The Accidental Philologist

Seeking Simplicity, Humility, and Fortitude, in and out of the Academy

New Directions

I haven’t been writing much recently, in part because I have Moomin and had the dissertation to distract me. I also haven’t been writing much because I haven’t had a strong sense of the goal or purpose of this project, and I’ve spent long enough in academia that I don’t much like writing without an organized purpose. Over the past few days, though, I have been pondering re-opening it in order to provide some structure for something I have been thinking about, and this morning’s homily on St. Francis (today was the ordination anniversary of the priest in charge of the seminary where I’ve been teaching Latin) encouraged me.

So, here are the goals: Simplicity. Humility. Fortitude. Detachment. Charity. Yes– basic Christian virtues, all things lacking in my life, both in ‘real life’ and in my work. Some of these come from financial necessity; some come from wanting to separate myself from a consumer culture that is contrary to both Christian Freedom and the responsible stewardship of creation. Humility and Fortitude (not to mention detachment) are useful virtues for any academic pondering the job market these days.

You would think that if I were going to foster simplicity in my life, giving up blogging entirely would be the more useful choice, but after twenty-four years in school I can hardly do anything without writing about it. I also want to keep myself both honest and thoughtful in the process. It’s nice to think someone might find the journey helpful, but then again– Humility! I shouldn’t expect anyone to read this much at all. I plan to post at least once a week, however, nevertheless.

To close, a few thoughts on some of the virtues I listed above:

Simplicity seems fairly clear. Like detachment, it suggests a distance from the constant manufactured needs that one encounters every day, and to a certain extent, that is exactly what I meant. What use have I for an iPad? However, I also refer to an emotional simplicity (and detachment)– distancing myself from the constant need for distraction, for updated news, for constant access, and through this, reclaiming my time and my focus. If I lived in a different religious and cultural milieu, I might call this “mindfulness.”

I’ve read a few books on minimalism as a life style, and that’s not really what I mean by simplicity. I’m not interested in reducing my library to ebooks on a Kindle, or wearing only one color. Besides, I have a nine month old. That said, the more I can reduce the amount that I have to dust (or we have to move), the better.

“My yoke is easy, and my burden is light” was the focus of the homily this morning. Ten years since my baptism, and while I’ve experienced many blessings in my light, I can’t say that those words have ever rung true. None of us are promised tomorrow, and I’ll not look back on my life wishing I’d spent more time wishing for a new purse or hitting “refresh” on Facebook.

It is time to set out into the deep water.

Pretty, Happy, Funny, and Real: Our Summer

Over the next few weeks, I’ll have to ponder what it really is that I want to do with this side project. It needs something of a redesign (I don’t really like that you have to click through to each post on the front page), and it’s never had much of a theme. I’m sure I’ll find time for that between teaching Latin, applying for postdocs, and taking care of our little Moomin. However, I didn’t want to let much time go by without checking in to let you know what was going on in our neck of the woods, and see what everyone else is up to in the Pretty, Happy, Funny, and Real link-up at Like Mother, Like Daughter.

In July, we took Moomin out West to see his father’s family. We’re very fortunate to come from very beautiful parts of the world– and my gentlemen aren’t too shabby looking, either.






I wish the focus were not off on this picture, but it still captures the essence of the Moomin-Great Grandpa mutual admiration society:


I was also pretty happy with these roasted pears with dried apricots and pistachios, from the most recent Cook’s Illustrated [September/October 2014], which I made for the feast of St. Augustine (ho ho ho):


I did manage to give myself a second degree burn because I forgot that my skillet had been in a hot oven. (Not pictured.)

Oh, the indignity of lifevests!


My son was not the only critter enjoying my father-in-law’s new hammock…


And, thanks to the teething of the past week, I present to you: a boy and his spoon.


Over the past week: he’ll never wear these clothes again!


He’s pulled himself up and is making a run for Thomas Aquinas…


And. Five hard copies, carried through the rain and delivered to my department, waiting to be defended in the new year:


Whew. What’s next?

A Doozy of a Work in Progress– Pretty, Happy, Funny, and Real

You knew that once I relieved myself of blogger guilt by going “on leave,” I would be back, right?

So, linking up with Like Mother, Like Daughter, because do I have a Work in Progress for you (not my dissertation.)

First, though, let’s look at the other items.


I bought myself some poppies for my work table, to keep me company as I write. (Why I am writing at my sewing table will shortly become very clear.)



Somebody’s toes are making him happy… he can almost reach his mouth! Almost!



In the absence of toes, however, either fingers or a squirrel will do.

DSC05007 DSC05003


Are you ready for this?


Yes, that’s a microfilm reader. My husband’s adviser loaned it to us so that I don’t have to go to the library to look at manuscript images.

Sharing a bedroom with our little darling is… no longer working very well, and I suspect that it is only going to get worse. So, in a desperate move to make ourselves ready to move him into his own room, we are transforming this room into a nursery. Today I cleaned out the hall closet, so that we can be rid of an excess bookshelf we’ve used to store various household staples and cleaning supplies. Books are going to go… into the living room? Some we may pack up, if we aren’t planning to use them before the move we are planning in December. I suppose we’ll be scanning old notes and articles. The bins of yarn and fabric? The printer? The… I don’t even know. There are too many things.

I must admit I’m looking forward to not having to creep into bed in a dark room, trying hard not to bang my shins on the crib, though.

On Leave

This will probably not surprise you, but in order to make myself stop feeling guilty, I thought I’d stop by to say that I’m taking a break from blogging in order to focus on my New Year’s Resolutions, which were:

1) Keep Small Human Alive
2) Finish Thesis.

I’ve drawn up a writing schedule (allowing for a wedding, a conference, and a two-week vacation back home) which should have a complete draft done by the Feast of St. Augustine (August 28th). Pray for me!

In the meantime– Happy Easter, and don’t leave your sunglasses at our apartment.



In Which I Dump More Baby Photos On You- [P, H, F, R]

(Linking up with Like Mother, Like Daughter to focus on my contentment, in the midst of the hard things.)

Somebody turns three months old on Sunday! And, well, this post is mostly going to be pictures of him, because if I wait to take pictures of the pizza my husband is making for [happy] and our attempt to keep a log of our son’s non-napping habits for [real], this post will never be written. So.


A large hawk came to sit among the lacework of the branches.



Smiling, even at the end of a long day.



This face:


and Real

Since it’s impossible to take pictures of non-existent things (like naps,) have some failed father-son portraits:



In the field of making things, we’ve figured out how to fit a full-size crib into our apartment just in time for our rapidly-growing boy, so I’m thinking about crib sheets. Indeed, I’ve already picked out the fabric I want, I’m just waiting (and waiting…) for the online store to get back to me about whether or not the pattern I was thinking of using for a crib skirt runs parallel to the selvedge. Come on, people. I want to give you money.

Hard At Work



… and working on rolling!






Pretty, Happy, Funny, Real: More Baby Photos

Typing with one hand and linking up with Like Mother, Like Daughter… as one does.


My living room window on the coldest mornings



This picture of team tummy time makes my heart fill to bursting



I may be a bad mother to find this photo as funny as I do.



This was a challenge. I didn’t want to complain about the weather, and could hardly take a photo for my continuing breastfeeding complaints or the slowly lifting fog of postpartum anxiety, so, here you go:


Really grey (eyes), really beautiful, really worth it.

Seven Quick Takes With a Baby

I know it’s been a while, so I’m stealing time from my dissertation to give you all an update, and linking up with Jen at Conversion Diary for Seven Quick Takes, because… short, scattered thoughts? That’s about where my mind is at.

1. Someone is about two and a half pounds bigger than when you last saw him:


We’ve been to plenty of lactation consultants because I’ve found breastfeeding so uncomfortable, but it seems that my pain isn’t bothering him– he’s gaining an average of over forty grams a day.

2. The baptism was last Sunday, with my best friend from college and her husband standing as godparents. My father-in-law flew in for 36 hours to be at the ceremony, and several friends joined us for the afternoon service. I never got around to sewing any sort of baptismal garment, so we used the outfit my husband was baptized in. Doesn’t he look happy?


(Why did I think it was so important to fold that blanket just then? I don’t know.)

My mother brought us her baptismal gown, but… somehow in the rush of Christmas, we seem to have lost it.

3. I am getting occasional time to work on my dissertation. I had hoped to finish this chapter by the end of the month, but yesterday’s research session went slowly. I am in the depths of identifying sources for the text that I’m working on, and am in the middle of arguing (with myself, and with a book) about whether I think there was another source between my text and the works of the patristic fathers it cites. It’s like the worst kind of logic problem, interspersed with lots of switching between computer windows and drawing up tables in Word in order to compare paragraphs.

4. Our ravine out back has become infested by European Starlings, and now the only native birds we see are the Blue Jays. I’ve been fantasizing about a BB gun, but somebody else has her own suggestion for invasive species management:


5. One reason I disappeared for so long is that, just before the new year, the incision from the emergency cesarian (a story for another blog post) became infected. The part that opened is healing very well, but the every-other-day nursing visits to clean and dress the wound just mean that I have that much more on my plate, on top of the little baby.

I’m barely holding on to the sort of basic administrative things that have always made my brain shut down: apparently I forgot to pay an invoice for manuscript images, and I got a letter from the Government of Ontario due to some complication with my name, my immigration paperwork, and my application for Ontario health insurance.

All of that is for tomorrow, and self-bribery with a nice latte.

6. (^ Some nice cramming-of-two-takes-into-one up there)

Between nursing frustrations, thesis work, and the infection– with Christmas and my Birthday to underwrite the habit– I’ve eaten a truly astonishing amount of chocolate over the past few weeks. Thus far, the winner was some “Fruit and Nut Bark” I was given for my birthday from the ridiculously pretentious SOMA Chocolate of Toronto’s Distillery District. As someone not too given to unusual flavor combinations, I was a bit worried about a combination of milk chocolate, toffee, almonds, and dried fruit… but it was amazing. I’d put up with a lot of pretension for it.

7. I did not think the day would come when I would see this as the answer to a New York Times crossword puzzle:


Welcome, Moomin!

Arriving at 10:09 pm on Monday the 16th after a harrowing emergency c-section for which I was taken straight from triage (I said that it was harrowing), our perfect and beautiful little boy:





I’m still working through the many emotions that come with the frightening nature of the delivery, and I’m not quite sure whether writing out an account would do me good, or cause me to focus on it more than I should. There are still some aspects of the evening that neither of us can talk about without getting teary. I am, however, getting good medical care, and my mother is on her way to help us out– what with me in my post-surgical state.

I did want you to know that he’s here, he’s perfect, and that while the process of his arrival was not what we might have hoped, there were so many circumstances that had to come together to ensure that he would get here safely that I know your prayers helped.

Pretty, Happy, Funny, Real: 39 Weeks.

My OB cannot believe that I’m still pregnant. I even heard her telling that to the nurse after my appointment today: “I can’t believe she’s still pregnant!” She also said that the head was so low she wasn’t sure how I could walk. So.

So, since there’s no baby to show off, I’m afraid this will be rather cat-heavy.

Pretty. For Our Lady of Guadalupe (and some Christmas decoration), I pulled out the luminarias from our wedding reception. When I was a child, there used to be luminarias up and down either side of Dolores street on Christmas Eve. They were so magical. We still drive on Dolores every year (when I’m home) on our way to Christmas Eve dinner at my aunt and uncle’s, but they’re never there anymore.


“Those were such a brilliant idea on your part,” my husband just said to me.
“Well, they cameĀ  from Martha Stewart.”

Happy. I’m a little stuck on this one. Not that I’m not happy, but… there’s not much photographable. Do you want a photo of my husband’s knee and my report that I’m happy that he’s finally made it to a physiotherapist?

I am happy with how this photo turned out, though:


That’s what I’ve got. Well, I could give you a photo of the three and a half pages of thesis I wrote this morning, but I think you can agree that would be a little lame. Lamer than cat photos? maybe.

Funny. I laughed pretty hard when I woke up this morning and found this catnip mouse with its little feet up in the air:


Maybe I should embroider little “x” es over the eyes.Real. Our bags are packed… my OB didn’t want to give me a 40-week appointment. I insisted on making one anyway. At this point, I’m pretty sure I’m going to defy all predictions and go over.DSC03172


Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 55 other followers