Tuesday, August 31, 2010

JA Day

It's an exciting day for me--I'm teaching Sense and Sensibility. I've spent all my time preparing for class and none coming up with something to blog about.


I'll try to do better tomorrow. :-)

Monday, August 30, 2010

Poetry at the Zoo

Yesterday afternoon, my husband and I decided to go to the zoo. It seemed like the perfect day for it, eighty something degrees after months of temperatures in the hundreds. And, not only did I get to laugh at the anteater, shudder at the python, and admires the giraffes--I also got to enjoy some poetry.

Poetry at the Zoo is a program paring wildlife exhibits with "poems that celebrate the natural world and the connection between species." I noticed poetry by the British poet Gerard Manley Hopkins (one of my favorites), the American Walt Whitman, and many African poets. The lines of poetry posted all over the zoo were an added dimension of enjoyment for me.

Poetry lovers, you should go to the zoo.

Saturday, August 28, 2010

Move It!

They say confession is good for the soul, so here I go. I'm not a very patient person. I'm better than I used to be, but I'm not sure that's saying a lot. Also, I feel like I never have enough time to do all I need to do plus all I want to do. So, I'm usually concerned with doing what I need to do in a timely manner (read: I rush around madly) so I can get on with what I would rather be doing.

Well . . .

Yesterday afternoon, as soon as my last class was over, I headed to Walmart. Now, I didn't really want to go there, but I didn't want to give up any of my precious Saturday or Sunday buying groceries either, so I went.

I started out at a nice pace, quickly grabbing what I needed and tossing it into the buggy, but my efficiency didn't last very long. Somehow, no matter where I turned, there were two little old ladies on motorized carts in my way. They would park side by side in the aisle and talk. Or drive side by side. Or I'd go down an aisle that was partially blocked by a stocker and they'd be lined up and parked on the other side, blocking the whole thing. Several times I changed my game plan to get out from behind them, but it made no difference. Everywhere I turned, there they were. I made it to the produce section, and they'd beat me there, somehow, and pulled up to things in such a way that I couldn't even get around them. I felt rude just standing there, waiting, waiting, waiting . . . but I didn't know what else to do. At least I didn't sigh loudly and tap my foot.

I bet my blood pressure was through the roof.

I don't think I'm gonna be a very good little old lady.

Friday, August 27, 2010

Movie Time

I'm not quite sure why I haven't seen this film until now. It caught me in the first scene, when the bookseller pulls his cart through town hawking his wares, "Storybooks for women! Sacred books for men!"

Barbra Streisand portrays Yentl Mendel, a girl living in an Ashkenazi shtetl in Poland in the early 20th century. Yentl's Father, Rebbe Mendel (Nehemiah Persoff), secretly instructs her in the Talmud despite the proscription of such study by women according to the custom of her community.

After the death of her father, Yentl decides to dress like a man, take her late brother's name, Anshel, and enter a Jewish religious school, oryeshiva. Upon entering the yeshiva, Yentl makes friends with a fellow student, Avigdor (Mandy Pantinkin), and meets his fiancée Hadass (Amy Irving). The story is complicated as Hadass's family cancels her wedding to Avigdor over fears that his family is tainted with insanity, and decides that she should marry Anshel instead. Meanwhile, Hadass develops romantic feelings for Yentl (as Anshel), while Yentl herself is falling in love with Avigdor. After much turmoil, Avigdor and Hadass are reunited, while Yentl leaves Europe to go to America, where she hopes to lead a freer life.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

My New Listen

The Likeness

Author: Tana French
Narrated by Heather O'Neill
Publisher: Recorded Books
Length: 22 hrs and 30 mins

Publisher's Summary
Tana French's debut, In the Woods, hit the New York Times best-seller list and drew rave reviews from the Times (London) and Booklist. Picking up six months later, this riveting sequel finds Detective Cassie Maddox still scarred by her last case. When her boyfriend calls her to a chilling murder scene, Cassie is forced to face her inner demons. A young woman has been found stabbed to death outside Dublin, and the victim looks just like Cassie.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010


This is an excerpt from a post on solitude from the Becoming Minimalist blog:

Solitude provides opportunity to rediscover our lives. By ”electing to intentionally withdraw from human relationships for a period of time,” we are able to remove the shaping influence of others and recenter our hearts on our deepest values. We are able to evaluate the assumptions, claims, and messages of our culture. Often times, we realize that these shaping forces have been incorrect all along. And we have lost our lives because of them.

Consider that when we embrace solitude…

  • We intentionally remove the influence of others for period of time.
  • We intentionally remove the expectations of others.
  • We are able to hear our own heart speak.
  • We find rest and refreshment.
  • We discover that others can live without us.
  • We find that the world does not rest on our shoulders.
  • We can adequately reflect on our past and chart our future.
  • We break the cycle of busyness in our lives.
  • We become better equipped to show patience with others.
  • We feed our souls.

While anyone can practice solitude at any given time by just finding a quiet place to sit for an extended period of time, I have found these tips to be particularly helpful in developing a discipline of concentrated solitude:

  1. Give yourself enough time. If you are just starting, try 30 minutes. Typically, the first 15 minutes are filled with a busy mind still running fast. But after about 15 minutes, your mind will slow down enough to offer you deep reflection. And the longer you give it, the deeper it will go.
  2. Schedule time. If you are just hoping for an extra 30-45 minutes to show up in your day for solitude, it’ll never come. Time for solitude must be desired, scheduled, and created.
  3. Find a calm location. Your surroundings will make a big difference. Avoid “fast-paced” locations such as offices, kitchens, or any place that reminds you of work. Also keep in mind that you’ll find solitude more fulfilling if your space is uncluttered.
  4. Take as little as possible with you.
  5. Just allow your mind to wander. There are no set rules concerning what you should be thinking about. Just let your mind wander. As I mentioned, it will skip around at the very beginning. But eventually, your mind will settle in on something that your heart has been trying to tell you all along.
  6. Don’t quit just because you don’t like what you find. The journey into our heart is not always a pretty one. Sometimes when we start pulling back the layers of our heart and realize our deepest motivations, we don’t like what we see. This can be difficult for some and cause even more to stop altogether. But, don’t. A richer, fuller life is just around the corner.
  7. Don’t worry if you fall asleep. While solitude is different than napping, if you consistently find yourself falling asleep during these quiet periods, your mind may be trying to tell you something. And you should probably listen.
  8. Pray. If you are spiritual, certainly use this time to connect with God. If you are not spiritual, solitude just may put you more in touch with God if you are open to it. Because God often speaks with a small voice that is drowned out by the world’s noise, we can’t hear it until we intentionally listen for it.

Give solitude a chance. You’ve got nothing to lose. And your life to gain back.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Friday, August 20, 2010

Women's Suffrage

Whoops. I missed it, but better late than never. August 18 was the 90th anniversary of the ratification of the Women's Suffrage Amendment. The Kansas City Star has a neat PHOTO GALLERY that you can view.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Eat, Pray, Spend

I don't quite think THIS is what Elizabeth Gilbert had in mind when she wrote Eat, Pray, Love.

My contribution to the spending spree? The price of a paperback and a movie ticket.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

My Last Summer Matinee

I've read the book, so I thought I should see the movie . . .

Now that I've seen the movie, I want to re-read the book. This re-reading thing's getting out of hand.

Eat Pray Love

- 2hr 13min‎‎ - Rated PG-13‎‎ - Drama‎ -
Director: Ryan Murphy - Cast: Julia Roberts, James Franco, Richard Jenkins, Viola Davis, Billy Crudup

Liz Gilbert had everything a modern woman is supposed to dream of having -- a husband, a house, a successful career -- yet like so many others, she found herself lost, confused, and searching for what she really wanted in life. Newly divorced and at a crossroads, Gilbert steps out of her comfort zone, risking everything to change her life, embarking on a journey around the world that becomes a quest for self-discovery. In her travels, she discovers the true pleasure of nourishment by eating in Italy; the power of prayer in India, and, finally and unexpectedly, the inner peace and balance of true love in Bali.

Monday, August 16, 2010

This Time . . .

Last week, I posted about re-reading Jane Eyre for the Women's Lit class I'm teaching this Fall. Re-reading for class can sometimes be boring. I already know the plot; I'm just re-reading to get all the details back in my head for class discussion. And, I can't help thinking of what else I could be reading if I didn't have to re-read. But, a woman's gotta do what a woman's gotta do.

Additionally, it had been a long time since reading Jane Eyre, and, like I posted, I'd had two very different reactions to the novel in my previous two readings, so I was curious about how I'd feel this time. Well, I'm not finished yet (Jane's just left Mr. Rochester), but I'm absolutely enthralled by the novel. I can't wait to discuss it with my students. The first two readings, even though I had very different reactions, were both very plot-driven readings. I reacted only to what happened. This reading, I've really been paying attention to style and craft, and especially to characterization, and it's almost as if I'm reading it for the first time. Of course, knowing that I'm also going to teach Jean Rhys' Wide Sargasso Sea has me paying attention to detail in a way I might not otherwise.

Re-reading Jane Eyre makes me want to re-read The Thirteenth Tale, too.

This could start a dangerous trend.

Saturday, August 14, 2010

My New Listen

Things Fall Apart


by Chinua Achebe

Narrated by Peter Francis James

PUBLISHER: Recorded Books

LENGTH: 6 hrs and 30 mins

Publisher's Summary

With over eight million copies in print world wide, Achebe's work is a definitive novel in African literature. Filled with powerful language and finely drawn characters, Things Fall Apart also shimmers with the sounds and sights of village life.

Okonkwo is born into poverty, with a wastrel for a father. Driven by ambition, he works tirelessly to gain the prosperity of many fields and wives, and prestige in his village. But he is harsh as well as diligent. As he sees the traditions of his people eroded by white missionaries and government officials, he lashes out in anger.

Things Fall Apart traces the growing friction between village leaders and Europeans determined to save the heathen souls of Africa. But its hero, a noble man who is driven by destructive forces, speaks a universal tongue.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Yoga Continued

The second tip my friend gave me is that consistency is key. You'll get better results from ten minutes of yoga every day than from a two-hour session once a week.

That's a very freeing piece of information because, although I enjoy practicing yoga and don't mind doing an hour-long workout, somedays I just don't have a whole hour to spare.

So, since talking to her I've practiced at least six days a week--some days twenty minutes, some days forty-five, some days an hour. It just depends on how I feel and how much time I have. But even the short workouts relax me and make me feel better--mentally and physically. Plus, no matter how long my daily yoga workout is, I have the mental benefit of the daily discipline.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Yoga Resumed

During the year that I lived in Oxford, I began taking yoga classes. I'd read/study/write all day, and then take a yoga class two or three times a week, before my evening classes at Ole Miss began. I loved it. First of all, it got out all the stiffness and kinks I'd acquired from a day of study, which was nice. But it also really got rid of stress. For an hour, I didn't think about anything that I needed to do, had to do, should do, ought to do . . you know the drill. And I was getting stronger (which surprised me, because I already ran/power walked and lifted weights, but yoga was really making a difference in my body--both the way it felt and the way it looked), and I was much more limber.

Well, the classes ended and I moved back home and spent a year studying for comps and writing my dissertation. In other words, I spent a year sitting on my butt. I kept up my morning exercise routine but not the late afternoon yoga. And I missed it.

Last semester, I tried taking some classes here in town, but the times were inconvenient and the classes just didn't measure up to those I'd taken before. I always left disappointed. So, I finally contacted a friend at Ole Miss who teaches yoga and asked for suggestions.

Her first suggestion was to create a personal space for practice. It didn't have to be huge or fancy, just private, spacious, comfortable, and readily available. This seems like such a simple suggestion, but I can't say enough how helpful it was. I often thought about doing yoga at home, but I rarely did because I didn't really have a convenient spot and didn't feel like bothering to clear away one.

We have an extra bedroom that had become a sort of leaving-grounds for things the kids brought into the house on their temporary stays but didn't bother to take with them to their new homes. So, I devoted an hour or so one morning to cleaning out that bedroom. I threw away things, hauled away things, and stored things until the room was bare of everything but basic furniture. This left a wide bare spot in the middle of the carpeted room for my sticky mat. I placed a small table against the wall to hold a candle, and underneath it I placed my yoga videos and straps. I also arranged a convenient spot to place my laptop to play soft music or a video.

I've been amazed at what a difference this makes. I've practiced almost every day since I've set up my yoga space. Now, all I have to do is walk upstairs and I'm ready to practice.

More about yoga tomorrow.

Monday, August 9, 2010

Partial Disconnect

Lately, I've been suffering from burnout. I defended my dissertation last summer just in time to start preparing for the Fall semester and two new classes. I had two new classes in the Spring, too. I taught Honors Symposium this summer, and I've got four preps this Fall, including one new class, one class that I've taught before but on T/Th and this time it's MWF, and another class that I've taught before, but for some unknown reason I decided to change books. Well, as soon as Honors Symposium was over, I tried to write the paper that I'm supposed to present at the JASNA conference in October, and that's when it hit.

Burn out.

I couldn't write a word. Oh, I re-read the novel, and took some notes. But when I sat down in front of my computer, nothing happened. For two days. Nothing, that is, but headaches and stress. I was just so tired.

So I told myself that I wouldn't write just yet. I'd rest. But I was too wired up to rest. I'd had constant mental stimulation for years. I rarely (maybe never?) just turned everything off. I'd been doing so much for so long, I didn't know how to do nothing.

So, the first thing I did, besides giving myself permission not to write, was to do a partial disconnect from the internet--mainly Facebook and Twitter. I checked it once in the morning and once in the afternoon, if then. That's it. I put my iphone out of sight--somewhere I could answer a call but not have its presence be a constant temptation to check something. The first day was weird. The second, not so much. Now--not at all. And I feel calmer. A lot calmer. And the headaches are gone.

The other thing I did was re-establish a yoga practice. More on that tomorrow.

Saturday, August 7, 2010

This Time?

In preparation for my Women's Lit class this Fall, I'm re-reading Jane Eyre. I read it for the first time in Jr. High and LOVED it. I re-read it as an undergrad and got SO ANGRY. I'm wondering what my reaction will be this time.

Friday, August 6, 2010

Summer Time

It's too hot. Too hot. Tooooo hot.

That's all I've got to say about it.

Thursday, August 5, 2010

My New Listen

People of the Book


by Geraldine Brooks

Narrated by Edwina Wren

Publisher: Penguin Audiobooks

13 hours 58 minutes

Publisher's Summary

From the Pulitzer Prize-winning author of March, the journey of a rare illuminated prayer book through centuries of war, destruction, theft, loss, and love.

Inspired by a true story, People of the Book is a novel of sweeping historical grandeur and intimate emotional intensity by an acclaimed and beloved author. Called "a tour de force"by the San Francisco Chronicle, this ambitious, electrifying work traces the harrowing journey of the famed Sarajevo Haggadah, a beautifully illuminated Hebrew manuscript created in 15th-century Spain.

When it falls to Hanna Heath, an Australian rare-book expert, to conserve this priceless work, the series of tiny artifacts she discovers in its ancient binding - an insect wing fragment, wine stains, salt crystals, a white hair - only begin to unlock its deep mysteries and unexpectedly plunges Hanna into the intrigues of fine art forgers and ultra-nationalist fanatics.

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

What I'm Reading Now

'"The honest truth is that it's sad to be over sixty," concludes Nora Ephron in her sparkling new book about aging. With 15 essays in 160 pages, this collection is short, a thoughtful concession to pre- and post-menopausal women (who else is there?), like herself, who "can't read a word on the pill bottle," follow a thought to a conclusion, or remember the thought after not being able to read the pill bottle. Ephron drives the truth home like a nail in your soon-to-be-bought coffin: "Plus, you can't wear a bikini." But just as despair sets in, she admits to using "quite a lot of bath oil... I'm as smooth as silk." Yes, she is. This is aging lite—but that might be the answer. Besides, there's always Philip Roth for aging heavy.Ephron, in fact, offers a brief anecdote about Roth, in a chapter on cooking, concerning her friend Jane, who had a one-night stand, long ago, with the then "up-and-coming" writer. He gave Jane a copy of his latest book. "Take one on your way out," he said. Conveniently, there was a box of them by the front door. Ephron refuses to analyze—one of her most refreshing qualities—and quickly moves on to Jane's céleri remoulade.Aging, according to Ephron, is one big descent—and who would argue? (Well, okay—but they'd lose the argument if they all got naked.) There it is, the steady spiraling down of everything: body and mind, breasts and balls, dragging one's self-respect behind them. Ephron's witty riffs on these distractions are a delightful antidote to the prevailing belief that everything can be held up with surgical scaffolding and the drugs of denial. Nothing, in the end, prevents the descent. While signs of mortality proliferate, Ephron offers a rebuttal of consequence: an intelligent, alert, entertaining perspective that does not take itself too seriously. (If you can't laugh, after all, you are already, technically speaking, dead.) She does, however, concede that hair maintenance—styling, dyeing, highlighting, blow-drying—is a serious matter, not to mention the expense. "Once I picked up a copy of Vogue while having my hair done, and it cost me twenty thousand dollars. But you should see my teeth." Digging deeper, she discovers that your filthy, bulging purse containing numerous things you don't need—and couldn't find if you did—is, "in some absolutely horrible way, you." Ephron doesn't shy away from the truth about sex either, and confesses, though with an appropriate amount of shame, that despite having been a White House intern in 1961, she did not have an affair with JFK. May Ephron, and her purse, endure so she can continue to tell us how it goes. Or, at least, where it went.'

Monday, August 2, 2010