Saturday, April 30, 2011

A Day in the Life of a Graduate Student

9:30 Wake up. Decide to get out of bed and start working. Realize that I can't keep my eyes open. Decide to eat applesauce and go back to bed.

12:00 Wake up for real. Eat a real breakfast. Grade speeches for two hours.

2:00 Begin Romanticism paper. Get exceedingly frustrated at how not awesome it sounds.

4:00 Quit writing Romanticism. Eat a snack.

5:00 Don't know what I did for the past hour, but it's time for dinner.

6:00 Give up on Romanticism for the night. Begin Education paper.

7:30 Feel very good about the two pages I have written for Education. Decide to take a break for some more food.

8:30 Return to Education. Spend half an hour trying to get the UI database site to work.

9:00 Finally get to the article I've been trying to get for the past half hour. Find out I really don't want it. Find another article to use.

9:30 I've been working for an hour. Time for another break? Call parents. I need human contact!

10:00 Write one more page of Education.

10:30 Set the goal of having 2 pages of a Romanticism paper and 4-5 pages of an Education paper finished by midnight. That's 2 more pages to go tonight, people! And then an exciting 10 pages to write tomorrow after church . . .

Thursday, April 21, 2011

I Cannot Sleep . . .

And so I am reading poetry. I love poetry with a passion. And I choose the words "love" and "passion" carefully because poetry is able to affect me emotionally--even physically--like very few things can. Music, sometimes. Or an episode of Buffy the Vampire Slayer. Poetry, though, is my first love. And I don't know why I don't read it more often.

As I've mentioned before, I'm on a huge Denise Levertov kick. She is my poet soul-mate. She helps me understand myself better and--even more importantly--she makes me draw closer to God.

I thought I'd share a couple of short Levertov poems which struck me today . . .


After I had cut off my hands

and grown new ones

something my former hands had longed for

came and asked to be rocked.

After my plucked out eyes

had withered, and new ones grown

something my former eyes had wept for

came asking to be pitied.

This one really struck me because of some things happening in my life. I won't go into detail now, but I've realized how I've started closing myself off from things and people since the tornado. It changed the way I deal with stress, and not entirely in a good way. And this poem just struck me by reminding me, I don't want to lose my compassion and ability to love because I'm unwilling to deal with my own grief and struggles.

This one provoked a literally physical reaction . . .

The ache of marriage:

thigh and tongue, beloved,

are heavy with it,

it throbs in the teeth

We look for communion

and are turned away, beloved,

each and each

It is leviathan and we

in its belly

looking for joy, some joy

not to be known outside it

two by two in the ark of

the ache of it.

The thing I love most about this poem is the fact that it's harshly raw in its honesty about the bitter painfulness of marriage. The fact that sometimes, you're not satisfied. And yet, it has hope, because it claims that they are "looking for joy . . . not to be known outside of it." And it makes me want to experience marriage and experience that joy and the ache and the awesome relationship that can exist despite the ups and downs of both.

Okay. Gonna go try to sleep now. Happy National Poetry Month :-)

Monday, April 11, 2011

"As a Feminist . . ."

I consider myself a feminist. Not the angry, second-wave, bra-burning kind of feminist, but the kind who believes in both the uniqueness and equality of women, who believes that women should have the equal right, ability, and validation to be successful in the workplace or stay home with kids, who believes that some issues women face should actually be looked at from the angle of both femininity and masculinity and what needs to change about the way both men *and* women are perceived, and who believes that even though many feminist battles have been won in the United States, women around the world are still facing some very horrible situations because of their sex/gender and that we need to fight for their equal rights. (Oh, also that there are still feminist issues to be discussed in 21st c America.) In other words, I consider myself a third wave, sometimes conservative, feminist with an equal interest in masculinity as I have in femininity.

However, I rarely make claims using the phrase, "as a feminist." For one thing, most Christian circles have a very skewed image of feminism which tends to focus on second wave feminism and pro-choice movements. Realizing that not everyone lives in academia and that feminism does have some problematic elements attached to it, I find it more useful to break down the issues and discuss them instead of dealing with the label "feminism" in these circles. The one time when I want to do otherwise is when Christians start talking about being against feminism. It's like when Christians get together and talk about the evils of postmodernity or the dangers of deconstructionism. Not that there aren't bad elements to any of these movements, but the people behind these movements equip Christians to think that they "understand" the academic movement when really, they set up an over simplified version of what is wrong about the movement and ignore the inherent potential for feminism, postmodernity, and deconstructionism to be vehicles of Christian truth. I haven't read Carolyn McCulley's Radical Womanhood: Feminine Faith in a Feminist World, so I can't make claims about it, but I know that it generated and fit into a discourse within Christian circles about feminism as a bad thing. (McCulley actually had a conference at my church in Cedar Rapids, and I wanted to go just to hear her, but the weekend ended up not working out and I also was afraid that she'd say things that would bother me and that I'd want to read about it in the book instead. Which I need to do. And then, hopefully, I can actually make informed claims about the book and also bring it into dialogue with my belief that complementarianism and feminism can coexist.)

Okay, that was a long tangent I didn't mean to get into. BUT, the second reason why I don't make claims "as a feminist," usually, is because I don't want to privilege the feminist position or my minority position as female/woman. If I make a claim, it should stand on it's own, not because I've suffered and so have a greater voice on the topic than those who haven't. (Something that becomes even more of an issue, in my opinion, if you're talking about issues like race or sexual violence--areas that I think victimization becomes a privileged position even more.) Likewise, I shouldn't have a greater voice because of my ideological background.

However, today, I started a statement with, "As a Feminist." An education professor gave a long speech about how "you guys" is gender biased language and should be avoided in the classroom because you don't want to offend women. (Short version.) What bothered me was the way in which he talked about this, and has talked about other gender issues this semester, as if representing a feminist position. So, when I responded about how I believed that instead of changing something just to make a student feel better, a teacher should start a dialogue on the possibility of "guys" as a degendered term or the ways in which even offending someone can have a rhetorical purpose, I wanted to make it clear that I thought that this was in line with my feminist viewpoints. So, I began the comment, "As a feminist." In retrospect, I would have said more, and I would have said it differently, but I do get angry at lazy feminism--the kind of feminism that rides on the back of second wave assumptions and reduplicates old rhetoric about gender.

That turned out to be much, much longer than I intended it to be. This is what happens when I get into my passionate academic mode . . .

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Tornado Survival Bag

So, I came up with this brilliant idea of having a tornado survival bag ready in case of tornado warnings. It will be filled with things I need if I have to go hide in the downstairs hall, plus a list of things to grab before I go down there. Here's a conversation I had with my mom to show just how well thought through this idea is:

Me: I still need to write the list of things to grab, and I've already got a flashlight and a book in there.
My mom: A book?
Me: Well, yeah. If I'm going to be stuck in the hall, I need something to do other than freak out.
My mom: Did you think of putting a bottle of water or some of your snack-y things in there?
Me: Well . . . um . . . well . . . no. I didn't.

Yep. I've got my priorities straight :-)

Monday, April 4, 2011

In Love with Denise Levertov and Mumford and Sons

I am totally, entirely, head-over-heels in love with Denise Levertov and Mumford and Sons right now. And I mention them together for two reasons. 1) They both bring me closer to God, and 2) They both made my day infinitely better today. Yes, those two are related :-)

Today, I discovered this crazy awesome Denise Levertov poem:

The Love of Morning

It is hard sometimes to drag ourselves
back to the love of morning
after we've lain in the dark crying out
O God, save us from the horror . . . .

God has saved the world one more day
even with its leaden burden of human evil;
we wake to birdsong.
And if sunlight's gossamer lifts in its net
the weight of all that is solid,
our hearts, too, are lifted,
swung like laughing infants;
but on gray mornings,
all incident - our own hunger,
the dear tasks of continuance,
the footsteps before us in the earth's
beloved dust, leading the way - all,
is hard to love again
for we resent a summons
that disregards our sloth, and this
calls us, calls us.

I would talk about how much I love it, but I'm afraid anything I would say would take away from its sheer awesomeness.

Also, tomorrow I am lifting my moratorium on buying music and finally actually purchasing some music by Mumford and Sons. Just listening to them tonight gave me chills and made me want to want God more. Maybe some day I'll be able to talk about them more. But, for tonight, I leave them to their own awesomeness:

Saturday, April 2, 2011

A Big God

I know that God is big. I know that he always takes care of his children, always has good plans, always does what's best for us. Sometimes I lose sight of God's bigness, though, and then it comes and hits me as if I'm realizing it for the first time.

I've been trying to make decisions about my health. I knew I'd have ups and downs even after this summer, but this winter's relapse was much worse than I ever expected. I decided that I needed to do something, that I couldn't keep on living life at the pace I was living it. But I didn't know what to do instead. Did I need to take a year and move back with my parents to focus on my health, or did I need to go back to Pittsburgh and work with my doctors there? After tears and prayers, I decided to stay in Iowa. Next semester, I'm going to limit the hours I'm allowed to work on comps so that teaching and comps work cannot exceed 30 hours. I'm praying that God provides student loans so that I can have some tests done and do some alternative medicine treatments.

It wasn't an easy process, and it wasn't an easy decision. I hate the fact that CFS is so greatly limiting my life and my ability to work. I hate that it's disabling me from working full time, for now, and that it's messing with the picture of how I saw the next few years working. But, at the same time, I'm realizing that this situation can be beautiful. I've quoted time and time again the verse, "My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness." The more my weaknesses disable me, the more I am able to see Christ's power through all that I do.

I have another couple of friends who are facing really big health situations. One of them was diagnosed with CFS, and it's been so hard to see her go through some of the things that I've dealt with and more. And the other has just had complication added to complication in her recovery process, and some of the complications are a little scary. When I see my friends going through this kind of thing, I want so much to be able to fix the situation and make them better. I'm so encouraged, though, to know that there is nothing I can do but pray to a God who is way bigger than CFS or FM or heart issues or what we can and cannot do at work or what we can and cannot afford in tests and treatments. Our God made our bodies, and he directs our lives, so I can let go of worrying and find freedom in praying big prayers to a big God.

I Started a Meme

I'm kinda proud of myself. I was looking at friends' posts in the newfeed, and a few of them were from the 30 Day Song Challenge. And for one of them I thought, hey, I totally have the perfect thing for this day . . . except that it's a poem. But, then, a second thought: oh, wait? Isn't it National Poetry Month? And, who starts these silly memes anyway? And, wouldn't a poetry meme for poetry month be awesome?!?

So, I set up a facebook page and posted my first poem for the month, The Lovesong of J Alfred Prufrock. And, contrary to my fears that people would think that my meme was just another stupid one of those memes, within the day, at least three other people had done Day 1 by posting a favorite poem!

My friend Kirsten definitely posted my favorite of my friend's poems, though. I literally teared up as I read it. And now I've read it at least 5 times. You should read it, too. And, then, maybe, you should start badgering all of your facebook friends with fabulous poetry for a month.

The awesome, recently-discovered-to-myself, poem was Denise Levertov's Suspended:

I had grasped God's garment in the void
But my hand slipped
On the rich silk of it.
The 'everlasting arms' my sister loved to remember
Must have upheld my leaden weight
From falling, even so,
For though I claw at empty air and feel
Nothing, no embrace,
I have not plummeted.