if you are currently in the midst of deciding which television show to binge-watch next, here in no particular order are my recommendations. And as you’ll soon see, since I’m a proud anglophile, many of my favorites are BBC shows:

  1. Downton Abbey

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What can I say? I fell in love with this show in its first series, and my heart has been broken several times over the past five years. The sixth and final series is airing in the U.S. right now, and I know I’m not the only one hoping my favorite characters find happiness. If you’ve never seen this show, it’s definitely worth your time. The drama follows the Crawley family from the sinking of the Titanic through the years following the First World War, with all the heartbreak, intrigue, and joy to be expected. And who doesn’t love Maggie Smith? Everyone knows someone who owns all the seasons on DVD, so there’s no excuse for not catching up!

  1. Sherlock

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Seriously, if you haven’t seen Benedict Cumberbatch and Martin Freeman in the BBC’s modern adaptation of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s beloved detective stories, you’re missing out. All of us Sherlock fans have been waiting for what seems like forever for the next season, but the creators tantalized us with a stand-alone episode this month that didn’t disappoint. And honestly, is there any other villain quite as terrifying as Moriarty?

  1. Call the Midwife

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Yet another BBC series, Call the Midwife, is a perfect combination of history, drama, and medicine. Very few episodes have ended without a stack of used Kleenex beside me. The ladies’ adventures at Nonnatus House are based on true events, and the show’s creators do a wonderful job at historical research. Prepare to be completely invested in the life of 1950s East End London and the pain and rejoicing that comes from childbirth.

  1. Mr. Selfridge

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Ok, so all of my favorite shows are from the BBC except for two, and this one is not an exception. Mr. Selfridge loosely follows the story of Harry Gordon Selfridge, an American businessman who founded one of London’s most popular department stores at the start of the twentieth-century.  The fourth season will air in the U.S. in March of this year, but you’ll definitely want to go back and watch the first three seasons to catch up. The love triangles can get a bit confusing.

  1. Poldark

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I only discovered Poldark last year when the first season aired on PBS, and I’m already eagerly awaiting the release of the second season! Ross Poldark is the title character who returns to England after fighting the Americans in the Revolutionary War. His father has died and the mining estate is failing. And to make everything even worse, the true love he left behind is marrying his cousin! That’s not technically a spoiler because this show is absolutely full of drama from the very first moment. And as an added bonus, the cinematography is stunning with vast stretches of Cornwall’s green cliffs rising above the ocean.

  1. Once Upon a Time

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Since I am American, I suppose I should add my two favorite American television shows. Once Upon a Time is currently on winter break in the middle of its fifth season. It airs on ABC and follows the fairytale residents of Storybrooke, Maine, as they travel back and forth through various mythical realms and reality. Emma Swan is the “savior” daughter of Snow White and Prince Charming, and only she can break the curse that holds them captive. Light and dark magic face off in every season of this show that has you wondering if all evil villains are really that evil. I will admit that season three and the first part of season four were slow-moving and my least favorite seasons, but the show has picked back up now and I’m excited to see what happens when the show begins again in March.

  1. Galavant

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Before my list gets so long that it seems I already spend all my time staring at a screen, I will finally recommend this zany, ridiculous musical comedy that is proudly aware of the fact that it should not have had a second season on ABC. It airs during Once Upon a Time’s winter break and introduces us to Sir Galavant, a singing knight on a quest to find his one true love. The large and somewhat random cast includes names such as Timothy Omundson, Vinnie Jones, John Stamos, “Weird Al” Yankovic, and Hugh Bonneville (who incidentally plays Lord Grantham in Downton Abbey). If you enjoy laughter and being entertained, then watch this hilarious show. The episodes are short, and it’s only on its second season. Here’s hoping they can beat the “Cancellation Bear” once again and return next year with season three!

That’s the end of my list. If you want to save yourself a few hours of scrolling through the Netflix menu, try one of these shows. I promise you won’t regret it!

When We Forget to Rest

What do Louisa May Alcott and Little Women, Jane Austen and Northanger Abbey, and sixteenth-century author Margaret Cavendish all have in common? If you answered that they are all authors, you’re correct. If you have no idea, that’s also perfectly acceptable; I didn’t know who Cavendish was until two months ago. These three authors are the topics of my first three graduate school seminar papers. With a minimum of 15 pages required for each paper, I currently feel as though I have emptied my mind of every intelligent-sounding argument, and words are becoming increasingly difficult to string together coherently. How long is too long to stare at a blinking cursor while trying to come up with just four more pages or remember a synonym for “opposite”?

cursor

It is during these times of mental exhaustion when I’m reminded that my life isn’t being graded. If it were, God knows that most days I’d barely be passing. It is incredibly easy to fall into the trap of perfectionism—to think that one mistake equals instant failure, to fear the future, and obsess over each stressful detail as though it were all-important. But this is not how we’re called to live.

The Bible says in Philippians 4:6-7: “Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus” (NIV). I don’t know about you, but I crave that peace even as I cram my busy life so full that I wouldn’t recognize peace if it showed up on my doorstep with a chick flick and a carton of mint chip ice cream.

So, if you’re overwhelmed by a stack of unfinished tasks and all the holiday shopping still to be done or dreading those stressful family gatherings, take a moment to breathe. Pray. Say thank you. And pause to recognize the peace that is truly available to us in every instant if we’re paying attention–and if we’re willing to rest.

 

“Autumn, the year’s last, loveliest smile”

fall

I haven’t had the chance to write a blog post this month. Grad school reading and academic papers have filled my time, but I wanted to share some more poems. I shared springtime poems earlier this year, and I can’t neglect these beautiful descriptions of autumn–the season that William Cullen Bryant perfectly described as “the year’s last, loveliest smile.” Enjoy!

GOD’S WORLD
By Edna St. Vincent Millay

O world, I cannot hold thee close enough!
Thy winds, thy wide grey skies!
Thy mists, that roll and rise!
Thy woods, this autumn day, that ache and sag
And all but cry with colour! That gaunt crag
To crush!   To lift the lean of that black bluff!
World, World, I cannot get thee close enough!

Long have I known a glory in it all,
But never knew I this;
Here such a passion is
As stretcheth me apart,—Lord, I do fear
Thou’st made the world too beautiful this year;
My soul is all but out of me,—let fall
No burning leaf; prithee, let no bird call.

autumn-forest

AUTUMN WOODS
By William Cullen Bryant

           Ere, in the northern gale,
The summer tresses of the trees are gone,
The woods of Autumn, all around our vale,
Have put their glory on.

The mountains that infold,
In their wide sweep, the coloured landscape round,
Seem groups of giant kings, in purple and gold,
That guard the enchanted ground.

I roam the woods that crown
The upland, where the mingled splendours glow,
Where the gay company of trees look down
On the green fields below.

My steps are not alone
In these bright walks; the sweet south-west, at play,
Flies, rustling, where the painted leaves are strown
Along the winding way.

And far in heaven, the while,
The sun, that sends that gale to wander here,
Pours out on the fair earth his quiet smile,—
The sweetest of the year.

Where now the solemn shade,
Verdure and gloom where many branches meet;
So grateful, when the noon of summer made
The valleys sick with heat?

Let in through all the trees[Page 72]
Come the strange rays; the forest depths are bright?
Their sunny-coloured foliage, in the breeze,
Twinkles, like beams of light.

The rivulet, late unseen,
Where bickering through the shrubs its waters run,
Shines with the image of its golden screen,
And glimmerings of the sun.

But ‘neath yon crimson tree,
Lover to listening maid might breathe his flame,
Nor mark, within its roseate canopy,
Her blush of maiden shame.

Oh, Autumn! why so soon
Depart the hues that make thy forests glad;
Thy gentle wind and thy fair sunny noon,
And leave thee wild and sad!

Ah! ’twere a lot too blessed
For ever in thy coloured shades to stray;
Amid the kisses of the soft south-west
To rove and dream for aye;

And leave the vain low strife
That makes men mad—the tug for wealth and power,
The passions and the cares that wither life,
And waste its little hour.

pumpkin4

When the Frost is on the Punkin
By James Whitcomb Riley

When the frost is on the punkin and the fodder’s in the shock,
And you hear the kyouck and gobble of the struttin’ turkey-cock,
And the clackin’ of the guineys, and the cluckin’ of the hens,
And the rooster’s hallylooyer as he tiptoes on the fence;
O, it’s then’s the times a feller is a-feelin’ at his best,
With the risin’ sun to greet him from a night of peaceful rest,
As he leaves the house, bareheaded, and goes out to feed the stock,
When the frost is on the punkin and the fodder’s in the shock.

They’s something kindo’ harty-like about the atmusfere
When the heat of summer’s over and the coolin’ fall is here—
Of course we miss the flowers, and the blossums on the trees,
And the mumble of the hummin’-birds and buzzin’ of the bees;
But the air’s so appetizin’; and the landscape through the haze
Of a crisp and sunny morning of the airly autumn days
Is a pictur’ that no painter has the colorin’ to mock—
When the frost is on the punkin and the fodder’s in the shock.

The husky, rusty russel of the tossels of the corn,
And the raspin’ of the tangled leaves, as golden as the morn;
The stubble in the furries—kindo’ lonesome-like, but still
A-preachin’ sermuns to us of the barns they growed to fill;
The strawstack in the medder, and the reaper in the shed;
The hosses in theyr stalls below—the clover over-head!—
O, it sets my hart a-clickin’ like the tickin’ of a clock,
When the frost is on the punkin and the fodder’s in the shock!

Then your apples all is gethered, and the ones a feller keeps
Is poured around the celler-floor in red and yeller heaps;
And your cider-makin’ ’s over, and your wimmern-folks is through
With their mince and apple-butter, and theyr souse and saussage, too! …
I don’t know how to tell it—but ef sich a thing could be
As the Angels wantin’ boardin’, and they’d call around on me
I’d want to ’commodate ’em—all the whole-indurin’ flock—
When the frost is on the punkin and the fodder’s in the shock!

Poems taken from:
http://www.poetryfoundation.org
http://www.gutenberg.org/files/16341/16341-h/16341-h.htm#page71