What I've Been Into - Summer 2014

Hi all,

Well, I'd say summer is almost over, but the truth is summer has been in the rearview for me for over two weeks already. My new set of students filled up my new campus on Monday, and brought with them the very tangible feeling of fall. Make no mistake: it was still hot outside. But school is scholarly and high hopes and eager nerves and very much what's next. I am dog tired. And can hardly sleep for the thirty-two things on my to-do list. But also: how many folks can say they get this--this influx of life every autumn? Besides the kids and the content and the fact that, you know, I get to talk about books and words for a living, I am so grateful for the way the school calendar is cyclical, for the way even when it's harvest time, for me the world feels new.

That said: summer was wonderful. WONDERFUL. So much time outside with my dear boy. There are ridiculous tan lines on my feet from my sandals, and this fact makes me grin, because the last time I had lines like these, I was twenty-one and living along the shores of the Chesapeake.  Do you know what this means? My eighteen-month-old son is keeping me young. And that is a beautiful thing, my friends--the way our children open us up to experiences we thought were past. 

It was also a lovely summer in that Elliot really started to sleep well: full nights and predictable naps, sometimes for a few hours in the afternoon. And--fully rested from the night before--it was then that I propped up my feet and read. Lordy, was there reading going on at my house these last three months. Honestly, I stopped keeping track of all the smaller articles and essays and poems I consumed (not to mention board books); the list just would have been too long. But! But. The titles below comprise a smattering of where my brain has been this retreating season. 

How about you? I would love to hear about your summer highlights. And I'd ask for book recommendations, but at this point? Maybe just the keys to your cabin in the Northwoods would do. :) 

Hope you are well, friends. Think of me when you see those yellow busses! Education is such a privilege.

Books (& a play!):
  1. The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain -- It's been a long time since I read this one (an admission I will make for many books on this list). I found the Duke and King section a bit long, but I also found myself smirking and occasionally laughing out loud at certain shenanigans. Twain does know how to get you shaking your head, wondering at the craziness of the world.
  2. The Scarlet Letter by Nathaniel Hawthorne -- Another reread from my high school days. For whatever reason, I remember not getting then What All The Fuss Was About. Having read it now as a mother, though, I came away with a much deeper appreciation of Hester, her role as a mother-rebel, and her strength. There are also so many philosophical conundrums/discussion points/questions... this one had me wearing out my pen's ink in its margins, and--nerd alert!--that kind of thing really gets my brain-blood racing. 
  3. The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald. Oh, the sentences. The sentences!
  4. Oedipus the King by Sophocles -- Although I've taught Antigone before, this was my first time through OtK. There was so much dramatic irony all the way through that I could hardly stand it--in a good way. Sophocles knew how to work an audience.
  5. Promises Kept: Raising Black Boys to Succeed in Work and In Life by Dr. Joe Brewster and Michele Stephenson. This was summer reading for my school's faculty. It was a fascinating and frustrating read, and--in the wake of Ferguson--incredibly timely. The authors came to our school to speak during teacher workshops. Although it's hard to pinpoint answers and solutions, the biggest take away was the importance of the what's next question. The fact that we have to ask it, and then think on it, and then do better.
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. Her -- Weird and colorful and full of love-letters and great lines, which, you know, I like.
  3. Game of Thrones, Season 4 -- We finished this season all hushed and heavy, and after its final episode, we crashed into the pit that is No-More-Episodes-Until-Winter.
  4. Sherlock -- I'm not really a crime-show kind of girl, so I was skeptical when a friend suggested this series after I bemoaned the loss of GOT. Happily, we really like it! The lead actors do a great job.
  5. The Killing -- After Sherlock,  we became completely sucked in by this crime series (it's official: we are Netflix junkies) (I think this is perhaps what happens when you are parents of young children with early bedtimes) (Yes?). The cliff-hangers at the end of each episode were extremely detrimental to my husband's and my need to Go To Sleep. I haven't felt that tied to a ticking-clock kind of show since, I don't know, 24?

Articles, Essays, & Posts:
  1. "The Secret Rules of Adjective Order" by Katy Waldman. Because I'm a nerd.
  2. "The Gorgeous Nothings: The Envelop Poems of Emily Dickinson" by Michelle Aldredge. Because Emily Dickinson.
  3. "Give Me Gratitude or Give Me Debt" by Glennon Doyle Melton. Just some very practical advice on living simply an appreciating what you already have.
  4. "The Shortening Leash" by Jessica Grose and Hanna Rosin. Articles like this become ever more fascinating to me as my child becomes more independent. I'd love to let him just run off into the field/woods/wildblueyonder... but can someone give me a 100% objective answer regarding when that would be safe?!
  5. "On Self-Reliance" by Ralph Waldo Emerson -- Have I read this before? I must have. But it hit me as all new, and quite powerful. His quotes on the potential hollowness of consistency felt fresh and right on.
  6. "On Civil Disobedience" by Henry David Thoreau -- This might be revealing too much about me, but HDT was sort of my high school literary crush. Lots of Walden reading. Lots of writing down his quotes on post-it-notes and affixing them in my locker. This essay reminded me of my sixteen-year-old-self, how earnest I was, and how little I really understood about the Transcendentalists. I'm very much looking forward to reading this essay with my students and talking it all out.

    Finds & Arrow Signs:
    1. Thai Chicken Curry Flurry -- Coconut milk! Delicious.
    2. "Teaching With Heart: Poetry That Speaks To The Courage to Teach" -- An anthology of prose and poetry that I just happen to have contributed to. Some great work if you are looking for inspiration or a perfect English-teachery gift.
    3. "Descant" in Midway Journal -- A short story I wrote in one fell-swoop while reclining on a dorm room bed at Vermont College of Fine Arts. I'm pleased to see it in this fine publication.
    4. Highway 61 along the St. Croix River Valley -- Although I've been to the southeast corner of Minnesota many times, its beauty never ceases to impair the safety of my driving. "Look! Look there!" Thank you, dear Signe, for falling in love and marrying a farm boy from Rollingstone. May your happiness vault up into the sky like these cliffs.


    1. I have to ask a question, and since you "did it," you sure know what "it" is about.

      When I began to read the linked article about adjective order, I got as far as this: "You’re not wrong (though not entirely right, because descriptivist linguistics)..."

      And up there in your list, you say, ""The Gorgeous Nothings: The Envelop Poems of Emily Dickinson" by Michelle Aldredge. Because Emily Dickinson."

      What is this "because" construction? Whenever I come across it, I usually stop reading because, just like "totes adorbs," I feel like it's a clear signal that I've wandered into the wrong neighborhood.

      It's, like, everyone in certain circles are, like, speaking in code and, like, making everyone else aware that they're, like, just so cool!.

      I'm poking a little fun, but honestly -- there are a lot of people writing online who come across as, like, linguistic Valley girls. Or is it just me?

      (I realize that my fussiness of the "because" construction risks sounding like I'm criticizing you, but I'm really not. I'm honestly curious where this is coming from.)

      1. That would be: "you surely know what 'it' is about."

      2. Hi Linda,

        It's funny that you picked up on my use of "because...," because I think this may have been the first time I've used it in writing! I read an article about it in The Atlantic last fall (which I'll link to below) which talked about the evolution of the word. Of course I've seen it used this way online, too; that's part of the article's argument... online writing is changing language. I guess to me it sounds less Valley and more Flip, if that makes sense. Which isn't to say I want to be flip about Dickinson, but the spirit of my composing this list was quick, so the "because" construction just rolled right out from my fingers.

        Not sure if that answers your question, but I have to thank you for making me think about it! Something I might bring up with my students this year.

        Here's the article: http://www.theatlantic.com/technology/archive/2013/11/english-has-a-new-preposition-because-internet/281601/


    2. I just found your blog tonight...it reads like a good book...thanks...


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