Archive for the ‘summer’ Category

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.


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.


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!

The right and the power

It’s really easy not to use parentheses and em dashes if you don’t blog for a few days!  I’m back from my visit with PymFan, which was enormous fun.  We more than fulfilled our shared goal of sitting around and talking endlessly.  It was great to spend time with Mr. PymFan and the PymFan cats, too.  And I got to have lunch with a friend from high school with whom I only keep up in a very general way through Facebook; there, too, we were able to just plunge into a long conversation about work and middle age and high school and teaching.

There is still more to talk about with PymFan, though, which is why I hope we can arrange more frequent visits in future.  It’s pretty much a 24-hour trip in each direction: drive six or seven hours one day, lay over somewhere, finish the drive the next day. We’re looking at the possibility of a midpoint meetup for next time.

Today I slept in and now I’m looking at a list of things that need to be done during business hours today before the long July 4 weekend.  I’ll be at SA for a couple of hours in there, dealing with this and that, and running a couple of errands on the way there and back: library, UPS place, etc. And a coffee with Dr. Tea (sounds like an oxymoron, doesn’t it).

We are all welcome here

Stubb and I went with two friends to a pub quiz night on Thursday, something new for us and quite a lot of fun!  This is a little bar and grill about a mile from us that hasn’t been open very long, so we were also motivated by wanting to support a new local business.  This was their first trivia night, with just three teams, but ours won!  The prize was a $30 gift certificate toward our next visit, so we’ll definitely go back.

On Friday, after some morning errands and whatnot, I head off for a few days to visit PymFan.  One of my priorities for this summer is to see friends, and she is one of the people I most want to see.  It’s an almost twelve-hour drive, which is why I don’t see her more often, but I’m also looking forward to the time alone in the car, thinking.  And when I get tired of thinking, I can listen to Cheryl Strayed’s Wild, which I got out of the library on CD.

Things fall apart

Maybe not so spectacularly by some measures, but I think this was the morning I hit bottom on everything.  I woke up from a dream, the details of which are lost, but which featured the graduating seniors walking away from some other people and me, their faces becoming blurs, waving happily goodbye as we called to them to wait a minute.

Seriously.  Could there be a more clichéd dream?

Bestfriend was over, and she and the Snork Maiden were sleeping in the back room where my desk is, so I didn’t write Morning Pages right away–I lay in bed for a while and listened to the incomprehensible plot of the play Stubb saw last night, and got up and made coffee and was crabby with everyone.

Then, at about nine, I decided it was too hot and sunny to run (I like to run early), and I ate a meal which I would characterize as a sensible breakfast followed by about two days’ worth of random snacking (I blame having bought Trader Joe’s “Handfuls of Breakfast” trail mix–I had a packet of that and then everything went downhill).  Then I glumly perused Facebook and the New York Times online and some of the other things I usually read, feeling utterly stagnant and useless.

Finally, at ten-forty, it occurred to me to just write the damn Morning Pages, and that seemed to get me going in a better direction: I did some straightening up, read something worthwhile, and felt like I was back in the saddle of the day.  Somewhat.

Funny thing is that yesterday was a pretty active day–writing, exercise, errands.  I ran an errand for Dr. Tea, which involved a trip to see another teacher who just had an operation (yay, summer vacation, it’s elective surgery time) and an unexpected but very nice lunch with that teacher.  I might have considered myself well launched into summer mode except for this morning’s collapse.

Now I’ve got to do some bits and pieces, and then I have, hooray, a massage.  And then taking dinner to the family of someone else in the SA community who has been very ill since April, but who is, thankfully, recovering.  So many people signed up to do this (via–very useful site) that even though I went to the website the same day I heard, today was the first day that was available to sign up for.  As I keep telling the Snork Maiden, the only good thing about this kind of bad thing is that you get so many opportunities to be reminded of how much people care about one another, how willing they are to help when someone’s in need.

Going in circles

Haven’t yet found my summer rhythm.

Aside from graduation, a couple of family events, and yesterday’s closing meeting and end-of-year lunch, the last few days have been mostly about binge-reading–lying on the bed devouring books without much thought or selectivity.  I’ve reread a few things, including Barbara Pym’s first novel, Some Tame Gazelle; two No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency books; and one of Hilma Wolitzer’s YA books from the seventies, Toby Lived Here (on an impulse after reading Dr. Crazy’s post raving about Meg Wolitzer’s The Interestings –and I took The Interestings out of the SA library last week for summer reading).  I’ve also read some new things, including Michelle Huneven’s new novel, Off Course, which I enjoyed very much. But it definitely is binge-reading–I’m barely tasting a lot of what I’m reading, I’m just burying my brain in it and not thinking about other things.  Today, Tuesday, is the first day I feel like I might be able to pick my head up and look around.  It is also exactly nine weeks before I return to the classroom to teach (a college essay workshop for seniors–they have a three-day session in August, the week before our opening meetings).

I’d like to preserve some elements of my school-year routine this summer.  I did Morning Pages and a run this morning–not as early as I have to during the school year, but early enough to feel like I’d gotten a jump on the day.  I have a growing list of fun stuff I want to do and a growing list of errands and tasks, but I want to preserve the morning hours for exercise and writing, and defer email and Facebook until later in the day, and plan my fun stuff and my errands for later in the day, too.


Ate that, what’s next?

shermanThe seam between the school year and summer is, once again, a jagged and lumpy one!  This week saw the last exams, the last class meetings, the last all-school assembly.  Today is the middle school graduation–which means we should stay off campus until the afternoon, unless we’re attending it–and tomorrow is the one for the high school.  Then, next week, meetings and tidying up the loose ends of the year and continuing plans for next year.

Back in November, I wrote that my feelings were a bit hurt by reading a Facebook comment by a senior boy: “nothing I do at Starfleet Academy matters anymore, I’m hardly learning anything (except in physics), and grades in particular don’t even matter now.”  What I probably should have added is that he had been one of the most engaged students I have ever met, a kid who took a very challenging program all through high school, played basketball, ran a wargaming society, and continued to read voraciously and take MOOCs just for fun. (He reads a lot of popular nonfiction; I remember a long discussion with him freshman year about Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother–he’s Asian American–and more recently about the virtues and flaws of Malcolm Gladwell.)  And from my end-of-year perspective, I think that he was reacting to the sense that one milestone–filing all the college applications–had been reached, and he wasn’t sure what that was going to mean to him: an is that all there is? moment Anyway, he absolutely didn’t check out; he stayed engaged with everything, he wrote a dynamite senior paper in English that we’re nominating for a national award, and he just ran his valedictorian speech for me and it almost made me cry, he was so sincere and thoughtful and funny and deeply affectionate toward the school and his classmates.  I’ll remember his Facebook comment, though, because it seems to be a true representation of what even the most terrific senior might be feeling along about mid-November.  (And I will continue to try to avoid seeing Facebook comments by current students.)

So anyway, today.  It’s an odd feeling, after so many weeks of powering through teaching and grading and administrative stuff and hiring and planning for next year, to suddenly…stop.  Today is an odd pause.  I wouldn’t go in to campus at all, except I think I have to later because I left my rental regalia in its plastic packaging in a file cabinet drawer, on top of this year’s final exams, and I should make at least the usual token attempt at ironing it before graduation tomorrow.

I’m picking up the Snork Maiden and then having lunch with FLS, which I’m looking forward to so much!  (Among my summer plans are plans to socialize more, at least in the low-key and uncrowded ways I most prefer.  More about those, I’m sure, fairly soon.)