Category Archives: what this blog is about

Year in Review Part Two

My job affords the luxury of having a ridiculous amount of time to do nothing. (Being a teacher is hard work! Please note that the 8 weeks of vacation I have each year are absolutely necessary to my sanity!) A first, I took no work home to Kentucky with me this year. I have spent my long mornings (well, technically shorter, I guess, as I haven’t set an alarm clock. Long in the time spent in my pajamas before I get dressed for the day) reading the Times, New York Magazine and every blog entry from 2008. The interesting part is that I have 96 posts in comparison with 2007’s 53. I did start posting poetry this year, which can account for a bit of the increase of posts. I have also spent less time writing in my moleskin journal this year than any other year in the past decade (it feels weird to be able to say that), so for better or worse, I have reflected on life with reading as my main vehicle. As I was reading–and thinking–this week, I remembered one of my favorite movie scenes of all time: when John Cusack’s character in High Fidelity organizes his music collection autobiographically. It was interesting to consider my reading life this year in the same manner. Here’s what I’ve found:

1. Nonfiction was an education. I’ve read more nonfiction this year than ever before. This has been a year where I’ve discovered my own opinions and have tried to wade through the social and political issues and complications that plague my mind and weigh heavily on my heart. Reading books like Blessed Unrest, Not for Sale, and Jesus for President were an incredible way to learn and to process.

2. Fiction was a means of escape. Comparing my writing style this years to last was telling: somewhere along the way–actually, in November–I realized that my posts were more “review” and “recommendation” style rather than delving into the issues or complicated emotions found in fiction that I typically, and previously, like to unearth. Two things precipitated this reading as escape: one, it was a year of watching friends move (or missing the ones who left in 2007). For as long as I can remember, I have had a-maz-ing girl friends, and for much of this year I felt like Carrie in Sex and the City when she was in Paris looking through the windows at girl friends having brunch. Books became a distraction, especially in the summer when I had nothing else to do and didn’t feel like thinking.

3. Poetry was an attempt to crystallize and capture the moments when for a split second everything seemed clear. It is cathartic to record them in writing, and to revisit.

4. The weather has a huge impact on my thought life.

5. Writing with links and pictures and referencing old pieces of writing reminds me of my capstone lit class at Miami. We studied the definition of modern and post modern and the role that technology has in our ability to tell stories. It all seems to follow my ongoing frustration that sometimes there just aren’t words.

I haven’t done a “favorite people of life” post in a while (see sidebar labels: all posts including pictures of great friends). Here are some of the faces New York City misses:

The hope is that 2009 will bring more in depth reading, good times with new friends, adventure traveling with the old and the ability to read Harry Potter in Spanish. Books on deck:

The Winter’s Tale by Mark Helprin
shoot. That’s as far as I’ve gotten. Suggestions welcomed. Book partnerships adored.

A regrouping. It seems I need this at least a few times a year.

Something that I noticed about my reading life lately–basically by revisiting my recent blog posts since the summer–is that most of my writing about my reading has been a review style. I just reread my first blog post ever, from almost two years ago, and was reminded of older phases of my reading self–mainly that it was reflective…it forced me to think about the world, my life, the hearts of people, my relationships, and complex issues.

At some point last spring, I began reading as an escape mechanism or as a distraction or a way to keep busy. I think that my brain subconsciously didn’t want to think deeply as I watched friends move and had to reestablish my place in the city without them and without plan to leave. Reading was no longer a window, but a distraction.

Rereading the following quotes made me hunger for a deeper reading life:

“Why are we reading, if not in the hope of beauty laid bare, life heightened and its deepest mystery probed?”
-Annie Dillard, The Writing Life

“What then is the good of–what is even the defense for–occupying our hearts with stories of what never happened and entering vicariously into feelings which we should try to avoid having in our own person? Or of fixing our inner eye earnestly on things that can never exist..? The nearest I have yet got to an answer is that we seek an enlargement of our being. We want to be more than ourselves. Each of us by nature sees the whole world from one point of view with a perspective and a selectiveness peculiar to himself…We want to see with other eyes, to imagine with other imaginations, to feel with other hearts, as well as with our own…We demand windows.” -C.S. Lewis

So. I am seeking to think a little bit more. I am seeking a life that is reflective once again. More to come soon.

anal retentive much?

I can’t decide if this is due to the fact that we are at the tail end of winter and it’s just what happens to me this time of year, or the fact that I enjoy having control over the small things in life that I can actually control (my sock drawer, my kitchen…) or if this is just a result of procrastination. Nonetheless. I have added labels to all of my past blog posts.

I do feel like I learned a few things about myself and it was interesting to track the topics that came up most often (identity, fallen world). A few of the lists sounded like little poems, which made me smile (hope/poetry/rain). I’m not sure that this will be helpful to anyone but myself, but now you can search the blog by topic, which I’ll try to list on the side bar in the near future.

An explanation? A refocus? Or new kind of focus? Something like that.

I’ve been writing a lot lately. For years I tried to put it off, but it is something that I can’t avoid anymore. I admit that I was afraid. I can’t tell you how many notebooks I’ve started with passion, but have left unfilled. Starting this blog a year ago was my first jump in forcing myself to feel comfortable with other people reading what I wrote. So. It’s time to experiment a bit more and move beyond missing my years as an English major. Not that I will stop writing about reading…I can’t help it. But I am going to start sharing some of my other stuff for about the 4 people who read my blog…but this is still scary, and I need to explain a few things.

1. Nothing posted here will be in “final draft” form per se. I am a ridiculous revisionist…perhaps to a fault.

2. It’s experimental. The genre that I like to work in isn’t exactly defined. Influences include Jack Kerouac’s definition of the modern haiku, poetic writers like Jonathan Safron Foer and Arundati Roy, and subtle conflict that speaks to inner tension. Multi-genre writing.

3. Most of what I post for now can be described as a “small fictional moment” trying to incorporate all of the above. Things may or may not have been inpired by what I’ve seen or done, but are fictional in nature. “Small moments” actually comes from the lovely Teacher’s College and is part of what we try to teach our students. My professional goal has been to practice what I’m asking my students to do.

4. I’m in the process of trying to develop a unique voice and confess that I feel sophomoric in my attempts. This is not easy for me to do, but it is good. I think. I’m going to start labeling my posts, and these will be called small moments.

Ok. Just needed to say that. Gracias.

Year in Review Part Two

This morning I woke up and read my blog. The whole thing. Despite being an avid journaler (is that a word?), I’ve never really had such a record of my thoughts throughout a given year–which tells me that reading has given me the windows that I so craved when I started this a year ago. There are a few things that I took away from it all:

1. Good reading is necessary for me to function. In the past month I told one of my best friends that my reading life was stagnant and that it was affecting my quality of life. I realize I’m both ridiculous and a dork, but stay with me. I was reading a lot of Young Adult fiction, which is great for entertainment and my job, but not necessarily for me as a person. I attempted to read The Motorcycle Diaries by Ernesto Che Guevara, but couldn’t get through it. I had some great writers of faith on my bookshelf and some interesting collections of essays, but none seemed to satisfy my need for a quality story. Which resulted in a feeling I can describe as lonely? And my room was a mess. A visual representation of my mind. I partially blame my bookclub for disbanding. Just kidding. The bottom line is that I am not myself if I don’t have a story to get lost in.

2. Good reading is necessary for good thinking. One of the most interesting things about teaching reading and writing to 8th graders is that it’s your job to teach them how to critically think. A part of our curriculum this year was Banned Book Clubs–meaning, yes, I was passing out copies of some of the most famous banned books of history: from “Forever” by Judy Blume to “Matilda” by Roald Dahl to “Gossip Girl.” This year forced me to consider my position on reading as a professional…and to be ok with the fact that my opinion might be controversial. But if you could only overhear some of the conversations going on in class and see the way they want to devour books.

3. Reading forces me to think about the world. Some of the themes that have challenged me have been what is authenticity? What is real? What is selfish? What matters enough to make me change? This is why I love books. I’m excited about the lineup that I have for early 2008…

The Poisonwood Bible by Barbara Kingsolver
The Corrections by Jonathan Franzen
The Fortress of Solitude by Jonathan Lethem
Man Walks into a Room by Nicole Krauss