Wednesday, February 29, 2012

One of those days

"Men like chocolate. Women need it." - M.A. Macleod

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Relocation, Relocation: Durham

Right now I live in Edinburgh, but I'm in a PhD program at Durham University. Here's how this happened.

After graduating from UNC, I just wanted to move back to Edinburgh to be around my spiritual community that had shown me such great love while I had studied abroad. This meant me applying for a Masters of Science program in Medieval Studies. The program itself was an absolute joke, but it fulfilled its purpose: it got me back to Edinburgh and now I must be officially addressed as "NJM, MSc". Well, once my year-long program was up, I wanted to stay in the UK, but had no idea how. Idiotically, I could have applied for a post-study work visa, but this didn't occur to me.

Instead, while writing an essay for my MSc on "Magic and the Supernatural in Medieval Romance" I realized that the subject fascinated me and that the leading person in this field was at Durham (who just happens to be the head of department). In a fit of madness I applied. In June. For a course that would begin in October. This was Durham, like one of the top 3 Universities in the British nation (or near it), and the Number 1 program in all the country for English Literature. I laughed at my abysmal attempt to get in, and doubted very much I would be accepted.

Well August rolled around, and I was just beginning to wonder how I could stay in the country, considering what I would give up for a green card (or whatever the Britain equivalent is) when I decided to give Durham a call just to check, to make sure, for certain, I didn't get in. When the woman told me I should have received my acceptance letter a few weeks ago, I had to ask her to repeat herself about 10 times and to make sure that they had the right person.

At this point, I had already begged the people I nanny for to continue my job and the thought of leaving Edinburgh and the lovely family I work for, my church, and my flat and friends, horrified me to no bounds. I decided that since PhDs in the UK are pretty much self-propelled, I could commute when I needed to.

So that's that. For the past 5 months, I've gone down to Durham to meet my advisor when I need to, see some friends from my college, and attend the MEMSA seminars. Occasionally I'll even get to go to a formal. For the most part, this long distance thing has been doable.

Not so for next year. I'll begin teaching classes (!!), and if I'm going to take myself seriously as an academic (and who knows if that's going to happen considering how bad my MSc was), I need to at least try: show my face at events, work at these papers, help at conferences, etc. etc. So I've had to face that I'll have to move from beloved Edinburgh and make the transition to Durham.

How, when, or where, I have no idea. Considering how crazy this spring semester will roll, I'm thinking it'll likely be mid-summer. Keep me in your thoughts, prayers, and well-wishes as the idea seems to grow more daunting every day. Thank goodness I have the ever-affectionate, worshipful, almost dog-like nature of --- who am I kidding? Those bunnies don't even know I exist. Such a Machiavellian relationship.

Sunday, February 26, 2012

Things to do before leaving Edinburgh

Things to do before leaving Edinburgh:

The West Highland Line (source: BBC)

- stay up all night and watch the sun rise from Arthur's seat

- West Highland Way

- Stirling and Bannockburn

- Pentland Hills

- take the West Highland Line

- read through a book on its history

This Week: Feb #3

In this week:

went to see Field Music with Gill

read this fabulous passage from this book

found a pretty darn authentic Mexican in Durham (!!!!)

Nicoletta's birthday (far right)

had these girls from
UNC come to stay (soooo happy!!): climbing Arthur's seat

found this advertisement hysterical

Courtesy of Thing 2

found a like-Italy-good pizzeria

In other news, I've been casually house-hunting in Durham, had a really good meeting with my wonderful and brilliant advisor, nearly didn't make my train back from Durham ("they've all been cancelled ma'am; this is the last one out."), my heart full to breaking with Cassidy and Anna here, nearly getting blown off of Arthur's seat by the wind, and reading lots of Shakespeare for a conference coming up.

This upcoming weekend my siblings are coming to visit for a week and we are going NORTH to adventure while trying to find a pub in London that will show the
UNC v. Duke game. But BEFORE that, I get to go see Thing 1 in a MUSICAL (man, can he sing). I am just a little excited. So much work to do until then, but I feel like I'm finally finding a stride.

Saturday, February 25, 2012

Ashe Wednesday

Durham Cathedral (click for source)

My Ashe Wednesday involved a trip down to Durham, and unfortunately became truncated by all the small meetings I had, and could not attend the proper service. Instead, in a small break, I sat in the back pew in Durham Cathedral and listened to the Evensong practice, while reading through the Ashe Wednesday Service in the Book of Common Prayer.

"Who dost bid thy faithful people cleanse their hearts, and prepare with joy for the Paschal feast; that, fervent in prayer and in works of mercy, and renewed by thy Word and Sacraments, they may come to the fulness of grace which thou hast prepared for those who love thee. " (p.264)

I enjoy the season of lent, a preparing for Easter, despite its season of abstinence. During this period, I've decided to refrain from buying indulgences. This refers solely to what I do not essentially need: books, clothes, chocolates, fancy coffees, the list continues. In addition to this, I hope to incorporate the Book of Common Prayer. In attempts past, I've found its structure confusing, but as I mouthed the prayers of Ashe Wednesday, I found such elegance and humility, it must needs another consideration.

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Anthem: Thing 1 and Thing 2

This is often on the good ol' ipod of Thing 1 and every time, it begins a dance marathon. Can't even tell you how good those kids can dance or what good taste they have in music.

Saturday, February 18, 2012

This Week: Feb #2

Guys, it just snowed!!! For about 20 seconds, but there was definitely white flakes that covered me when I went to see the bunzoes.

This week:

Ate breakfast out of a hideously awesome V-Day present. (Are they bears or cows?)

Watched this boy open a Valentine (he is SOOO cute!!)

Watched this friend

Play with this friend on the "Pointless" TV show, and they did really well!

Celebrated this lovely girl's 21st (the po-lice showed up!)

with these flatmates. (Can you guess which one I date?)

Found these at my favorite bookshop in Edinburgh, Tills.
(I think I may have found something to begin to collect.)

This week was sad because I didn't nanny at all, I missed those rascals so stinking much!! This week was great because I got to play James Bond on the Game Cube, even though I died about a gazillion times and was definitely not James Bond material.

Things to look forward to:

Going to see Field Music tonight in Glasgow- woop woop!
Friends from UNC coming to visit Wed-Saturday- heck yes!
Get to see my siblings in T-minus 16 days!!!!

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

The Unsigned Gift Conundrum

This year's batch of Valentines

I suppose it began a few years ago when I was in the States, and dear Francis was in bonny Scotland. We weren't actually dating, but he was going to come and visit me in a month or two, and man, did I have a crush. Valentine's Day rolls around, and I think, what can I do that's not soppy, but may convey a slight bit of affection? So I roll out the water colors and paint an anatomically correct heart and in the ventricles I write in Latin, "love conquers all," hoping that's discreet and spiritual.

Well I forgot to sign it, so a few weeks later, Fran asks in his way, "Uhh, so, did you send me a Valentine?" OF COURSE I SENT YOU A FLIPPING VALENTINE. WHO ELSE WOULD SEND YOU A VALENTINE IN LATIN?!? Did he translate it? Negative. Drat! Foiled by my own intelligence.

Well, a few weeks ago Fran and I had a bet, and I lost, and the result was the loser had to send the winner a package. So I drew a cartoon, and along with a pamphlet, 'The Radio Talks of CS Lewis", gently slipped it through the box. The next day Fran texts me and says, "I got the best package from my cousin. And man have they learned to draw since last time." At this point I am banging my head on my desk in frustration incurring bruises the size of watermelons.

So this began a little package war, where we each sent each other (inexpensive) surprise packages in the mail. So far, I have received Pulp Fiction which was ACE. My turn rolled around again, and in a way that I thought was a hilarious and obvious joke, I sent him a calendar with flowers on it, directly misleading with the return label of his grandmama. There was no postage; it couldn't have fit through the mail slot; I even wrote his gran's address incorrectly.

The next day I stroll into his kitchen to see the calendar hanging proudly on the wall, and nonchalantly ask where it was from. The response, I should have seen coming from a mile off: "Oh yeah! Gan Gan sent it to me! A little odd, but nice all the same." It's only at this point that I become slightly aware of the twisted sense of humor I possess and that perhaps I should stop torturing innocent persons.

So Valentines Day 2012 rolls around, and what do I do? I write him the same Valentine in Latin I did so long ago, and sign it: To Fran, From Nat. Fran opened it and smiled: "Love conquers all, right?" Who can resist that smile? IT IS ADORABLE. And do you know what else I'm thinking? LOVE DOES CONQUER ALL!!! And not in the mushy, aww- sweety, -you're- wonderful way, but in the ever universal, platonic, love-conquers-every-miserable-thing-and-infuses-this-life-with-something-divine-and-that's-the-only-reason-I'm-alive-and-sending-you-valentines-in-stinking-Latin way. OMNIA VINCIT AMOR. You better believe it does, buddy!

All Hearts Day!!!!!

HAPPY ALL HEARTS DAY!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
[as the Swedes say]
Do's and Don'ts:
Don't spend it with two unaffectionate bunnies who would rather fight over a brussels sprout than come and snuggle your leg.
Don't give your loved ones cruciferous vegetables.
Don't wear your vampire teeth.
Do take the price tag off any gifts.
Do sign your valentine card. Some of us get confused.
Do shave. Even if your single.
Do take a bath. BATHS ARE THE BEST THING EVER!!!!! There are bubbles for grown ups.
[these may or may not all be mistakes I have made...]

When I was in Rome, you know, as these over-travelled Europeans can commonly boast, I was in some Cathedral, probably one dedicated to the Holy Virgin, and I saw the skull of St. Valentine. It wasn't pretty.

Apparently, he kept marrying Christians when they were being persecuted by Claudius II. Imagine sending Valentine's Day cards with an image of a skull rather than hearts. And, did you know, that hearts were never shaped on the human organ, but based on the shape of a cherub's bottom? When you think your Valentine is being sweet with all those hearts, just keep thinking 'it's really a heinie' and see if that doesn't check any inordinate affection.

Monday, February 13, 2012

#3: Francis Chan, Crazy Love

# 3, Crazy Love, Francis Chan.

This book emphasized in contemporary language everything I learned in Bonhoeffer. Basically, to love God, really love God, he's not kidding when he says give stuff away to the poor. As an evangelical, he took everything straight from the Scriptures, and challenged the American church in its wealth and complacency. But it wasn't a book that destroyed the church. Our lives are to be characterized by obedience. I came away, not harassed, but with a strong sense of "I need to be doing something", and wishing that I had loads more resources free to give things away. When I grow up, I want two things. I want an old stone farm with lots of animals, and I want to make enough to give most of my proceeds away. But, I don't want to be delusioned with the 'I'll do it later' mentality, so it's got me to thinking what I can do now. And I'm just not sure.

Sunday, February 12, 2012

America v. Britain

I've hummed and hawed whether to post this or not, and I profusely apologize for offending anyone. This list is entirely biased and opinionated, governed by my small sphere.

1. University Life (not quality of its education): USA, simply for college sports.

2. Environmental Friendliness: UK

3. Political correctness: UK

4. Baked goods: USA

5. Christmas: Home is home.

6. Food, sensitivity to other's needs (ie Vegetarian, Gluten free): UK

7. Beer bitter: UK; Beer lager: USA.

8. Authors: Hmm... A slight advantage has to go to Britain for its history, but I prefer American modern authors.

9. Non-alcoholic drinks: USA, for lemonade and sweet tea.

10. Sunday lunches: UK, for their unadulterated meats and vegetables.

11. Libraries: USA, for their crazy public University library system

12. Night Life: UK, because you can pretty much find a place to go in any town.

13. Music: USA, for Merlefest and CatsCradle (completely biased)

14. Soccer: UK

15. Sports Coverage: USA

16. Sports Rivalries: UK. Celtic and Rangers even beats UNC v. Duke. Guys, there's blood shed.

17. Outdoors for the average person: UK

18. Outdoors for more extreme sports: USA

19. Breadth of education: USA

20. Depth of education: UK

21. Ability of majority to speak foreign languages: USA

22. Economically, Socially, and Politically aware: UK

23. Public transport: UK

24. Impressive Man-made Structures: UK

25. Impressive natural phenomenons: USA

26. Athletics for girls: USA

27. Ability to think logically: UK

28. Well-travelled: UK. Due to proximity, ya'll. And 4 week holidays, standard.

Saturday, February 11, 2012

Cabbage Roses

I can't even tell you where I began to go wrong. Maybe it was when no where in the UK sold those little Valentines you get all over the place in the States. Maybe it was when I thought I'd try my own and began by browsing the Martha Stewart website. Maybe it was when I wanted green themed valentines rather than red. Maybe it was when I tried to combine two Martha Stewart ideas together. Or, maybe it was when I decided to use brussel sprouts and green acrylic paint.

Anyhow, what Martha Stewart ordered was this.

What I wound up using, was this.

And the result was a lot of paper that looked like this.

Will present the final product on Valentines Day, but there's no denying it. Instead of sweet Victorian roses, I'm sending love with cabbages this year.

This Week: Feb #1

This glorious week:

Watched these bunnies outgrow their run. (Indy escaped, again).

Finished reading this book

Made friends with this robin while I nanny. [He needs a name-- any ideas?]

Watched this boy at St Cath's babies and toddlers

Was a dead weight on a pub quiz with this pair of lit encyclopodes

Received this hysterical letter from my sister about eating tomatoes

Went to breakfast with this young man

And attempted to make Valentines

Received a really good review from my old prof., on this children's story MS. Attempt to publish, possibly?

I hope your weeks were full and that one day, you have lots of wrinkles around your eyes from all the joys you've known. And this TV show definitely put about 20 of them on my face from crying, falling off my chair, and laughing so hard: New Girl. I now desperately want bangs. x's and o's

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Music: Desperado

(Linda Ronstadt, Simple Dreams Tour - Atlanta 1977)

This is one of my favorite songs that has been lingering in my mind for the last two days, since, while babysitting at the Ince's, I heard the Eagles' version wafting in from the kitchen. (Who, by the way, did not do it justice. Here's justice.) It brings back memories of driving in cars with my mom and sister, and I believe they were attempting to draw some completely ridiculous parallel between it and me. [Insert Sheldon Cooper's look of haughty derision.] (That and my nickname of Siegfried from James Herriot's All Creatures Great and Small will continue to elude me to my dying day.) All in all, enjoy.

Sunday, February 5, 2012

We're Going on a Bare Hunt

One of the best things about Fran is his crazy ideas. This week he got us all up by half six to go to a car-boot-sale, (ie a flea market) by half seven in temperatures just at freezing. These photos document this early February experience. The boys (Fran, Leo, JT) decided to go on a tea-themed binge which included: the most outrageous teapot, thrown in with a potpouri pot, milk jug, tea cozy, coaster set, and some sweet 90s music and 3-D wolf poster. Gill stole the best find with her 1950s boardgames and planetmobile (that still works, complete with Pluto!!). I was over the moon with 10 hard-back books from pre-1950s for £2.70, plus a couple of albums (Bruce Springsteen and Blondie). Of course, we completed the trip home with a cup of tea in the new pot. Here's to bargain loving. X's and o's for your weekend, hoping it was just as worthwhile in your investments.

Friday, February 3, 2012

Felix's Manhood No More


When he began chasing Indy around the room, causing her to wag her tail peevishly, and give her not a moment's peace, something had to be done. To take the manhood out of a male is terrible thing to do at the best of times, but to see something nigh on rape occur in one's on garden was practically beyond limit. So the vet was phoned and the appointment made and kept. The wee groggy boy, the golden puffle as Thing 1 calls him, was placed back in my arms, all medicated and not in pain. He would have to be kept apart from Indy for a few days for him to recover. But Felix languished. I tempted him with lettuce and celery and parsnip and carrots, and his favorite dry food, all to no avail. He puttered about, in no seeming sign of pain, though I bet adjusting to the sudden decrease of hormones. He did not eat that night, nor the next morning, nor the next afternoon. He munched some straw. But poor thing! I began to vaguely think of calling the doctor, when another plan came to my mind. I introduced him again to Indy. To the unaccustomed eye, Felix was annoying and Indy annoyed. She still ran away from him and wagged her tail peevishly. But that night Felix started eating again. Maybe he finally grew too hungry. Maybe he grew territorial and wanted, like a younger brother, to make sure he got his fair share before it was gobbled by others. But I think otherwise. Though the poor thing nearly starved, I found it entirely sweet that affection can take the form of withdrawal symptoms even in the animal kingdom.