Thursday, May 31, 2012

8:00 and it's 102 degrees [Nerd Camp Zero Day]

And honestly 102 feels like 65. I'll take it. Yes, I said I wished it was warmer when I was here in December. You got me, Greater Palm Springs Area. You got me.


It got hotter than this. Imagine my enthusiasm panic as I drove into the desert.


Just before the Grapevine, when things were still mild enough for humans.

Today I made the drive from Elk Grove to Rancho Mirage for residency for my MFA program. I decided this time I'd leave earlier (read: 5:00 AM, yikes!) so I wouldn't hit Southern California traffic--or as much of it--and freak myself out like last time at the end of my 9 hour drive. I made it here by 2:00, so, much better planning. But I can't confirm that I was any less freaked out by all the other people who decided to be on the freeway with me once I got off I-5. At least I have until tomorrow to put myself together after that. I think I'm just not well-suited to aggressive driving. At least that's what I tell myself when I keep almost jumping out of my skin every time a semi wants to pull up next to me.


The hotel is, as I saw when I visited last residency, very nice. The grounds are spectacular and I'm sure once I have time to explore tomorrow (before the heat of a thousand fiery suns decides to shine on me again) I will get to see even more of it. There's a lot in the surrounding area, so maybe a walk? You know--go crazy.


Chowchilla Starbucks moments

I have a lovely, very private balcony overlooking the golf course. (I'm sitting on it right now, listening to Johnny Cash's Cry, Cry, Cry--the Starbucks where I stopped in Chowchilla had a Johnny Cash thing going on this morning.  I am 100% sure that it is going to remain a very private balcony, as no human being could stand this weather to golf. (Unless maybe one golfs from midnight to 2:00 AM? In which case, I'll be sleeping, so no big.) My room is huge--king sized bed, couch, desk area. Not as much "wow" factor as the room at the Riviera, but I'm sure that had more to do with the color scheme and the giant print of Marilyn than the quality of the hotel. So far, other than a minor mishap with a non-operating fridge (which was replaced after a reminder phone call) everything is cool (get it? TEMPERATURE PUN).


I got here just at the worst part of the day--the local news said it was "unseasonably hot" and that it got up to about 115 degrees. Basically it felt like that thing when you open the oven and your face is too close to it and you wonder if you lost your eyebrows. Only all over. Tomorrow is supposed to be the same. My plan is to get out early and then to make like a (what kind of thing hides in the dark all day? A mole?--yeah) mole (or a really sullen penguin?) and find me a dark, cool place.

I did my standard grocery-shop today so I'm all stocked up. Don't want to be gettin' hangry in front of the school folks who still don't know me too well. I have a good supply of produce, sweets, and pickles to tide me over like a toddler. Tonight I was going to try something nearby for dinner, but I was worried about how quickly my groceries would spoil in the heat so I came home. It was a good call.


The best thing about today was the swim I decided to take just as the sun was setting behind the mountain, at about 7:30. The heat was still well over 100 degrees, but I didn't need to worry about sunscreen. The adult pool is near a patio where they had live music playing--one of those bands you'd hear in Hawaii that doesn't seem to know if it's country or a Jimmy Buffet rip off--but in the thick air of the evening, it worked. I swam, I floated, I sat and listened to Sweet Georgia Brown (yes, they worked in Globetrotters and The Country Bear Jamboree, FYI), and I read the first little bit of Grapes of Wrath. Somehow, it feels appropriate to be reading one of Steinbeck's love letters to California when I just spent the day winding my way through it.

I have big plans tonight to paint my nails and watch the last episode of Downton Abbey, Season 1 on Netflix. So, you know, stay tuned for an update on how that goes. Also, this just happened:


Tomorrow this all kicks off.  Trying not to be nervous... excited to see my friends again. (Related: Glad I have friends now. This is so much easier after the first time!)

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

What I'm doing while I wait to go to nerd camp:

Today felt like the first day of summer. I was off all week last week, but I was so busy with party planning, finishing my short story, finishing books, writing critical papers, finishing poems, and driving around party furniture that I didn't really ever sit down. Today I didn't have anywhere to be, but I also didn't have any deadlines hanging over my head, so I could actually be productive at home. I'm leaving Thursday for residency in Palm Springs again (how did six months already pass?) so I have some work to do. That was the plan, anyway.

Well first, what I am not doing:

Packing--yet. Thought I was going to get a jump on that today. Turns out, washing all of my family's dirty clothes from the last three weeks is going to take me a little bit longer than "this morning."

But what else am I not doing? Worrying, like I was in December.

This is a whole different thing, this heading down to Nerd Camp now that I know what to expect. More than anything, I'm excited about what I have ahead of me. I know it's going to be a week and a half of spending time with folks who "get" what this writing thing is. It's going to be a week and a half of great lectures. It's going to be a week and a half of being tired, but tired in a good way.

I even feel better about the drive. I know where I am going and I know which parts (I'm looking at you, Southern California) promise to be congested and stressful. Just knowing means I'm not as worried about taking off. I have a sense of how tired I'll be and this time I've planned a little bit of rest at the beginning of the trip so I won't have to jump right in to Crazytown after 9-ish hours in the car.

Back to what I am doing:


Trying to walk Hurley. He's being kind of a punk, and the walking seems to help. Although, last night I took a different route (one I used to run when I was a beginning little baby runner) and it goes by a busy road. He acted like every car on the road was going to hop the curb and smush us. So that was fun. My dog has all the courage of a small mouse.


Cleaning out my fridge.  This is after. No before pictures, because I don't want to violate your sense of propriety. It was grody--the kind where things leak from top shelves down to bottom shelves and then get sticky and all of the sudden you've got a gross pile of ick stuck to the back of everything? Yeah. I needed to toss expired things, too. I had approximately 400 salad dressings. So I put on Hemingway & Gellhorn (anybody see it? I didn't like it as much as I wanted to) and spent the better part of my morning elbow-deep in bleach.  Mmm, smells like the death of fridge funk.

Napping. Oh yeah. Feels like summer.

Listening to The Book of Jonas by Stephen Dau on audiobook while I drive around in the car. Oh, did I mention that Stephen Dau is speaking at my residency? 'Cause he totes is, along with a buh-zillion other cool folk. The book doesn't fill my Gee, I hope I can find something light to read soon requirement, but it's good. I'm totally wrapped up in the story. And I'll be okay. I'm going to take Gone With The Wind with me to read by the pool.

Eating my weight in ice cream tonight. Belated birthday celebration with Mom and Dad. Heck. Yes.

Monday, May 28, 2012

Peace Like A River

I’ve got peace like the
South Fork of
the American River,
just off the highway
past the turnout
for the gas station—
the one with a totem pole
and an orange chateau, the café
where no one eats.

I’ve got peace like
crossing the squat, cement
bridge, like rolling
down my window
to smell organic air breathed
out of trees. Like driving
around the tree in the road—
the one with signs and names
of cabins past and families,
Of bumping down the hill.

I’ve got peace
like green metal siding
on a cabin clinging to the canyon.
Like bugs making pebble cocoons
before they emerge and molt. Like bug
bodies baking in August like death.

I’ve got
peace like shouting
into the roar. Like rock
under butt. Like cold
clear. Of fish. Like slick
stones and good ones. Like
islands that only appear in summer.
Like the smell of hot on rock.

Peace like Once you get to the rockslide, you’re almost there.
Peace like Hey, remember what the river used to look like before the flood?
Peace like Grandpa Don used to drink it right out of his hand.

Peace, like watermelons floated in the pool when the fridge is full.
Like bridges out of fallen trees.

Blue moths, paper thin.
Moonlight on granite.
Lizards, sunning.
Like hop.
Move west.


Sunday, May 27, 2012

Telling Tales

It's cold this morning, but I want the windows open. The air is clean from a late spring rain. The world is quiet except for the birds. I'm not doing much more than just listening to them rustle through the trees. Finally--finally--all of the stress, emotion, and hard work of the last three weeks is complete. Finally I can write more than blah, blah, I'm sad. Because now I know it's going to be okay.

Last night was the final movement in a symphony of retirement goodbyes for my beloved friend, K. And as tired as I am, as big as the bags are under my eyes and as sore as my muscles all feel this morning, I'm so glad we had the opportunity to celebrate her twenty four year teaching career this way. The last few weeks have been a string of hugs, tears (okay, sobbing, uncontrollable ugly-cry tears from me on the last day of school), but most importantly, laughs.

When K and I talked about what she wanted her retirement party to be, she told me that what she wanted was us, the Social Science Department (of which I count myself an honorary member), "being us," doing what we do: eating, drinking, sitting in our friend Dave's backyard into the dark, remembering. Affirming our bond with each other and celebrating what we've endured. Last night was joyful and familiar. Last night was a night with family. Last night was a night of stories.

The Bocce ball court dining areaIMG_6569IMG_6599IMG_6614

It's only fitting, too. K is a master storyteller. At fifteen, as a student in her history class, I was transfixed. She would tell you it was because of the good material--kings and knights and rights and fights. And in some cases, it kind of was. But there was something special in the delivery, something I am still challenged to define. As a college freshman in Western Civ I was sorely disappointed by the teaching of that same material. And I didn't really need to learn it over again because I still remembered. To this day I can recite her stories that illuminated the French Revolution, the signing of the Magna Carta, the assassination of Franz Ferdinand, the Battle of the Bulge, Cleopatra on her barge. Too many others to list here. But more than stories about things that happened, these were stories about cultural literacy, making choices, questioning authority, finding opportunities to make a difference. A primer in being an adult.
The thing about a story is that you dream it as you tell it, hoping that others might then dream along with you, and in this way memory and imagination and language combine to make spirits in the head. There is the illusion of aliveness.   --Tim O'Brien
I know now that my time in her classroom helped to shape what I wanted to do. To teach, yes, but to do that fragile thing closer to my heart and soul: telling stories. In many ways she modeled for me how a story can capture the attention of an audience, how it can instruct, how it can shock or horrify or inspire change. Her stories--her gift--kindled curiosity in generations of students.

And last night as we told tales together, person after person affirmed what K has meant to them as a colleague. Our friend Bob put it best: she had your back. We trust her with the kind of confidence that comes only from years of dependable support. At school K was a leader, and she was a great friend. She inspired all of us to be curious in our own teaching, to pass a love of learning on to our students because they saw us wanting to know more, wanting to know why. As the chair of her department, K carefully constructed a family. She brought people together and kept them happy, made them feel protected. She devoted her life to the people she worked with.

The beautiful thing about that devotion is how it has spilled over into real life, how it brought about something more wonderful than its original purpose. K and I are fond of discussion the difference between work life and real life (and of where importance lies). Though these friendships--this family--came from work, it survives and flourishes in the real time, that time when we don't have to be Mrs. Soandso or Ms. Whatshername. In my real life, K is always there, and has been since I was about sixteen. She is the person who taught me to be discerning about art and literature and movies and music. She is the person who taught me about Tiffany's, Jane Eyre, Steve McQueen, Clinique Sparkle Skin and the West Wing. She is, most often, the person who gives me advice about taking risks, trying new things. She shows up, and so I try to do for her. At every important moment--big and small--she has been present. The smiling face in the back of the room at the dance competition. The arms full of sandwiches, CDs and movies after I miscarried my first baby. The voice in the hall at the hospital while I labored with Addie. The drawer full of chocolate for the end of the rough day. The fingers tracing the lineage of English kings as she explains to Henry about his namesakes. The comforting email when I'm worried about grad school. The text messages to say goodnight.
Many friendships are between people who are quite different and who fill the unoccupied spaces in each other’s character. --Anna Quindlen
I need K in my life, plain and simple. I feel fortunate that she was in my work life, actually, for that certainly made my first eleven years of teaching easier. But I'm glad that's not the be-and-end all. Real life wins out over work life every time. She is family.

On the last day she taught a lesson, K showed her class HBO's Taking Chance. She talked to her students about what it means to bear witness. That night on her Facebook wall she posted that if she only ever had once chance to teach one lesson, that's what it would be. I am pretty sure that's the lesson she was teaching every single day: "You’re his witness now. Without a witness, they just disappear." Every day she spent in the classroom was a way to witness history, to make it relevant and memorable for decades of budding adults so they would live in a way that shows reverence for what came before them. So in that spirit, I think it was important that we spent last night bearing witness, spinning the tales we will continue to tell at EGHS long after she's taken down her Bruce Springsteen poster in C4. We will bear witness to future colleagues about the kind of teacher she was to work with. We will bear witness about what leadership looked like when it worked. We will do so also in how we rise to the occasion, how we teach our students by the example she set.

IMG_6497Hallelujah...IMG_6539Congratulations, Kitty!

I tried to keep busy all day with the things that needed doing. It was easier to plan and create lists and check things off than it was to think about the kind of change that her retirement means in my professional life. But after last night I feel like the change was marked with the same kind of casual warmth that has colored all of our time as a group of friends.
This is what rituals are for. We do spiritual ceremonies as human beings in order to create a safe resting place for our most complicated feelings of joy or trauma, so that we don’t have to haul those feelings around with us forever, weighing us down. We all need such places of ritual safekeeping... And I do believe that if your culture or tradition doesn’t have the specific ritual you’re craving, then you are absolutely permitted to make up a ceremony of your own devising, fixing your own broken-down emotional systems with all the do-it-yourself resourcefulness of a generous plumber/poet. If you bring the right earnestness to your homemade ceremony, God will provide the grace.  --Elizabeth Gilbert
Yesterday was a blessed day, a perfect day of love, song, and laughter. I am beyond happy for K that she gets to fill this next stage of life with things that bring her joy.

Heather and Kitty

Congratulations, K! I love you so much.

Friday, May 25, 2012

On being so slow

Mrs. Dalloway said she would buy the flowers herself.

Well me too; in fact it's on the list for today. But let's also keep not being in any way (at all) like Mrs. Dalloway on the list.

Holy God in heaven, my soul needs to read something light and airy. All of this death in what I'm reading. The friggin' Lost Generation. Love triangles (the sad--realistic--kind, not the sparkly vampire/wolf/pouty human kind). Obsession. Madness. Anxiety. Heavy, heavy thoughts.

I'll write a separate book post about finishing Mrs. D on the heels of The Hours, but I am on the lookout for some light, light reading. I need a book cleanse.  Just one or two, then maybe I can dive back in to the Tortured Writers' Pond.


And speaking of torture, let's discuss the fact that I have another short story due today, this one for residency. I love writing. I mean, I love the act of writing. But I am SO SLOW on a normal day and yesterday my pace was glacial. I wrote all day and it was the most tedious process, ever.

I'm used to blog posts because I don't (usually) put pressure on them to be anything other than a moment in time. I can crack those out with regularity. I know about how long to make them and I know my own voice and I know what I want to accomplish here. But writing fiction feels more vulnerable (I've mentioned this before) and defining my "voice" there is an ever-evolving thing. It changes with what I'm writing so far. I would tend to believe that I'm still finding it.

Finally, I'm afraid. Yes, again. This semester has kicked me back a little bit in terms of confidence, and now I'm staring down the possibility of having my peers (can I even call them that if they're all so much more talented than me?) critique my stuff in just a short while. So whatever I upload today is going to be read and critiqued in a week. Scary, Dude. Scary.

I made myself sit and do it. I made myself work through the fear and alongside the fear. Because what more is there to do? Not write anything, ever? Not an option. And this is (I tell myself) exactly what I signed up for. Exactly what makes me grow. I am fond of telling my TA (well, she isn't my TA anymore, now I guess she's my former TA) that the times when I've been comfortable in my life were never the times I was growing. So I plodded along and finished another story yesterday, tried to make friends with Uncomfortable. Yes, and I wrote ALL DAY LONG. All day. Thank God I have the option of doing so right now, because if I was still dealing with the end of the school year I don't think I'd make it in time for residency.

Today and tomorrow promise to be busy with party preparations (again, we're staying away from drawing too many parallels between Mrs. P and Mrs. D) so my plan is to edit and upload this evening. I know I have a week ahead with no homework, no required reading. I hope (in addition to packing) I can fill that week with some pool time, some nap time, and some writing time--might as well get a jump on the fall semester since I move at a snail's pace.

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Raisin' 'em right

OMG, this kid.

E is watching My Big Fat American Gypsy Wedding.

Henry walks through the room just as they show a pregnant young woman doing a nude photo shoot. (Nothing is actually showing, but you can tell she's nude.)

Henry: (gasp) She doesn’t have any undies on!

E: (trying not to draw more attention) ...nope.

H: I think that's just mean to the guy who has to see it!

Tuesday, May 22, 2012


Today started with an omelet. Goat cheese, it had. Sounds better than saying scrambled eggs, doesn't it? And while we're on the subject, I've been in an egg mood. And a salt mood. So those two things actually work well together. So as such, we started our day chopping things and sautéing them up and adding scrambled eggs and flipping. And enjoying.

Zen, I tell you. That's how you know it's summertime. When you can give two shits about your breakfast and not feel like you have to hurry your way out the door. By the end of the school year my breakfast has usually become something as glamorous as a fist-full of Cheerios as I drive the kids to my mom's, or a palmful of stale pretzels I cram in while I'm taking roll. Summer means I can take the time to ponder my eats before they hit my mouth.

Let me tell you how much I enjoyed just being in my house today, too.  Answer: a lot. I had it all to myself. My house is rad.

The housekeeper came this afternoon, which meant I had to put away my socks before 10:00, but it also meant leaving the house after my morning of awesome. And so I lunched. And then I got the kids. And like that they day was over. And my house was clean. Praise the Lawd.

Only we had two more places to be after all that: Baseball team pizza party (for Hank-o) and then rounding up tables and chairs for K's upcoming retirement party. So I'm tired. But I'm letting myself stay up because I don't have anywhere to be tomorrow and I can.  I feel like I'm getting away with something.

No, I won't plan a lesson for tomorrow.
No, I won't make copies.
No, I won't sign Mrs. P on any paperwork.
No, I won't feign interest in your inane banter.
No, I won't behave.

(I am remembering that moment in Aladdin when Genie says "ask me anything," and Aladdin does, and Genie goes "NO WAY!") <----That.

I'm off for the summer and I'm me, and I checked my vegetables when I got up this morning, and I ate an egg dish slowly and I picked up my kids from school, and I'm happy.  I wish I read more today, but I have 9.857 weeks left to do some of that. I wish I wrote some, but it didn't happen. And that's okay. Scarlett said tomorrow is another day.

I just realized I have a little more than a week before I go down to Palm Springs for residency again.  Um, what? Yikes! So much to do before then.  Better go.

Sunday, May 20, 2012

Little Rows of Happy

When I garden in bare feet, a bikini top and a pair of shorts, I know I'm becoming my mother. The sun was perfect today.

Putting in my summer vegetable garden makes me feel like not a moment has passed since every other summer, though. Like I'm 33 and 7 at the same time, and the garden is what brings it together. Somehow, when I loosen a root ball and dig my hands into the warm soil, it feels like it's summer now and it has always been. Because cucumber vines smell the same. Snails always cling to the side of plastic pots with the same veracity. Tomatoes always need to be planted deep. The tomato cages always have the same resistance as I push them down into the earth. Water always makes the same hiss as the sprinklers kick on.

It smells like steer manure, but it's predictably good for the soul. And really, spreading the manure into those orderly, raised rows makes me feel a little bit like my grandpa. Gardening connects me to something ordinary. Familial.

I can't believe it has been over a month since I bought all of this stuff--it was high time it went into the ground. The weather has been good, though, and I haven't lost anything yet. Thank God for sprinkler timers. I feel like I can sleep better at night, now, because my little vegetable babies are tucked into their beds.


Plenty of Cake

Time for a fun read, a just-because read. K bought be Anna Quindlen's new book for my birthday, and after the heaviness of The Hours I was ready for a break before I reread Mrs. Dalloway for class. I love that I can choose my own books for school, but as E said lately, "all that stuff you read makes me want to slit my wrists."

Yeah. Time for a breather.

Lots of Candles, Plenty of Cake by Anna Quindlen

This book is, like Living Out Loud (which I read last summer) a collection of essays, most of which revolve around (as she says) Quindlen's two big topics: mothering and loss. I know, I know. Doesn't that sound fun? It was though, and I enjoyed it. Quindlen has an easy and funny way about her and nothing here was depressing or heavy. She writes about what it means to be from a generation that has seen so much change, and what it means to try to communicate that to her own children. She's thoughtful, and I appreciate that. As a mother, wife, and daughter, I always find myself connecting to her work.

This book differs from her earlier stuff that I've read because Quindlen's musings are moving more toward the ideas of aging and mortality. Where in her earlier writing she also dealt with the loss of her mother, she is able to do the same now from a vantage point of having lived past the "magical age" at which her mom died. So she questions just what it means to be an aging writer, mom, friend, and wife.

My favorite chapters were those about her girlfriends, faith, and marriage. Quindlen's writing always resonates with me, and I found so many tidbits there that rang true. This is a book for chicks, but that's fine with me.

My recommendation: Read it.

Saturday, May 19, 2012

Good things


I did the dishes today.

I know, I know. Hold your applause.

Today I was ordinary and it felt great. Woke up, visited with my mom and dad, baseball game, homework, quiet night. It didn't feel like I had the energy to really enjoy it too much yet, but it was quiet and there was no pressing deadline, no angry parent emails or student papers nagging on my to-do list. I am so ready for a vacation from the judgement and from having to be something to other people. Ick.

Today was busy, but it was a preview of the kind of simple busy that makes my summers wonderful.

I even dragged our card table out into the backyard to write tonight. Our backyard is kind of jungly and crappy right now, but it sure beats sitting inside and look at a wall or the mountain of clean laundry. Outside it's easier to stare and think than it is inside, where all of my stares just land on things that need doing. Hurley played with a tennis ball and raced himself around the yard, and I put pen to paper.

All of that is good. This week took so much adrenaline that it wasn't until about 2:30 PM today that my body relaxed and I realized I haven't really eaten or slept in about a week. (Or that if I did, I was kind of out of it and don't remember. Either thing is bad.) Nothing brings me back to reality like staring down a blank page and trying to create a story out of nothing, either.

I have one school day left.  One ridiculous and poorly scheduled school day. Who ends school on a Monday? We do. So there you go. But I think the hard part is done.

Last night I got home early from an end-of-the year party and nobody was here. So I picked up my camera. And I drove over to the lake where I usually walk and sat on my favorite bench. I tried not to sing any songs in my head or think any thoughts or do or be anything; I just listened to trees and bugs and bikes. I stared (that's a theme this weekend, apparently). And I breathed. And when I was done I took some pictures. I watched the sun set on the lake.

And that was good too.


Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Sad Panda

Wish I was still here.

Wish I was still here.

My fight-or-flight response is going strong right now. And yes, for me, that's more like flight to my bed to hide under the covers. My ostrich reflex is amazing.  You know, head in sand and all that. It's one of those days when a glance at a beautiful flower or a song on the radio make me burst into tears about the impermanence of things. I need to get through this next week. I am feeling time pass one second at a time. Really, we're talking about pure, unadulterated and emotional Heather territory. When I go around saying I love people hard and I feel things deeply, this is the shit I'm talking about. Letting go is not my forte. I know there's not much to be done about change, but dammit I hate it like crazy. I like the word ephemeral and the idea that things are more beautiful and wonderful because they don't last -- but it's hard to put that into reality. I am stupid bad at it and this is when things get sloppy. Change affects relationships whether we like it or not and I am struggling to find peace with that.

Tonight I'm going to walk and look at the sky and focus on breathing. It's going to be okay -- I know it -- it just isn't okay yet.

Sunday, May 13, 2012

Does my boy know me or what?


All About My Mom
by Henry

My mom's name is Heather. She is 33 years old and weighs I don't know. Her hair is brown and her eyes are Hazle* [sic]. She cooks rice the best, and she loves to eat salad. I think her favorite color is purple. She doesn't like bad behavior very much. She likes to watch Sunday morning news. I bet my mom would like to have No bad kids in her class.

Happy Mother's Day!
Love, Henry

*brown, actually, but who cares?

Books? Get some.

You guys. Not that I'm not 100% awesome 100% of the time or anything, but yesterday I did something particularly amazeballs. I finished a book... and then I wrote my paper for that book immediately so I wouldn't have to go back to it.

I know, right? *golf clap*

But seriously. You know what else I did after that? Finished another book. Now, I was already about 80 pages from the end of that one too, but it doesn't matter.

Two books, one night.


Anyway. Those books? They were the kind that make me feel like a part of the literate elite for having read them. Not that those are always the most enjoyable reads, but in this case they weren't terrible. I'm glad to have gotten through them. So here's my little book post about 'em. Please to enjoy.

The Hours by Michael Cunningham

The Hours follows three separate storylines--one set in the 1920's, one in the late 1950's, and one in 1999. Each storyline is influenced by Virginia Woolf's Mrs. Dalloway. The focus of each storyline is narrow: a single day. Small occurrences hold great importance, and the novel takes place largely inside each character's head. In the 20's, Virginia Woolf is writing Mrs. Dalloway, and struggling with her own demons. In 1959, Laura Brown is reading Mrs. Dalloway and doing the same. In 1999, Clarissa Vaughan is trying to be Mrs. Dalloway, or rather, is doomed to live a similar life of fixation and tragedy.

I didn't like this book at first. For probably a hundred pages or so, the prose was too heavy for me. Cunningham uses a style that echoes Woolf's and she's one of those writers who interrupts herself all the time. (I'll hold here for an ironic pause.) So I'm not sure if it was me getting comfortable (finally) with her prose or if it was some kind of shift that happened in the particular scene, but my opinion changed about halfway through. There's a scene in Clarissa's apartment in 1999 with her friend's former lover that was just exquisite. From that point, forward, I was in.

My recommendation: This is an unusual book, so I'm not sure I'd tell just about everyone that they need to pick it up. It's sad. And kind of angsty. I like it for what it is, but it didn't make me feel good about humanity.

Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen

Now. You know how there's this type of girl in the world? The one who has read P&P about 800 times and loves Kiera Knightley and the BBC version and wishes she could find her own Mr. Darcy? I'm not her. I keep trying to be her, but I can't. And I (re-? I can't remember if I read this before or not. Sad.) read this book recently, trying to love it, and I still don't. What I do love (out of all the things I listed above) is the BBC version, so I guess I get some smart girl points. And I did love this audio book version of this book--narrated by Lindsay Duncan from HBO's Rome--just because it was so soothing. So there's that. But I don't know. I'm just not ever going to be president of the P&P fan club.  I like other Austen novels a little better, I think. Emma. Sense and Sensibility. Even Northanger Abbey. This one doesn't do it for me.

P&P is largely about two things, I decided: 1) Trying to get married, and 2) Being pissed off about stuff that didn't actually happen until you get a letter that tells you that you are pissed off about something that didn't actually happen because you didn't take the trouble to find out the truth in the first place. It's so soap opera-y. P&P is about gossip and social status, pure and simple. The best thing about this book for me is Austen's little insertions of sarcasm to sum up character. I like that she can cut her own characters down in a way that's subtle and really funny. And she can write some good dialogue, to be sure.

My recommendation: If you're a girl, you're going to have to go ahead and read this so you can find out if you're one of those girls for whom Jane Austen is the be-and-end-all. I'm not one, but I needed to read it (again? I still can't remember if I read it before.) to find out. I think it's okay, but if you're looking for something uber-girly to read that will grab you and not let you go, I recommend Gone with the Wind a million times over this.

Friday, May 11, 2012

When I'm old...

The old lady I want to be someday has a face wrinkled by kindness. She'll kiss you on the cheek or the top of your head. She calls you Sweetie and Honey but you don't mind it from her. Her hugs don't stop early: she lets go last. Her hand on your arm says it's okay with authority. Affection doesn't embarrass her; neither do you. She's soft enough for kids to sleep on and "has a way" with babies. She loves God, her family, and cooking for you. Her house smells like a hug and is always just so; you can stop by for a glass of lemonade if you need to talk and she'll never act put out. She crochets afghans and baby blankets and gives you the truth about that haircut whether you like it or not. She'll pray for you. Hard. (And her prayers get shit done.) Call her? She'll come. Fall asleep? She'll cover you. She knows that insides matter most, and that loving is messy business. She's in it for good. She knows what to tell you if you get hurt, burned, or make a bad choice. She walks each morning as the sun comes up, and knows all the neighbors. She can sew, and craft, and grow things. People call her for help when they get stuck in the middle of recipes. She will let you control the remote, but she loves to fall asleep in her chair while watching old movies. She leaves surprises on your doorstep. She naps. She never forgets a birthday. She's patient. And loving. And fearless.

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Little Women at the Ballgame

Henry's back in the game now that his finger has healed. He's gone about a week or so without smashing it into anything, too. We're at the part of the season where the kids pitch (instead of the coaches) so games are... interesting, to say the least.

Miss Roo isn't so much of a fan anymore. Any interest she had at the beginning of the season is waning. The novelty of the snackbar has faded, too. At this point I'm trying to keep her busy with a Kindle and the promise of rolling down the grass hill as many times as she wants in one night. Last night at the game she started reading Little Women. (Score one for me and K and all things literate and girly.)

I am enjoying the season, but I'm finding it much harder to keep up enthusiasm while I wrap up the school year than I thought it woud be. I'm just so tired. Lesson learned.

But we're almost there... it's been a good season and it's coming to a close soon.


Wednesday, May 09, 2012

Don't eat the birdies.


It's over. No, not the school year, but the hand-holding that is AP. Test tomorrow. No more seniors at school. Time to metaphorically release the baby birds into the wild and hope they don't get eaten by coyotes. This year has been STRAIGHT UP weird, and I'm exhausted. I'm sad that I won't get to work with some of them anymore--sure--but with everything all smushed up together in time like it is, I'm just glad I can cross one more thing off my life list. I. Am. Tired.

Get them to the test? CHECK. Okay, that happened.

We had an Xbox Dance Central battle in class and I'm proud to say I retained my title of dancingest English teacher at school. It was fun, though it sure made me feel like a out of shape fatty who hasn't done much dancing in the last few years. Phew. I signed yearbooks. I hugged. I offered final bits of advice about the test (and, side note: how weird is it that I'm saying goodbye to these dudes before they take the test? Really weird, that's how weird.) and then I sent them off. Strange how different each group of kids can be.

I don't think people know how much vulnerability there is in teaching. It's hard to let kids know all of you because kids can be fickle and moody, and that means you can get hurt if you take things personally. Toward the end of this year I protected myself a little bit more than I think I set out to, originally. The year ended with me feeling tense and guarded. But those I am close to are going to be "lifers." Things work out as they should, I suppose. People find their way into your life if they're supposed to be there.

I am 100% at that part of the year, though, that's so painful and exhausting that I think I am never going to be able to do this again. Thank God for the blissful forgetting that happens in the summer time. I need summer to reboot before I can handle a new group... but I can't even think about that right now.

Last night Addie and I ate strawberries from our own garden. Yesterday I drove Henry around and he sang "Para-para-paradise..." from Coldplay. We have a baseball game this evening. Life is happening all around me whether I decide to pay attention to it or not. And today, this thing crossed off my list, it's a clear sign that it's almost time to pack up the Mrs. P Show for the year and be me for a few months.