Tuesday, December 30, 2008

One last dispatch from 2008

I'm writing this from a Starbucks in Texas, because my parents are still on dialup and one whole week without internet access was making me just a leeetle bit crazy.
After passing my exam not quite two weeks ago, I promptly went to sleep, got snowed in by a rogue snowstorm, and headed home to Houston, where temperatures have ranged from the low 30s to the 70s. It is really hard to pack for this kind of weather, but since I haven't worn a coat since I got here, I can't complain too much.
I've very much enjoyed being home for a while. It's always good to catch up with family and friends, and it was sort of reassuring to see that while there's still plenty of clean up from Ike left to do, Houston is well on its way back to something resembling normal. The marina near our house has boats where boats shouldn't be (the parking lot, the median by the road, etc.) and there are plenty of blue tarps dotting the roofs around here, but things look good overall. It's very relaxing to be home. I've been catching up on my sleeping, reading, and knitting, and have been trying out my mom's big Christmas present -- a Kitchen-Aid mixer (I'm a little jealous, but there's no way I could fit one in my apartment's kitchen, so I'm just mixing everything in sight while I'm here instead.)
Christmas was really nice. I am now well-armed with a variety of fun books, as opposed to books for my exams, and am doing my best to read as much as I can before I go back to New York and have to start studying again. I'm supposed to squeeze two exams in this next semester. Blech. I want to try and keep up with making a reading list this year. It may look like I slacked off on the list this year, but actually I just never got much of a chance to read for fun after about August or so.
I've also been knitting like a madwoman, mostly on my dad's socks, which I am determined to finish before I head back east on Saturday. I've currently got one-and-a-half socks and see no reason why I can't finish them before the end of the year.
And since the baby in question has made her appearance, I thought I'd share the baby gift I knit for my friend S's little girl.
Baby gift
That's a Tender Blankie (Thanks Wife, Mom, Knitter for alerting me to this pattern), a baby hat from the first Stitch n' Bitch book, and baby ballet slippers that I made up from a bunch of different baby shoe designs. I'll try and get the details up on Ravelry when I get back to New York. Here's a closeup of the shoes.
Ballet Slippers
I think they turned out pretty well.
Well, I have to leave the coffee shop (and their speedy internet access) to go pick up my mom so we can go do our part to revitalize the economy. I don't expect that I'll get back online much until I get back to New York, so I'll close by wishing everyone a very happy new year. I, for one, will be glad to see the end of 2008.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Merry Christmas to Me!

I passed the exam.

I can't tell you how relieved I was the minute they told me. I didn't know how much stress I was carrying around until it was gone. It feels so nice to be free of it all, just for a day or two. It's a little hard to stop smiling.

I took the written exam on Tuesday and had my oral this afternoon. The written part was every bit as excruciating as I had thought it would be. I thought three hours would be a long time, but it seemed to go by so quickly and before I knew it I was handing in my paper. I managed to churn out 8 double-spaced pages of my (more or less coherent) thoughts on the progression of geographic influences on the design and production of American decorative arts from 1600 to 1900. I stumbled home (through the snow!) ate some dinner and tried (unsuccessfully) to get to sleep.

Today during the oral part, my professors had a few questions about what I'd written, and then we moved on to the slides. They put up pictures of different objects and I had to talk about them. There were a few where I didn't quite get everything (despite my best efforts, I still have no real idea of how clocks work), but I did pretty well on that part overall. And in a stroke of incredible luck, several things that were in the last few books I read ended up being on the exam. I'm so glad I crammed them in. And cramming is what it felt like -- I really did feel like I had run out of room in my brain. I don't know how I'm going to be able to do this two more times.
So we chatted about andirons and quilts and retablos and Louis Comfort Tiffany's dining room, and then it was over!

And luckily for me, the school holiday party was this evening. It's almost like they threw it just for me. I won't lie, it was really, really nice to get congratulated by everyone. This has felt like a pretty lonely endeavor sometimes, so it was nice to have a social event to cap it off.
Now I'm home in my pjs, cup of cocoa in hand, and I just feel so relaxed. Tonight will be the first night in weeks that I haven't gone to bed worrying about this thing. And tomorrow, I'm going to the library to clear all the books for my exam off of my shelf. That will be a very cathartic experience.

Now that I'm temporarily sane again, hopefully I can be a little more present here on this blog, and in the comments of all of yours. Who knows, I might even show off a little knitting in the days to come. (Wouldn't that be a shock!)

Monday, December 01, 2008

It's Alive! (Post-Thanksgiving Edition)

Just a quick note to say that studying for my qualifying exam has not killed me yet. I am alive and mostly well (except for a cold -- the third this fall), and hope to see the light sometime after December 16, which is the date of the big exam (both the written, and, hopefully, the oral). A date that is approaching a little too rapidly for my tastes. I'm taking my first subject field in American Decorative Arts, 1600-1900, which is an area I have been working on for the last eight years. It's not the material itself that is the problem, it's trying to decide which bits are worth remembering that is worrisome. I am encouraged by the fact that very little of the material is new to me, and also by the fact that my bullshitting improvisational skills are pretty considerable.

I don't think I'll be around much until then, but I hope I'll be back with good news. Wish me luck!