May 23, 2014

What I've Been Into - Spring 2014

Hello everyone, hello!

Spring has finally and fully arrived in Minnesota, and we are all a bit crazy over it. Fling open those windows! Let it all grow! May everything just multiply. The grass is so green and so high lawn mowers break down from the abundance. I usually say autumn is my favorite time of year, but this season? This parentheses in my life when my little boy is experiencing THE WORLD up close for the first time? There is magic in the air, people, and living a wild and precious life seems quite possible. Hallelujah.

Although these past three months have been full of many things, both unsettling and celebratory, the biggest change has been my resignation from my current school district and my acceptance of a new teaching position in Minneapolis. I am thrilled about joining my new school, meeting a new set of smart and inspiring colleagues, and learning with a new crop of young ones, but it is a bittersweet move. I have been at my current school for the past decade; it was my first job right out of college, and therefore all of the major experiences that have happened in my adult life have occurred within or around or between the supportive arms of this place. I will miss my colleagues, and just this week--although I haven't been able to bring myself to officially announce my departure yet to my students--I had my first student who'd heard come in crying. She graduates this year, so it's not even that she bummed that I won't be her creative writing teacher next fall; it's that I won't be here. I feel a bit like I'm graduating right along with her, embarking on a thrilling, unknowable journey, hopeful that the steps I take lead me down the right roads.

That said, my summer reading pile is SO HIGH, you guys. It's not even a list. It's an actual stack, measured in feet. And though looking at its height and what it means about how claimed my time will be over the next school calendar kind of makes me want to throw up (you know what I'm talking about, first-year-teachers), it's mostly because I'm just. that. excited. Stomach-all-a-whirl-dizzy-dizzy-ohmygosh-whoatherecowboy excited. Lord, this one wild and precious life. Thank God for it.

Anyway, before this turns into even more of a diary entry (thanks, as always, for being with me here, folks!), below is my list of what I've been reading/viewing/discovering this past season. If we've crossed cultural paths, let me know in the comments! Be well, all!

  1. Eleanor and Park by Rainbow Rowell--A sweet and sad and infinitely readable YA story about two misfits in love. 
  2. How Children Succeed: Grit, Curiosity, and the Hidden Power of Character by Paul Tough -- I read this as an educator, but it made me think repeatedly about my role as a parent. It's so important that we allow our children to fail sometimes. Adversity is what propels us beyond "successful" to "influential."
  3.  Divergent by Veronica Roth -- Okay. A little too much like The Hunger Games for me to buy in. Still it's fun to read what my students are into.
  4. Till We Have Faces by C.S. Lewis -- A beautiful, insightful, and moving re-imagining of the Cupid and Psyche myth.
  5. Crawling Out the Window by Tom Hennen -- Local poet who I found via another blogger. Some great work. A lot about snow.
  6.  The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt -- The biggest book I've read in a while, and although I felt its length at points--ohmygoodness, I'm-not-even-half-way-Elliot-is-going-to-wake-up-from-his-nap-any-minute-and-there-is-no-dinner-started-crap-one-more-chapter!--for me, it lived up to its Pulitzer hype. Admittedly, any author who explores a mother-son relationship now has me in her grip. 

TV & Movies:
  1. Mad Men, Season 6 -- Eh. Getting tired of Don's remoteness. The masks we all wear, even from ourselves, yes, but... eh.  At least there was that amazing scene of Ken Cosgrove tap-dancing.
  2. Game of Thrones, Season 4 --Everything is, as they say, gratuitous in this show, but it turns out that's the perfect remedy for a stressful day. Sometimes it's okay to just be entertained.
  3. Short Term 12 -- Beautiful and heavy and hopeful. We cried.

Articles & Posts:
  1. "Which Poet Are You?" by Nick Courage. A fun quiz that's worth a few minutes of your day. I got Neruda, of course. 
  2. "The Overprotected Kid" by Hanna Rosin -- Just this afternoon at work I watched a sixteen year old walk through the parking lot toward his car among his friends, and I thought, "My God!" How am I ever going to let Elliot do that?" (i.e. be out out of the sight of a certifiedresponsibletrustworthycaretaker, let alone operate a moving vehicle.) And yet I do want him to go explore the woods, and forget about me for a while. May I find the grace to find the balance.
  3. "You Are Not As Busy As You Say You Are," by Hanna Rosin. YES! This rings so true.
  4. "The danger of a single story," by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie. This TED Talk has been around since 2009, but especially with all the heartbreaking #bringbackourgirls attention coming out of Nigeria this season, this video deserves another watch.
  5. "The Mother As She Writes," by Andrea Lani. An excellent critical essay (with many references to other books/stories/writers) about writing and motherhood and all the ways these two experiences can intersect.
  6. "Unprepared," by Rob Lowe. Honestly, I have zero interest in Rob Lowe. I can't think of a single thing he's been in that I remember. But this essay about sending his oldest son off to college made me think, again, about Elliot, and how damn much I love him.

    Finds & Arrow Signs:
    1. Historia -- Some fine music, written and recorded by my main squeeze, GB, and friends.
    2. Adobe Voice for the iPad --Great new app for making Explainer Videos.
    3. Literary Mama, Split Rock Review, Midway Journal -- After a first-year-mama dry spell (that's what I'm calling it anyway; let's face it, all my energies rightly went directly to El his first year on earth), I have a story and two essays coming out this summer in some great publications. I'll try to link to them more specifically when they show their public faces.
    4. KAXE The Beat -- Hear me read "I Knew," a love poem, on the radio here.
    5. Tangerine and Carrot popsicles (YUM!)
    6. Bird watching (done ever so much more vocally with a toddler)  :)

    May 2, 2014

    July Stars

    The baby is sleeping. Ahh--you see what I did there? That little untruth? Because he is not a baby, Miss Emily B. Remember all the ways that he is now a boy:

    Pointed finger, wearer of shoes, hall-runner, door-slammer, hahahahahahaha laugher, tantrum-thrower, always-hungry-carrot-monster, the "balls," the "birds," the "dars" (cars), the on-the-lips-kisses, the too-long hair, the long and lingering and serious gazes, the mischief-twinkling-father's-son stares, the charging-full-speed-into-mama's-arms-and-tipping-us-both-over-from-the-force kind of hugs, the lengthening of  legs, the sculpting of shoulders.

    Which is to say, time is passing. All week here it has rained and rained, sheets of it so thick that puddles widened into ponds that ducks sat in, soaking. We watched it. Heard it against the windows at night. Heard thunder, too. Felt the winter recede with the rest of the snow into the rivers, which are now over the banks, gobbling up mud and old branches, moving the earth.

    Tonight, I kissed my boy sweet dreams, hugged him fiercely in a way that's been new, now he's sturdier, and felt all these clangs in my chest as I did so. Goodnight, goodnight, goodnight, goodnight, the world, your neck, goodnight. And when I set him down, he turned on his stomach and sighed, like the blessed.

    And though I've so rarely had the time or energy to write these past (almost) fifteen months, I closed his door to pink and orange light pouring through the northwest windows, and I will tell you that something in this last month has changed for me. Time is passing. Spring is coming. My child is growing. And I am quietly but suddenly quite sure that I am coming back to myself. That there is enough of me to go out to the world and to my family and still come back to myself.

    Earlier this evening I was looking out at the grove, the trees still humble shades of brown and gray, and, "Oh!" I said out loud. Because though I've been watching for it for weeks now, waiting for it just as I have since I was too young to know why even grown women would do such things, I didn't see it there right away. It snuck up on me--the promise, the arrival of life returning--the bright green buds shooting out of one small tree, like July stars.

    Sweet dreams, friends.