Thank You Friends!

The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2014 annual report for this blog.

Here’s an excerpt:

The concert hall at the Sydney Opera House holds 2,700 people. This blog was viewed about 9,300 times in 2014. If it were a concert at Sydney Opera House, it would take about 3 sold-out performances for that many people to see it.

Click here to see the complete report.

From Your Professor: 6 Things To Consider When Registering for a College Class

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You know you’ve been putting it off–and who wouldn’t? Registering for classes can be intimidating, especially if you don’t know the ropes. The best thing to do before you ever begin is to see your advisor. There are better strategies than just choosing a class blindly and hoping it works. Having been a student (and now a professor), I have seen both sides of the registering process and I’m here to help! Here are some questions to ask yourself when choosing a course.

1. Do you need this course? Is it in your degree plan? Every degree plan should be listed on your school’s website. Check it out first. Don’t see the class? If not, don’t sign up. Unless, of course you are a gazillionare and have money to burn. Sure, the pottery class seems fun but it’s an expensive hobby. Who wouldn’t be impressed with a “History of Beyonce” class? Sign me up! Ok not really. Make sure the class is needed!

2. After deciding the course is necessary, look at the time it’s offered. For core classes like English and Math, they are usually offered multiple times.Decide what day works best. It might be your first instinct to sign up for a Tues/Thurs class or one that only meets on Monday nights. For working students, this time frame works well. It’s a long class, though, usually lasting at least 2 hours. That’s tough after you’ve been working all day.

Once a week classes might be great for some students, but before you choose this option, think about it. If it only meets once a week, there’s going to be a lot of material covered and if you miss, you could be behind the rest of the semester. When I taught composition that only met Monday nights, we had an essay or major assignment due almost every single class time. There’s not much choice here.

3. Now it’s time to decide what time you want to go to class. If you stay up all night playing Call of Duty (no judgement!) then it’s probably not the best idea to sign up for an 8:00 class. Early classes work best for morning people with no obligations at that time. For example, some students sign up for this class time without keeping in mind morning traffic, parking issues and errands they might have already committed to (taking their own kids to school). This becomes stressful.

If you are not a morning person, don’t do it. You’ll have trouble being on time at the very least. At worst, you won’t be able to focus at all and you’ll sit in the back, the only meaningful contribution you’ll give is a glassy-eyed zombie stare and morning breath. It’s not enough to just warm a chair. To learn you must participate, and night owls don’t do well in the early morning.

The same goes for morning people in night classes. While it might seem tempting to take that 2:00 class, students mentally check out after lunch. I can’t tell you how gross it is to see down your throat as you repeatedly yawn, attempting to keep your eyes open unsuccessfully.

4. Ok so we’ve got the day and time narrowed down. What about finding a good fit in a professor? Professors are just people, after all, and we come in all shapes, sizes and personalities. You can check Rate My Professor if you want, but take it with a grain of salt. Many bad reviews are written by students who never showed for class and then were surprised when they failed. Of course, if everyone gives the professor a good review, that should mean something. It’s the same if they all give a bad review. Try to read between the lines. If someone writes “She makes us do too much writing” and the class is a writing class, well…that seems like a crazy complaint. If all students say about a professor is “He’s so HOT!” and don’t remark about the teacher’s actual ability to teach, there could be a problem. Think about what you want from your college experience. By skating by on basic classes, you may feel that you are getting away with something, but when you get to the upper level classes that build on your previous experience and you don’t have any…this can catch up with you.

5. More and more, online options are available. While it’s tempting to sign up for all online classes, but be sure you are ready. Some students think that online classes are easier and take less time. This is not always the case. Many students sign up for these classes without the necessary computer knowledge. You have to be pretty computer savvy to take online classes. If you want to take online classes, it’s best to take a computer class first. If you are naturally good with computers, then go for it!

6. Read the syllabi. Teachers post them early, and you can usually read past ones as well. You’ll get a good feel for how they grade, how many assignments are due, and what’s important to the instructor. If she writes “Attendance is a must” and you tend to miss a lot, this instructor is not for you. In fact, college might not be right for you at all.

Remember that college instructors have our jobs because we were once students. We love our subject and are not here for the pay. We do want you to succeed in our class, and we love giving As. But it’s got to come from you!

See you on the first day of class!

So You Think You Aren’t A Feminist? Think Again.

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The word “feminist” sometimes frightens people. It really shouldn’t. Sometimes people automatically link the word with the more extreme examples coming from the Third Wave Feminists of the 1980s. The picture black and white photos of Hilary Clinton and Gloria Steinem, their faces full of rage–angry women who seemed to hate men while striving for some kind of lesbian utopia where men were relegated to lives on the sidelines serving us.

This is not true for all of us. I love men, I do! Especially the four men I’m closest to–my hubby, my kid and my nephew and, oh yes–Jesus.  So don’t lump us all in with these radicals. I’m not. I am, however, radical for Jesus.

While some of these women did come across as men-haters, I think that their abrasiveness was less militant and more frustration from the ages-long suppression of their ideas and voice. One such feminist I’ve come to admire from this period is Gloria Anzaldúa. I studied her writings, and was particularly struck by her books This Bridge Called My Back and Borderlands. 

When I began reading Gloria Anzaldúa’s Borderlands/ La Frontera: The New Mestiza, I initially thought it interesting reading but not so relevant to me. What do I have in common with women who live on the border, in no man’s land, with no real place to call home? What connection do I have with their struggle? It sounds like a bloody, hard-fought fight, and one that is not nearly over. Even their version of God and heaven excludes them. I have a home. I have a family. I have an education and history. My God accepts me, and even longs for me.

Still, I sometimes felt the discord between feminism and Christianity. How could I be both Christian and feminist? Was this possible?

Yes. Sarah Bessey, in her book Jesus Feminist, writes:

At the core, feminism simply consists of the radical notion that women are people, too. Feminism only means we champion the dignity, rights, responsibilities, and glories of women as equal in importance— not greater than, but certainly not less than— to those of men, and we refuse discrimination against women. 4 Several years ago, when I began to refer to myself as a feminist, a few Christians raised their eyebrows and asked, “What kind of feminist exactly?” Off the top of my head, I laughed and said, “Oh, a Jesus feminist!” It stuck, in a cheeky sort of way, and now I call myself a Jesus feminist because to me, the qualifier means I am a feminist precisely because of my lifelong commitment to Jesus and his Way.

Does Jesus, at any point, tell women to shut up? Does he shame them, discard them, tell them to find their place?

Not really.

In fact, Jesus is kind of a feminist Himself.

5 Life Lessons I Learned from Watching “Little House on the Prairie”

Speaking of Little House on the Prairie’s Christmas show, here’s a blog I wrote about it. It’s one of my favorites.

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Ok, I’m a bit of a dork. Some might even say “sappy dork.” I’m a sucker for mushy love songs, valentines cards and romantic dates. I also, for as long as I remember, have loved shows like “Little House on the Prairie” or corny Hallmark movies based loosely on any Janette Oke book EVER WRITTEN. It doesn’t matter what it is … I will watch it. And God help us ALL if there’s some kind of marathon on because life as we know it will come to a screeching halt so I can watch Half-Pint trudge up the side of that windy mountain to pray to God to save her little brother. I’ll sit there, tears pouring out, a sob in my chest, transfixed, waiting for Pa and Mr. Edwards to find her. Everything is right in the world.

I love stories about the first pioneers settling the Old West…

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I Kissed Christianity Goodbye: Four Stories About Leaving Religion

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Deconversion isn’t easy. There’s backlash from family—confusion, anger, shame. It’s something I think about during the holiday season, especially. Christmastime can feel like an inundation of traditions left behind. In the world I grew up in, there were Advent Sundays and Christmas Eve services (five, actually) and cantatas and caroling. It was beautiful, and I still cherish many of those traditions. Deconversion is different for everyone. It’s a slow coming-of-age, or an existential crisis, or post-traumatic stress disorder, or none of those things. Today, I want to honor the stories of women who left religion (the Christian faith, in particular), and these are four thoughtful, poetic meditations.

1. “Why I Miss Being a Born-Again Christian.” (Jessica Misener, BuzzFeed, May 2014)

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Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening: An Analysis

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Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening

BY ROBERT FROST

Whose woods these are I think I know.
His house is in the village though;
He will not see me stopping here
To watch his woods fill up with snow.
My little horse must think it queer
To stop without a farmhouse near
Between the woods and frozen lake
The darkest evening of the year.
He gives his harness bells a shake
To ask if there is some mistake.
The only other sound’s the sweep
Of easy wind and downy flake.
The woods are lovely, dark and deep,
But I have promises to keep,
And miles to go before I sleep,
And miles to go before I sleep.

Considered one of Frost’s greatest masterpieces, “Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening” is one of my favorites. Its rich use of language and imagery cannot be easily dismissed. Here is an analysis, which definitely uses a more Marxist approach, bemoaning the life of the working class and how we must often keep working to meet our obligations long after we feel too tired to keep going. There’s also a bit of jealousy for those who own the rights to tranquility and rest (the unnamed neighbor who can’t  (or won’t) appreciate his own snowy woods because he has other obligations.

Whose woods these are I think I know.   The speaker is an acquaintance of the owner of the woods, but not close friends. There is an unspoken divide between the two, possibly due to economic standing.
His house is in the village though;     The speaker remarks that the owner spends his time away from nature. The use of the semicolon connects this sentence to the next, giving the reader little pause before we read his next apology. The speaker is conflicted about his right to stop here.
He will not see me stopping here   His decision becomes more clear. The speaker does not ask permission, because nature belongs to everyone.
To watch his woods fill up with snow.   Here is the first indication that the speaker acknowleges that this beauty might not be his to enjoy. Snow represents rest which the speaker rarely indulges in.

The rhyme scheme is ABCA, meaning the first and last words of the stanza are the only indicators of set rhyme.

My little horse must think it queer   Horses often represent work and working, and the size of the speakers horse implies the modest state of the speaker’s finances.
To stop without a farmhouse near   Perhaps the horse is used to make deliveries of some sort?
Between the woods and frozen lake  The lake cannot be used for transport of goods now. It is demonstrating its icy beauty only.
The darkest evening of the year.   Evening represents rest. The extended darkness gives the narrator rest from his own       duties. Because the length of the evening is out of his control, the narrator believes it might be ok to stop for a moment.

The rhyme scheme (ABCB) of this stanza has changed, indicating the narrator’s further enchantment with the beauty before him. He cares less about the rules and more about relaxation.

He gives his harness bells a shake  The horse, used to hard labor and not standing around,  knows that it is not usual to stop and admire nature. He’s wearing a harness, which reminds the reader he’s meant for working and not play.
To ask if there is some mistake.   Labor always calls to us, and guilt sometimes follows if we don’t comply.
The only other sound’s the sweep   The silence also equals peace and respite, and lulls the narrator into acceptance of this moment.
Of easy wind and downy flake.  The word “easy” is important because it further hypnotizes the narrator–it is easy to rest from his hard labor. “Downy” brings to mind the connotation of downy comforters and warmth of a bed. The use of periods instead of commas here indicates that the speaker is very tempted to remain here in the snow and beauty. The rhyme scheme again changes (AABA), There’s a change in punctuation, indicating conflict in the narrator’s mind. He’s transitioning from the work mindset to the rest mindset.
The woods are lovely, dark and deep,   The speaker pauses once more to admire the beauty, and the cadence of the sounds is hypnotizing. The repetition of the use of commas brings in the guilty voice reminding the reader he should be working.
But I have promises to keep,   Work edges its way back into the speaker’s dreamlike psyche, overriding the speaker’s need for respite.
And miles to go before I sleep,  The use of “miles” is one indication that this poem is in the American genre.
And miles to go before I sleep. Once again, repetition is used to remind the reluctant spectator of his obligations. Many scholars argue that the sleep the narrator longs for is the more permanent rest of death. The rhyme scheme here changes once more to AAAA, sealing the narrator to his decision to keep living and working. Sleep is too distant in the future to indulge in the present.

Triple Chocolate Heart Attack Fudge: I Double Dog Dare You to Make This

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The heart attack is optional, but you definitely want to make this! A velvety blend of white chocolate, milk chocolate and peanut butter makes this fudge irresistibly drool-worthy. I mean, I don’t want to brag, but the recipe for this doably delectable dessert was published in the Tyler Paper Christmas Dessert Contest of 2012. It didn’t win, but still. They saw the potential.

Little known fact: John Lennon was actually eating this fudge while composing “Imagine.” I don’t think that’s a coincidence. I also read somewhere that this fudge is used to torture terrorists. They hold out pieces of it just under the nose of the bad guy BUT NEVER LET HIM TRY IT. I’m not saying it’s humane, but sometimes they have it coming.

Heart Attack Fudge

List of Ingredients

6 cups sugar

12 ounces evaporated milk

1 cup butter

8 ounces cream cheese, softened

13 ounces marshmallow cream

1 tablespoon vanilla

1 package white chocolate chips

1 package milk chocolate chips

1 package peanut butter chips

6 ounces bittersweet chocolate, chopped

2 tablespoons baking cocoa

Recipe

Butter bottom and sides of 13×9 inch baking pan, or line with foil. Heat sugar, milk, butter and cheese to boiling in a large pan over medium heat for 6-8 minutes, stirring constantly. Reduce heat to medium. Cook about 10 minutes, stirring occasionally, until mixture reaches 227ºF on candy thermometer; remove from heat. The temperature is imperative to perfect fudge! Make sure it’s exact.

Quickly stir in marshmallow cream and vanilla.

Pour 4 cups of hot mixture over white chocolate chips in large bowl; stir to mix. Stir chocolate chips, bittersweet chocolate, peanut butter chips and cocoa into remaining hot mixture. Pour one third of white mixture into pan and spread evenly. Quickly pour one third of chocolate mixture over top, spreading evenly. Repeat twice. Swirl knife greased with putter through mixtures for marbled design. Do not refrigerate, but let cool on countertop till set. Cut into 1 inch squares with knife greased with butter. Makes 8 dozen.

I have, in the past, substituted mint chocolate chips for the peanut butter chips. Once I got really crazy and used dark chocolate instead of milk. There are rumors of photo evidence of this crime, but I’ve never seen anything.