Thursday, April 19, 2012

House Arrest :)

Thesis Central - Complete With Two Computers and a Bottle of Lysine for Protecting My Immune System

I have spent the last two weeks shutting myself off from most of my friends. I haven't gone to any openings, parties, or meetings that I wasn't absolutely required for. I have been keeping my nose to the grindstone and have only allowed myself one outing per day, usually to exercise or run an errand. It's just what I've had to do in order to get my thesis finished and I'm not finished yet. I've had that pit of worry in my stomach for a couple of weeks and the only thing that has helped me to relax has been to work. But tonight I finally reached a point in my writing where I felt like I am going to get this done! I'm excited again and having fun with the process. Thank God!

I think it has something to do with taking some time off yesterday. I had to go to Norman to talk with someone in the graduate college and then to see my thesis advisor. I also got to see a sweet friend for a little bit before I came back up to OKC and he gave me some great advice. He told me to get some rest. So I did...and then I wrote 10 quality pages today. I feel so much better! I guess I needed the break. (Thanks P.)

I'm getting closer to the finish line all the time, and I'm not going to give up. I have this suspicion that graduating is the gateway to the next chapter in my life and while I know that I can do what I have planned without a master's degree, I don't want to. I know that I won't be able to respect myself if I just let all of the hard work, time and money I've spent over the past five and one-half years go to waste. In fact, it's even not an option. I want this! I love art history!

While writing tonight, that old spark jumped back into my heart and replaced the fear and worry. I remembered all of the discoveries and revelations studying art has brought to me over the years. Life makes more sense to me after studying art history because I've been taught to look at every detail and to contemplate the layers and layers of meaning they represent. It has helped me to open my mind to other cultures, beliefs and ideas. In the meantime, it's helped me to open my heart to more and more people. You realize that even after reading and looking for long periods of time, you could probably keep it up for a lifetime and never completely grasp the whole "picture." (Sorry. I know, bad pun. Haha!) But isn't that what we should be doing in order to understand and show compassion to everyone in this world? The more you know, the more you can empathize. The more you can empathize, the more you can love.

It's a really good thing that I listened to my friend last night and that the result of rest was peace, because my computer that I had been working on kept freezing up on me and giving me messages such as, "Corrupt disk," or "Unrecoverable error." That can strike fear into the heart of any writer, especially one with a deadline. Luckily, I had backed everything up to Dropbox (obsessively, as in every 10 minutes while I've been writing). Thank goodness for working during THIS time of technological advance. I have nothing but the hugest amount of respect for people who did this before computers, thesis templates given by OU, and online storage. Whew!

Aaaaand then there's the fact that I had an old computer that I wasn't using. Poor old gal. I had traded her in for a newer model. (Can you tell that I'm projecting what's happened to me with men onto this cold, hard piece of machinery? Haha!) But I didn't get rid of her and boy did she step in and take care of me. In fact, because it's older, the version of Word on it is actually more compatible with the OU thesis template than my new computer. After restarting the new one a few times (taking at least 10 minutes each time), I decided to ditch the high maintenance, sleek model and go back to the trustworthy and generous, although slightly larger, version. Guess what. It's actually been easier to write on this one because my mind somehow feels freer with all of that viewable space. Psychology is a mystery sometimes, isn't it? All I know is that I'm grateful. I installed Dropbox on this computer in five minutes, opened my thesis file and got back to work. Crisis averted. And I did it all by myself, without panicking. Hell yeah!

I keep getting the reminder that you have to balance work with rest. It's good to step away from things for a little bit and let some ideas marinate. It's also a good idea to write when you're fresh, so pushing and pushing doesn't produce quality, just quantity. That's not what I'm after here. I want my thesis committee to think that this is the best thing I've ever written. My thesis is about these precious, little, intimate gifts that people gave each other, so why shouldn't my paper be a gift to them? I want them to know how much I appreciate all that I've learned from them and I want to be true to myself too, so working hard is really a gift to me.

Of course, I have dreams like Ralphie in A Christmas Story, imagining that my writing will bring rapture and delight to all who read it.  Hahahahaha! Truthfully, I'll just be happy if when I finish, I'm proud of what I wrote, my committee is happy and that I'll get to graduate. The next few days are going to be full of hard work, but I'm ready. Bring it, Thesis!

Sunday, April 8, 2012


I have really enjoyed my thesis. I think I could research forever because it's so fun, but I've moved on to the writing process and I have to say that the challenges I've faced, while frustrating at times, have been good for me.  Trying to decide the type of voice I want to use was the first hurdle. Should it be formal or familiar? Should I present my research and make my points in a dry and straightforward manner or should I infuse the writing with some warmth? After giving such contemplation to my topic, I realized that there really needed to be some personal touch because the subject, portrait miniatures, is intimate. So it was back to the drawing board. Just as I had changed my writing every time I found a new resource, I was now changing my writing based on the need for it to reflect the art. I'm glad that I've had the time to do that, but it has set me behind. I know that I still have a little time but goodness it has me a little stressed out! I just want to make sure that I am presenting the truth within the most complete context I can construct.

The second challenge was deciding exactly how to lay out the paper. Should I write about each section of my topic, i.e. the artists, the town of Charleston, the cultural and historical context, the pieces, etc. all in different chapters or should I integrate everything. I've found that a combination of the two options is what is best. Just as Malbone painted the ivory with lovely washes, stipples and cross hatches of watercolor, I decided that the historical and contextual facts should color my writing over his sweet pieces, but there had to be a little background given in the beginning so that the writing would make sense.

I have to admit that I'll be really happy when this is over because I have spent as much time inside my head, convincing myself that I can do this as I have spent writing. When I'm done, I am going to be so proud of myself, but for now it's still time to work, work, work.

However, today I'm going to visit my family for Easter. It was good to get away to Savannah and Charleston, but it's been longer than usual since I've been home. I can't wait to see everybody! :)

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Gratitude for Time in the Low Country

This bridge sculpture was in Forsyth Park the Saturday of the Girl Scout's 100th birthday celebration.
I love the quote by the Girl Scout's founder, Juliet Gordon Low, "The work of today is the history of tomorrow and we are its makers." So true!

I had the incredible fortune to go back to the Gibbes Museum of Art yesterday to look at the Malbone portrait miniatures one more time. Fun!!!! I found it incredibly satisfying to see them again after so much more research, looking and studying. I felt like I had a greater grasp on my topic and what I wanted to share in my thesis. I found my voice!!! I also felt completely accepted and supported by the curators I was working with. They treated me as an equal! I have to say that between looking through the files, seeing the correspondence of authors I've read and holding the miniatures in my hands, I felt like the most blessed person in the world. Add in the respect and kindness from those running the museum and I felt like a rock star. One of the curators even took a miniature that was loose in its casings apart for me so that I could look at the inner workings. They let me photograph it too. This will be so valuable!

Mostly, I'm just so grateful for the opportunity to come to the Low Country to study. I couldn't have asked for a better experience. The people I've met in Savannah and Charleston have all been so giving. My land lady, Carol, not only restored and placed a desk in my room towards the beginning of my visit, but she also left treats for me on the back porch weekly. I swear that I exercised almost everyday, but there is no way that anyone will be able to tell when I get home because Carol would place half of a loaf of fresh bread or banana pudding from our favorite bakery on my back porch every other day. She would go for herself and bring some home to share. She and I also had many talks about our intentions for life, new ways to better support our friends and how grateful we were for our abundant blessings.

She's an artist and moved to Savannah about a year ago because she loves it as much as I do. We're kindred spirits. We both want to use our lives to serve people, we love the arts and we both feel like there's just something magical about Savannah. She even offered to let me come back and stay for free. Who could be so lucky? Mostly, I feel like I've found a lifelong friend in her and I count that as a great blessing. She is so positive, encouraging, kind, generous, loving and helped me through a period of great stress. I know that she was an answer to prayer for me. Today, before I left, she took me to another artist's house and had me look through a lot of his work and pick a piece that I liked. She told me that it was her hope that it would remind me of her. As if I needed a reminder. :) It's a gorgeous oil pastel, Savannah street scene. I can't wait to frame it and hang it in my house. There are people I've known for years that I don't feel as close to as Carol. We just clicked from the moment we met.

Why did I ever worry about being there all alone? Even when I was by myself, which was most of the time, I was happy and at peace. The only tears that I shed were ones for my friend, Allen, and his family. And then there were those that were a result of the overwhelming sense that life couldn't get any better.

I found all that I needed and more in Savannah. I found it here in Charleston too. When I say that, I mean that I not only gained all of the information I needed for my thesis, but I also found confidence and peace. I've finally reached a point where the words are spilling out of me and into my computer. It's all I can think about. I'm constantly writing in my head, when I'm not near my computer, because I can't help myself. So whatever happens tomorrow or in my thesis defense, I know that I can sleep well tonight because everything I'm doing is coming from a wellspring of creativity rooted in months of study, excitement over discovery and work! This is the very best place to be for writing!

I was sad to leave Savannah this morning, but as I crossed the Talmadge Bridge, I found myself grateful to be going to Charleston. It helped to know that I could return in August. That's so soon!!! Wooohooo!  I have to admit that I've already starting thinking about what I want to research for fun when I get back there. I can't wait for that, but I'm also excited about getting home. It will be great to see my friends and family. It's great to be happy wherever you are.

Life is so good!

Sunday, April 1, 2012


I can't believe that it's already time to start packing for my return to Oklahoma. The time seems to have flown, as it always does when you love what you're doing. James made his way to Charleston this past week and I picked him up after getting some work done. We visited the Avery Research Center, found a rooftop bar after the center closed, and then came back to Savannah. We've had a pretty relaxing and quiet time here, thanks to my studying. We did, however, get out on Friday to eat lunch at Miss Wilke's Dining Room. Can you say "YUUUUUMMMMMYYYY!?!?" Here are a couple of pictures to prove it. :)

Everyone eats family style in this place! All the food comes out at one time and you just pass the bowls and platters. Southern home cookin' is my favorite. 

Glutony, I know, but I ate it all. So delicious.

We also attended the Zydeco Dance Party show with the Savannah Music Festival a couple of nights ago and that was FUN! I think I'm going to download some of that music to exercise too. It gets me going! Nathan Williams and the Zydeco Cha Chas know how to get people dancing!

I feel that this has been the most beneficial trip I've taken in a long time. I got a LOT of work done for my thesis. It's not completely finished, but that's because I still have some information to gather this week and then synthesize it into my writing. It will happen. While working here, I've found a confidence in myself and my abilities that I didn't have before.  Not only am I fine by myself, I almost prefer it when I'm focussed on something so important. I have made friends here, but outside of my landlady, Carol, there isn't anyone here that I have seen on a regular basis or that I've made the effort to spend time with. I've been busy studying! I've also realized that you can't spend your time worrying about failure. You have to just keep working as hard as you can. It's really the only antedate to stress for me right now...well that and yoga.

I have loved the music I've been able to experience and the food too, but most of all, I have enjoyed my own company.  I like it. I'm happy with it. And as much as I love my friends and family back home, I have a feeling that I'll be spending a lot more time alone over the next month because I have to finish strong. I can't let all of the hard work go to waste! I won't let it go to waste. So until the first week of May is over, it may still feel to some that I'm gone. But that's ok. I'm doing what I need to do. My time is my time and if people don't understand then they aren't a true friend. I guess the biggest sign of growth is that I am fine with saying, "no," to people and I realize that I don't owe an explanation for my choices to anyone outside of my family and thesis committee. Seriously, that's it! I have a feeling that those are the exact people who would encourage this kind of thinking, so I'm not worried about it. The people I love and that I know love me will continue to be patient until I can resurface.

There will be time for a little fun too. I've learned here that you have to keep a balance. You can't work all of the time because it doesn't do your work any good if you continually push, push, push and eliminate breaks. In all forms of work and creativity, a break helps you to process and to come up with new ideas. I think of it as a time to "percolate."  And there will be time that I just take for myself too, even when I'm not working, because a big part of being at peace is being still.

The best thing about protecting your time is that when you give it, you really want to give it. You don't feel any resentment, as if people are taking it from you. You can give it freely and that's always a better situation for everybody, but I'm telling everyone right now that I will not be as available as I have been in the past, and that might not ever end. It's time for me to take control of my life and that starts by taking control of my time. I love people and want to always be open to the possibility of being used to meet people's needs, but I realize that my hopes, dreams, objectives and goals are just as important for me and my community as anyone else's, so there has to be balance.

I'm more than grateful for the time I've spent and for everything I've learned here in Savannah and Charleston. It's not over yet, so I'm going to sit right in the middle of this moment and enjoy it up to the last second, but because I have to clean and pack to get ready to leave, I have to face the fact that this chapter is closing. Outside of home or wherever my family is, this is my favorite place.  This is where I would choose to be, and who knows? Maybe I'll just retire here someday. One thing I know for sure is that I will be back soon. :)