August 17, 2018

7 Tips for Surviving (and Loving) College

PSA: I have been pretty MIA this summer, mostly because of my internship, which requires a good deal of time travel to eras without internet. Sorry I haven't kept up the blog lately. Hoping that will change this fall!

Lately as I've been scrolling through my Blogger feed, I've seen lots of posts about college. I have friends, both online and off, that are attending college for the first time this year (congrats!), or are underclassmen like me. I may not have much experience under my belt yet, and I may not even be good at the things I mention below, but when it comes to this advice, I can tell you with all honesty that it is tried-and-true. I am not the first person to say these things, but they bear repeating. Here are seven tips that will help you get through these 4 (or 5 or 6??) eventful years of your life.

1. Get Good Friends
Don't worry, they're out there. And they will make all the difference in your college experience. If you're living on campus, and certainly if you're far from home, you'll treasure those whom you can spend quality time with. If you find yourself in a large friend group, that's great! If you have a small, tight-knit group that gets you through thick and thin, then just as well. I personally have two close friends at college, and they've made it a very good year.

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Don't get friends like Isabella Thorpe: the perfect example of a bad friend!

2. Get Good Grades
It's time to brush off any remains of of high school senioritis and start afresh, because grades still matter. If you're on scholarship, they're worth even more, but the education that is reflected in your grades also matters immensely. If you are tired of studying and learning and have little or no desire to put effort into your work, then perhaps college is not the right path for you. And that is not an insult! College is not for everyone, nor should it necessarily be considered the pinnacle of one's life. I would understand completely that one might tire of academic life after being subjected to it for 12+ years.

For those who genuinely want to go through college, getting good grades is an important step to success. But I should make clear that if you're going through a rough patch in the grade book, you will still survive. Grades are not the end-all, be-all, and it's important not to get too wrapped up in them.

Getting good grades does require a fair degree of balance and self-control!

3. Take Your Faith Seriously
Unless you're going to a local college, chances are you'll be pulling up some roots when you go off to school, and oftentimes that includes attending your home church. It's ok to have some life changes at this stage of life, but giving your faith life a vacation is not a good idea. With all the new changes and temptations that college inherently brings, I can't begin to tell you how important it is to have a church family, and a place to worship on Sundays.

Last year was the first time in my life I've had to switch congregations. In some ways my new congregation felt like a big change, but at the root of it all, it was such a comfort and blessing to have the same Word of God with me both at home and at school, halfway across the country! My new congregation gave me some great opportunities and friendships, too. It's definitely continued to shape my character!

4. Try Lots of New and Different Things...
I can say from both past experience and the advice of those older than me that now is the time to get involved! Most colleges have dozens of clubs and organizations to fit all sorts of interests. Swing Dance Club? Knit and Crochet Circle? Lacrosse? The capacity to try things you've never had the chance to before is huge. As long as you can finish your homework, I highly encourage joining a handful of clubs each year, and sticking with the ones that strike your fancy. And don't forget about the concerts, lectures, and galleries going on constantly both on and off campus-many of them are free!


5...Or Don't
Not to be contradictory, but if you're getting dizzy just thinking about all you have to do for school in the weeks ahead, or if you really need an extra job to make ends meet, it's totally ok to focus on your work and studies for a while. After all, you're going to school to get a degree, not just to have extracurricular fun. While I'd still say having a few clubs and activities per week is important, if it's giving you more stress than enjoyment, cut them off for a bit! As long as you're not the president of a club or part of a sports team, most campus organizations can (and should) understand a student's need to study.

6. Explore Off-Campus
It can be really easy to get stuck in a campus "bubble", especially if your school isn't spread across a large city. There may be a lot to do on campus, but let me tell you from personal experience that staying on one organization's property for too long can start wearing on you subconsciously. So get your wanderlust in gear and take a walk outside the campus walls! I have had a fabulous time exploring my college town. There is so much to explore and discover, whether you like shopping, architecture, nature, or even just need some exercise! Be safe of course, and if it makes you feel more comfortable, drag a friend along. But I'll bet neither of you will regret taking a little study break and coming up for some fresh air outside the bubble!

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Channel your inner Elizabeth Bennet and go for a walk!

7. Don't Forget About Home
We all experience some homesickness when away from our families for an extended period of time, but I'll warn you that it's just as easy to get wrapped up in college culture, as well as that paper due next Friday, and your suitemate's party, and your rough day at work...
Point being, don't get tunnel vision at college, especially if you're feeling a bit stressed! Remembering your family back home and roots you picked up when you left, and looking forward to the next time you get to return to them (even if it's not until Christmas!) can make a world of difference. No matter how huge your schedule and world may seem at school, never forget where you came from.
If you're going to college this year, congratulations and good luck! :) 

June 17, 2018

Dear Virginia

Dear, dear, Virginia,
How is it, that simply seeing your "welcome" sign sends gives me a rush of joy? How can it be, that nothing but an arbitrary line on a map can turn out to be so much more? That line means something here. The atmosphere is different. If all the world's a stage, I've definitely stepped into the proscenium between the everyday world and an earthly paradise.

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Your houses, no, your homes, are so beautiful, no matter what size. The covered porches, the shuttered windows, and each brick, stone, and board humming with a history of lives and loves past.
And your past, Virginia, your past, it packs its layers of suffering and success into every acre. There is not a mile that goes by without a hallmark of the past; a graveyard, monument, or marker, all saying "History happened here".

Virginia, the very air I breathe here is alive. It is thick and humid and smells of boxwood and an effusion of green I have yet to identify. An orchestra of cicadas and crickets play an ever-present soundtrack to a summer's day. The tree-lined lanes and blossom-covered hills are a testament to the vibrancy and vivacity of nature.

Now I'm sure I can't speak for all of you, Virginia. I'm sure there are houses that are not homes, and people who are not kind or good. But my Virginia, the way I choose to see you, are a masterpiece.

April 7, 2018

My Walk to Work

Step One: Introduction
Get out of bed, sleepy head! Put on the cute outfit you put together last night, or if you were lazy, try to put one together in the dark without waking your roomie. Wonder at how on earth you could have gotten holes in all your stockings. Arrange hair and face as well as makeup and bobby pins allow, divided by the limited time you've given yourself to get ready. If for some reason you were responsible this morning, use the extra time to read the news, write a letter, or *gasp* maybe even do some homework.

Step Two: Out the Door
Yikes, you built extra time into your schedule and you're still pushing it up to the last minute to leave! Close the door quietly, especially if it's a weekend, because no one in this dorm gets up before nine or ten on a Saturday. Rush down the stairs, which you know you've liked doing since you were five anyway. Burst out the door, and...

Step Three: Ramble Down the Hill
First you have to float down a few more stairs, but take a shortcut behind a dorm building so you don't have to walk all the way out the parking lot and around. What a waste of time that is! Just step down the hill with as much grace as you can, and hope that nobody sees you. They probably won't though, for the same reason you have to close the door quietly. Get down to the sidewalk through a small, natural staircase made out of roots. Because how cool is that? Ponder how many other people use the fairy tale-esque stairs, and how long they've been there.

Step Four: Walk Past Entire Blocks of Houses that Belong in "Southern Living"
Don't worry about getting tired of seeing these houses every time you go to work, because that will never happen. Identify all the architectural styles and elements you learned last semester. Say hello to the local cats. Listen to the birds. Gawk at the beautiful houses and gardens, and imagine living in them someday. Glimpse Chippendale furniture and antique Chinese porcelain through lace curtains. Don't forget to look for cars as you cross the street, no matter how enthralling the world around you is.

Step Five: Arrive at Dream Job
Thank God you have the best possible job you could get while in college. Pinch yourself becuase you're in Virginia, where you've always wanted to be. Marvel at how beautiful the historical house is. Get ready to give the best tours you can, and know that when the day is done, you get to walk all the way back the way you came.

PS: I finally found my camera charger and USB cord, so I was able to use my own photos for this post. They aren't of my actual walk to work, though. So as for the second picture, no I don't work at Colonial Williamsburg.

April 1, 2018

A Little Women Tag: My Responses

With all the posts this week, I nearly forgot to share my own answers to the tag put out earlier! As for the rules, I've tagged myself, I've already tagged everyone who's read the original post, and I came up with half the questions so I'm not going to create any more! But I will indeed listen to the soundtrack as I fill this out. :)

1. Is there anything from the book that you wish were in the movie?
Early on in the book, the March sisters put on an elaborately constructed play for their neighborhood friends. It's like the scenes where they rehearse in the attic, but this time in actual (and rather melodramatic) performance. Alcott sprinkles in plenty of humor in that scene, and it's followed by a nice dinner by Hannah, so I think it would be worthy of being in the movie.

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2. If you could change one point of the plot, what would it be?
I don't know! I thought about a lot of little things that aren't even worth mentioning, which probably means they aren't worth changing. :P Then I thought about one big thing, and thought about it a lot, and ended up writing a whole separate post about it instead!

3. In Chapter 13, the March sisters and Laurie talk about "Castles in the Air", basically their unrealistic but lovely hopes and dreams. What is your castle in the air?
A family, and a house that I can own and decorate to my pleasing (though hopefully that isn't too unrealistic!) The really lofty goal? Being a costumed interpreter who specializes in dancing, music, and foodways programs, and also run a historical wedding and flower arranging business on the side. And still have plenty of time and money to travel Europe. Live in England or America; I'm not too picky ;)

4. What would you most like to see in a new adaptation of Little Women, whether in book or film? Any specific actors, setting, or time period changes?
What if they did a web series like Emma Approved but for Little Women? The sisters could take turns, and I can picture their personalities really coming through in vlog format, weird as that sounds.
I guess it would have to be a modern setting, which would be a bit odd, but I think most of the themes could translate alright.

5. What is your favorite dress from the movie?

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There are so many nice dresses, but Meg's wedding dress has lovely smocking and a light, summery feel. I also really like the dress Jo wears in this scene, but I can't find a good picture of it. 

6. Which March sister(s) do you relate to the most?
I have the romanticism of Meg, the impatience of Jo, and the younger sibling impertinence of Amy (at times/in the past). I definitely don't have the older-sister vibe, but I think I'm most like Meg. We both appreciate fine things (even if we can't afford them :P) and want to have a family and home.

7. Do you have a favorite film adaptation of  Little Women?
Yes, and I'll give you one guess as to which one it is!

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8. What is your favorite quote from Little Women? Movie quotes count!

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Well said, Amy!
9. Do you have a favorite scene from Little Women?
I really like Meg's springtime wedding, but the ending under the umbrella is pretty hard to beat!

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10. Aside from the March sisters, who is your favorite character from the story?

I blame all of my commitment issues on Louisa May Alcott (Lament in gifs)

In the movie, it's definitely Laurie. They don't make him as flawed or complex as he is in the book, so I'll have to reconsider it when I read the book again.

I think that is officially all I have for Little Women week! Thank you so much for following along as my friend Molly and I held our first blog party! Thanks also to Cordy, Elanor, and Molly for filling out the tags. To anyone who's filled out the tag and not listed here; sorry I didn't see it and thank you for doing it! :) 

March 31, 2018

The Question of Beth

Pretty big spoilers throughout this post, so if you haven't read or seen Little Women and want it to be a surprise, skip this post!
I have a confession to make: this is an entirely unplanned post. I was simply filling out the Little Women tag, but only got to question two " If you could change one point of the plot, what would it be?" before writing out a three paragraph response without really answering the question. That's because my true question wasn't the one listed above, but this: should Beth March, a sweet, caring, lovely young woman, have died? If I were Louisa May Alcott's editor, would I have demanded she change the plot and have Beth survive?

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I actually have to grapple with this one a little. Beth's death seems the obvious choice, but when I think how the novel would have turned out differently had she lived, I have to stop and think: what would happen? I don't think she'd marry, sweet as she is. If the perfect man came into her life, and she were not too shy to fall in love, I think she could be very happy as a wife and mother. But that simply doesn't seem to be in Beth's nature, and I suppose having all four March sisters marry would be too simple for Alcott. But if not married, then what would Beth do? Maybe she'd stay at Orchard House and give piano lessons, or teach at Jo and Friedrich's school. But was Alcott too hasty in killing her character off because she didn't know what else to do, or did she have a bigger purpose in mind? 

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Beth's death certainly changes the pace and mood of the novel. It complicates the idea of karma by weakening, and eventually killing someone who had just gone out of their way to care for a poor neighboring family. It strengthens the Christian idea, however, that one's true home is in heaven. Beth loved home more than anyone else, but she was ready to leave long before anyone thought she would. Her death illustrates extreme sacrifice for others; even if it were not her choice to die, that's ultimately what Beth did for the Hummel family.
Jo, Amy, and Meg certainly develop and change because of it. In the movie (and perhaps in the book, though I don't remember) it brings Amy and Laurie home, which is good because I really didn't care for the Europe scenes. They're just too far away from home, and seem to be spinning their wheels over there. Beth's death reunites them to their family, and drives the plot forward that they must announce their engagement to Jo and the others. It also seems that Beth's death indirectly inspires Jo to write Little Women. And then where would we be? We wouldn't even be talking about this because the book wouldn't have been written...I think I'm falling into a paradox here.

"Reading your book was like opening a window into your heart." ~'Little Women' (1994 film)

But still. Even as I started typing this answer out, I thought I was going to end with "but Beth's life is worth more than a plot device, and such a sweetheart ought to live!". But I think Beth's death was a sobering but realistic choice that Alcott made that not only changed the novel, but also reached out to countless readers who had certainly experienced death in their lifetimes, whether it was husbands, brothers, or fathers in the Civil War, or sisters or mothers through disaster or disease. Death is relatable to current readers as well. So as heart-wrenching as it may be, I think we must all let her go.

March 30, 2018

If You Liked Little Women...

As we wrap up our Little Women celebration week, I hope you're leaving wanting more heartwarming stories that are good clean fun. Stories with a purpose and a timeless message. Stories that promise plot twists and genuine character development, with people you can feel a connection to.

I must say, such stories seem few and far between. I hope I have many years ahead of me to discover more, but here is a short list of books and movies I feel have similar qualities. I'm also going to include some re-adapted versions of the original book.

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The Penderwicks by Jeanne Birdsall
It may not be as hearty, but it's certainly heartwarming. This is the first in a short series of books about a family of four sisters and their father on summer vacation. Just like the March sisters have Laurie, the Penderwicks make good friends with a neighboring boy named Jeffrey...and the similarities do not end there! There are lots of subtly similar details between the two works. Both definitely give off a classic feel. A lot of novels these days are fluff, but The Penderwicks has a bit more substance and timelessness.

All-of-a-kind Family by Sydney Taylor
This is another story about a family, this time of five sisters and their parents living in New York City. in the early 20th century. They are a Jewish family, whose traditions frame several chapters of the book. They, like the March family, do not have a lot of extra money, but they still know how to have fun. I haven't read this book in quite a while, as it's aimed for a younger audience. I remember it being a fun read, though, and another book with a classic sort of feel.

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The books of Tasha Tudor
As in all of them. Because nothing says "cozy 19th century Americana" like Tasha Tudor illustrations! The stories and anthologies she illustrates for are also very sweet. Most of the books of hers that I've read are seasonal. Her Springs of Joy is particularly cheerful for this season. :)

Uncle Tom's Cabin by Harriet Beecher Stowe
This is certainly not a lighthearted, sweet, or cozy tale like the ones I've mentioned above, but I think it is important to read, and definitely relates to the historical context of Little Women. Uncle Tom's Cabin was an extremely influential book in America in the years leading up to the Civil War. When Northeners read this anti-slavery book, many of them realized for the first time the horrors of slavery. Some of them were even compelled to join the abolitionist movement. The March sisters, their own father in the Union Army, would have likely read this book. Much like Little Women, it is an American classic. It unfortunately does not receive the credit it deserves.

Books Based on Little Women

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The Mother Daughter Book Club by Heather Vogel Frederick
The Mother Daughter Book Club is the first in a series about four girls with very differing personalities whose bonds of friendship begin in a book club their mothers organize. Their lives and relationships with each other are not always smooth sailing, but they always make for good reading! Each MDBC book features a classic novel that the book club reads. Their first novel? Little Women. Though it doesn't play a huge role in the plot, the book weaves its way through The Mother Daughter Book Club. A book within a book-kind of odd, but it's a lovely combination!

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Little Women and Me by Lauren Baratz-Logstead
I have to admit, I must have read this book in a summer haze a few years ago because I don't remember anything about it! I marked it as read and gave it three stars on it must have been a decent book? Consider it a mystery that you'll just have to solve by reading it, I guess! If you look at the other Goodreads reviews, it doesn't sound to great, so you might want to just borrow this from the library. Still, this fit too well with the Little Women theme to ignore on this list!

Babylit Little Women by Jennifer Adams and Alison Oliver

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Although I have not read this one, I have BabyLit's Pride and Prejudice (thanks to one of Hamlette's givaways, by the way!) and it is absolutely adorable! The theme for the P+P book was counting (think 10 thousand pounds a year and 5 beautiful bonnets), but I think the Little Women one covers different activities like cooking and sewing. Talk about cute!

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A Little Women Christmas by Heather Vogel Frederick
Heather Vogel Frederick strikes again, but instead of a great series, here she makes a beautiful edition of all the March's Christmases in one. It's also beautifully illustrated. This is a book I borrowed from the library, but wish I could own!

That's all for now, but I'll likely be back tomorrow with another wrap-up post. Until then, have a Blessed Good Friday!

Were there any books I missed? 
Have you read any of the ones listed above?

March 27, 2018

March Week: A New Little Women

You may have heard some rustlings in online period drama circles lately about a new version of Little Women coming to America this year. Yes, you heard me right: coming to America. As in, the Brits made this one. Kinda funny, given that it's an American classic, but you won't hear me complaining: I can't wait to watch this when it premieres in the States on May 13th (less than 2 months away!)

I don't want to make too many judgments before seeing the first episode, but so far it looks quite good. It's definitely reminiscent of the '94 version, which is a definite plus in my book. I have a few reservations though:
    ~The hair: in some scenes, the March women have lovely, coiffed hair, but in others it's left hanging. While Amy, as the youngest, might get some leeway with this, the other sisters are too old to have their hair down in public, even in a little New England village. It's a pet peeve of mine in period dramas when nothing is done with hair, especially when the potential for beautiful styles is so huge!

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It's beautiful hair, but please do something with it!

~The accents: now maybe I'm hyper-analyzing this, but don't you think their speech is a tad off? Like it's British actors doing their best at an American accent? If that's the case, they are doing a very good job, but there's still a hint of effort in their speech.

~The nostalgia: Little Women has become one of my favorite stories, both in literary and film form. The book and the 1994 movie are nostalgic to me, and I would hate to see this version disappoint. I'm eager to see if any parts from the book are included in this version that weren't in the last one, but I also hope it doesn't stray too far from the classic, warm and cozy feeling I'm accustomed to. :)

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So there you have it! Will you be watching BBC's Little Women this year? Or are you a lucky British person who's seen it already? What are your first impressions?