Colours of the Prism

July 11, 2014

Rainbow coming out bookOne of the things that makes literature beautiful is its ability to bring out our multifaceted humanity. It functions like a prism that reflects the many colours of the rainbow when a beam of white light passes through it.

However, this ‘rainbow’ is not all about beauty; neither is it infallible. It has its vulnerabilities, the little pockmarks that blemish an otherwise beautiful face. And I think that it is not only at its most vulnerable, but also at its most interesting stage, when the intricacies of human relationships and of humanity surface.

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A Year of Literary Walk

June 4, 2014

Books give you a better perspectiveThis is my first entry in the blog; and I am supposed to say something about myself ― that should not be too difficult, right? Not quite!

Most people would generally think that students of English, by virtue of their studies, should be able to write about anything and everything. It, therefore, comes as no surprise when we get requests from friends, aunts, uncles, cousins, neighbours, neighbours’ friends, colleagues, etc (and the list goes on), who want us to write a letter to the Town Council, or draft a business proposal, or even edit a wedding speech, dash off an irate email to their children’s school complaining about the dirty toilets, and there is no imaginable end to such bizarre requests.

When I was, however, given the chance to write for the student blog, I confess, I was diffident about whether I was equal to the task. For the past two days, I have been ruminating on how I should begin: I have been anxious about how I should sound; what tone I should adopt. It is after all, my very first entry; I have been concerned about the first impression. I had a sneaking suspicion that it was the perfectionist at work again. (To all the perfectionists out there, take note that oftentimes, the flawless perfectionist is also the vile procrastinator in all of us.)

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Two exams down, two more to go…

May 12, 2014

"Be so good they can't ignore you."

Some inspiration from Steve Martin!

Here we are in the middle of exams. For me, two down and two more to go this week. So far so good, but this is always the most trying time in the process for me. I enjoy managing four courses at one time, but this year it is a bit of a strain because of my work schedule. My first two papers were alright. By that I mean I think I maintained my academic performance of last term. For me, that is really not the goal but this year it might be the best I can do. I am learning a lot along the way, which feels very rewarding in its own way. Still, I can do better and that is my goal this week.

To manage work responsibilities and exams I wound up with two all-night study sessions before each paper last week. Not ideal, but some good came out of it. First, being very tired meant I had to really focus on each sentence. My essay plans were good, and I incorporated criticism and points from the texts. But I did not word the argument as well as I could have. I forgot my key phrases that point out incorporation of scholarship, and differentiate it from my opinion. Handy Phrases like, ‘some criticism considers…’ and ‘if we accept that…….’ are very helpful ways to link points and evidence in a paper.

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How To Remember Everything At Exam Time!

May 4, 2014

exam progressWhat is exam day like for you? Despite planning a year in advance, for me, it always comes as a bit of a surprise when exam time is actually here.  A little stress comes with this deadline that, combined with other responsibilities, can make me feel as if I forgot everything I ever knew.  Then there is test taking anxiety, which for me, is another layer to be aware of and manage.  I find it helpful to have a few strategies that help me remember material, and that remind me how to write a good essay.

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Essential Books For Productive Studying

December 12, 2013

ways of readingIt is a cold, snowy week here in Pittsburgh. Jelly Bean and I are home alone, settled in for a good snuggle and read. We enjoyed a long eleven-day holiday celebration with a house full of visiting relatives, and a few visiting playmates for Jelly Bean.  This morning everyone is on a plane home to Wien, Washington D.C., and Baltimore, and my husband went off on a business trip.  After a fun afternoon playing in the snow together, my collie dog is ready to curl up on her blanket, watch the snowfall, and wait to bark at the corgis and cats that live next door.  Despite all of her anticipation and excitement, I am quietly enjoying a mocha latte and reading the posts in our VLE to get back into the swing of studying.  Many newer students have a great question as they plan their study agenda: what books on the recommend reading list are the most useful and merit purchase. Read the rest of this entry »


It Is Time To Start Researching & Writing

November 29, 2013

westonIt is late in the evening now, and I am writing to you from my kitchen table after celebrating Thanksgiving Day here in America.  The kitchen windows are frosty but Jelly Bean and I are snug and warm.  I am baking brioche and enjoying a steamy pot of tea while she snoozes on my feet with her favorite toy under her head.   Winter arrived early in Southwestern Pennsylvania this year.  We have already had more than a foot of snow, which is unusual here. It has been cold and snowing all week giving an early start to all the activities I enjoy most. We like being out-of-doors, so winter fun like tobogganing, skiing, ice skating and frolicking in the snow with Jelly Bean are a real treat.  For me there is nothing like a day exercising outside in the crisp winter air and sunshine then relaxing in the warm, snug kitchen of our home with my collie dog close beside me. Winter here is under-appreciated, I think, and many people do not understand how it can be my favorite season when summers here are so lovely. But for me, winter is bracing, invigorating, and a chance to indulge in my favorite things.

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Embrace Your Disruptors… Make Them Work For You

November 25, 2013

If you are anything like me, disruption to your finely balanced and structured schedule can be challenging to recover from. While a little change in routine, like studying in different locations, can be highly beneficial and easy to appreciate, some disruptions can feel more problematic, like how to manage big changes to our schedules and shifting responsibilities.  Right now I am considering adding a client to my professional workload while enjoying the festive season that admittedly begins a bit early at our house.  For me these big disruptions need some thought to accommodate successfully.

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How do you recharge, refresh, and relax?

November 18, 2013

Cat relaxing in hammockHow do you ‘recharge?’ This week a dear friend of mine reminded me how important it is to rest, relax, and recharge during times of high engagement, demands, and busy schedules.  Not only is she completing her licensing requirements as a master’s level therapist, and her area of professional interest is quite demanding. She specializes in equine assisted psychotherapy and works with children and families coping with autism. We talk a lot about the concept of self-care and the importance of ‘recharging’.  As a therapist, she is obligated professionally and ethically to ensure she is unimpaired for each counseling session. Unimpaired means nothing is distracting her focus, and she can give one hundred percent of her attention to each child.  She has to schedule time during each day to restore her own sense of well-being before going onto her next appointment.  Sometimes, especially during a hectic week like this one, the idea of being professionally required to schedule recharging time seems remarkable, even blissful!  The trick is knowing what will make that time most effective.

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The big takeaway to fit study into the busiest times

November 12, 2013

Picture of decaf espresso

Just because you’ve given up caffeine, does not mean you have to give up coffee!

A few months ago, I gave up caffeine. My addiction was come by honestly, as I remember nipping espresso from the unguarded cups of grown-ups since I was able to hold a cup.  Now that it’s time to ‘fall back’ in most of America, it occurred to me I have never faced a time change without caffeine to power through. I will save the humorous details of the week for another time and focus on how to get through the busiest time with study, work, and the coming holidays.

The end of daylight savings time marks the beginning of the holiday season, my busiest professional time of year, and a few weeks away from registering for exams.  Instead of gaining an hour of sleep on at least one night I seem to have lost two or more every night this last week. I started to wonder if, perhaps, holding onto my espresso until May, or at least January, might have been a better plan. I am coming to you a bit sleep deprived and without caffeine but quite contemplative and very realistic about getting it all done, and making sure there is time for effective study. Jelly Bean and I put our heads together, assessed our options, and came up with a plan.

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Inspired by Louisa May Alcott

November 5, 2013

Louisa May Alcott quote: ‘Whatever we can do and do well we have a right to, and I don’t think anyone will deny us.’Do you recognize the butterflies in the stomach that come with realizing exam time will be here sooner than you think? Maybe it is really a cold panic. Instead of feeling like a far off five and a half months away, the month of May, darling buds and all, instead feels more like it is about five weeks away.  Moreover, exam registration time is a mere sixty days or so away.  Glancing between the growing stacks of books on my study desk and the mountain of work on the desk in my home office intensifies the feeling. There is positively no time for procrastination.  Here are some words of wisdom from an author I am reading this week, Louisa May Alcott: ‘Whatever we can do and do well we have a right to, and I don’t think anyone will deny us.’

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