“Nobody Puts Baby in the Corner”

  I interrupt this Hiatus with this brief bloggy update, aka Random, Amusingly [well, to me] Related Bullets of….. Summer:

1. Yes, it’s finally summer, after the coldest, wettest spring in Pacific Northwest history (or 117 years).

2. A good friend of mine, who retired last year, is rereading Middlemarch. Sudden recognition that I do not have time to reread Middlemarch, despite having the next 2.5 months “off” from teaching.

3. Related to #2 above, finally visited my physician for both my annual and to see if she could figure out why my foot has been swollen for 2 months (two xrays and visits to “specialists” led to nothing). Three results of interest: one, I am not in the midst of menopause despite a variety of symptoms, highlighting the fact that I have many years to go before I can reread Middlemarch; and two, a bone scan reveals I have a stress fracture of one of those metatarsal bones. And three: I am vitamin D deficient. Vitamin D?  Oh, yes, lack of sun. Got it. See #1 above. Soon to be cured: see #4 below.

So the walking and spurts of running I’ve been doing over the last few weeks, with the encouragement of those doctors who found nothing wrong with me, have not been exactly helpful to the healing process.

4. Related to #3 above, I started taking Deep Water Running classes at the gym last week.  I’ve only tried a few classes yet have discovered that with the exception of another 40 something professional, athletic woman with a foot injury, most of the participants have plenty of time for rereading Middlemarch.   And while I push myself to get my heart rate up (sometimes it works), for the most part, I’m still in the stiffling giggles stage: Despite the name, the classes are basically aerobics in the water, but everyone is wearing hats and sunglasses instead of leg warmers and leotards.  I just can’t help thinking of those scenes in Dirty Dancing (remember, 1986ish?) at Kellerman’s in the Catskills where the women do aerobics by the pool.

And interestingly, the instructors always play music from Dirty Dancing.  Which just makes me laugh more.

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Because Most People Stop With the Z

200px-on_beyond_zebraAt a packed house Easter sermon this morning, our pastor read from Dr. Seuss’ classic but lesser known work, On Beyond Zebra. Now, this didn’t surprise me, since as I’ve noted briefly before, he twitters ideas from the sermons he is working on each week. 

But I hadn’t read this particular work before so I wasn’t sure what theological bent it could possibly have.

But now I agree with our twittering pastor: this really is the Best. Easter. Story. Ever. 

This is possibly an ideal story to introduce the varieties of intepretation. It’s about possibility and hope.  It’s about imagination. It’s about the need to think outside the box. And, oh, yes, for all those pastors with a popular culture bent, it’s about the Christ who has risen indeed. 

Said Conrad Cornelius o”Donald o’Dell,
My very young friend who is learning to spell:
“The A is for Ape. And the B is for Bear.
The C is for camel. The H is for Hare.
The M is for Mouse. And the R is for Rat.
I know all the twenty-six letters like that.

“..through to Z is for Zebra.
I know the all well.”
Said Conrad Cornelius o’Donald o’Dell.
“So now I know everything anyone knows,
from beginning to end. From the start to the close.
Because Z is as far as the alphabet goes.”

Then he almost fell flat on his face on the floor
When I picked up the chalk and drew one letter more!
A letter he never had dreamed of before!
And I said, “You can stop, if you want, with the Z
Because most people stop with the Z
But not me!

“In the places I go there are things that I see
That I never could spell if I stopped with the Z.
I’m telling you this ’cause you’re one of my friends.
My alphabet starts where your alphabet ends!”

Kindness, Cookies, and Recent Reads

  • This was sent to me today: A heart-warming holiday sort of story out of Eugene, Oregon (famous for Prefontaine, Bowerman and Phil Knight, as well as Animal House and rain—oh, yes, and Ducks): the Random Acts of Kindness Club is booted out of the mall for being, well, kind.
  • My partner made a batch of Sybil Vane’s pumpkin chocolate chip cookies (you can get the recipe here) and they were delicious.  I highly recommend them!
  • Finished reading Malcolm Gladwell’s New Yorker article on teaching and “withitness”–the almost un-teachable quality of a good teacher (and frankly, a good communicator in general): “Most Likely To Succeed”.  Having worked as a mentor with and evaluator of new instructors for the last 15 years, I’ve always struggled to explain this concept to struggling teachers.  “Withitness” is simply the understanding that the students’ learning process is more important than the material itself.  I could live without the football analogy he starts and ends the essay with,  however.  I see this with my students, too: there are certain “triggers”–words or topics–that make some readers shut down before they even get to the meat of an essay (or book).  To me the triggers are sports and obscure political references, clearly because those are weak spots in my knowledge-base, and, as a result of my ignorance,  they simply bore me as topics of interest.  Now, give me a food, popular culture, shopping, literary or sexual allusion and I’m right with you.
  • I also just finished Louise Erdrich’s The Plague of Doves a series of beautifully told, interconnected tales about a community with a painful past.  The link is to Michiko Kakutani’s thoughtful review of the novel.  The effect of reading the novel is incredibly powerful: as I read the novel, the connections between the characters were slowly revealed—and of course those graceful revelations (graceful because I only recognized them in retrospect)  just sucked me in and made for several sleepless nights as I had to keep reading.  This is definitely one of her best works in years.

Sunday Night Musings

When I first started graduate school,  I immediately started having panic attacks. It was clearly not ideal timing, but something about taking classes and teaching (since my en route Ph.D. program “allowed” us to teach our own composition classes at the same time we were taking classes) gave me both the space and the elevated stress level to suddenly act out against my life-long horror of Sunday nights.

I had the space, since unlike the 9-5 jobs I had for the years between undergraduate and graduate school teaching 2 composition classes and taking 2-3 graduate classes gave me more “free” time.  And you can guess why, as a new instructor, I had the elevated stress levels. I loved teaching immediately (almost more, to be honest, than my graduate seminars), and I felt fairly confident in my graduate program, but the stress of living in utter poverty in addition to the change in career probably were beyond the stress of any other transitional period in my life.

So, like any good New Yorker I found myself a therapist (one with a Ph.D., thank you very much) and he proceded to bore me with the usual Freudian blah blah blah about my life (I had no trouble applying such an analysis to literary characters, but hearing it applied to my own life made me dismiss psychoanalytic literary criticism quite quickly–perhaps too quickly, but that’s for another posting). 

He did make two comments (in addition to explaining how to get bumped to first class on airlines–though his advice on that aged quickly as the airline industry changed) that I never forgot (and it’s been 20 years):

1. He said that because of my struggles with my childhood (blah blah) I would probably not be able to finish the Ph.D. program (well, I did, in record time–though, admittedly, I’m not quite sure how much of that was reverse psychology); and

2. He said that although panic attacks on Sunday nights are not uncommon for many people, perhaps I have panic attacks on Sunday nights because that’s when I was sent to the “babysitter” for the week (long story).

Well, that was an observation worthy of his $80.00 an hour though I still stopped seeing him soon afterwards. 

My panic attacks eventually subsided though Sunday nights are still a bit fraught with emotion (despite knowing both the obvious and the personal reasons for feeling stressed on Sunday nights).  Tonight, I’m almost done grading final papers (admittedly, I could be done if I weren’t typing this, but I did need a break), and although I should be thrilled that I’m almost done grading and finishing up fall term, I’m feeling relentlessly stressed.   I have no where I need to be tomorrow,  and actually few appointments at all this week, allowing me to at least begin to clean up my office and prep for winter term.  But those emotions are still there and just typing them out is very useful (and you don’t need that Ph.D. in psychology to understand why). It’s also cold (frigid, actually) and snowy today, no sun and basically the start of what promises to be a long winter.  And yes, I’m sure it’s just having the space of not teaching that reminds me, that yes, seasonal affective disorder on top of a personal history of Sunday night blues have ganged up to make you feel lousy right now.

Or at least I did until I typed all of that out;-)

View from my bedroom window on a snowy day in December.

View from my bedroom window on a snowy day in December.