October 29, 2011

It Should Not Snow in October

This will be a very quick post as I should get right back to working on that crazy project I have for school that I am tired of doing/talking/thinking about. I know that everyone I know is tired of hearing about it. Believe me, I wish I could have a life again and spend time with my friends and family.

To clarify, this project was advertised by the professor and previous students as the project that will make you cry every night and have a mental breakdown.  Well that is exactly what it is, so thank you for systematically planning depression into your students. It’s been a real joy. You have removed the ability for me to get anything done due to this anxiety that makes me want to do nothing but sleep and cry all of the time.

But no one has time for sleep or crying so we are all insomniac zombies roving around campus pumping shots of espresso into our Red Bulls. (Alternatively, I hear that another popular drink is “double brewed” coffee, where one uses coffee instead of water to make coffee.)  Although I don’t drink anything but water, I was advised to pick up a caffeine habit for 2 weeks. :D The class has a "happy hour" planned the minute class ends on the 9th. I'd rather just sleep.   

Things I look forward to once this project is dead and buried (November 9th 2011):

-Cleaning the House. Yes, the house is absolutely disgusting and I wish I could clean it. I would probably get more work done if I just cleaned it because it is very distracting. I should really do laundry too.  

-Spending time on my other assignments. I have a lot of other big assignments but this one is huge and has been head butting the other assignments out of the way so that I am turning in a lot of subpar papers. I feel like telling my professors: “I promise you, I’m not stupid.” Anxiety is killing my brain to the point that I can’t think of names, dates, places and simple words when I need them.  Professors who know me know that something is wrong but those who don’t know me probably just think that I am stupid. 

-Going out of the house. I have been confined to the house and the library. I have a collection of errands I need to go on and no hours to go. Even more, I’d love to get to do something fun.  Not having any fun makes living pretty crappy and probably feeds the unending cycle of anxiety.  

But back to snow, I am in earnest need of getting to the library and am not sure it will be possible with this storm. 

Snow on the skylight in the kitchen.

Snow in the back yard.

I know I should look at this as a time to relax and do something not school related, but I have so much to do that I constantly feel guilty when I am doing something not related to this project.Sorry about the quality of the photos, the lens on my camera got dirty at Cedar Creek so the photos are coming out a bit smeary until I figure out how to clean it.

October 25, 2011

MAR AAS Conference at Princeton

 I was lucky enough to attend the conference on "Human Rights and Social Injustice in Asia" held by the Mid-Atlantic Region Association for Asian Studies which was held at Princeton University last weekend.

The Mid-Atlantic Association for Asian Studies, is a chapter of the Association for Asian Studies which was founded in 1941 with the goal of increasing understanding between the United States and Asia.

One of the speakers was Gyan Prakash, author of Mumbai Fables, a history of the city of Mumbai written in vignettes. I am currently enjoying the book and will write a review of it when I am done. Unfortunately, I missed his presentation due to classes but am told that it was excellent. 

Some of the panels I attended were "Human Rights of Women in India," "A Philosophical Conversation on the Meaning of Life and Death," and "Comparative Philosophy of Religions." They were all very interesting and it was very enriching to be able to be part of the discussions. We saw presentations from two West Chester students about Eastern and Western philosophy that were very interesting. One explored the meditation traditions of Descartes and Shankara and the other arguments for the existence of God by Averroist philosophers. (Sitting in on the philosophy panel gave all of the history majors a bit of a chuckle just as if the philosophy majors sat in on some history ones.)   

We spent a good deal of time when we weren't at the conference exploring the campus and town. The campus was very pretty especially with the fall leaves. We explored the local stores and hangouts and ate dinner together at Mediterra. We ate outside the restaurant and the setting was beautiful but I do have to admit that the food must have been above my palate. I thought the menu was scant and the food rather plain. We did have a great time, good company overshadows a lack of good food.  
Us students and our professor.

I am glad that I am back I have tons of schoolwork to complete and many mid-terms to study for.

October 21, 2011

The Valley of the Shadow and other Civil War Diaries and Letters

        "April 26.
Been busy making knapsacks for rebel troopers. Ladies here cutting out and making uniforms for the Churchville Cavalry Company. Work at Odd Fellow's Hall early and late. Mr. Arnold was formerly a tailor and helps night and day. " - Alansa Rounds Sterrett of Augusta County, VA

The Valley of the Shadow project started out as a book entitles In the Presence of Mine Enemies. The research that went into the book is so interesting and useful that it has been digitized for the world to access. It contains Civil War Era letters,diaries, newspapers, census records ect. from Franklin County, PA and Augusta County, VA. It includes documents from men, women, soldiers, and gives a very well rounded account of both Counties.  It is completely searchable and a real joy to peruse.  
"June 23, 2863
 The Reb's have been cutting up high. Sawed down telegraph poles, destroyed the scotland bridge again took possession of the warehouses & were dealing out flour by the barrel & mollasses by the bucket ful--They made people take them bread--meat--&c to eat--Some dumb fools carried them jellies & the like--Not a thing went from this place." -Rachel  Cormany of Franklin County, PA

Visit the site here: The Valley of the Shadow

Other sites that archive Civil War Era letters and diaries:

-Letters from an Iowa Soldier in the Civil War :These letters are from Newton Robert Scott a Private in   Company A, of the 36th Infantry, Iowa Volunteers, to his friend at home, Hannah Cone.
-"My Precious Loulie...": Love letters of the Civil War: These letters are digitized as part of the Special Collections of Virginia Tech.
-The Civil War Archive: Letters Home from the Civil War: This site contains submitted letters of soldiers from both sides of the conflict. 
-Letters About the Civil War: A few collections of letters.
-Letters from the American Civil War: Scans of letters and envelopes. This is great if you want to examine envelopes, writing materials or handwriting.

I love reading old journals, diaries and letters. It's not only a window to the past but a window to one soul. It really makes you think about the generalizations we make in history. Life is more complex than that and we shouldn't lose sight of that even if we are trying to make information more palatable. Hope you enjoy the links and the Valley of the Shadow project. I personally think that it is like an early birthday present. :D 

**Note: I really am hating Blogger's new image viewer. It doesn't let you zoom and puts all the photos on a black background. If you would like to view a picture the old way and zoom in, left click on the image and click "open in new tab."

October 18, 2011

Gone With the Wind: Cedar Creek Reenactment 2011

Whew! Was this a tiring event. While it was not as cold as previous years, it was windy! So windy that tent poles were flying and hats were impossible. Our tent collapsed, and we had to pile stuff on it to keep us from sailing away to Yankee camp.

I had so much schoolwork to do that I really should not have gone but felt that I really needed to take a break and was looking forward to seeing reenacting friends that I don't normally get to see. Unfortunately, I didn't see any of them! We were camped in a spot that we had never been camped in before and it seems we were all scattered when we are normally pretty close together. I also spent quite a bit of time writing a paper, that I will post about in a few weeks. :D I didn't get to see the battles but I saw a little bit in passing.

So I didn't host the annual Cedar Creek Tea Party/Get Together that I normally try to. I had no time to bake or plan and just had to accept it. In the future I would love to collaborate and make the tea a bit more of an official event. That way I can share planning and people can bring dainties they like. The Cedar Creek Tea party was started to give ladies something to do while the men are off drilling and to foster relationships with other groups. It's unfortunate that as groups we tend to stick to ourselves and not plan time to hang out with other groups. 

The stars on the battlefield are always really beautiful. The stars are so dense and numerous. You can practically see twice the amount of stars at night than you can see here. It is a late event too so the skies tend to be clear and bright. The event was sandwiched between two meteor showers so we could see a few meteors here and there.

 We finally had our tintype taken! I can't wait to see how it turns out. When we get them in the mail, I will post them. The photographer was about to take the photo, when a group of cavalry ran through right behind us. We were lucky, he didn't remove the cap yet.

Overall, we did have fun and I'm glad that I went.

October 14, 2011

Guest Post: Mrs. J and Miss J from Artful Trillium

Mrs. J and Miss J are a Christian mother-daughter team who make homemade cards that are inspired by their ancestor's antique quilt designs. Their card designs are very cute and could easily be adapted for a lot of different occasions, such as birthdays or weddings.

"Growing up we heard a lot of antebellum stories.  My aunt had quilt top designs for Southern Belles that she passed down to me.  I made some changes to the designs so I could use them to put on the front of cards.  My daughter and I printed some off for coloring with color pencils.  I made others almost like paper dolls and cut patterns from scrapbook paper, handmade paper, fabrics catalog and from stiffen fabric, gluing them together then placing on the card fronts with other embellishments.  For some we made up stories of what inspired us to make the card front.
This is the link to the set of Southern Belles cards and patterns: http://artfultrillium.blogspot.com/search/label/Southern%20Belle"

They make their patterns available online for free at their blog Artful Trillium.

They do ask that you consider making cards for Operation Write Home®, which is an organization that collects homemade cards and send them to soldiers overseas so that they can write home to their families. It is hard for some soldiers overseas to get cards to write home so they appreciate it very much. Be sure to visit their blog and take a look at their beautiful paper sculptures and cards.

October 10, 2011

I Feel Like I Made the Wrong Choice

The first year was fun; it was just like high school. The second year was fun too. The third year started to get irritating and now I have no life.  The more I think about it, the more I feel like I made the wrong choice by choosing college. The assignments are arbitrary but time consuming, the class material is nothing new and some of the students are frequently as informed as the professors. It’s unnecessarily stressful and meaningless and primarily a business.


I want to be a researcher, but I feel college has poorly prepared me for this occupation. In an effort to make us more “well rounded” it has limited our usefulness. Instead of developing a collection of skills that may be useful in the history field we are practically turned into one-trick ponies. Our degrees are so limiting when they should be opening opportunities for us.  I am disappointed that a history degree does not even touch on archiving, artifact conservation, transcription, or writing history.  Shouldn’t we be prepared for things we might encounter in history-based occupations?  Instead we have to pay extra money and spend more time to develop these skills in other ways.  

Not only do I spend a majority of my time on meaningless school related tasks but I see all of the things that I can’t do because I chose college instead. I wish I had more time to spend with my family and friends. I see the beautiful works of art, costumes, and writings of my friends and wish I just stayed home. I do these things when I can, but it is slow going. I feel like I am never accomplishing anything and have nothing to be proud of. College is pretty monomaniacal; I wish I could develop my other talents and explore my other interests too.  

Then I think of all of the things I can’t do because I have student loans.  It is my goal in life to travel and do volunteer work. But, by the time my student loans are paid off, I will probably be too established in one area to pick up my life and move frequently.

Many people talk about the great experiences that they had in college but I haven’t had a particularly enriching college experience. I also think that if I had $5,000+ to spend each year on great experiences, I would wager that I could probably come up with some pretty enriching experiences. I do love history and researching but did I make the right choice? These sacrifices are the things that no one ever tells you about and unfortunately, I won't know for sure whether I made the right choice until years after I graduate. 

***The photos were from a recent trip to Valley Forge National Historic Park which was part of a college assignment but was welcome because it gave Andy and I some time to hang out and spend some time outside, which college hasn't been allowing a lot of time for.         

October 4, 2011

How to Make Corn Husk Dolls

At work I got the rare chance to try my hand at the Native American craft of corn husk doll making. The English were first introduced to dolls made out of corn during an 1585 expedition in Virginia. It seems that the English preferred rag dolls but that corn husk dolls were numerous among many Native civilizations. 

Soak the husks for 5-10 minutes to make them pliable.

Make a stack out of four husks and tie a string around the husks around an inch from the top.

Divide the husks into two sections, with two leaves on both sides.

Fold one side over. 

Tie a string around the bulge to make the head.

 Cut a piece of husk in half longways. Roll it up and tie both end up to create the arms.

Lift up the front two husks and insert the arms in. 

 Put the husks back down.

 Tie a string under the arms to hold them in. From this stage you can vary the doll in many ways. if you cut the front husk a little smaller than the rest, it will appear that the doll is wearing an apron. If you cut a vertical line from the bottom of the dress up to the bottom string, you can tie off "legs" and make a boy.

Watercolor painted by John White on his expedition to Virginia in 1585. It depicts a little girl playing with an English doll, which was part of a series of trinkets given to the Native Americans that Sir Walter Raleigh's men encountered. It was reported that all of the the Natives were "greatlye Dilighted with puppetts, and babes which wear brought oute of England." 

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