The work is challenging, but it always has been. That's one of the things I like about teaching college students about writing.
I've been angsty, uncertain if this career choice was a mis-step.
I've been feeling disrespected. Many people who aren't teachers or don't live with teachers see the winter break and the summer months off, and think I have it easy. I've been told this, so I know there are people who think it.
Some people in my life have said that I work part time, despite teaching a 4-4 load, serving on two committees, and doing things like spending over 30 hours (last week) on grading.
I've been frustrated by students who don't read carefully, who don't follow instructions, and then behave badly when asked to resubmit work according to instructions.
As with most jobs, there are hundreds of ways to be discouraged. I'm not Mark Thackery or Erin Gruwell, yet there's a pervasive attitude that I should want to be them. I don't want to be them. I am a woman who loves the English language. I am a woman who is passionate for words, who has developed some skill at helping others name and control what they can do with words.
I get a reset button every semester. New faces. New chances to improve my teaching.
Yet, I've been angsty and uncertain.
Today, though, a young man came to see me during my office hours. His story of what he has been through as he's tried to bounce back from a bad semester, from bad decisions, from a horrible personal situation humbled me.
Then a young woman stopped in to thank me for offering her an extension on a project. She was upset, tears in her eyes during class earlier in the week. I asked to speak with her after class and told her that she didn't have to explain what was going on, but she should feel free to ask for an extension if she needed it. I don't think she knew she could do something like that. Today when she met with me, she looked me in the eyes for the first time. She had a conversation with me. Her gratitude humbled me.
I remembered the most important thing I should bring to my work.
I don't want to be the cranky professor who mutters "kids these days," and that is the direction I've been heading. The students who make me feel that way deserve grace, and I need to behave with grace towards them if I'm going to do my job and find the joy of it again.
What has reminded you to strive to work from a place of grace lately?
Like Carole, March has typically been my least favorite month. While it is far from my favorite (hey, there May! June! August! September! October! February!), I like it much more than I used to. Why? Let me tell you.
1. March Madness. The only sport I follow is men's college basketball, specifically, the UCONN Huskies. I take my brackets damn seriously.
2. Spring break. There's no similar break in the fall semester, nor do I feel the need for it. The week off (well, at least from being in the classroom. I collect papers right before break so the students don't have to spend their break working) is a chance for me to get caught up on grading and prepping.
3. Spring cleaning. I'm optimistic that there will be at least one day this month warm enough to open all the windows and let the crisp, fresh air flow into the house. I enjoy scrubbing away the winter's grime.
4. Lent. This time of reflection and discipline is powerful.
5. Melting snow. I'm not a fan of mud, which is the sad, sad result of melting snow, but I'm about done with looking at the white stuff.
Every now and then I enjoy taking a few hours to visit some of my favorite antique shops in the area. Most often, I'm window shopping, inspired by imagining the original owners of the variety of goodies I see. Now and again, I have a day when I find all sorts of wonders that I can't resist. Yesterday was a craft-themed day.
I found a trove of vintage knitting and crochet magazines. Pretty proud that I only brought four home. Aren't the covers fantastic?
I picked up the crochet hook in the same booth as the magazines. It was FILLED with vintage linens. I had to remind myself of the drawer full of my Gram's linens to keep from greedily snapping them up. The tag on the hook claims that is ivory, but I'm betting against that. Still, it is comfortable in my hand, especially for a size 1.
The box. Oh, the box. That was from another shop. It was labeled "tatting". I didn't look too carefully inside. I was drawn to it as though it had been placed on the shelf for me. Only once I got home did I investigate more fully.
I was gobsmacked to find a stack of hemstitched "blanks" partially made into a project. My mom recently wondered if such things were still available. I have linens edged by my Gram, and I wanted to copy some of her work. And look at this! The unfinished project of a crafter from days gone by, just waiting for me! It might take a while for me to decipher just how the original crafter created her joins, I'm psyched to give it a go.
Gram taught me to crochet doilies using similar crochet thread. It will be a return to my crafting roots to play with these supplies.
What supplies have you eager to get crafting?
*Last night Neal flipped through one of the vintage magazines in an effort to show interest in my finds. His question made me laugh until my stomach hurt. He was utterly sincere, utterly adorable!
Today's directive is to list Ten Favorite Non-Knitting Blogs. I'm excited to share some of my faves with you as well as learn about some new ones.
In no particular order:
1. Smitten Kitchen. I credit any skill I have in the kitchen to this blog. Over our SK-inspired dinner last night, Neal commented, "her recipes never fail you." He is so right about that!
2. Be More With Less. Courtney's brainchild, Project 333, has changed my life. Her approach to common sense and good living is thought provoking and delightful to read.
3. Les Mesaventures de... One of my dearest friends, the blogless-no-more Sara is now chronicling her move from a small Connecticut town to one of the most exciting cities on Earth. Follow her romance with the dashing Frenchman and her move to Paris. Once she's there, I've made it clear, she must blog almost daily so I won't miss her quite as much. (Okay, she does knit, but the blog is really about her move into this new life.)
4. Academichic. I love clothes. Clothes in academia fascinate me. These bloggers make wise sartorial choices, which can not often be said about academics!
5. Huffenglish. As a teacher, I love everything about Dana's blog. I have learned so much from her.
If I could give everyone a gift today, it would be a warm, sunny, summer day! This will have to do.
A History of Sorts
Most Christian holidays have a strong tie to ancient Pagan holidays, and St. Valentine's Day is no different. St. Valentine's biography is shrouded in mystery as is the case for so many saints. Depending on the source, he either continued to marry young lovers secretly after young men were forbidden by the Emperor to marry (he figured unmarried soldiers were better soldiers), or he strove to save Christians jailed and tortured by the Romans, curing the blindness the jailor's daughter and signing a note to her "from your Valentine".
Conversion is difficult when a culture has deeply cherished holidays of its own, and the ancient Christians understood that aligning their holy days with those already celebrated would help the cause. February 15 is the celebration of Lupercalia, a raucous fertility rite.
Now, February 14 is a day that carries a lot of weight. Expectations can run high, and wallets sometimes must run deep to meet those expectations. When I posed the question on Facebook "how do you feel about Valentine's Day" I was met with a lot of frustration: "Meh" said Jessalu. "Too much pressure for guys because the media creates unrealistic expectations in women," commented K-Dubs. "Stuff-n-Nonsense...but good for the restaurant business," said my pragmatic ex-SIL. "Huge bummer," was the comment of my Most Eligible Single Girlfriend (okay, I have a couple of those, but she was the one who replied). Rae called it a "waste of time, energy, and money." The commercials, as Jessalu noted, are enraging. How to combat the ridiculous notion that a woman needs something expensive to know she is loved?
A More Cheerful Look
But then Rae made another comment, one that speaks to how I feel about this day: "I do like the red and hearts in the middle of winter. Brightens things up a bit."
Kelley (we were in first grade together! Bet we exchanged plenty of little Valentine's Day cards in our day!) said, "If it is kept simple, it can be lovely," which was echoed by Therese (from Norway, where the holiday is not celebrated) "It's a nice tradition as long as we don't over do it."
Valentine's Day at Chez Golightly
Keeping it simple is how I like to celebrate Valentine's Day. Boy, oh, boy was Neal relieved the first year we were together on Valentine's Day. About a week before, I made sure to tell him that I didn't buy into what Kate called "the annually scheduled day of affection."
My birthday is less than a week before Valentine's Day. I have no need to be celebrated twice in one week (although I have high expectations for lots of love and surprises on my birthday). But Valentine's Day is not about one person celebrating the other. To my way of thinking, it is about celebrating connection. Celebrating all types of love the Greeks defined for us: Eros, Philia, and Agape.
I tell Neal I love him many times a day. I tell my siblings I love them when I chat or email with them. I tell my parents I love them every time I see or talk to them. I am not shy about telling my loved ones how I feel. I'll bet you are the same way. Why one day to "schedule" that affection, then?
I think Rae hit on it. Winter is long. The time between Christmas (or whatever you might celebrate in December) and Easter (or whatever you might celebrate in the spring) is long and dark. A little brightness, a little cheer doesn't hurt. What does hurt is feeling that one particular form of love must be expressed in a particular way on this particular day because we have been TOLD that it should be.
What if, instead, we all took the chance to bring a little joy and cheer to ourselves and our loved ones by giving them a little time, a little, sweet, sincere expression of love? Neal and I plan to exchange homemade Valentines this year (I've even written a poem for mine!), and I am going to cook a few new dishes that I know will give pleasure to us both. I'll bring a bag of sweet treats to school for my students and colleagues. I'll take a few moments from my day to cherish those around me.
You, dear reader, are one of those whom I cherish. Thank you for giving me a reason to write. Thank you for your comments and emails. Thank you for becoming a part of my world and letting me be a part of yours.
Happy Valentine's Day, all you little pieces of my heart! Kisses and cheer to you all!
I love Carole's tradition of watching all of the movies nominated for Best Picture each year. I can't remember the last movie I saw in the theater. I'm woefully behind on current movies. Luckily, though, this week's task is to select my Ten Favorite Oscar-Winning Films. Here are mine (sans links; I'm feeling lazy today) in my order of preference:
1. My Fair Lady (1964) Oh, when Audrey walks down the staircase dressed for the ball...takes my breath away every time.
2. On the Waterfront (1954) The most famous scene's most famous phrase was a joke when I was a kid. When I finally saw the film, though, I was flabbergasted by intensity and sorrow of the scene, and I've never joked about it since.
3. Gigi (1958) Thank Heaven, indeed.
4. It Happened One Night (1934) My biggest celebrity crush has always been on Clark Gable. So handsome and funny! Claudette Colbert (and her dead sexy legs) is a dish in this movie!
5. Gone with the Wind (1939) See #4 for crush information.
6. The Sound of Music (1965) I have no idea how many times I've seen it. I can sing along to every song, and I melt, melt melt when the Captain and Maria do that lovely little folk dance out on the patio. My, my!
7. The English Patient (1996)I saw this in the theater and was blown away by it. Naveen Andrews's raw
sex appeal didn't hurt!
8. Midnight Cowboy (1969)My buddy Ben insisted that I watch this one. I'm not a huge fan of movies from the late 60s/early 70s, mainly because of production aesthetics that irk me. I quickly moved past that to be impressed by a moving story.
9. The Sting (1973) My ex's uncle gave us this movie when he discovered I'd never seen it. This movie made me realize that I love a good caper!
10. Slumdog Millionaire (2008)I had no idea what to expect when I saw this, and I was surprised and delighted throughout.
How about you? What are some of your favorite Best Picture winners?
1. Lamp. I don't love this lamp, but I haven't found anything I like better.
2. Coaster. Can't see it in the picture, but it has a fun, free-hand design. I purchased it at a pottery show in Cold Spring, NY in 2000. Lots of cups of coffee and glasses of water have spent time on it.
3. Bottle of vitamin E oil. Until recently I have always had strong nails. I keep my nails really short; I admire long nails on other women, but I've never learned to function efficiently with them. Even with my nails short, though,in the last six months or so, they have been splitting like crazy. When I bemoaned this on Twitter, Amy told me that it was probably just age (she was nice about it, but, still. Oh, the vanity!). I read up all I could about splitting nails and came away more confused. My girl Cheryl recommended that I start brushing them with vitamin E oil daily, and while there are still some peeling and splitting issues, my nails have improved. (Gee, should this have been on last week's list?)
4. Kindle. My book club met on Sunday to re-assess our loosey-goosey system of selecting books and of meeting. We put together our list of books to read between now and January 2012. As soon as I arrived home, I re-charged the Kindle (seen in the top-flip m-edge green cover. *love*), downloaded a few of the books, and started reading.
5. Mohonk Mountain House pictures. When we arrived at Mohonk for our honeymoon, there was a gift on the mantle: a little MMH frame with pictures of the beautiful resort. I've kept it next to the bed ever since.
6. Notebook and pen. Lists, ideas. Whatever. I don't trust my memory. I need a place to write things down, especially as I drift off at night.
7. Life Before Death by Abby Frucht. I started it last week. The narrator's voice is funny, and I think it will be a quick read. My pal Amy, a voracious and strong reader, recommended this to me a while ago.
8. Confederates in the Attic by Tony Horwitz. I read about half of this over the summer and either need to give it back to Teri or finish it! The writing is great; it's just not a subject that holds my interest. I do feel I better understand the hold the Civil War has on people, though.
9. John Scheepers bulb catalog. When I don't want to read, but I need something to occupy my mind, I look at the pretty pictures and dream of spring. Of course, it isn't the spring I'll have since I never ordered or planted bulbs this fall.
January is already scampering away! Earlier in the month, I posted about my Phase 2 choices for Project 333, and though I'm not doing weekly picture reviews for this round, I've still been thinking about the project a lot.
Most of what I discovered in Phase 1 still holds true, and the adjustments I made reflect that:
In Week 9, I lamented my jewelry. I now have three of my rings, a pair of earrings, my stack of bracelets, and six necklaces in rotation. I have not worn the earrings more than once, and until my hair is long enough to wear up, I doubt I will wear them too often. After the three-month ring fast, wearing anything on my right hand feels clumsy. I'm not sure if I'm going to truly re-integrate my rings. In contrast, wearing my bracelets makes me feel right with the world, and I've enjoyed having more choice in necklaces, especially this new one. Funny, though. Some mornings, getting dressed has become a more cluttered affair as I debate which necklace works best with my outfit.
I decided to increase the number of handbags in my closet to three. I use my Moop bag almost every day, but I am happy to switch to the small black bag when I go out for dinner or to see a play. I now have definite opinions about what I want in my "perfect" bag!
A particularly snowy January has made me glad that I lumped my handknits together. I've been getting a lot of use out of my shawls and scarves, but poor Clapotis is still resting from her three-month solo engagement!
I appreciate the ease of getting dressed every day. Keeping my clothes washed and ironed is much easier, and everything in my closet mixes and matches with everything else. Lots of permutations.
My most worn item this round is my pair of Ugg boots. Again, a testament to the snowy month.
I've had a lot of fun gifting many of the beautiful clothes that once crowded my closet; I sold some things, and I even bartered one fabulous purse for a massage. It is freeing to know that these objects are finding new homes where they will be worn, and that I have more space.
What is one thing taking up space in your life that you're ready to see move on?
I was pretty psyched when I saw this week's Ten on Tuesday theme: Top Ten Health and Beauty Products. I have a few I love and want to tell you about, and I'm looking forward to learning about new goodies as I read the other lists.
First, less product than habit:
1. Water. Our bodies are made up of a LOT of water (that is a scientific fact!), and keeping them hydrated helps skin to look better, as well as flushes out toxins.
2. Sleep. Best health and beauty product ever, unless you cried yourself to sleep, in which case you might, like me, look terrible even after eight solid hours (swollen eyes do not = beauty!). Sometimes I think the best benefit of a good night's sleep is simply the better attitude I have the next day.
3. Good food. It isn't always cheap, but eating good, in-season food, preferably cooking it at home (as opposed to going out too much, in to which trap I often fall) does wonders for my health. The USDA pyramids, tailored for different dietary needs, are an excellent resource for making sure I get the right balance of foods.
4. Exercise. After a long day of teaching today, I came home and shoveled. Not the entire, huge driveway, but enough that my blood got moving. I am not a fan of working out in a gym (the only time I've ever really liked it was when I took boxing lessons with the Rev). I ride our bike trainer only to prepare for some of the goals I've set for the summer. I would much rather move outside, and sometimes that comes in the form of shoveling, chasing the dogs, running with a scarf over my mouth and nose, ice skating, or skiing. No matter what I do, I feel so much better after (except, you know, for the aches). My skin glows, and I feel firmer and mentally healthier.
Okay, enough of the common-sense-yet-vital beauty products that aren't really products, and on to the fun stuff. I raved about the Rosebud Salve in my last post, so I'll skip it.
5. Vaseline. Some ways I like to use it: put on my dry feet, pull on old white socks, go to bed, wake up with softer feet; put on lips over red, red lipstick for extra shine; smooth eyebrows with it (don't glop it on); put a tiny bit on eyelashes instead of mascara.
7. Goldwell Color Glow Deep. I spray this on before I comb out my hair (with a wide-toothed comb, of course) after a shower. I've been coloring my hair for ages, and this product truly has kept the color looking better more than any product I've used before. The light fragrance is so pretty, too.
8.Kiehl's Tinted Moisturizer. When I've been drinking ample water, eating well, exercising, and getting plenty of sleep, I don't always want to wear foundation (though I love the one I use). On those days, I use my Kiehl's tinted, pop on a little powder, some Rosebud Salve on my lips, and I am ready to get to work.
10. Good sex. Okay, not a product, and I debated about adding this one, but as a woman who went a LONG time sans a lover, I am a firm, dare I say, hardcore, believer that good sex does wonders for mental health, for skin (aren't we usually using makeup to a. replicate youth; b. enhance our favorite features; and c. replicate afterglow?) and for all around happiness, which is the most beautiful thing a woman can add to her health and beauty arsenal?
Now that I'm blushing a little, I'd love to hear about your favorite beauty product. Be sure to check out Carole's list as well as the list of everyone participating in Ten on Tuesday!