What I've Been Into - Autumn 2014

Hi all,

First, I hope you had a wonderful Thanksgiving. It's my favorite holiday: gratitude, good food, and family. I hope you spent it with those you care about most.

This fall has given me a lot to be thankful for. My darling boy is just a few months away from turning two years old, and this autumn has been so full of his mind latching onto everything and finding ways to communicate that it's been, well, magical. How does a child just suddenly string a six-word sentence together? And his personality, this mini-man, who is forming in front of me? Tonight he was all about "running hugs," the kind where he takes off from across the room and propels himself into my arms, all while laughing his little boy laugh. Which is loud. Which is music. Amen.

Work has also been incredibly fulfilling. I love my life as a mother. But I also look forward to doing what I do inside of my classroom. I find such satisfaction in sharing literature with kids who want to learn! Who are engaged! Who are grateful--for their education, their teachers, their opportunities. The hardest thing about this new job is realizing I might never want to leave.

And I can't teach literature and writing without wanting to make some of it myself. I haven't exactly had an abundance of that thing called "free-time" lately (as you might deduce from my paltry list of movie and TV titles below), but--spurred on both by the energy of my students, the support of my professional community, and an opportunity to give a reading with local author John Jodzio earlier this month--I cobbled together enough time and motivation to write my first real piece of fiction in probably two years. Watching a toddler learn to use words is magical, and so is realizing that--rusty or not--I still can, too.

That about sums it up for me, folks. A lot to be thankful for. A lot to look forward to. Ideas. Space. Quiet. Joyful noise. A world that's cold, but also so very very warm.

Books (& two plays!):
  1. The Scarlet Letter, The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, To Kill a Mockingbird, The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time, Oedipus the King (again). Rereading, though time consuming, is a powerful reminder of how valuable it can be to give anything in life more than one chance.  
  2. Old School by Tobias Wolff -- About a teenaged boy at a private school who is awkward and self-conscious and in love with books. Oh, how I put off grading essays in order to read this one! 
  3. A Room With a View by E. M. Forster -- I listened to this one on my way to and from school, and I have to say, I really enjoyed it. Probably a bit to do with the British accents and the big vocabulary words and Italy and the main love interest's name being George.
  4. The Plague by Albert Camus -- Weird. Weirder than anything I've read in a long time. But the rats crept into my dreams, so I guess that means it was successful?
  5. Fences by August Wilson -- A powerful, Pulitzer Prize-winning play about a black man and his family in the 1950s. Felt incredibly timely as I watched and read and thought about Ferguson.
TV & Movies:
  1. Catching Fire -- Watched this one quiet Friday night by myself anditwasgood.
  2. Django Unchained -- While introducing Huck Finn and discussing my students' exposure to slavery via media, many of them mentioned this movie. Ah, Quentin Tarantino. You would make an interesting history teacher, I'll give you that.
  3. The Politician's Husband -- Another British mini-series that found its way to Netflix, and somehow found its way onto our screen. After the final credits, the hubs and I both had a strong desire to watch some Downton Abbey.

Articles, Essays, & Posts:
  1. "We need to talk about injustice" by Bryan Stevenson -- I feel like I might have heard about this civil rights lawyer/speaker/writer before, but after hearing a recording of a talk he just gave locally, and now having watched his 2012 TED Talk, I'm certain I won't forget his name again. Challenging, important stuff.
  2. "Stories We love: 'In The Heart of the Heart of the Country' by William Gass" by Ann Valente --  A piece about that thing y'all know by now is at the heart of my heart: landscape.
  3. White Bean Chili -- Colder weather means we are cooking up soups and stews and crockpots over here. This recipe was simple and good.
  4. "Fall Colors Around the World" -- Because the colors this autumn really were stunning (and it's important for me to remember how lovely October was, since, you know, November has been a whole lot of below-freezing-is-it-March-yet-murk).
  5. "Fingerprint Words" by Matthew J.X. Malady. Something this ol' English teacher found pleasure in pondering.
  6. "Gate A-4" by Naomi Shihab Nye. Yes, just yes.

    Finds & Arrow Signs:
    1. Deerdorff Apple Orchard in Minnetrista, MN -- Delicious, beautiful, and there's wine!
    2. Barebones Harvest Festival -- I wasn't able to go this year, but I learned about it through a colleague, and it's definitely a way I will spend Halloween in the future.
    3. Betsy Bowen -- A wonderful local artist who works in woodcuts. I'm certain some of her illustrated children's books will find their way onto Elliot's shelves.
    4. Echinacea Goldenseal -- Right as the weather took a serious cold turn, both my husband and I were waylaid with terrible viral yuck--until, that is, our mothers stepped in with their soups and supplements, including this particular herbal powerhouse. We healed right up. Our systems are now solidly armed for winter.
    5. Chocolate croissants -- Thank you, French Club. That is all. 

    Hope you are well, friends. Thank you, as always, for reading along, commenting, and being a part of this community, no matter how much space exists between. An early Merry Christmas, and best wishes for the rest of your 2014.


    1. It's lovely to read how you've woven a beautiful balance of motherhood and work, creativity and necessity. And it's especially lovely to read how in love with your child you are - he is a very lucky little boy! Happy Thanksgiving - happy holidays!

      1. Awww. Thanks, Kathleen! Playing in the leaves with El this fall was the best. And now snow! It makes these frigid temperatures a bit more bearable. :) Best to you!

    2. A good mixture there - and glad you´re thankful for your blessings. Our lives turned upside down 5 weeks ago and I´m glad I´ve always been thankful for every day with my boys.

    3. Tinajo, you have been in my thoughts. What a difficult few weeks that no doubt have felt like a small year. As a mother, my heart aches for you, but it also sends you courage. I hope you feel the support of your community, me included.

    4. I was particularly taken with your comment about re-reading. Heraclitus says, "No one steps into the same river twice." I think that's true for books, too. While the book hasn't changed, we come to it, always, as a new reader, our perceptions and understanding changed by the passage of time.

      And the photo is wonderful!

      1. Yes: it's a hard concept for students (and anyone, in this day and age!) to embrace because--who has the time? But worth it. If it's a good book, worth it. Love the quote. Thanks, Linda!

    5. It's hard to believe that your son will soon be two years old. In what cosmic bottle does all this time disappear in to? I loved the balance in your life. That you can bring every thing together with joy is really the secret to a good life. Thanks so much for sharing all this. Little peaks into your life are worth looking forward to. And, as always, I simply love your writing. It is truly elegant, simple, and elicits real emotion on the reader's part.

      1. That cosmic bottle is as much a mystery to me as it is to you! Thanks for the kind words, Bill. I certainly don't claim to have found balance, but I do feel thankful that at even when I feel out of balance, it's usually due to an abundance of good things. Just trying to stay in the moment. Have a wonderful holiday season!

    6. Hi Emily-

      Hoping you and your family treasure the New Year and have some inspiring adventures in the wilds of Minnesota!

      1. Thank you, Bill. I wish that for us, too! (And you, as well.) :)


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