March and April brought my first professional engagements at conferences and classes.  After the end of the term at York, during which time I had shadowed and had a fun (but at times trying) time teaching for the first time, I attended the Society for the Study of Medieval Languages and Literature’s first conversation.  The SSMLL and the Corpus Centre for the Study of Greek and Roman Antiquity jointly hosted “Classicists and Medievalists in Conversation: Epic“.  Of course, this event seemed tailor-made for my interests.  I was an undergraduate classicist with a focus on epic, and I am a current medievalist focusing on epic tradition in medieval romance.  This was technically a conference, but it was organised to be a more informal forum for discussion. The short panels left plenty of time for discussion afterwards.  There were lots of big names in the room, and I was particularly starstruck by Philip Hardie whose books I’ve consulted frequently over the past several months.  I think I was a bit timid–this was my first big-girl (as in not just postgraduate) conference, and the discussion tended to be dominated by more experienced, published, and employed academics.  I felt a bit out of place, as much of the discussion was on material I’d never encountered before.  However, it was a good way to dip my toes into the conference pool.  My full conference report can be found here.

St. Hugh’s College, Oxford
Works Cited: http://www.proimmune.com/

Two weeks after the day-long Epic conversation, I went to back to Oxford for the Romance in Medieval Britain Conference at St. Hugh’s College.  This was a three-day event, and the papers were absolutely fantastic.  I got to see two of my fellow PhD workroom friends present papers, talked with academics I’ve encountered at Cambridge and Durham, and meet other new researchers and post-docs with similar interests.  I was pleased to find that there were many others working on various Troy Books and ecphrasis, there was one panel whose papers fit incredibly well with my MA dissertation on hospitality and generosity in Gawain romances.  It was tiring, but extremely rewarding and fun.  After the last panel, I got to walk around the manuscript exhibit at the Bodleian Library.  While perusing the various sections, I bumped into another PhD from the conference who was visiting from Toronto, and we had a lovely afternoon walking in the sunshine.  My goal is to present a paper at the next RMB in two years, and I hope to keep up with the contacts I made this year.

Old Main, Gustavus Adolphus College
Works Cited: http://geography.blog.gustavus.edu/

After that crazy two weeks, I went home and then up to Minnesota to speak at Gustavus.  I shared my study abroad experience at the annual “Why Classics?” event and got an overwhelmingly positive response from the faculty.  The following day, I taught a class on the Aeneid in the Middle Ages with particular attention to the text of Chaucer’s House of Fame (Book 1) and sections of Sir Gawain and the Green Knight.  I was a bit disappointed that the students didn’t seem to work with the Middle English, and I discovered that I should have spent more time on SGGK because the text I provided for that had a modern translation.  I was expecting a Latin class to be a bit more receptive to engaging with the language, but I understand that it was something new for them.  However, I think the class went well even if I presented many novel ideas in a short amount of time.  I spoke with the only medievalist in the English department (who, of course, had been working in admin while I was a student), and he said he struggles each year when deciding on Chaucer text.  To use or not to use the Middle English?  It’s something I don’t think we should struggle with; Chaucer’s Middle English isn’t particularly difficult, and I’ve seen many undergraduate classes who read all the literature without translations.  It’s something to consider in the future, and I’d never thought about it before.

Being back at Gustavus as a speaker was a bit surreal.  I stayed in the guest house and was driven to and from Gustavus by my old advisor.  I was privy to all sorts of gossip and opinions from the faculty about which I had no idea as a student.  It was interesting to be on the other side of the fence–the side shared by professors I highly respect and adore.

I had a fantastic time being a “grown-up” academic for the first time.  It’s scary to be there, and entering into the ivory tower is daunting.  I hope that with practice I can work up to feeling more like I belong among those academics.

Now that I’m settled in York (and perhaps have too much on my plate with auditing Old French and Latin, running two discussion groups/lecture series, constructing props for the Lords of Misrule production of Sir Gawain and the Green Knight, and sorting out shadowing next term), I can report that I do really love my program, supervisor, and peers.  On the personal front, I love my flatmate and our similar tastes in pumpkin foods, The Big Bang Theory, Merlin, heckling bad films, wandering around York’s streets, and unwinding after a long day with one of our many, many types of tea.

Despite my success at the undergraduate and master’s levels, I still sometimes feel like I’m out of my depth.  I don’t have the background many of my peers have (I think we touched on Cimabue in my art history survey class, read Beowulf in my World Literature I class, and heard about The Canterbury Tales in my Great Books of the Greek and Roman world course).  However, a visiting student who came to deliver a paper here at the Centre for Medieval Studies last night assures me that this is normal.  She said she felt throughout the entire process that she’d be “found out” and thrown out.  It’s sometimes an unsettling feeling, but it seems like it’s a normal one.

This omnipresent feeling leads me to something that has bugged me over the years that resurfaced after speaking with this Oxford-educated woman with a DPhil already in the bag.

In my junior year of college I was in my senior seminar class on ancient epic.  I had this professor for many classes in the two years we overlapped at Gustavus and had done well in previous classes.  The seminar was designed to be graduate school-like: three hours of class time (plus film viewings) one evening a week, one big research paper at the end, and lots of small papers every week and close reading.  Among the texts were the usual suspects (the Iliad, the Odyssey, The Aeneid) plus some texts new to us (Argonautica, Lucan’s Civil War).  I stressed like everyone, but didn’t complain in front of our professor, didn’t miss a class, and got things done on time.  We had oral midterm and final exams, too, and during my feedback for my final, the professor told me I did very well, and (as word-for-word as I can remember it) said “I don’t know if you just speak quickly or speak succinctly, but you covered in 15 minutes what others take 30 to say.”  I got an A on that final and in the class.

This long prelude is to illustrate the surprise I felt when he told me that he didn’t think I was suited for graduate school because I was “too anxious.”  ???  “Too anxious” still confuses me to this day.  What did that mean?  What behaviors or essays had convinced him of this?  I was too stunned and cowardly to ask at the time.

Works cited: dreamstime.com. NB: Not a picture for instruction. If you mutilate one of my writing tools, I may have to hunt you down.

I know in my heart that he was wrong.  Perhaps I was wrong for graduate school in classics, his field and passion.  It was my passion and life as an undergraduate, and I lived and breathed the subject material.  Today, I’m working on the data for my first thesis chapter on the Aeneid and material culture as a kind of proto-romance and as inspiration for medieval authors.  I won’t argue that perhaps I didn’t see then that classics wasn’t my future and that perhaps I wasn’t quite passionate enough to slog through years of Greek study.  Perhaps because I didn’t go into Gustavus knowing I wanted to study classics he thought I wasn’t devoted enough.  Perhaps I was too wrapped up in taking classes in the field that he thought I was annoying and overly-ambitious.  Perhaps my frequent migraines and illnesses came off as simply skipping class for the heck of it.  Perhaps it was supposed to be a helpful comment.  (I have often wanted to believe this is the case, but remain doubtful.)  Medieval literature is a field that gets me excited and makes me happy like classics did because of many of the same things: the magic of classical characters, the beauty of intricate poetic forms, heroes and their quests, the power of religion and devotion, and cultural ideals behind the texts.  However, instead of Latin and Greek, I focus on English with smatterings of French and Latin.  (Learning about the Norman Conquest and the evolution of the English language might be my favorite academic moment in recent memory.)

The final question this situation raises for me is how much professors should provide advice to a gung-ho student.  I’m sure you’ve seen this video.  We’ve heard that jobs for academics are thin on the ground.  I know and I’m aware.  I’m going to graduate school because I’ll always wonder, “What if?”.  I won’t be able to get a job in the field of medieval literature without my advanced degrees, so because I’ve had some funding and have the ability to go to graduate school, why not?  I made this quite clear even as an undergraduate.  I appreciate honest feedback but with one caveat: if asked.  I don’t want honest feedback from a professor or lecturer with whom I don’t feel comfortable and perhaps don’t respect in the field as much as another who knows me well on a personal level.  With all of this in mind, how honest is too honest?  Should professors just tell students what they think in the manner they deem best?  If the student has said that s/he will go if able, even with the knowledge that a career may not develop in the way one would like?  It’s a touchy subject with the economy sliding, many shrinking humanities departments, the elimination of tenure-track positions, and the competition for funding, jobs, and prestige.

So, I go back to that professor and that comment.  The situation crops into the forefront of my mind more often than I’d like, and sometimes it makes me further question whether I belong here and deserve my place.  I have to remember that people who have been in the field for years chose to accept me into all the master’s and doctoral programs to which I applied.  I won a scholarship for my MA year and worked incredibly hard for my degree with distinction at Durham.  I must remember that I do belong here.  Perhaps I don’t have as much experience, but I’m behind other first-year PhDs by a few years, not a lifetime.  I have the privilege of being able to devote my time, work, and life to the Middle Ages, if only for the few years it takes to complete my thesis and program before the Real World comes calling.

I’ve been doing shopping research on everything from cameras to boots to bags lately, so it’s unsurprising in this age that some of the top Google and Bing results are blogs and YouTube videos. At first I ignored them, as I was looking to actually see reviews and prices for things, but as I was getting anxious about finding a bag, I got desperate and clicked. What I found surprised me. There are grad students here in the US and in the UK that have, gasp, time for making regular videos and for updating amazing blogs about fashion and style and organization.  There is life beyond academia, despite what some of my professors seem to think (admittedly, the two I’m thinking about do lack, well, people skills, and don’t seem particularly keen on breaking out of that professorial shell).

As I’ve been preparing for Durham, I’ve been considering how to be the “grown up” I’ve envisioned.  For the most part, my uniform of choice at Gustavus consisted of layered tees and sweatshirts or fleece, jeans, and sturdy Minnesota-winter-suited boots.  It was rare that I would actually take time to put on makeup (except perhaps, if I was lucky, on some wayward pimple), and incredibly unlikely to do my hair.  At UW, I tried to break out of that by at least doing makeup everyday and by trying to keep my t-shirts for home use.  Lots of cardigans and sweaters became my most-used items of clothing, and my regular jeans were replaced by two much-loved pairs of trouser jeans (lots of washing!).  I even began incorporating dresses, tights, and leggings, and found ways to wear my flourishing scarf collection.  Facing my new life, I want to do more of that, though I am aware a bit more creative layering is needed, as the nighttime temperatures now are in the 40s…  Hooray, cold weather!

I think my biggest inspiration is my friend, Alicia, who is currently a grad student in history.  She’s a real style model, and looks amazing!  She’s proof that a busy schedule (filled with work, studying, puppy parenting, and a wonderful husband) doesn’t have to detract from looking professional, put-together, pretty, and, yes, adult.

Photos of Matching Nerd Glasses (Via: bruunsbazaar, thefashionisto)

In the virtual world I discovered during these searches, I’ve found three inspiring blogs/YouTubers:

The Glamourous Grad Student This is perhaps my favorite blog thus far.  The writer is in Ireland, so lots of the things she talks about are helping me to figure out what’s available in the UK.  Her posts are funny, well written, and informative, and lots of her style posts ask questions that are helping me to pin down who I want to portray in my clothing. This is the post I originally pulled up on Google.

Fashionable Academics This was the post that popped up in my search, about a green (!!!) bag.  This blog is written by several contributors, and it tends to have more affordable fashion and pieces.  There are styles and outfits from women of every shape, style, height, and coloring, and I could look at the pages of this site forever.  FA gives me ideas to try and encourages me to try new things with my own wardrobe.

apeelingaustin‘s YouTube  This video gave me insight into what a grad student carries around all day, and what I could (and should) expect.  Plus, she’s in history as well, and so I can relate to her field and need for notes, places for handouts, etc.  It was amusing to see her pull out her old reading material from one previous class, and I have some ideas thanks to her for my bag basics.  I never thought of keeping a folding/rolling bag in my daily bag…  Good idea!  She also has some makeup “haul” videos, which I haven’t had time to look at yet.

Nerdy Chic from shopstyle.com

After looking at these, I’ve determined that I’m nerdy chic with a soft spot for big, yet simple, jewelry and scarves.  I really do like patent Oxfords, wool pencil skirts, bold glasses frames, and blouses layered under sweaters.  I like to be able to wear one pair of shoes on my commute and in class, and so favor flats and boots.  I like wearing neutrals which I dress up with a bright scarf or pair of shoes.  I feel more confident when I have cinched my waist, put something pretty on my feet, straightened my hair, spritzed some happy perfume, and applied makeup.  Just because I want to look cute doesn’t mean that I want to in reality be killing my feet or go overboard with obsession about clothing.  I like things I can mix and match and that last forever.  I love Kate Winslet’s style of simple hair and makeup and clean lines with bold colors and/or textures.  Hopefully, this ideal style will work its way into my wardrobe and I can look like a grown up while kicking butt in the academic arena.

In my preparation for leaving, I need to put away all the things I brought home from Washington and college.  To do that, I have to have room in my room for those things.  (Sorry about the repetitiveness; oy!  My excuse will be that it’s late and I’m tired…  Yes.)  Unfortunately, that means cleaning my room from top to bottom and decluttering.  Nothing is getting past me!  Every piece of clothing, each paper, and anything my mom has tossed onto my dresser is being inspected, albeit quickly, and put into a pile for laundry, donation, closet, back room / library, or trash.  So far, I’ve gotten through most of my room, not including my bookshelf and under my bed.  That was a huge accomplishment, as I had some “cushioning” shots in both knees today, which is not the most, erm, comfortable experience ever…

Anyway, among the treasures I’ve so far found are my Swarovski earrings and ring from senior year P-Ball, my stuffed golden retriever from my Dad on my 9th birthday, and letters from my dormmates and friends from 2004, the year of my partial freshman year at Gustavus.  I’ve always had weak knees, and the night before my first college exam, my friend and I were walking back from the biology tutor’s when my knees buckled.  I found out later that it wasn’t torn ligaments or cartilage, but two poor knee joints which are prone to allowing the kneecap to pop out, much like a dislocated shoulder.  I had to pull out of classes and go home for physical therapy.  I was frustrated and angry that my own body would do something like this to me, but in the end, I think it was for the best.  I believe God has a plan, and his entailed me graduating with the class of 2009 as a classics major.  If I had stayed on, I think I would have stuck to my original plan and majored in biology or another science-y discipline, like psychology.  I’ve had so many wonderful experiences because of my major and graduating class, and I wouldn’t trade that for the world.

I had completely forgotten about those cards and letters, and I was truly touched when I read over them again.  One of them was from a current close, sister-like friend, Ann.  She called me “mi paco” and wrote that I was “spifftacular.”  It definitely put a smile on my face and brightened my day, as I’m sure it did then.  The girls who wrote the other letters or signed the floor’s card are mostly friendly acquaintances now and we’re friends on Facebook.  They are amazing people, and even though we’re mostly out of touch, I think they’re wonderful girls.

Tomorrow I hope to conquer that bookcase and scary area under the bed, as well as my bathroom and closet.  Then it’s onward to the alcove with my desk and then (cue dramatic chord) the putting away and PACKING!  Ugh, September 19th is so close, and yet I can’t wait to be there!  So much to do…

The Berenstain Bears' messy room, looking much like mine at the moment! (Minus the Tiddlywinks!)

On the whole school front, I still don’t have much information on the scholarship.  Snail mail hasn’t produced anything official-looking in a long while (uh, hooray for catalogues?), and vague emails are trickling in.  I’ve gotten two “don’t panic” type messages thus far!

On another side note, I am mourning the death of the click-wheeled Apple iPod Nano design which has been replaced by a Touch-type interface and screen.  Being the old-fashioned kind, I’m trying to locate a new Nano to put away before they’re gone, as Apple has already replaced my beloved old design with the new one in the online store.

I haven’t been terribly scholarly since I’ve been home, which is fine and allows me to read modern novels instead of thousand-year-old poetry, and so listen to more distracting modern music instead of studious symphonic tracks, but it’s putting me off my blogging goal.  I apologize if my much more personal musings aren’t quite as interesting and neutral as the venting or rambling I tend to do…  I do recommend The Angel’s Game by Carlos Ruiz Zafón, the prequel to the amazing, fantastic, shout-it-from-the-rooftops-good The Shadow of the Wind.  Also, I recently got The Lais of Marie de France after studying Lanval (Arthurian legend) and Bisclavret (about a werewolf whose wife betrays him).

As for preparations thus far for my trip, I’ve gotten some important pieces for grad school life recently, and am planning on buying black rain boots and glasses, as well.

First, my grown up bookbag:

by TheLeatherStore, Etsy

I got the black one, which is a large, zippered bag with a long, crossbody strap and two handles.  It’s large enough for my laptop and some books, and the seller assured me that it would be large enough for everything I need.  She uses this bag, herself, and tosses in books, lunch, makeup, and her computer!

Secondly, my pride and joy splurge:

Coach Julia Wallet

My searching for a good zippered wallet was not going well, and I happened to just check out a Coach wallet on sale at Dillard’s.  The shape and details were exactly what I was looking for, but I wasn’t really into a wallet that was A) covered in the signature Coach “C” pattern or B) so bloody expensive!  I bought it, and then went to Macy’s to look for a bag like I ultimately found on Etsy (see above).  There, at the Coach display, was the same wallet I had just bought in a beautiful silver with a lavender interior.  I loved it, and wound up taking the first patterned wallet back the next day in order to buy the plain silver one.  So, waiting in its wrapping is my first Coach piece.  It’s my extravagant purchase for the move, and money did come out of savings, but I love it and am reassured by their lifetime warranty!

The pieces I’m getting for school are all things that need replacing (bookbag–my lovely college backpack’s straps began to fall apart while at UW) or that I haven’t had the need for as a resident of fairly warm climates.  Minnesota’s winters got pretty cold (!!!), but I was lucky to live a maximum 15 minutes from any place I needed to go.  Plus, snow can be brushed off, whereas rain is a bit more of a soaking issue.  As I’m truly minimizing my belongings now, both that I will pack for the UK and keep in my room, I want pieces that define me.  I’m cleaning out everything in order to make room for a new beginning, and this change begins with my everyday pieces.

It’s no secret that I believe in the power of an excellent faculty at a university or college.  At Gustavus, the faculty made the school and community.  I met them in the local co-op, saw them at midnight showings of new movies, and had dinner at their homes.  The faculty were a large part in my life at college and created an encouraging learning environment.  I quickly conquered my fear of calling my superiors by their first names, and appreciated being able to know them on both academic and personal levels.  While I realize St. Peter is much different from, say, Seattle with its small college, small community, and Midwestern mentality, I believe that some of this comfort with faculty can be achieved by hiring good teachers.

Rarely are good teachers closed-off or secluded people.  While at the U of Washington, my best experiences have been with faculty who add personal experiences to lecture (personal travel photos, comments about a new sunburn, new films they’ve seen, etc.) and who are open to emails and office visits from students.  That being said, it seems like half of the professors I’ve loved are actually not technically employed by the school!  My Chaucer professor retired after this past spring term, and they are not adding another tenure track position.  And a permanent position for a medievalist in English or history?  Forget it.

I cannot understand the resistance of schools to hire quality faculty.  They are the life and breath of the institution!  Why would anyone fight adding an excellent and well-liked teacher to their university?  In my recent experience at a large university (and in friends’ experiences in graduate school), some tenured professors are employed because they bring a certain prestige to the institution.  They seem to not care about the quality of their classes or student interest, and in fact, some shirk their duties to their advisees.  Is prestige really worth the unsatisfactory student experience?  These students will become faculty and probable funders of the university.

With my rant over, I’d like to make a general plea to universities everywhere.  Good educators come in every field and are every age.  The end-of-term reviews should indicate to you how amazing or underwhelming professors are, and there is little point in constantly shuffling your faculty members because you have not kept tenured positions.  Please take a hard look at your popular classes and professors and fill those nonexistent and temporary positions with qualified and passionate teachers.  We, the students, appreciate it, as do those who donate.  Please help to nurture your university by giving quality education by qualified and interested professors.

Professors shouldn’t just teach or help students to get needed credits.  They can inspire true passion and interest and be life-changing.

Men exist for the sake of one another. Teach them then or bear with them.  –Marcus Aurelius

The roots of education are bitter, but the fruit is sweet.  –Aristotle

Good faculty make living much easier and can turn that bitter root much sweeter.

This week has been very strange for a number of reasons.

I’ve felt as though I’ve been falling through space due to illness that is messing with the equilibrium in my head and to the fast-approaching end of the term.  I cannot believe it’s May.  But not just May; it’s the end of May.  And not just the end of May, but the end of May which marks the one year anniversary of my graduation from college.  Whew.  The days roll by and at times I just blindly follow the waves.  I’m floating, as if I’m in a swimming pool disrupted by the elementary school divers.  One roll after the next.  I can’t really tell if I’m enjoying the ride or a bit perturbed that I don’t have control of the entire pool.

I think feelings of being out of control stem from the fact that I’ve said goodbye to many friends for a year (!) or possibly several and am rapidly approaching my cross-continental move.  The weekend spent at Gustavus, my beloved alma mater, was amazing and yet terrifying.  I’m no longer in the loop for many things: Eta Sigma Phi and the classics department, my college friends’ lives, and college politics.  I just went with the flow earlier this month and nodded absent-mindedly when new things were brought into the conversation.  However, at the same time, I soaked up information like a sponge.  Who did what now to whom?  They got married?  Who got a new job where?

I’m pretty sure that these feelings are normal, especially for a (relatively speaking) homebody like me.  I’ve always been so close to my parents and my college friends are the first people I’m not related to who have been reliable and like siblings (the kind one likes, of course!).  It will be hard to start over yet again.  I was reminded of how many times I’ve had to start over when I was filling out applications for grad school.  One application asked me for all of my high schools.  Let’s see… at one time or another I followed six different curriculums of study in three states.  And that’s not even for all of high school.  Because of a head injury, I didn’t actually graduate high school and jumped straight to college.  Then I was a freshman twice because of a knee injury in 2004.  Anyway, my point is that I’ve had to start and restart so many times that even though being by myself became routine, I quickly became accustomed to being with actual, close, family-like friends.  Even though I believe with most of my heart (the part that isn’t afraid of letting go of whatever place I have here in the States) that Durham is the right path for me to go next, I’m terrified of leaving and going through all that reestablishment again.

With that being said, I’m determined to fly.  I just need that little push out of the nest in order to begin to soar like I did at Gustavus.  After all, practice makes perfect, and I have the practice thing down.

My Goal

My Goal

Grateful: books, libraries, and ILL.  I have thirteen books out on various topics for my Robin Hood paper.  They range in topics from Edward II to late middle ages society to heraldry and include titles such as Landscape and Memory, Ideology of Adventure, and Outlaws in Medieval and Early Modern England.

Also, things like this: James Purefoy, Pride and Prejudice, and Middle English nerds.

In early April, my second postbacc quarter at the University of Washington began.  Unlike last quarter, I got extremely lucky with all three of my classes and professors.  Middle English, Chaucer, and Medieval Outlaws may be some of the most interesting courses I’ve had the pleasure of taking.  Though, to clarify, I thought most of my classes as Gustavus were amazing…

I’m on my way to Minneapolis/St Paul for Will Freiert’s retirement party this weekend.  Yay for wifi on the plane!  It’s been a hectic day on top of a hectic week.  We just had midterms, so I’m sure you can imagine the insanity of my schedule, especially factoring in the 1 to 1 1/2 hours of commuting each way to and from campus.  I got through it, which is the important part, though!  I had a midterm in Middle English, a paper in Chaucer, and a source analysis paper for my history seminar (Medieval Outlaws) this week, and I think I did well.  I was really looking forward to just enjoying this weekend and to being relatively stress-free.  However, I don’t think that my airport shuttle company and the folks at Delta had similar ideas.  My shuttle was about 30 minutes late in picking me up this morning, which then caused me to be late at the airport.  I arrived at my gate after going through a rat maze-like system of trams and escalators (similar to Heathrow’s international terminal wonkiness) to find no one around.  I could see my plane right there, but when an employee finally came around, I was informed they weren’t boarding anymore.  It was about 12:05.  The plane left at 12:15.  Ugh.

Okay, venting complete.  I cried my frustration out and booked another flight and am currently on my way.

I think that coming into contact with negative people and situations helps me to reset my head.  When something unfortunate happens, I need to feel that anger, sadness, injury, and frustration for a while and talk to my mom and/or just cry while snuggling up to my cat.  After a mini eruption, I’m able to see the good in the situation (there always is a silver lining, however small and hard to see) and get life back on track.  I’ve been through so much stuff in life that I can’t afford to see friendships dissolve, my morals to be pushed aside, or yes, my missed flight to ruin the impending fun.  I do my best to rectify negative behavior in myself when I notice it and to follow the examples of others when they handle situations well.

I’ve made a resolution to write down (or, as is usually the case, type out) something I’m grateful for each day to help me stay grounded in the positive.  In my first grateful moment, I wrote that I was thankful for books and languages.  Besides those, which enable me to have this academic and career path, I’m thankful for my family and friends who are always there for me and are amazing people.  Those are the big ones.  I’m also thankful for the Egyptians, who domesticated cats, supplied ancient Rome with grain, and created a civilization that is one of the most fascinating in history.  I’m thankful for rain and the soft sound it makes on my window in Washington.  I’m thankful for those who have made recorded music a part of life; I’d be lost during all types of commuting and while studying without it.  I’m thankful for the little happy accidents in life, like chocolate chip cookies, editing errors in films (hello, Mr Modern Bluejean Crew Guy in Gladiator!  You’re looking very silly in Roman Gaul wearing that outfit!), and even (sometimes) taking a different bus home.

I hope that everyone can find the little things in life that bring smiles and laughter and warm, fuzzy feelings.

We’re descending.  Good night!