On the road

The Snork Maiden and I leave early tomorrow for her music camp, so today is about Doing All the Things.  We’re supposed to go to a barbecue at the home of two of the trivia-team members later this afternoon; I’d love to leave two neatly packed suitcases and all the other things ready to go into the car.

Right now, I’m going to head to the library, pick up one book I have on hold, and find a couple of books on CD for the long drives.  I have my eye on A Tale of Two Cities, which I’ve never read, and on Will in the World, which I saw at a branch I don’t go to very often.  Tale of Two Cities also dovetails with the Snork Maiden’s European history curriculum for next year, but I don’t know whether she’ll be interested.

I still have five pending holds, but I think the chances are very small that they will come in while we’re away.  (There’s a penalty for not picking up your holds.)  They include Donna Tartt’s The Goldfinch (256 people ahead of me) and Roz Chast’s Can’t We Talk about Something More Pleasant? (63 people ahead of me).  There are way more copies of The Goldfinch in the system, though.

(As you can probably guess, I’m back to reading.)

Empty mansions

Still in the week of reading deprivation, I’ve been pretty cheerful so far for someone who isn’t allowed to do something that she loves to do.  The first night was hard at bedtime.  I’m so used to winding down with a book.  Even in the middle of the school year, when I might not have a book going, I always have books to reread beside the bed.  It took a long time to fall asleep that night, and I had vivid, strange dreams.

I’m so glad that I decluttered for a week before starting the reading deprivation, because I can actually sit at ease in my bedroom or in the front room of the house without feeling stressed out by the clutter.  Right now, I’m sitting in the TV area–which is also fairly tidy, thanks to the Snork Maiden–watching the Major League Baseball All-Star game.  Normally I never turn on the TV just to relax or for something to do, but I’ve done it a couple of times so far.  I watched Jeopardy! yesterday, inspired in part by our trivia experiences.

What else?  I have continued doing the things I’ve been doing this summer–exercise, professional stuff, school stuff.  I haven’t written more the last couple of days.  I’ve been somewhat more present for Stubb and the Snork Maiden, I think–less absent/abstracted.  I have slipped a few times–just a quick article here or checking a favorite blog there–but only briefly.  I do feel more present in my life, aware that I have not turned over part of my attention to a parallel universe.  Not just mentally more aware, but physically as well.


A reading of life

So while I know I’ve mentioned writing Morning Pages for the last six months, I don’t think I have mentioned that I decided to embark on the twelve-week program of The Artist’s Way.  I am giving myself permission to do it in a fairly haphazard manner, but I’ve gotten a lot out of it nevertheless, even in just a few weeks.  It has probably helped that I have liked the practice of Morning Pages so much.

I’m now in Week 4, the week of reading deprivation.  I hadn’t heard of this aspect of the program before Jackie commented on it on this post, at which time it sounded terribly daunting.  It is terribly daunting.  Cameron says most people resist it and claim they can’t possibly stop reading for a week.  I think it helps me that I’ve been binge-reading so much for the past month–I’m aware of how much I’ve been disappearing into books, and how much easier it is to read than to do so many other things.

This is a good week to do it, too, as I have a lot of stuff to take care of before we go away:

  • manuscript #2 revision push (had a little breakthrough on this and am aiming for a full revision by August 16)
  • a new poem slouching toward Bethlehem to be born
  • house and life stuff (continued decluttering, bills, try to get a better deal on car insurance, fill out the remaining forms on the medical-information website SA is now using to track students’ health and emergency info)
  • social stuff (lunch with someone for whom I used to TA, in town working at Fancy Research Library–although we might meet at GU instead; one more trivia night; a couple of engagements for the Snork Maiden; trying to get together with Elinor while she’s in town)

It feels very weird not to be able to default to picking up a book.  It feels different inside my head.  I think this is probably a good thing.

I do need to take about eight books back to the library, some of which I never got very far into, but that’s really okay.


Missing links

I’ve been seeing a lot of “link roundup” posts on the blogs I am now following in The Old Reader, and I realize that like so much else about this blog, a link roundup now and then would probably of even more use to me than it would be to my readers.  So here are some things I’ve liked recently.  I have a feeling that some of them came via nicoleandmaggie.  I’ll try to keep better track in future.

Recite lets you turn quotations (or any text) into an eye-catching graphic to share or download.  I’ve seen some of these on Facebook, but I didn’t know where they were coming from.  Here’s one I made:


People are more resistant to unlearning bogus grammar ‘rules’ than they are to being told (or telling others) which rules to follow.

Collecting questions and answers.

Infographics of your life.  (On sale right now.)

Mezzo Cammin Women Poets Timeline Project. 

Why the forty-hour workweek?  This is why.

Beware of precrastination.

You need more than a week to straighten out your life.

The open boat

Just a few of the nice things that have happened this week.  There are things that are frustrating or difficult, but overall it’s been a good week, and I’m grateful for it:

I’ve been writing something new.

interestingsI read The Interestings and I absolutely agree with Dr. Crazy that this is an excellent novel.  It’s good at every level: the small, accurate, illuminating observation; the management of the narrative (there’s some moving back and forth in time that is incredibly deftly managed); the development of the characters; the big human ideas of it.  So satisfying.  And deep and human and compassionate.

I went to Fancy Research Library with Dr. Tea and had lunch with Orsino.  And despite the fact that these are two people who are struggling through very difficult times in their lives for different reasons, we had a good time.  It was so lovely to spend time with them both away from school.  The discussion was heavy in places, light in places, and it was all OK.  I am really glad the two of them have become friends.  Orsino’s coming to SA has been great for Dr. Tea in this first year of her not being chair; she’s had so much to offer him as a mentor/colleague, and they have both gotten a lot out of being able to talk with each other about things literary and institutional.  (With Viola gone, they are now the two members of the department with Ph.Ds, and they are definitely the most scholarly and intellectual.)  I am much closer to her than I am to him, particularly because of course I am his department chair, but I like him so much: he’s a very good teacher, and he has a degree of emotional intelligence that I absolutely did not expect but which is so great to have in a colleague.

Our team won at trivia again.  We’ll be able to go back one more week and then we’ll all be away for a week except for Stubb and one other guy.  I’ll be away for two weeks, but I hope to go when the Snork Maiden and I get back from Chicago in August.

I have spent about 10 hours over the past week on decluttering, and our bedroom, the hall closet, the bathroom, the front closet, and half the front room look really nice.  The other half of the front room is that kind of disaster that you get when you pull out all the books and other stuff that was jammed into the bookshelves.  However, part of today will be given over to remedying that.

The Snork Maiden is going out with my sister this evening, and Stubb and I will have a little date of our own.


Going back

Making a library run this morning and returning the following books unfinished:

woolfMrs. Woolf and the Servants by Alison Light.  A really interesting book about Virginia Woolf and the servants on whom she depended all her life.  Woolf’s dismissive comments about the working classes, including the people who worked for her and her family, have driven a wedge between Woolf and some of her readers, and this book feels like attention paid where it needed to be paid.  If I had world enough and time, or if I were a Woolf scholar or more of a devotee, I would absolutely finish reading it, but having renewed it once, I’m admitting that I probably never will.

dolphinThe Dolphin Way: A Parent’s Guide to Raising Happy, Healthy, Motivated Kids–Without Turning into a Tiger by Shimi Kang, M.D. Absolutely nothing wrong with this cheerful, encouraging book about not being either a completely nuts or a completely checked-out parent.  But also just not engaging enough to keep reading for the same point to be made over and over again.  A better read in a similar vein is Wendy Mogel’s  The Blessing of a Skinned Knee and its companion volume for parents of teenagers, The Blessing of a B-Minus.  Or, as I’ve mentioned here before, one of Mike Riera’s books.

wildmertonI’m not saying I’ll never return to Thomas Merton’s The Seven Storey Mountain.  It is one of those books I expect to read some day if I live long enough.  It’s just not going to be this summer, I guess.  I did get far enough into it to have some possibly unrealistic expectations about spiritual autobiography set up for me when I listened to Wild on CD.  Strayed was writing a different kind of book and I did end up being pretty compelled by the story she was telling.  I guess it would have been hard for the book to have lived up to the level of bestsellerdom it has achieved.  Also, the reader’s voice never stopped being just a little bit irritating–there was a little too much character in it.  I would rather have heard either the author’s voice, I think, or a more neutral voice that did not try to “do” the voices in dialogue.  A great byproduct of having listened to Wild is that I went back to Strayed’s “Dear Sugar” columns at The Rumpus.  I love advice columns, but in the past I haven’t had much patience for the long, discursive replies from Sugar.  Now, with her style more firmly fixed in my mind–although the voice of Wild is pitched to sound more like the voice of the young woman she was at the time of her hike along the Pacific Crest Trail–I find I’m more interested and have been enjoying reading them one or two at a time.

Novel on yellow paper

JaneB’s post “A Lists Post (probably tedious, definitely insane)” does not strike me as insane at all.  In fact, I’m half faint with admiration and half fired up to plan out my remaining summer time as meticulously as she has here!

Although I have observed in the past that I needed to let go of the idea that I have “summers off,” as it leads to frustration when I don’t, in fact, have them off-off, I have been enjoying this one very much, and it has felt significantly more off than my summers have since I started this blog in 2007.  On July 4, actually, which I’d forgotten!  And part of the pleasure actually is in doing things in anticipation of the next school year.  I’ve had some correspondence with our two new Upper School teachers, and several conversations with Penelope about scheduling, and lots of musing about what happened this year and what I want to do next year.

I have also had fun.  We went back to the trivia night and won again, although less handily this time as there was another very strong team.  FLS had a Fourth of July party that was probably the most fun I’ve had at a large party in years.  And I’ve already written about the trip to see PymFan and the visit with Bardiac.  Other treats are coming up; for example, Dr. Tea and I are planning to go over to Fancy Research Library and have lunch with Orsino, who is working on his book.  I urged him to apply for some support from SA to do this, even though he’d be doing it anyway and the only real expenses are lunches and parking.  When he added up all those lunches and parking, though, it came to over $1000, and he got the money.  I was so pleased about this, and I think he was too.

Now that we’re into the second week of July, though, I can hear the clock ticking.  I have pulled out the Yellow Legal Pads of Planning–I use these constantly during the school year, not so much the last few weeks.  Inspired by JaneB, I reckon that I have:

  • two weeks living at home, writing, doing some school work, and decluttering (more about this another time).  Then I take the Snork Maiden to music camp and have
  • several days of flexibility; I could come back home for part of it, or I could stay in the area and see friends and write and have time alone and get ready for
  • several days of conference, after which she and I come home for maybe 36 hours and then spend
  • a few days in Chicago, followed by
  • five days of recovery, laundry, regrouping.  Class prep should begin in earnest now, although I will have done a number of bits of work through the summer that will contribute; at this point I will have my actual schedule and class rosters and so on.  Then,
  • a week in which I teach college essay workshops to the seniors and do other ramping-up stuff, including with the new English faculty.  Not as intensive as a regular teaching week, and more flexible, but definitely Going Back.
  • The week of faculty development, meetings, classroom setup, prep, and more meetings.  And that’s it: school begins the following Monday.

I am inspired further by JaneB to begin to get organized about the reading and planning for this year’s courses, and also for some of the fall deadlines for submissions.  Small units of time spent now will pay off later, and all that.  I already have a long list for Monday (it’s late Sunday night as I write this).  I hope you have a good week, reader!


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