Monday, January 19, 2015

Remembering the Fearful Years

I wrote this last night when I should have been sleeping. I was just trying to get in my 750 words (I'm using to write more, and it's working) but I got into it and wrote about 1500. Here's what I was remembering...

It sounds like L and his buddy have stopped talking. Little boys have no volume control--no matter how many times you say, "Whisper!" I remember a comedian saying that boys and girls go to sleep differently, and that's certainly true with my two. Little girls get their lovies all arranged just so and get a drink and another story, Mommy, and curl up like little kitty cats until they drift off. Little boys are like, "HEY MOM, GUESS WHAT? WE PLAYED FOOT--ZZZZZ." L is not one to insist he's not tired, though. He's always been one that likes sleep. Which is why I'm not surprised that he and his friend have dropped off.
C, now...that child never wanted to sleep more than she absolutely had to, even as a baby. I know I should be grateful that she did go through spells where she took decent naps of an hour or more and slept through the night--and I WAS grateful. The problem was that these spells never lasted all that long without interruptions. Anything could disrupt her sleeping pattern--teething, sickness, travel, Venus retrograde in the house of name it, it would cause C to start waking up around 2 AM. She was chipper as long as you held her all night long. And a snack wouldn't go amiss, either. PAR-TAAAYYY IN MY ROOM, Y'ALL!
Anyway, we got through the baby and toddler years and then there were the Fearful Years. Mostly during preschool, but we had issues from time to time up until third grade or so. Something would trigger her fear, and she would come out after we followed the bedtime ritual to the letter (including tucking in her 576 stuffed animals--I kid you not, they were piled three-deep along the side of her bed, from the head to the foot). She was always a sobbing wreck when she came out, five minutes or less after we'd tucked her in, when she'd seemed perfectly fine. I would be just sitting down with my chocolate from my secret stash, about to congratulate myself on finishing another day of Keeping the Children Alive and (Mostly) Unharmed, and here would come this small person.
"Mom? Dad? I'm scared because I heard that the SUN IS GOING TO BLOW UP AND NO ONE WILL BE ALIVE ON EARTH ANYMORE." That was an actual conversation we had when she was six. Damn you, Educational Scienc-y Channel! I remember saying, "IF that happens, it will be in about 500 million years!" and trying to convince her that if it were going to happen any time soon, didn't she think it would be on the news? Logic: such a great idea to try to use it on a terrified second-grader. Eventually my persuasion worked--that time. Most of the time I didn't have any logical response. Mainly because her anxiety triggered a very primal response in me. I don't remember having a lot of these types of fears, but maybe I had more than I realize. I certainly am more anxious and fearful that the average bear NOW, so maybe I was then, too. Anyway, I remember my mom coming to lie in bed with me when I had nightmares because my dad wasn't so good at waking up and also because he wouldn't try to couldn't sleep with kids in their bed. (This may have been why we always had full or queen-sized beds.) If my night terrors happened before my dad went to sleep, he would come in and talk to me logically and pray with me, and that worked pretty well. So that's what we did with C. One of us would take her back to bed, and talk a little about it--what was real, what wasn't--and then pray for her, and quote, "God has not given us the spirit of fear, but of power, love and a sound mind--say that with me, Chloe, now breathe in, breathe out" (this was my idea, but I think it helped her keep from having full-on panic attacks. And I would scratch and/or stroke her back for a while.
The hard part was that she was never, ever ready for me to leave when I was desperate to leave. She does not fall asleep quickly, even now when she doesn't have night terrors. She would get still and I'd ease up off the bed (chocolate, I'm coming for you!) and her big wet eyes would open. "Mama?"
I wish I could say I always stayed, that I was always a fountain of consolation. But as she got older and these periods of fearfulness would reoccur, Justin felt that she had to learn some self-soothing skills. And I was so tired and ready to eat my dang chocolate and watch mindless TV.
I also knew that I wanted her to learn that she was working herself into a frenzy and that she alone held the key to her mental prison. As much as I wanted to, I could not banish her fear for her. We had given her some self-soothing techniques. Now it was time for her to learn to use them for herself.
It was REALLY hard for me to send my sobbing child back to her dark room--it felt like I was being heartless, no doubt because I felt like I was abandoning my own small self. I had to tell myself that what she wanted--curling up between us on the couch and watching TV--was not really going to help her. She was going to have to learn to go to sleep by herself anyway, and staying up late would only exhaust her for the next day. It was basically "cry it out" all over again, including the minimal soothing to let the child know they aren't being abandoned but not enough attention to make them feel it's worth staying awake for.
She'd come out crying, we'd hug her and pray for her, remind her to quote her Scripture verse and "think happy thoughts" (she was probably thinking, "You try that, Mom, when you're worried about supernovas!") to replace the scary ones. Interestingly, the scary thoughts only came to mind at bedtime. Things that didn't seem to bother her at all at the time--a mildly intense scene of an action movie, or a trailer for a horror film (I hate those--aired on prime-time "family" shows!) could send her into hysterics later that night. But we had to remind her that with Jesus's help, she COULD conquer her fears.
It worked. At twelve, she falls asleep every night  without assistance (I do let her read a little while past her official bedtime if her brain just won't turn off), and I eat my chocolate without interruption. Of course, she's an adolescent, so she's sometimes not sleepy at bedtime, but she's not fearful even when reading a YA dystopian novel. (She also never wants to wake up at 6:15, either. Thanks, teenage hormones!) Tonight we watched Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire and I am willing to bet there will be no nightmares. I hope she doesn't struggle with anxiety like I have in my life, but if she does, I will try to help her learn to manage her own fears, because some things I can't do for my children, as much as I'd like to.

Thursday, January 1, 2015

Shake It Off: 2014 in Review

I got this questionnaire from Temerity Jane's blog, and jumped on it.

1. What did you do in 2014 that you've never done before?

I was given the assignment to teach English I and co-teach English I, which meant being responsible for the English I End-of-Course exam, which students in Texas must pass to graduate from a Texas public school. Also, your school's rating is dependent on the kids' scores, and every sub-group, including recent immigrants, low-income students, and students with learning disabilities, have to pass. I was also made the English I level lead, despite having no experience teaching that grade. No pressure!

The only other new thing I can think of was starting the Couch-to-5K running program when I hadn't run in 20 years (and was never good at it back then). I discovered that I still don't like running but I do enjoy STOPPING. I got insanely busy when school started and didn't run the 5K I had signed up for.

2. Did you keep your new year’s resolutions, and will you make more for next year?

I haven't made New Years' Resolutions for several years now because I don't need that kind of negativity in my life. I did write a post about my word for 2015 being "Abundance" and I do think I made progress in embracing the concept especially since I realized my job was NOT the only way we could be provided for (more about that later.)

I don't have a specific word in mind this year. I want to get back to exercising and continue writing on (I'm up to a streak of 4 days! Woo-hoo!) and on my blog. I also set a goal of reading 55 books this year, which is hardly a stretch since I read almost as many last year when I was "too busy to read." I'd like to stretch my reading horizons a little and read some more challenging nonfiction and classics now that my brain won't be mashed into pulp by grading papers every weekend.

3. Did anyone close to you give birth?

No,  but my sister-in-law is due any minute with their first baby! If she doesn't go into labor by Monday, the doctor will induce her by Tuesday. We're all excited to meet Hutson Owen (Owen was my maternal grandfather's middle name).

4. Did anyone close to you die?


5. What other countries did you visit?

Sadly, none.

6. What would you like to have in 2015 that you lacked in 2014?

Time to relax and enjoy family and do things around the house.

7. What dates from 2014 will remain etched in your memory?

The day I realized I HAD to quit my job if I wanted to stay sane and that I could do it; the day I realized my daughter is closing in on her teen years.

8. What was your biggest achievement of the year?

I took a big leap of faith by quitting. It was the right thing to do to take care of myself and my family.

9. What was your biggest failure?

I spent a lot of time tying myself in knots over grading and sobbing in the shower, so I was not very emotionally available to my family. They say they have forgiven me. :-)

10. Did you suffer illness or injury?

My mental illness became a significant factor again. I realized that it's okay to take care of myself instead of "soldiering on."

11. What was the best thing you bought?

We bought a new car--a 2015 Honda Pilot that I love, especially because it has Bluetooth for my phone and heated seat warmers (or as C calls them, "butt warmers"). It seemed scary to me to buy a car when I was quitting, but since I will be driving a lot more, my husband wanted me to have something safe. The other car was starting to have some problems so it was a good time, and the new one is expensed through our company, so win!

12. Whose behavior merited celebration?

I'm copying Temerity Jane's answer on this one and the next: "The Internet (parts of it) has really stepped up for a lot of people this year, and that was great."

13. Whose behavior made you appalled and depressed?

"You know what, I’m going to stick with the Internet for my answer for this one, too."

14. Where did most of your money go?

The usual things--house payments, car payments, FOOD. My kids either subside on air molecules or they scavenge everything in sight.

15. What did you get really, really excited about?

Hmmm. I keep talking about quitting, but that made me really, really happy.

16. What song will always remind you of 2014?

Taylor Swift's "Shake It Off."

17. Compared to this time last year, are you:

a) happier or sadder? Happier.
b) thinner or fatter? I think about the same.
c) richer or poorer? About the same.

18. What do you wish you’d done more of?

Reading with my kids. Date nights. Writing of any kind. Exercising.

19. What do you wish you’d done less of?

Crying. Caring what people think about me. Procrastinating.

20. How did you spend Christmas?

At home on Christmas morning, opening presents, then over to my mom and dad's house for lunch and more presents. This year my brother and SIL were there as well as her family, since she was too pregnant to travel. It was fun!

21. What was your favorite TV show?

Well, OF COURSE Doctor Who. I agreed to get U-verse again just so I could have BBC America to meet the Twelfth Doctor. C also got into Psych and went way past where I had stopped. She asks me about allusions Shawn and Gus make and then says, "Ohhhh, THAT makes sense" when I explain.

22. Do you hate anyone now that you didn't hate at this time last year?

Only random people on the Internet who were extremely annoying and horrible. Then I mercifully forgot them.

23. What was the best book you read?

Checking on Goodreads... The only book I gave five stars to was Longbourn by Jo Baker, a retelling of Pride and Prejudice with a focus on the servants which forever changed the way I will view Jane Austen's novels.

Honorable mentions:
The Invention of Wings by Sue Monk Kidd, based on the lives of two abolitionist sisters;
Fangirl and Landline by Rainbow Rowell, both of which sucked me in immediately;
Various Discworld novels by Terry Pratchett, which are perfect to read when you want something light and funny but decidedly NOT mindless. And there are so many of them!

However, I will say that the only book I got up IN THE MIDDLE OF THE NIGHT and finished was Who Is the Doctor: The Unofficial Guide to Doctor Who: The New Series by Graeme Burke. Make of that what you will.

24. What was your greatest musical discovery?

Nobody new. I am incredibly uninteresting in my musical taste.

25. What did you want and get by year’s end?

FREEDOM! (In a Braveheart voice.)

26. What did you want and not get by year’s end?

I can't think of anything. How blessed am I?

27. What was your favorite film of the year?

I quite liked The Fault in Our Stars. I went by myself and sobbed into my popcorn.

28. What did you do on your birthday, and how old were you?

I actually don't remember. Oh! I don't remember where, but we went out to eat with my family and then we had a cake made of meringue and chocolate shavings from the Swiss Pastry Shoppe which will forever and ever be my birthday cake of choice from now on.

29. What do you think would have made your year immeasurably more satisfying?

A million dollars.

30. How would you describe your personal fashion concept in 2014?

Whatever didn't have to be ironed.

31. What kept you sane?

My husband, friends, and kids, who made me laugh in spite of myself.

32. Which celebrity/public figure did you fancy the most?

David Tennant. I've told my husband that if the Tenth Doctor every shows up at our door and asks me to run away with him, I'm going. My husband, knowing the odds of this are less likely than being struck by lightning, agreed to this deal.

33. Who did you miss?

My late father-in-law was one of the best men I ever knew. He's been gone nine years and I still miss him.

I also missed the juniors I taught the year before, even the ones I thought were stinkers because they were WONDERFUL compared to the freshmen.

34. Who was the best new person you met?

A new teacher who moved here from El Paso, who delighted me with his intrepid sarcasm.

35. Tell us a valuable life lesson you learned in 2014.

Do what you gotta do and don't feel bad about it.

36. Quote a song lyric that sums up the year.

"I'm just gonna shake it off, shake it off!"

Saturday, December 27, 2014

101 Things to Teach My Daughter

Look at me! I'm blogging!

I hope to blog at least occasionally, now that I'm no longer chained to a teaching job that makes me come home with my brain sucked dry. I'm planning to write some actual stories and essays, too, but blogging is a great way for me to process my thoughts, whether silly or potentially worth exploring.

Today on Facebook someone linked to one of those "101 Things to Teach my Daughter" posts and it inspired me to write my own list. Well, actually I kept a lot of Leah Froelhe's list, because a lot of her advice was awesome, but I modified it. I don't think my newly-turned-12-year-old is ready to appreciate these nuggets of wisdom, but I'll definitely share it with her by the time she turns 16. It occurred to me that a lot of the items on the list serve as a pretty good substitute for a New Year's resolution list, too, since I haven't mastered all of these by any means.

1. Chocolate is only a temporary fix.
2. A properly fitting bra is not a luxury. It is a necessity.
3. You are responsible for your own happiness.
4. A boyfriend does not validate your existence.
5. Eat the extra slice of pizza.
6. Wear what makes you feel gracefully at ease.
7. Seek beauty in all things.
8. Buy your friends dinner when you can.
9. Wear sunscreen like it's your second job.
10. Try with all your might to keep in touch with far-away friends.
11. When you don't know what to say, ask people questions about themselves.
12. Listen to their answers.
13. Walk with your head up.
14. Order a cheeseburger on a first date if you want to.
15. But don't order the most expensive thing on the menu--give the guy a break.
16. Act like a lady and require men to behave like gentlemen in your presence.
17. Don't bite your nails. (I wish I'd never started.)
18. Take some risks and learn from your mistakes.
19. Dental hygiene is not multiple choice.
20. Your GPA is not a revelation of your character.
21. There is strength in breaking down.
22. You don't have to like whatever the latest exercise craze is.
23. Take care of your feet.
24. Even if you're tall, wear the heels anyway.
25. Don't wear anything that shows your underwear.
26. Like what you like.
27. Offer no explanation.
28. You are no less of a woman when you're in sweats and tennis shoes than a woman in stilettos and a pencil skirt.
29. A woman is a woman is a woman.
30. Cry, uninhibited, with your friends.
31. Laugh until you can't breathe with your friends.
32. Tell me everything.
33. Exercise to be strong and healthy. A beautiful soul needs a sturdy vessel.
34. There is no shame in hoping for love.
35. If you can read, you can cook.
36. You will never regret saving sex for marriage.
37. I'd like you to keep reading. The Internet, while fun, is no substitute for books.
38. The world is full of tragedy.
39. Do not be blind to it.
40. Men are effectively idiots until the age of 26.
41. Carbohydrates are not the enemy.
42. Involve yourself with the volunteer activity of your choice.
43. Listen to classical music occasionally.
44. Make art. It's part of who you are.
45. Figure out what helps you de-stress.
46. You are more than capable,
47. I promise.
48. Own your anger. Own your sadness. Own your pain.
49. I am always, always listening.
50. Travel.
51. Make me furious.
52. Make me worry.
53. Come home smelly, tired, and with a good story.
54. Your story isn't really yours.
55. You are a compilation of others' stories.
56. Well-fitting and modest is always sexier than too small and tight.
57. The size on the tag is just a number.
58. Who cares if glitter isn't tasteful?
59. It's too much eyeliner if you have to ask.
60. Learn to bake for when you're sad and I'm not there. It also makes you popular at work.
61. Humility and subservience are not synonyms.
62. Always wash your face before bed.
63. But keep some makeup-removing wipes for when it's really late.
64. Be gentle with your skin--you only get one face.
65. Science is really cool.
66. So is literature.
67. And history.
68. And math.
69. There is no substitute for fresh air.
70. Carry your weight.
71. Make up for it later if you can't.
72. Whoever said, "Nothing tastes as good as skinny feels" was a freaking liar.
73. You're not fooling anyone.
74. Find at least three non-starchy vegetables you can tolerate.
75. Expect the best from everyone.
76. People will let you down.
77. Stop and smell the roses.
78. There is a certain kind of man you need to avoid at all costs.
79. You'll know it when you meet him.
80. Trust your instincts.
81. That's the still small voice that you hear inside when it's quiet.
82. Give thoughtful gifts.
83. Form an opinion.
84. Defend it.
85. But be open to new points of view.
86. Exfoliation in moderation.
87. Argue with people when you need to.
88. If it's worth fighting for, fight fiercely.
89. Don't fight for acceptance.
90. You shouldn't have to.
91. Take pictures, but not too many.
92. No duckface.
93. Follow your dreams at all costs (but I'm cutting off your parental funding at 22).
94. Always remember that your daddy was your first love.
95. There's no shame in getting help if depression or anxiety rear their ugly heads.
96. If you're worried you're crazy, it means you're not. Crazy people never think they're crazy.
97. Start saving for retirement when you get your first paycheck.
98. Cultivate gratitude--it's the key to happiness.
99. Give yourself small treats.
100. We'll always have "Doctor Who."
101. Love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind, and with all your strength, and love your neighbor as yourself.

I love you, sweet girl.


Sunday, January 5, 2014


So it's been forever since I posted here. I don't know exactly why I'm posting now--I'm not hoping for any comments--and I don't have any expectations that I'll keep posting. When school is in session, when my day is over, I'm lucky to stay conscious long enough to read blogs, let alone write one. And too often, when I'm on break, I'm too lazy to write.

But now, on the night before I have to go back to work, I feel like writing about #myoneword I've chosen for this year. If for no one else, then for my own benefit. (See for more words and stories.)

My one word is abundance.

For a long time--maybe for my whole life--I've had what I call a "scarcity mentality." I don't know where I heard that phrase, but it's apt. I remember as a kid scarfing down food I liked, keeping an eye on the platter in case someone else claimed the second helping I wanted. And we weren't poor--I never went without, yet for some reason I feared that I wouldn't have enough of what I wanted and needed. Also, I robbed myself of enjoying my first serving by fearing I wouldn't get a second one. I've been doing it ever since.

A few months ago I realized that my chronic anxiety comes from this place of feeling that I don't have enough to meet my needs, to deal with my challenges, to teach my students, to parent my children, and to partner with my husband. That I, in myself, am not good enough. I told a friend, "I'm spread thin in so many areas that I feel I'm just mediocre in all of them." And if you know me, mediocre has never been okay with me. Result: anxiety, because I know I can't meet the standards I've set for myself. (No, really, I can't. As a high school teacher, if you feel you've failed because some of your students refuse to finish and turn in their work and therefore fail, then your marker for measuring success is ridiculous. I know this. And yet.)

I wasn't planning to have a word for the year. I thought it was a cool idea, but I don't do resolutions anymore (see: above paragraph on feeling not good enough; I've been in survival mode for more than a year) and I didn't have any ideas for a word. Then today in church, during praise and worship time, I suddenly thought, "I need a word for the year! I can say it when I start to feel anxious, to remind me to stay focused on the good things in my life instead of the exhausting or potentially bad ones."

The song we were singing had the word "whole" in it, so I thought that might be it. I do want to be whole, and so many times in my life I have felt broken. (My blog title/Twitter handle, although I chose it by picking up a book of poems and opening to a random page, seems apropos--I've long felt the hairline fracture running through my brain, and sometimes it splits open, and then my head is not a good place to be.) However, I thought about my realization that the brokenness is so centered around feeling inadequate, and I thought of a phrase from another song: "more than enough." I like that. I could imagine myself saying, when worried about money: "God has more than enough to meet our needs." When stressed for time: "I have more than enough time to do what's really important." When exhausted: "He has more than enough strength for me. His strength is made perfect in my weakness."

Being a stickler for "rules," however, I wanted ONE word to express this idea of having, not just barely enough, not subsistence living, but more than enough. I'm not talking about having lots of money, although I wouldn't say no to a better income! I mean enjoying life more, finding the ordinary miracles, the everyday blessings God has loaded me with. And there really are so many things to be thankful for. So I chose the word "abundance," and my husband likes the idea, too.

Before we were invited to friends' house for New Year's Eve, I bought a bottle of sparkling apple cider because we like to toast the New Year. We ended up toasting with the same kind of juice at their house, so our bottle went unopened until tonight. The 11-year-old thought we were toasting because the 10th Doctor didn't become the 11th doctor and instead healed himself (and then his hand and Donna created the first human-time lord whatchamacallit so there was another version of himself). The 11-year-old LOVES David Tennant and so do I, so we are dreading saying goodbye to him. It was a nice fake-out by the show and a good enough reason to toast. The 7-year-old just wanted to beat everyone by gulping his cider down first. Even though they don't fully understand, Justin and I knew what we meant when we said, "To a year of abundance."

Here's to a year of more than enough. Here's to a year of celebrating the blessings I already have, and of receiving what I need to face the challenges that come my way. Here's to a year of drawing boundaries to protect what's really important and not letting my job define me and drain me. Here's to a year of abundance.

Sunday, January 8, 2012

Sunday Night Shopping

I finally hauled myself off the couch and went grocery shopping. I was too busy yesterday and really didn't want to go tonight but we were down to a third of a loaf of bread, half a bag of clementines and two blueberry toaster strudels, and toaster strudels are the only thing that motivates my children to wake up in the mornings. Even though they probably would have been on board with my idea to eat Girl Scout cookies instead.

(Seriously, what is it about those cookies? Are they so delicious because we can only get them part of the year, or do they bake crack in with the batter? All I know is it was a blessing and a curse when Miss Pink became a Girl Scout. I have a trunk full of cookies and that is a dangerous thing.)

Anyway, I have some thoughts to share about the Mall of Warts, as I call Sam Walton's brainchild.

1. First of all, the Wart-Mall and I have a love-hate relationship. It's the closest store to my house and also the cheapest. On everything. If I go to any other store I inevitably end up complaining about the prices. W-M also price matches any item that another store is offering for a lower price, so I save quite a few dollars that way. IF W-M actually has the item. Things are often out of stock there, or else shelved in some wacky place where it wasn't located last week. This week they didn't have avocados. In Texas. How do they expect us to manage without our guacamole? So occasionally I have to go to HEB or Aldi, which is a nice change but I always come crawling back to W-M.

Wart-Mall, I wish I could quit you.

2. I am an impatient person. I wish it weren't so, but I am. I can't stand to be behind someone who is barely moving down the aisles. I try to remember that most of them can't help it, but really, people, if you are that slow, the polite thing to do is scoot over to the far side of the aisle and let the rest of us pass you. Yet some people block the aisles while they locate the perfect can of beans and act like they don't even notice the line of carts backing up into the frozen foods. I bet they are the same people who drive my husband crazy by going 40 miles per hour in the fast lane.

3. W-M should give a raise to the cashier who checked me out tonight. Not only was she efficient and fast, she was also friendly and hilarious. She told me about her 99-year-old great-grandmother who has been married 80 years. I told her that was the longest I had ever heard of anyone being married.The cashier's great-grandfather is barely hanging on, and her great-grandma says he needs to go ahead and die.

"Ohhh, does she hate to see him suffer?" I asked sympathetically.

"No," she said. "She's eyeballing other men." We laughed. "She's a mess."

 99 years old and looking for her second husband. That just made my night, even if I never did get any avocados.


Thursday, December 29, 2011

Literary meme, part the second

Here's the second part of the literary meme. Part the first is here.

12. Describe your weirdest dream involving a writer, book, or literary character.
I can't remember a dream involving any of these things. Isn't that strange? I read so much, and I can definitely be put in A Dark Mood by a book that results in disturbing dreams, but none that I can remember involve the actual writers or characters of a book. 

13. What is the most lowbrow book you’ve read as an adult?
Wow. I just...I don't want to sound snobby, but I can't read truly lowbrow books. I mean that literally. My brain will not keep processing the words. I like genre fiction, but it has to be competently written. Okay, I thought of something! I read the Twilight books. I could tell they weren't well written and I kept on reading through all the cliched gushing about Edward's perfect ice-cold...chest (that did not sound appealing at all to me, by the way). Stephenie Meyer may not be a great writer, but she's a genius as far as I'm concerned. How did she turn off my inner literary snob switch?

14. What is the most difficult book you’ve ever read?
Ulysses by James Joyce. I wasn't even forced to read it but I had a summer off before I went to graduate school and so I checked out a book to help explain the zillion allusions and I read it so I could feel like I belonged in grad school. (I am SUCH a nerd). It was hard going, but parts of it were actually pretty great when you understood what Joyce was doing.

15. What is the most obscure Shakespeare play you’ve seen?
I haven't seen any Shakespeare plays I'd consider obscure. Of the ones I've seen, Richard III was the one least performed, I think. Sir Ian McKellan played Richard and he was amazing.

16. Do you prefer the French or the Russians?
The Russians, based on how many books I've read by Russian authors versus French ones. I suppose the Russians fit my naturally gloomy worldview better than the French.

17. Roth or Updike?
I've read more Updike, although neither is my cup of tea, really.

18. David Sedaris or Dave Eggers?
Sedaris. Funnier and more disciplined in his craft.

19. Shakespeare, Milton or Chaucer?
Shakespeare, hands down. Paradise Lost is one of the major texts I can't believe I wasn't forced to read and that I refuse to read on my own (Moby Dick is the other). Hey, I was raised on the King James Version--I don't need to read Milton's version. As for Chaucer--I've never read all of The Canterbury Tales and of course only in translation. I just found out we are going to read part of Canterbury with the seniors after all and I am wondering how to keep them interested in it. Probably by pointing out that the Wife of Bath is bawdy and letting them figure out the risque parts for themselves.

20. Austen or Eliot?

21. What is the biggest or most embarrassing gap in your reading?
See #19 above.

22. What is your favorite novel?
Mad wrote, "It’s really hard to choose just one, don’t you think?" Yes! It really is like being asked to choose a favorite child. I do love Pride and Prejudice. At one time it was tied with The Great Gatsby but I'm worried that teaching Gatsby is making me love it a little less.

23. Play?
Hmmm. I really like The Crucible. Even after teaching it (coming up after the break, too.) "Because it is my NAME!"

24. Poem?
"The Second Coming," by Yeats. It seems like it speaks of our times:
      "The best lack all conviction, while the worst
      Are filled with passionate intensity."
It was published in 1921.

25. Essay?
 Nothing's coming to mind. I could probably list something by C.S. Lewis here and it wouldn't be too far off.

26. Short story?
SOOOOO hard! I'll go with "A Good Man Is Hard to Find" by Flannery O'Connor. It's hard to beat a Flannery O'Connor short story. When I was trying to write fiction, she was my idol.

27. Work of nonfiction?
Mere Christianity by C.S. Lewis.

28. Who is your favorite writer?
Well, let's say Jane Austen. And Flannery O'Connor, although I don't read her very often because she's so fierce.

29. Who is the most overrated writer alive today?
I'm going to agree with Jennifer Weiner and say Jonathan Franzen. I've read several of his books and short stories when I subscribed to The New Yorker (although I haven't read his most recent novel,  Freedom) and I basically thought, "Meh" after each one.

30. What is your desert island book?
I'm going to cheat and assume we can take an author's collected works. It may sound cliched, but I really would take the complete works of Shakespeare. Comedy, tragedy, romance--how many writers can do all of them? Plus I only understand Shakespeare when I'm reading it out loud, and if I were on a deserted island, I'm sure I'd act all the parts out as well, to entertain myself.

31. And…what are you reading right now?
I'm actually between books. I just finished The Marriage Plot by Jeffrey Eugenides, which I didn't love, and I think I'll probably read a book I got from work next (we do a book exchange for Christmas since we are English teachers). It's called Snow Flower and the Secret Fan. I'm ordering a Kindle tomorrow with my Christmas money and can't wait!


Tuesday, December 27, 2011

After-Christmas Thoughts

Today has been a lazy day. As if I haven't been lazy almost every day since the holidays began! I am spending most days in my sweatpants, and dread putting on real pants, as the waistbands insist on reminding me that I've been eating too many goodies.

But never mind--in this week between Christmas and New Year's, anything seems possible in the near future: eating healthier, getting up earlier to exercise, getting the house organized with the piles of new toys...

I often start getting anxious when we are home with--not nothing to do; there is always plenty I could be doing (see list above for ideas) but nothing concrete. Give me an appointment and I'm fine. I know it makes no sense. My therapist used to call it "free-floating anxiety." Meaning, I suppose, that if I am too free to float, I get anxious. So I am alternating being lazy with actual useful tasks like laundry, making a grocery list--short, manageable tasks that don't make me feel overwhelmed.

We drove back yesterday from visiting Justin's family in South Louisiana. It's a 6 1/2 hour drive without stopping much, and the kids were real troupers, even without a portable DVD player (long story--we had to borrow a truck to bring tools). We also learned that our dog, Gidget, gets carsick. Thankfully, she was in her kennel and we could change out the towel in there--and she only threw up once on the way back. If it didn't cost so much to board animals....

I was happier to find out that my idea to listen to The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe on audiobook interested Miss Pink more than reading it with me. I don't know if she's ever going to love Narnia as much as I do, but at least she got interested and wants to listen to the next book whenever we have a trip longer than across town. Success!

Speaking of success, the kids were happy with the presents they received. SO glad I am raising kids who seem to be easy to please and thankful. Someone in my Twitter stream linked to a Twitter account called @fart whose owner compiled all the tweets of teenagers who were furious because they didn't get either an iPad, iPhone (or the right color of iPhone, OMG) or a CAR for Christmas. After reading those for a while I didn't want to live on this planet anymore. I also wanted to yell at my kids, "Don't you EVER act like this or I am not responsible for my actions!" Miss P's biggest present was an iPod Shuffle and Mr. Blue got a Lego space station. They also got cool stuff from both grandparents, and a few aunts and uncles, so they are very lucky children. My job is to make sure they understand that none of these things are a given, nor are we entitled to them.

And now I kind of want to remind myself of all of that, since I have a new iPhone and am about to use my Christmas money to buy myself a Kindle, but then I also want flat-heeled brown boots and new jeans and in fact an entire new winter casual wardrobe since I am officially sick of all my clothes....See how hard it is not to get the wants?

My family is safe, warm, healthy, well-fed (REALLY well-fed), and together.I am thankful.

Now if you'll excuse me, I have some laundry to fold.