Thursday, December 29, 2011

Obligatory Yet Useful New Year's Reflection

Time to look back at the year, back at my New Year's Goals from last year, and reflect. 

For one thing, I am resolved to stop using sentence fragments such as the one above which sound like the script for a local news broadcast:  "Local citizens waking up in flames.  Migraine striking one pedestrian at Speedway and Swan.  Reporting from downtown.  Writer, cringing inwardly at local news broadcasts."  Usually, all that is missing is a helping verb, and sometimes a subject.  I wonder how many extra super-cute Youtube videos of kittens teasing turtles they can squeeze in by eliminating helping verbs.  Eliminating the subject of the sentence seems downright irresponsible.  The recipients of my e-mails and readers of my blog will be happy to know that although I am not relinquishing fragments altogether, I'll do my best not to sound like I'm reporting on a police shooting.

Here were my goals (not resolutions!) from last year, with commentary from how the year actually went...
1. I will do less yelling in my house and work on strategies to encourage my kids (and husband?) to do the same.    I'm not really sure I accomplished this, though Rich is doing pretty well at it!

2. I will maintain a consistent interest in and commitment to exercise and physical fitness. I will use my gym membership at least a couple of times per week, and get out for hikes at least a couple of times per month. I will try to get out to do the following activities more often: walks at the park, biking to work and for fun, tennis at Catalina H.S.. I'll try to expand my repertoire!  Uh, yeah, that one.  I did pretty well in the springtime, but once we started working on remodeling our investment property, most of my physical effort went there all summer.  Luckily, it was pretty good and exhausting exercise.  We did walk around the park a lot more this year, though not so much since November.  I am getting antsy though!  I want to hike so bad.

3. I will bike to work more often when the schedule allows.  Nope.  Didn't do that at all. 

4. I will recycle more-- too much is making it into the trash can.  Did pretty well until the last month or so.

5. I will end 2011 weighing less than I weighed on the way in-- 10-20 more pounds?  I'm about the same.  So that in itself is some level of success. 

6. I will be more consistent about cooking meals and eating lots of fruits and veggies-- and the kids, too.  I definitely did better with this throughout most of the year, especially having my dad around during the summer.  A lot of this is due to dwindling budget for restaurant food!  I don't miss the drive throughs much, though, I'll tell you.

7. I will get the kids out into nature more and have fun learning the lore-- plants, animals, weather, geology, geography, etc.  The remodeling project kind of got in the way of this in terms of hiking, but we have spent a lot of time at the park for various activities.  We need to clean up the back yard.

8. I will read more books and try to be less susceptible to checking out Facebook and watching whatever trash is on TV.  I have definitely accomplished this, despite Rich's jealous behavior when I read books (which I find interesting and slightly amusing.)  I need to thank my friends and students for inspiring me to read more... and I have truly enjoyed it, though I no longer have any idea what is happening in the news.  Unfortunate side effect.

9. I will continue to work on buying less crap I don't really need ($1 bin shit, stupid office supplies I covet but never use, stuff like that) and stuff that has tons of packaging (this is a tough one...)   I have definitely, definitely bought less crap this year.  Yea!

10. I will create time for friends and family and work on nurturing my adult relationships-- more fun time for me and me more fun for others!  I need to do much better with this.

11. Attitude: Empowered, positive... stop whining, internally and out loud.  I think I have done better with this, although working on my National Board Certification has definitely caused me plenty of anxiety and panic from time to time.

ALSO-- I have been writing much, much more this year.  So, yea!  I feel like if I had more time and focus to devote to it, the writing itself could be a bit more serious, reflective, well-researched, well-crafted.  But... one step at a time, my friends.  And I have written a few poems that I really like, and participated and WON my first NaNoWriMo.
Three additional goals for this year:   Accomplish my National Board Certification.  Travel more.  Write notes and letters to friends and family.


Due to my years of playing violin, combined with having multiple little brothers, I have realized I have highly conflicting connotations connected with the term "nutcracker."  That is all.

Monday, December 19, 2011

Snapshot of Life

O is painting watercolor hearts with a friend at the dining room table.

G is playing x-box with a friend who brought it over-- games he doesn't have in his limited collection of Wii games.

Homemade tomato garlic soup is on the stove.

Sink is full of dishes.

House smells of quesadillas, douglas fir...

I am lying fully clothed under the covers with the computer on my lap.  Taking advantage of not having too many obligations just right this second.  I do feel like some exercise would do me good after grading papers for the last three weeks without (it seems) moving.  Tomorrow, movement.  I'll be painting tomorrow-- that'll get me moving a little.  And maybe it won't be raining.  And I'll be caught up with my sleep.

Finished re-reading The Handmaid's Tale, by Margaret Atwood.  I had been thinking about that book, but haven't read it since...  when?  College?  I must have read it since then, no?  It reminded me why I really like her writing, and how much her prose style has influenced mine, how much I learned about images by reading her books and short stories, even the more heavy-handed ones.  The weird thing is that I remembered Offred actually being pregnant and actually having the baby in the novel... and I won't give anything away, but it is a little different than that.  Strange.  So maybe it has been that long since I read it.  I remember I wrote an essay on it in college about cultivating a pearl-- and I focused on the image of the women being like pearls.  I could have sworn that I talked about her daughter as a pearl. But that wasn't in the book!  And there were only one or two mentions of pearls at all.  I must have really milked that image!

Plans:  I would like to write letters this week, for once, and feel like a good girl. Especially for my grandma.  Maybe bake.  Definitely make and eat more soup.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Blog for G

Today, I celebrated the ninth anniversary since the wee hours of the morning after the long hours of a night in labor with my son.  Five days after G's Pearl Harbor Day due date, when my brother Bill came down from his nearby condo and knocked on the door.  He told me that, if I was willing to try castor oil (to induce labor) he'd try it with me.  What a guy.  The oldest sibling anywhere nearby (his half sister/ my stepsister lives farrrrrr away) I was the first to be pregnant, and G would be the first nephew anywhere within visiting distance.  Bill was pretty excited-- and he's a little OCD, so when he gets going on an idea, you can either fight it and pay the price, or go with it.  And really, we had just attended (or, I had barely managed to sit in a chair long enough for) Rich's grandfather's funeral that day.  All our major obligations were finished.  I was finishing making a lampshade for the nursery when Bill knocked.  Rich was visiting his family or maybe playing racquetball.  And I was physically uncomfortable and ready to be done being pregnant.  (That probably sounds callous, the funeral being a social obligation, and I did feel grief that day, but let's face it.  Very pregnant women process these things much differently than normal people-- all the energy is focused inward.)

We made a trip to the drug store.   We filled shot glasses with the thick oil and took a photo.  I chased my shot of castor oil with grapefruit juice as my mother had suggested over the phone.  It was a gloppy mess and I would have gagged without the bite of the citrus to follow it.  Shudder.

I will spare the readers of my blog the details of the next several hours, but I called Bill at about 11:30 to find out how his evening had gone (Rich was home and passed out asleep by this point, of course.)  He said his gut was pretty much emptied.  I was still cramping... turned out to have worked.  Rich was a very effective coach.  I can still hear him at my side, in my ear, "Go! Go! Go!"  My mother's method was a bit more nurturing, rubbing my feet, giving me stiff backrubs along the back of my pelvis, providing counterpressure until I had to turn onto my back, putting up with my comments about her coffee breath. I think G was born by 4 a.m., maybe even earlier.  Time was irrelevant by that point; I was experiencing an altered state of consciousness which was not induced by drugs but by complete physical transformations of all sorts. The date was Friday, the 13th. 

My first impression of my son was that, somehow, I recognized him-- it was a feeling of seeing something I had imagined in a dream brought to life, as though he looked exactly as he was meant to, and I experienced the joy of fulfilled expectations. Beyond that, he was a wrinkly, shriveled little thing, like any newborn.  I was struck by how much he looked like an old man, actually.  Our first couple of days were a series of negotiations-- mostly he won.  He still negotiates each an every situation, behavior and consequence with me, though he is much more helpful around the house.  He is a meticulous and focused artist, a willful and belligerent non-homework-doer, a gifted thinker and designer, a hiker of endurance and fortitude, and an avid reader of imaginative literature and nonfiction (and Calvin and Hobbes.) He cleans his room better and more efficiently than I have ever managed to do.  He creates endless versions of his "mini-man," a roughly cut-out paper man about two inches tall who goes on adventures and inevitably ends up limbless and decapitated.

Though G has been the greatest challenge of my life, he is also one of the greatest treasures.  As he grows older one of my greatest hopes is to disentangle him from media and video games for enough time that he continues to use his imagination and keep a sense of his own mind.  And that he can learn to control the idiosyncratic behavioral things that make it so difficult for him in school.  He is strong-willed, so if he chooses to do these things, he will.

Happy Birthday!  I apologize that until you are grown, this will always be finals week for me. 

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Planning For Ekphrasis Poetry

Whenever I have a lot of papers to grade, I find some other way to occupy my mind.  Something that is urgent, creative, fun...  usually planning my next units.

I'm not sure exactly how it will work out, because I want to cover various poetic forms and techniques at the same time, but I want to teach poetry through its relationship to other art forms, and somehow I found out that there is a word for this:  Ekphrasis.  A work of art based on another work of art.  Fantastic concept!

I've started a small Diigo collection of websites I am tagging "ekphrasis" for use in my unit.  I would love ideas!

Poetry about Art.
Art about Poetry.
Poetry about Music
Music about Poetry
Poetry about Other Poems & Lit.
Poetry & graphic novels
Related Topic: broadsides  (Drooling to do broadsides!)

List of Possible Works to Use:
"My Last Duchess" Robert Browning
"Ode on a Grecian Urn" John Keats
Pictures at an Exhibition Mussorgsky
"Green Light and Gamma Rays" by Thylias Moss
Iliad-- description of Achilles' shield
"The Man With the Hoe" by Edwin Markham based on painting by the same name by Jean Francois Millet
"Yadwigha, on a Red Couch, Among Lilies, A Sestina for the Douanier" by Sylvia Plath (based on Yadwigha, on a Red Couch, Among Lilies by Henri Rousseau