Sunday, January 31, 2010

The weather outside was frightful... now it is just pretty

We got snowed in on Friday. Then it sleeted, rained, and froze, making Murfreesboro a large ice kingdom on Saturday. Today the sun is shining and I can hear the constant drip sounds of the snow melting. It's pretty awesome

Reason #2: Look What I Can Do

You know those little guys depicted in cartoons who wage war on an individual's shoulders? Like this:

I feel like that whenever I am trying to talk myself into working on my thesis. I not only lack motivation to finish, I practically have incentive to stay and work on this for a while, yet. It looks like my position will be transferred into a SCEP position, meaning I get health and life insurance and am career-condition upon my graduation (i.e., if a permanent position opened up, I would be eligible). So, hmmm, what do I want to do? I love my job, I like where I live, and I want to grow some vegetables in a small garden. If I stay, I can do these things, but if I stay I must remain a student. So where is the motivation to write?

I have also applied to some other term/temp jobs elsewhere. If I get offered one, I will seriously consider moving (because I love to see and experience new places!). And while technically I don't need a degree for those, I will want to be finished so I won't have anything hanging over my head. So there is a possible motivation to write. Choices, choices.

I think I am going to have to be like Kronk: "Listen guys, you are sort of confusing me, so be gone or whatever I need to say to get rid of you." Maybe I will just stop thinking, wait it out, and things will resolve themselves?

Monday, January 25, 2010

I just noticed

A typographical error two posts ago. I'll blame it on my braindead-ness that day. I have know excuse today.

Sunday, January 24, 2010

As I Lay Dying

Ok, I am not really dying. And Faulkner has little to do with my life currently. But trying to write this stupid thesis is sucking me dry. I think I am what "they" call "burnt out." I put so much into the last two and a half years of school, that I have little left for these last dwindling months. I can't do anything else, because I have a guilty feeling hanging over my head that what I should be doing is writing.

So I sit here, writing a blog post instead. Maybe this will help, a warm up for my fingers, a stretch for my brain. Or maybe I am what "they" call "procrastinating." I struggle with finishing in a timely manner- mostly because I don't have to. If I want to stay at Stones River, I need to remain a student. I applied to a number of jobs at big parks in a big state (the AK), but I don't need to graduate to get those jobs. If I am even selected. I will be graduated by August, but I need to finish this stupid thesis first. I have got to face my obligations like a grown up and force myself to complete this last piece before graduation.

And I've already tried to talk myself into it. "This is it, this is all I have left." "You've come so far! Just a little bit more!" "Heck, it is only like two more papers." "Just do it." I guess the Nike approach will have to do. Just do it.

Saturday, January 23, 2010

A Job Well Done

As I sit hear, reeking of sweat and mud, I feel a mixture of pride, exhaustion, and accomplishment swirling within me. I have been the coordinator for an Eagle Scout at the battlefield. He has been planning this project since the end of July. This past Saturday was the last of three Saturdays he has had his volunteer crew out to help replace a portion of fence outside the visitor center. I am proud of him- he had enough hours to officially have earned his project last month, but still had a stretch of fence to finish. He could have called it quits and said he did enough, but he came back and finished.

For someone with little to no upper-body strength, I have a hard time with most manual labor. I helped where I could, but the mud (very sticky, heavy, water-saturated mud), made any efforts three times as difficult. My "team" comprised me, an awkward thirteen-year-old who insisted on telling the same lame earthworm jokes, and the scout's little sister who didn't feel like she had to work since she was just a sister. I choked on a tall order of patience and we ploughed through digging holes and setting up fence posts at our own (slow) rate. The teams worked according to their ability and we finished the project by noon.

It is amazing how mentally exhausting physical exertion can be. I sit here, my hands still smelling of leather, more hair whisping out of my braid than tucked in, hoping somebody will come along and carry me to the shower for I don't have the strength to get there myself. I have to work this afternoon! And by "work," I mean "write." Ugh. I hate school. I just want to be a park ranger and move along with life.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Ruins Provide Incentive

"But there has to be that interval of neglect, there has to be discontinuity; it is religiously and artistically essential. That is what I mean when I refer to the necessity for ruins: ruins provide the incentive to restoration, and for a return to origins. There has to be (in our new concept of history) an interim of death or rejection before there can be renewal and reform." J.B. Jackson, The Necessity for Ruins

Just a little snippet of what I've been reading for my thesis. I like chewing on this thought, though.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

A Side Show to the Big Show (Or My Life is a Circus)

I just got back from our local Civil War Round Table meeting. Yes, I am a dork like that. Other than covering some business, on meeting's agenda was a book discussion about Sam Watkins's "Co. Aytch First Tennessee Regiment (Or a Side Show to the Big Show)". The discussion went well; most attendees participated. For the most part, everyone agreed that Sam could not have remembered that clearly twenty years after the fact and that, because of the nature of the initial publication, Sam took several liberties in his storytelling. It is a good piece that eloquently describes a soldier's experiences of the Civil War, but it isn't the most accurate of tales.

On point I found interesting, though, was brought up briefly and then left alone. Sam wrote the book after he knew the ending. He knew how the war would end, what side would claim victory and that he would live, that he would grow old with his family.

If I wrote an autobiographical novel today, what would my story look like right now? I don't consider my life a "side show to the big show" as Sam did. Sometimes I feel like my life is a circus, but that's beside the point... I don't know how things end, so what details would I flourish or leave out? How different would two stories of my life, both written by me, be if I wrote one now and one in twenty years? Not that I can remember what I had for breakfast, but I know that as events from my past fade in my memory with time, what seemed important then is not so much now. And for that matter, things that I didn't even take notice of at the time have made huge impacts on my life.

Just a few before-bed ramblings.

Monday, January 18, 2010

This one is dedicated to my mom

My mother insists that she is bored reading the same posts every time she checks my blog, so I needed to post another one. I am not sure why I find it so hard to write about my life. Maybe because I am in a transitional period? maybe because I am still catching up on rest? Maybe because I feel guilty writing a post, when I know that my fingers should be moving across the keyboard to write on my THESIS.

I have been working on my thesis, although not in any kind of frantic way. Deadlines push me to work harder and I don't have any specific deadlines. Deadlines don't necessarily make me work better. I have set deadlines for myself, but have no accountability as I am the only one who knows those goals. So I will take each page as a small victory and raise my arms in the air upon each minor milestone to keep myself going. Like Brad Pitt does 47 seconds into this film clip:

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

The Nation Would Have Scarcely Lived Over

This past weekend Stones River National Battlefield celebrated the 147th anniversary of the Battle of Stones River.

On Saturday we had over 400 people visit. That might not seem too surprising, considering people like to come out for the cannon, but it never broke freezing. Sunday was even colder. I dressed out on Sunday and played an infantry(wo)man. I enjoy infantry (muskets) more than artillery (cannons), as it seems more challenging. Sunday's experience was a little different.

We started drilling around 9am, when the temperature reached 20 degrees. I cheated; I wore modern undergarments to help with the cold. I had on long underwear, a pair of running pants, and my wool pants, two pairs of socks, a long underwear shirt, a tank top, a long sleeve shirt, my period long sleeve shirt, and my infantry jacket. My hat did not cover my ears, but I had a scarf that I could use to wrap around my head when the wind got too cold. The clothing was sufficient when I was close to the fire, or even standing near a tree or the battery wagons (they acted as wind breaks). But when we had to form up to drill, we lined up in the wind, in the cold, pulling as much warmth as the rays of sun cold provide in 20 degree weather.

The most difficult part came with the actual musket-loading and firing. Wearing gloves got in the way of loading, so we took them off. At rest, we could tuck our right hand inside our jacket, Napoleon style. When the shout came to load, nothing protected against the biting cold. The pain that started to seem in after the cold could be described as a cross between a sharp pain and a burning pain. Several times I could not feel the percussion caps and had to take the time to look in my pouch to see that I actually had one in my hand. Every touch, every type of pressure felt like a hammer strake against my brittle fingers. And that was just during a living history demonstration.

Firing this weekend helped me realize another layer of understanding soldier life. I would talk about the cold, but I did not realize how much it could weigh on one's psyche. My fingers were so cold, at one point I had sliced my knuckle open and didn't even realize that I was bleeding under I got back to camp. The soldiers who fought at the Battle of Stones River did not have a warm house to go home to at night. In fact, they weren't just shooting for display. I imagine many were trembling, if not from the cold, from their nerves. If they were fortunate enough to have a great coat on, the extra bulk of the many layers, made limbs hard to move. If they were unfortunate enough to not have a great coat on, the cold creeping into limbs and joints would make shooting and running difficult to do. This just one more thing to consider out of the countless experiences a soldier faced (faces) on a battlefield.

While sometimes I think the volunteers who help us do living history demonstrations might be a little extreme (11 degrees is a little too cold for my tastes to be camping like a soldier), they do help keep history alive. Much like climbing over the calcified coral reefs in Peleliu and imagining the hell the Marines went through at that battle as they stormed those beaches, firing a Civil War weapon during similar conditions that the soldiers did gave me a brief glimpse of the hell that those soldiers must have faced. Being slammed back into the early part of 1863 also provided me a small reminder of why I do what I do.

Friday, January 1, 2010

resolution fun

Can't think of a New Years Resolution? Try this.