Friday, December 22, 2017

Semester's Recap.

What I've been reading:
The Hangman's Daughter series
Lady Hardcastle Mystery series
Murder on the Orient Express
The Unkillable Kitty O'Kane
The Complete Poems of Walt Whitman
P.S. from Paris

What I've been listening to:
Frank Sinatra
Jack Johnson
Christmas music. Duh.
NPR Politics podcast
Wait, Wait . . . Don't Tell me! podcast
Car Talk podcast

What I've been watching:
The Great British Bake Off
BBC Pride and Prejudice
Mad Men

Where I've been:
Pocatello, ID
Las Vegas, NV
Glendale, AZ
And a favorite chocolate shop, of course

What I've been cooking/baking:
Christmas icebox cookies
Christmas treats for neighbors
Pumpkin sheet cake
Creamy ranch chicken*
Peasant's bread*
Chicken pasta salad

* means disaster.  My dad had the flu this last week, and my mom was in AZ with my sister's baby Vivi (who is an angel). That left me in the kitchen... which is like leaving Mr. Trump in the White House (oh wait that's real life). I was always cooking, checking timers, cleaning dishes, and I accidentally set a kitchen towel on fire. The ranch chicken was actually okay, but after 8 hours in the crock pot, the potatoes weren't cooked. I don't know how that's possible, but they were crunchy, not the potato-chip-good-crunchy. The peasant's bread was an absolute fiasco. I've made this bread many times. This bread was in the oven for about 2 hours. Of course, the outside was practically charred, but the inside was completely raw. I don't know how that's possible, either. I even let the bread rise for twice as long.

Needless to say, I'm glad my mom is home. When she pulled into the garage, I gave her a big hug and told her my culinary woes. This is why I know how to make toast in a thousand ways.

Applications Status:
ISU application: incomplete; need to write statement of intent; waiting on letter of recommendation

BYU application: COMPLETE! After writing several drafts of my statement of intent and pestering my professors for recommendations, I submitted my application and felt good. And then I got an email from the department about a video interview. A VIDEO INTERVIEW?! At first, I thought, "No big deal. I'll just regurgitate what I expressed in my statement." Instead, I had to record myself answering stupid questions and had a minute for each question. One of the questions was, "What would you do with a million dollars?" The first 20 seconds of the recording was me doing this:
Image result for shocked gif

And it didn't get better. I couldn't think of anything to say and was running out of time. I stammered, "Uhhh... real estate! Savings account! FIX MY WINDSHIELD!" And yes, I yelled the last three words. I have a Master's degree in English, and I teach my students how to use rhetoric effectively, but those credentials didn't mean a hill of beans during the interview. I think I'm most embarrassed by the taco stain on my shirt that I didn't notice until after the interview.

I keep telling myself that it's unlikely I'll get into the program (especially after that stupid interview) because the MFT program is the top in the country. I still have no idea which school I should choose, but if BYU rejects me, the choice is made for me! I'm just proud that I put my best foot forward.

The School Semester:
Teaching three writing classes is a beast. I have tons of respect for teachers who take on far more classes than I do. I am nearly done grading papers, projects, reflections, and finals (which equals 600+ pages of writing).

Sometimes, my job is frustrating. I constantly review lesson plans in my mind, wondering if I could have introduced a concept more effectively. I want to barf when a student is simultaneously condescending and sickly sweet whenever he speaks to me. I want to scream when I offer feedback on students' drafts, and yet their final submission shows no change. And I am reminded of how hard WRTG 150 is for first-year students. This class is far more rigorous than my GE writing class was.

Most of the time, my job is wonderful. I actually enjoy reading students' Issues Papers because I see remarkable improvement in their writing. I adore getting to know students and having inside jokes in class. My heart is tickled when students tell me that they love coming to class because it's a fun, safe, and instructive environment.

My teaching style is much like my personality. It's engaging, organized, and slightly bonkers. So when students tell me that they love how I teach, I feel like a gold sticker has been branded on my heart. When I first started teaching, I was worried that my age would detract from my authority and class policies. Rarely, that has been the case. Instead, my students feel more comfortable about communicating with me, and they trust me. This has made them much more engaging in class, even when they know that I only accept their best effort.

During my 4pm class, my students know some really odd things about me. They know that I always run out of spoons in my kitchen and how I'm too embarrassed to be "that person who only buys spoons" at the store. Weird... I know... and I can't even remember telling them this. Well, on the last day of class, each peer review group surprised me with a brand new spoon.

I know what you're thinking... they're just spoons. But for some reason, these spoons produced a lump in my throat and a tear in my eye. I got emotional... over SPOONS! And it made me so grateful for my job and the chance that I have to teach amazing (mostly amazing) students. And it feels so good to have a little validation, to feel like I am doing an okay job.

Oh yeah. Merry Christmas!

Sunday, November 19, 2017

"Christmas Time is (Basically) Hereeeee."

My parents have heard me say countless times, "No one loves Christmas more than I do." It's true. For me, the Christmas season starts on November 1st. Thanksgiving and Christmas are squished together into one, happy, delightful season. I know most of the words to every classic Christmas song. Mom and I practice a new Christmas duet. I drive around outdoor shopping complexes just to see their Christmas lights. Each year, I'm more and more convinced that our Christmas tree will be featured in Good Housekeeping (it never is). And I'm practically nonstop happy because everyone seems happier, more compassionate, more generous, and more hopeful.

I think Yul Brynner and Steve McQueen bring in the Christmas spirit beautifully. 
But really, Christmas is so wonderful because my family is wonderful. When my siblings and I were kids, we picked out a tree on the Saturday after Thanksgiving. The tree smelled amazing. We fought over who would sit in the trunk to guard the tree that was shoved in the back. We always decorated the tree together, too. Mom and Dad have a tradition to buy a new ornament whenever they travel somewhere new, so we don't have any of the ornament sets that you buy at the store. When Brigham helped us with the tree, he always put the ornaments with pictures of him in the front of the tree, while ornaments with pictures of everyone else were placed in the back.

When Kylie and I were little, we would prop up the tree skirt with chopsticks to make a stable for our  play nativity figures. We would always hide the baby Jesus in the tree and see who could find it the fastest (sorry, Jesus).

Mom made sugar cookies each year, and we used cookie cutters and icing to decorate them. On Christmas Eve, we always read the nativity story in Luke. We dressed up as each person in the story, and we used a stuffed animal as Jesus (sorry again, Jesus). I was always Mary... with a bowl cut. Afterwards, we were allowed to open one present, which was usually a family game or PJs. And then we would pile into the car and look at the best Christmas lights in rich neighborhoods.

We all believed in Santa, but I can't remember when we stopped. Kristin, Kylie, and I used to share a room together. I remember on one Christmas Eve, we couldn't sleep because we were so excited for morning. Kristin suddenly bolted upright and exclaimed, "Bekki, do you hear that? Do you hear reindeer hooves on the roof?" On Christmas morning, we always wondered why Santa had the same wrapping paper as we did. Mom said, "Oh, he's so busy. He left the presents for me to wrap." Sometimes, we left cookies for Santa, and I even left a letter. I was so excited to read a note from Santa in the morning, but I saw that it was in my dad's handwriting. My dad said that Santa had a hand deformity, and he dictated a message for him to write. And I believed him. (I don't blame you if you're thinking that I wasn't a very bright child).

Mom and Dad tried their best to give us a special Christmas. We always waited on the stairs together, and Brigham got away with inching down the stairs the most. We could always expect to find clementines and colored pencils in our stockings. Whenever we watch the home videos, Mom and Dad always smile at how excited we got about coloring books, Boxcar Children books, and plastic grocery carts (my favorite present ever).

It's a little sad how different things are now. Everyone is gone. Kylie has a family in Georgia, Kristin has a family in Arizona, Brigham is serving a mission, and I'm....well...obviously I haven't moved on. I decorated the tree and the house by myself, I look at Christmas lights by myself, and I listen to  Christmas music by myself. On Christmas day, it will just be me, Mom, and Dad.  I have so many perfect memories of Christmas that it makes me wish that we were all kids again. And then I think, "Man... I need to get a move on with my life!" I'm trying. Seriously.

But one day, this is the Christmas that I want to give to my little ones, and I'm grateful that my mom and dad did everything to make it special for us. I'm even okay with the fact that Dad severely handicapped Santa.

Tuesday, November 7, 2017

Love, a Mental Defective

I consider myself to be pretty even-tempered. Sure, little things bother me, and I sometimes dwell on things more than I should, but I am rarely angry. But when I get angry....
Image result for angry explosion gif

On Monday, following the horrific shooting in Texas, Mr. Trump issued a statement saying, "I think mental health is your problem here." This is the part where I got angry. Actually, angry is an understatement. I exploded. Even though I stay away from political mudslingings (because, really, what good are they?), I must offer my two-cents. I haven't been able to stop thinking about this.

It's true that Devin Patrick Kelley was mentally ill, but Mr. Trump criminalized the entire mentally ill population. Maybe I'm jumping the gun here, but for the man who occupies the highest office, his words make a difference, and he needs to be more thoughtful. As soon as he made the careless remark, I saw several Facebook posts and opinion editorials that jumped on the bandwagon and alienated people who suffer from mental illnesses (although it made me feel better that most of these posts were poorly written). 

I have my own thoughts regarding the shooting, and I feel so sad for the families of the victims, but I will never pretend to grasp the magnitude of the issue, nor will I suggest short-sighted ways to "fix" mass shootings. However, I will always do my best to defend the mental health community that has been marginalized for far too long. And people wonder why the fight to reduce the stigma continues?

On the bright side, Mr. Trump's statement was an impetus, a good kick in the pants. It made me want to become a mental health counselor even more, so I can try to correct such misconceptions. And I know I can do it. Last month, my parents and I drove to Pocatello, Idaho for an interview with the graduate coordinator of the Mental Health Counseling program. That meeting felt good. It felt like a step forward. I have a few schools that I'm considering, but wherever I go, I want to make a difference by counseling individuals and educating communities about the reality of mental illness. And forgive me for sounding presumptuous, but I know I will be good at it. 

And now that Mr. Trump's tweets will be twice as long due to Twitter's new 280-character limit, the issue is twice as urgent. So, Mr. Trump... from one mental defective to another, watch it. 

Thursday, August 24, 2017

Summer Synopsis.

Summer has been good. Here's what happened:

What I Watched:
Summer is not complete without some healthy binge-watching, although I'm not sure the word "healthy" can ever be applied to that term. 
  • The West Wing - an old favorite. The complete series is on Netflix!
  • Hogan's Heroes - what I've been watching with my dad recently.
  • Shenandoah - Dad's favorite movie, but I wanted to hit Jimmy Stewart with a 2x4.
  • The Magnificent Seven - Steve McQueen is McDreamy. 
  • Casablanca - flawless in every possible way. 
  • Wonder Woman - delightful and seriously hokey.
What I Read/Listened To:
I've read my fair share of garbage, so I'm only putting the books that I absolutely loved, loved, loved... except maybe Sense and Sensibility. I feel like that's a rite of passage novel that you have to read. I also wanted to hit Marianne Dashwood with a 2x4,
  • The House of a Thousand Candles, Meredith Nicholson
  • The Secret Garden, Frances Hodgson Burnett
  • Far from the Madding Crowd, Thomas Hardy
  • The House of the Seven Gables, Nathaniel Hawthorne
  • Sense and Sensibility, Jane Austen
  • Persuasion, Jane Austen
  • The Age of Innocence, Edith Wharton
  • The Turn of the Screw, Henry James
  • Jane Eyre, Charlotte Bronte (read this every summer!)
The Hoods' Music Playlist:
Every time we go on vacation, I try to compile music playlists that will appease everyone. I think the one unifying similarity between all of these artists is that they sported terrible hairstyles. Whenever I drive back to Provo, I laugh whenever people see me singing in my car. They probably think I'm singing to whatever junk is on the radio. I'm actually singing a duet with Karen Carpenter.
  • Styx
  • Carpenters
  • The Beach Boys
  • James Taylor
  • Stray Cats
  • ABBA
  • The Monkees
  • Elton John
  • Fleetwood Mac
Where I Went:
The family vacationed in San Luis Obispo, and it was delightful. We visited all of our favorite places, and we got to spend time with grandkids/nephews. Theo and Alex loved playing together. They squealed, chased each other, and threw rocks off the deck. My grandpa, who is ever so concerned about my health, encouraged me to quit my job and take up gardening or floral arranging. My parents celebrated their 30th anniversary, which is pretty fantastic. They went to a fancy steakhouse together, but I know that they were secretly yearning for my presence. 
Morro Bay—isn't this perfect?

On the Home Front:
Traveling is fun, but spending the summer in Ephraim is pretty wonderful, too. It's much cooler than Provo—stripping to just my garments is never necessary. My dad uses an oil drum that's been sawed in half as a fire pit. We make fires and eat s'mores. I don't really care for golden brown marshmallows. I prefer to consume polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons that cause cancer. In other words, I like my marshmallows charred... completely black. I swear ash flies off my s'more before I take a bite. 

Ephraim has become a kind of retreat. As I've said many times before, our friends and neighbors are perfect. The natural landscape of the area is beautiful. At night, I love looking at the stars from the patio. We're so removed from civilization (seriously) that you can see millions of stars and swirls in the sky. Our backyard is perfect, too. My dad's garden is like an oasis, and he always plants my favorite flowers along the back fence... sunflowers!

Isn't this perfect, too? We live here!
What I'm Doing Now:
1 - I am preparing to teach three sections of WRTG 150 at Brigham Young University. I've been hired! I am so excited for the semester to start, but I am nervous to teach 60 students. We had an adjunct training meeting today, and I feel ready to go. I consider this my first real big girl job. I have an office, a copy code, a mailbox, a hole puncher, and a fake plant. It feels amazing

Upgrading all of my lesson material and plans!
My office! And this might be my first ever selfie.
2 - I am still working through my prerequisites. My social work class is nearly done, but I'm at a standstill because my criminal background check for volunteering at a certain agency has yet to be cleared, which seems sketchy. As far as I know, the only crime that I've committed is that I've never seen Star Wars. But I'm willing to live with this blemish on my record. 

3 - In the beginning of this week, I got a glimpse of the freshman orientation at Snow College. It was really fun to meet new students who are eager and terrified to start a new chapter of their life. I also enjoyed being my dad's shadow as he helped with various aspects of the orientation. I watched him give a little lecture, and it made me so so so proud that he's my dad. 

4 - Sometimes I feel like I dream in poetry, but my life is prose. I have massive expectations about how I think my life should pan out—career options will seem clearer, classes will go smoother, dates will be more successful, and I'll handle stressful situations more gracefully. And then, I find myself sorely disappointed when things don't go according to plan.

But today, I made a humbling discovery. Five years ago today, I had my very first day of school at Arizona State University. Five years ago, I walked through a massive campus feeling like I had made the biggest mistake of my life. But it was the best decision of my life. And now, five years later, I have a bachelors degree, a masters degree, and an excellent job at a fine institution (I hope I don't sound really pretentious). I am glad that my life didn't precisely follow my blueprint, and I am glad for the unexpected twists and turns that have gotten me here. So when I quit thinking like a fool, I see that my life is the dream!

Monday, July 17, 2017

Top Things (Summer Edition).

It's been a while. Let's play catch up.

1. Kylie had a baby boy named Oliver. He's cute and squishy. I think his nose is my favorite part of him. I'm always flattered when my sister says I have the magic touch with him. 

2. Last Tuesday, Brigham re-left(?) for his mission in Arcadia, CA. I'm so happy and excited for him. I secretly hope that when he finishes, we can celebrate in... I don't know... Disneyland. 

3. Mom and I went to Vegas in June. We bought tickets to see The Phantom of the Opera in February, and it was delightful. The music gives me the chills, and I'm convinced that my heart isn't made of stone because I always cry at the end. Our trip included everything but the strip—Barnes and Noble, Starbucks, Premium Outlets, Raising Cane's, and a remarkably clean China Town. 

4. I finished the stupid statistics class in record time—45 days! I'll brazenly scream to the world that I got an A- because I stressed more about this class than my entire academic career. And I'm convinced that I gained 10 pounds while studying and completing assignments. I had a system; every time the class annoyed me, I ate an M&M. I ate a lot

5. I went to the eye doctor, which seems lame, right? NOT SO. My doctor said that my eyes were exceptionally healthy, and I felt like a star. Quite different from my other doctor visits in which we acknowledge that my brain circuits and neurotransmitters are permanently fried, but everything else seems peachy. 

6. Kristin, Jon, and Theo came to visit us in Ephraim. This picture captures their personalities beautifully. Theo loved the fireworks on the 4th and our neighbor's exciting (wink) display, too.   

7. I'm trying to be more domestic. Mom is going to teach me how to sew a blanket, which might be a terrible idea since I couldn't even sew the practice paper in 6th grade. I'm also baking. I'm pretty proud of my peasant bread recipe, even though it tastes like air. I tried my hand at Philly soft pretzels, which was embarrassing. My batch looked like it emerged from a thigh master. 

8. Today, construction workers are at my house installing new windows. And thank heavens for that. The old windows are not energy efficient, and they invite the entire insect kingdom to reside in my home. And when I wake up to find a spider on my bed, I get so freaked out that I just cry. 

9. Ever since I graduated from school, I've had a bit more time to read my books... not scaffold narratives or modernist fragments or disabled feminist theory. I actually pick books from my bookshelf. AND I READ THEM. This has made me exceptionally happy, and I even celebrated by upgrading my Kindle on Prime Day. 

10. So where does this leave me now? I'm happy, despite the fact that I have a major existential crisis/breakdown each day at approximately 9:00 pm. I'm still working on prerequisites for my new program, but I'm filled with so much uncertainty about a brand new discipline. I hate feeling uncertain about my future, even more than I hate the spiders coming through my window. And my preparation for my application has been frustrating. I'm trying to get volunteer experience under the supervision of an MSW, but I'm finding that people don't respond EVER to letters, emails, texts, phone calls, personal visits, and cutesy post-it notes shoved under office doors. But I'll keep trying, and pesting, and praying that everything won't amount to a huge mistake. 

I'm feeling burnt-out. I think I need a vacation, but I'm not the kind of person who will put a chip in my bank account for a vacation. So I'll wait until my parents go on vacation, and I'll just happen to tag along with them. 

Love, Bekki 

Friday, May 19, 2017

The Pseudo-Statistician's Lament.

During my last week of school, I distinctly remember telling my friends, "I cannot wait to take a break from school work." And yet here I am... taking Principles of Statistics (or How to Hate Life in 38 Lessons) through BYU Independent Study. This class is one of three prerequisites that I need to take for a new program.

I approached the class with immediate dread, which was only perpetuated when the introduction in the textbook read, "In statistics, the gain will be worth the pain." The PAIN??? Couldn't the editors just leave it at, "You will gain so much!" Of course, that would be lying.

I'm convinced that this class is impossible for English majors. The quizzes and exams are comprised of multiple choice and true/false questions. I analyze the questions extremely carefully and keep a list of poorly worded questions, so I can include them in course evaluations for my teachers' benefit. I'll quickly ascend to the top of my professors' favorite student list. On one particular occasion, I got a practice quiz question wrong, but I took a screenshot of the textbook that proves that I am, in fact, RIGHT. I would include these pictures, but there's no need to secure my reputation as a snot.

I also get really defensive when I'm working through my course. I talk to myself, even when I'm in the offices all alone. When the practice quiz practically taunted me and said, "You are incorrect," I bellowed in a most un-ladylike fashion, "LIKE HELL I AM!" And then I quickly repented because I remembered that I was on the Lord's campus. Oh, and one time, I got an 80% on a quiz. That was particularly soul-crushing. I haven't gotten an 80% on a test since the seventh grade.

Some of the concepts are difficult to wrap my head around. My brain is not wired for exactness and finite answers. After all, my degree has prepared me in interpretation and artful BS-ing. Anyway, I draw special diagrams to help me figure stuff out. Behold:

Note the outliers. Fassbender breaks the scale.

I've come across a term called "Discrete RVs." Of course, the last thing I think of is a random variable whose set of values is finite. Nope, I picture this:

There are only 27 lessons left for me to complete. ONLY 27 long, agonizing lessons. And I feel perfectly wretched for complaining so much. I tell my students on the first day of class that I detest complaining and that if they get a B or C, it's not the end of the world. But I will heretofore alter my first day lecture by excluding all math classes from such rules.

By the end of this class, I fully expect to look like this:

Another outlier for the "ATTRACTIVE SCALE," yes?
Love—the Ever Pessimistic, Pseudo-Statistician,

Sunday, April 30, 2017

Top 3.

1 - For my early American print culture class, we went on a field trip. We visited Reid Moon where he showed us his incredible book collection. He's a collector but not the self-declared-I-think-I'm-impressively-literary-book-collector. Moon collects rare books, particularly LDS books, documents, and letters. For instance, I believe he has seven first editions of the Book of Mormon. While listening to his stories and looking at his books, I felt like my heart would burst from my chest. I touched the books that belonged to Marie Antoinette, Harriet Beecher Stowe, and even Adolf Hitler. Here are just some of my favorites:
  • The original manuscript of Section 11(?) from the Doctrine & Covenants
  • King James's copy of the King James Bible
  • Joseph Smith's vest pocket copy of the Book of Mormon
  • Uncle Tom's Cabin signed by Harriet Beecher Stowe
  • Common Sense, published by Robert Bell (the first publisher)
  • Shakespeare Folio, 4th edition
  • And though I cannot stand the movies, I held the One Ring to rule them all used during filming
With all of the books and other treasures in the room, I felt like I was breathing the very air of my literary heroes. I got home and called my parents to tell them about my experience. And I still talk about it with them. People get high on drugs; I get high on really old books that smell like antiquity, feature brittle and yellow pages, and are signed by dead people. 

2 - This same class (an amazing class) went to a chocolate shop to workshop our papers. Our class is really small, so we have the luxury of going anywhere for class. And miraculously, we're still productive, even with amazing food and the best chocolate. This little store is called Taste, and since our class meeting, I have been back to the shop too many times. It's gotten so bad that all of the employees know my name, they know what I study, they know what I order, and they know how I like my table set up. The chocolate is so rich and amazing, but I get tons of work done in this shop because they have no wifi! Thus, I am forced to grade batches of assignments, and I draft fairly quickly. So if I one day leave this shop looking like a small, French pastry cart, at least some good scholarship comes out of it. But I flatter myself by thinking that if I type on my computer faster, I will actually burn all of the calories that I consume. 

I mean... how could anyone resist?
3 - And of course, I graduated from BYU with a Masters of Arts in English. You are now hereby permitted to call me Master Bekki, or Master Hood, or even Hood Master. Just kidding. The actual convocation is not exactly my cup of tea. I consider it a formality that is interminable and inconvenient. We stood outside the Marriott Center in the freezing cold, just so I could walk on stage, shake a bunch of sweaty hands, and collect an empty diploma book. The graduation gear, for example, looked like it got tossed in a garbage truck. My gown was frayed, and wires from the hood were sticking out and stabbing my neck. It was like the poor man version of acupuncture. And the cap doesn't look great on an Asian, blockish head. 

But I don't mean to sound ungrateful. I appreciated the experience, and I actually loved one of the speeches given at my graduation. He talked about the importance of a degree in the humanities, even when everyone seems to make jokes about it. This degree opens many doors in the world. I especially loved when he said that this degree makes us a well-rounded human. I needed to hear this. At the beginning of the week, I spoke with a staff member to get more information about the Masters of Social Work program. She said, "Well, this is certainly a useful degree!" After letting that slip, she blushed and quickly apologized. I laughed it off, but it's been bothering me for a while now. When I told one of my professors about it, he cheekily said, "Well did you slap her in the face and flip her desk over?"

What she doesn't realize, however, is that studying English makes me a better person. Reading and writing makes you more compassionate, more empathetic, and more informed about the world. And I think that is what will make me a good mental health counselor. That is, if everything works out in my brain (which it never does)!

Needless to say, I am grateful for my program, for my degree, and for everything that I have learned. I loved school, and I loved my professors who cared so much about my scholarship, my life, and my future. Even though I have learned so much during this program, I don't feel two years older and wiser, too. I still feel like a dork, so I guess I'll keep shopping around for Masters degrees until I stop feeling like one. 

Wednesday, March 29, 2017

Top 4.

My top 4 for the month, besides the defense of course.

1 - About a month ago, I purchased a 3-month membership to the Provo Rec Center. It's been fantastic, especially since I've been getting bored with running. I discovered that I love zumba classes even though I'm terrible at dancing. My lack of coordination is spectacular, and I've face planted twice. My sister and I did an aqua zumba class last Thursday, which is perfect for her pregnant-ness. I accidentally kicked her in the butt, and I stepped on her foot.

A few weeks ago, I attended a pilates class. 15 minutes in, however, I thought, "There is no way this is a pilates class." It was actually the P90X workout from hell. I couldn't leave the workout because it would be too conspicuous, so I suffered 55 minutes of agony. The other people in the session practically glistened when they sweat. I looked like I was dunked in a river. They were able to hold conversations comfortably. I sounded like a squeaky toy was lodged in my throat.

2 - Two weeks ago, I attended the Phi Kappa Phi initiation dinner with my parents. Apparently, PKP is the nation's oldest honor society and NOT a virus that crashes your hard drive when you open the "Congratulations!" email. The evening was delightful, and the highlight was the keynote speaker who made so deep an impression that I forget her name. But really, she was funny, authentic, spiritual, and intelligent. She gave practical advice that wasn't riddled in the Mormon cliches that I'm not particularly fond of. My other favorite part was when my parents swapped out poached pears for chocolate cakes from other people's place settings. Instead of the arrangement of cake, pear, cake, pear, cake... my parents made it cake, cake, cake, and dumped the pears on the other side of the table.

3 - BYU hosts an annual English Symposium every year. I presented a paper in the—wait for it—"Graduate Panel." This panel was basically for the papers whose themes didn't fit anything else in the conference. We were the residual dregs of the submission pool. Again, my mom was a sweetheart and came, but I think my presentation interested her. I presented on Igor Stravinsky's "The Rite of Spring" (it's that Fantasia scene where volcanoes erupt, and dinosaurs die). This paper was extremely fun to write; I loved incorporating the ballet and the score into my research, and I felt like a winner when people were not only awake but chipper during my presentation.

4 - This happened today. When your Electronic Thesis Dissertation is successfully accepted by the Graduate Studies department, you get a chocolate bar, and you ring a fancy bell. This might not seem like a big deal, BUT IT IS. This is like the cherry on top; the amen at the end of a sermon; basically a thumbs-up from Jesus. And I had the pleasure to share this sweet moment with my friend Nicole, who finished her work at the same time. The pictures tell it all.

Saturday, March 11, 2017

Thesis = Defended!

I have made it! After almost two years of course work, research, and writing, I have finally defended my thesis for my graduate program. It feels amazing, joyful, surreal, and almost (almost) sad because it's suddenly over.

This semester at BYU (and my last) has been hectic beyond belief. I had a lot of deadlines to meet, and revisions for my thesis were frustrating. After my first revision meeting in January in which my graduate committee critiqued my work, I sat in the girls' bathroom thinking (bathrooms are good for thinking) that my writing was garbage, revision was impossible, and my life was over. (Did I mention that I have a gift for hysterics?)

But my committee gave me perfect feedback, and after working with me for over a year, they knew that I appreciated lots of support and encouragement. They were more than just teachers. They treated me like a scholar who had interesting ideas to contribute, and they gave me life advice as if I was one of their own children. I am so glad that I "proposed" to these professors to aid me in my research.

Revisions went well, actually. At first, the task was daunting. I understood exactly what they wanted me to change in my paper, but I had no idea how to actually fix it. I'm so glad that my dad was able to give me good advice, since he's been through this process many times. To be sure, this was the most stressed I've ever felt during my college career, and I was getting used to going to bed at midnight and waking up at 4:30am to get cracking on my work. But thanks to the grace of God, I still looked remarkably attractive when I went to school, I was relatively cheerful, and I didn't fail any of my students in spite.

The defense was cause for stress (and not the healthy kind). After setting up a date, I worried about the defense incessantly, and I definitely over prepared. I had been studying since January! I had a hard time sleeping, and I seriously dreamed about disaster situations during the exam. Everyone told me that I had nothing to worry about (and they were right, of course). I wish there was a "Don't-Worry-On-Off" switch in my brain.

The two-hour defense was surprisingly delightful. I don't think I ever settled down because I was always anticipating the next question. My palms were constantly sweaty, and I felt my face flushing. One of my committee members tends to pontificate (but not at all in a pompous way), and I think I half understood his questions. My professors' questions were challenging, but I still learned so much from their inquiries and the connections they were trying to help me recognize in my research.

My AWESOME committee! Loving Ed's hand-on-hip action.
One of my professors asked me a question that I haven't been able to stop thinking about... he asked about the genesis of my project. This question meant a lot to me, and I hesitated to answer a bit. I wrote my thesis on "The Yellow Wallpaper," a short story about a woman who is mentally ill and is ruined by her husband's inadequate medical diagnosis. When I first read this story in college, I jumped on the feminist bandwagon and praised the feminist heroine of the story who rebelled against the patriarchy.  But I read the story again in my last year of college... when I was experiencing a severe mental crisis of my own. From this perspective, I read "The Yellow Wallpaper" as a story of mental illness and wondered why many feminist scholars projected able-bodied characteristics onto a depressed woman.

This question made me reflect about where I was two years ago and where I am now. I feel confident and strong. Even though 2017 has been fraught with anxieties about my thesis, I have been happy. And I'm amazed that my experience with disability has given me an edge in research and writing. I was so flattered to hear that my committee loved the originality of my argument and that they gave me plenty of feedback to get the piece published.

After the defense, my family celebrated. I am proud that my parents could come and witness (thus far) the two most important hours of my life. We got curry, and we ordered a cake from Coldstone. When I looked at the cake, I busted out laughing and showed my parents the cake:

"Congraluations" — What a fitting inscription for the girl who passed an MA defense in ENGLISH. Anyway, the journey has been incredible, and it feels strange that I'm suddenly done the most significant part of my program. Everything has led up to this moment, and now... poof! It's over. But in case I haven't made it clear, I am beyond thankful for friends, colleagues, professors, and my family for helping me during school. I know that I've grown so much, and now I face the looming question mark that symbolizes my future!

Love, "Master" Bekki

Saturday, March 4, 2017

Real Adults Go to Conferences.

Finally.  My program is giving me a slight breather, and I can give some love to this blog. A few weeks ago, I had the pleasure of attending the South Central Society for Eighteenth-Century Studies in SLC.  The abbreviation for the conference is SCSECS, but that's still a mouthful, and they might as well include all the other letters of the alphabet. I presented in the Gender and Domesticity panel about The Coquette, an early American bestseller.
I was actually dreading the conference. I just wanted to go home instead, and I couldn't imagine anything stuffier and more boring than a few days with a bunch of intellectuals.  Luckily, I had several friends attend the conference, as well.  AND I felt like a million bucks when I made a reservation for my first hotel room alone. I felt like a real big girl. That was probably the most anticipated thing... and food. The Radisson makes good cheesecake and scones.

On my first day, I was pleasantly surprised and enjoyed the panel presentations.  Some of them, as expected, were a bit dry, but others were engaging and interesting. I geeked out when a retired scholar passed around a second edition of a 1682 book.  It even smelled like antiquity.  I jumped on any opportunity to attend a panel in which American texts were featured and loved talking to those presenters.  The conference mostly attracted British literature scholars.  I saw several professors from BYU.  They introduced themselves to me and said, "How come I don't know you?" My response, "My studies are across the Atlantic," and then they would chuckle and walk away. Phhhht.

When I eventually checked into my room, I was excited.  The room was clean, big, and all mine.
I got lots of work done, and then my mom called me and asked how things were going. She casually asked me what my room number was, which I thought was weird.  And then she surprised me by knocking on my door and staying the night with me.  So as much as I enjoyed having a room to myself, I enjoyed my mom's surprise even more. (And she claims that she can't wait to get rid of me... ha. You bet your bloomers that my companionship is irresistible.)

The next day, I attended a few panels and went to City Creek for lunch with Mom.  I was excited she was there because she wanted to attend my panel.  I was afraid she would get in trouble because she didn't pay for registration, but nobody blinked an eye when she sat in.  She got a glimpse of what I do.  My presentation went well, I think. People were really gracious in their compliments, I didn't see any glazed eyeballs, and I held up really well during the Q&A.  The chair, Dr. Eyring, (and also my professor), asked the most difficult question.  After the panel, my mom said, "Honey, you did a really good job not answering Dr. Eyring's question.)

I am really happy with the experience, and I learned so much from scholars who shared their research and were actually interested (or pretended to be) in my studies. The BYU professor who organized the conference told me this week that I was born for this field, which only complicated the plans for my future even more.

And stay tuned for more about my thesis.  The game is on!

Wednesday, January 4, 2017

2016 — Top Ten.

When I hear people talk about 2016, they mostly discuss the people who died and the people who were elected.  And then they look sad, or angry, or disgusted, or nauseous.  But my year was great, and I loved everything that I learned, the good people I met, the new places I visited, and the time I spent with my family.  I especially loved the time I spent with my family.  Living in Utah has enabled me to visit my parents often, which is something that I've needed while trying to figure out my way.  But anyway, here's my top ten for 2016.

1 - Ditching the YSA ward.  Normally, I'm not an advocate of ditching any ward, and I prefer to think of myself as a finisher.  But this ward really wasn't my cup of tea, so I joined my family ward in Ephraim.  To say that the experience has been great is an understatement.  I love the leadership, and some of the people that I've met have become my best friends.

2 - Resuming counseling.  I've always been skeptical about counseling.  I've wondered if it has actually helped me, even though it's supposed to be the healthy thing to do.  When I first met my counselor, she said, "This is a safe place.  If you swear, I won't even blink an eye."  And then I knew things would be okay.  She's helped me realize that, for the most part, my life is clean and well-managed, but there are still some monsters under the rug that I've been ignoring.

3 - The book. My counselor also recommended this book: Weakness is Not Sin: The Liberating Distinction That Awakens Our Strengths by Wendy Ulrich.  The title is corny, and I don't frequent these kinds of books often, but I sing praises for this one.

4 - Disney.  My family went to Disneyland in April.  It was magical, of course, and seeing the parades even made me emotional, which is a big deal because I don't cry at the opportune moments, and it makes people wonder if my heart is made of coal.   

5 - M*A*S*H.  It's rare when my dad and I find a show that we can watch together.  If he happens to settle down to watch some TV, you can expect to hear snarky comments like, "How convenient that the bullets hit everything except the target" or "There is no way she could wear those inappropriate clothes in a professional environment."  Luckily, Dad likes M*A*S*H, and I like it too, and it's become a sort of ritual for us to watch a few episodes when I come home.

6 - Fishing.  I've taken up fishing, and I like to go with my Dad.  The first time we went, I caught a fish, but the hook was stuck pretty good in its mouth.  Usually, Dad can maneuver the hook out, but this time, he told me to close my eyes as he ripped the hook from the fish.  He neglected to tell me to cover ears, and the noise was so revolting that I immediately felt nauseous.  But I'm a pro, now.

I can't resist sharing this again.  Isn't that view just perfect?

7 - Road Trip.  In mid-July I visited Yosemite, San Francisco, the Redwood Forest, Lassen Volcanic Park, and Mammoth Lake with my parents.  The views were breathtaking, I got to spend time with my parents, we ate some good food, and it was determined that my music playlists are excellent.

8 - Elton John.  In October my mom and I drove to Las Vegas to see Elton John perform at the Colosseum.  This night had been highly anticipated for months, and I was not disappointed in the least.  He sounded great, his band members were great, and he wore a sparkly, pink suit coat.  I'm trying to convince my family to go again in February.

9 - Christmas.  It's not often that our whole family gets to spend time together.  Everybody came during Christmastime, and it was good to see the nephews and secure my standing as the greatest aunt ever. 

10 - Thesis.  Here's my plug-in for school.  I love my program and my research.  Working on my thesis has been stressful, to say the least, but so rewarding.  I told my chair that I've learned more about writing from my thesis than from all of the coursework I've completed.  This Christmas break, I've mapped out a writing schedule so that my thesis will continue to move forward.

Proof of my writing regimen.  And yes, that dog is real and sleeps like that. 
 And a former student sent me a brilliant meme that encapsulates my experience:

2016 has been a good year, and I'm excited and terrified for 2017.  I like having a plan, and last year, my plan was clear—to progress through my school program.  But 2017 means that I'll be graduating, and after that, my life looks like a large, blank space that mocks me and blows raspberries in my face.  Until then, I send prayers heavenward that God will just tell me exactly what to do and how to do it because sometimes agency is a bother.