Friday, November 25, 2005

Desert Places

Desert Places
by: Robert Frost

Snow falling and night falling fast, oh, fast
In a field I looked into going past,
And the ground almost covered smooth in snow,
But a few weeds and stubble showing last.

The woods around it have it--it is theirs.
All animals are smothered in their lairs.
I am too absent-spirited to count;
The loneliness includes me unawares.

And lonely as it is that loneliness
Will be more lonely ere it will be less--
A blanker whiteness of benighted snow
With no expression, nothing to express.

They cannot scare me with their empty spaces
Between stars--on stars where no human race is.
I have it in me so much nearer home
To scare myself with my own desert places.

From A Further Range, 1936

Thanks to Bookworld for sending me to read this poem. I think it speaks to how I feel today. Frost, of course, said it so much better than I could ever say it.

After having had a very nice Thanksgiving day with family and night with my sister Susy at the casino, I spent last night in a hotel, alone of course, and woke up this morning with the realization that this is where I will wake up on Christmas morning. Now, I’m no longer looking forward to Christmas.

Yesterday, I enjoyed the theater of the filling out of wish lists and the drawing of names for gifts in my large family. I was excited about buying some things for my niece Barbara, whose name I drew. Then I woke up this morning and felt completely alone. The thought of waking in this desert place on Christmas morning with no sign of Christmas just makes me want to cry.

I feel like I have been unhappy for the last two or three years. Feelings of happiness visit on occasion, but they never move in and stay for long at all. I decided a couple of weeks ago that I am tired of being unhappy and that I must figure out a way not to be. So here are my options for Christmas morning: 1) go on a vacation trip that I really can’t afford but will take my mind off being lonely, maybe; 2) wake up at home alone at Christmas where I will at least see the accoutrements of the holiday then drive to J'ville for the exchanging of gifts and the eating of way too much food; 3) get very drunk on eggnog on Christmas Eve and sleep through Christmas day. I’m sure someone can add to my options. Any or all suggestions will be considered.

Wednesday, November 23, 2005

Home-y Feelings

For a while now, I have been feeling like I need to create a home. I am single and childless, and usually okay with that situation, but lately I have been wishing that I was not single or childless. I wish I had someone to make a home for. I have been thinking a lot about cooking and homemaking kinds of things. I don't know what's going on with me. I have been wanting to read home/decorating magazines. I have thought several times about having some kind of party, like an open house with egg nog and Christmas treats. I have really felt like cooking. I have cooked complete meals on several occasions recently. Luckily, I did have Valerie to share some of those meals with, otherwise I would have wasted too much food because I can never cook just enough for me.

So tomorrow is Thanksgiving, and I wish I had room to be the hostess for my family or had my own family to cook for. Since I have neither, I will travel 3 hours to Jacksonville. My older brother and his wife are the family hosts this year. Except for the drive, I'm really looking forward to the visit, but I do wish I had room for everyone here. Anyway, I am cooking 2 things for tomorrow--Corn-Rice Casserole and Pound Cake. Yummy!!!

I hope everyone has a great Thanksgiving. I was thinking about posting a cheesy what-am-I-thankful-for list, but I couldn't think of more than a couple of things to put on that list, so I gave up. I might still try that later. Now, I guess I better get started cooking. I have to pack later too.

Thursday, November 17, 2005

One More Day

Tomorrow is the last day of work before Thanksgiving break. I can't wait to start breaking. Woohoo!!!! ;-)

Sunday, November 13, 2005

Something for Sunday

I just finished my Statement of Purpose and Goals for my application to University of North Texas library science program--it's an online program that is ALA certified. I have been completely preoccupied with the application process this week and just a bit stressed. After I send off the statement and some other final application items, I will have to just wait for acceptance or rejection. I'm not sure how I will react if I'm rejected. I have already been accepted at UH Clear Lake, so either way, I will be taking classes in the Spring. I've been almost giddy all week when I've completed each step of the application process. I think I'm more excited than my students are, and they've never been to college. Go figure.

The next big step is figuring out how to pay for college. I hate the thought of borrowing, but I know that I will likely have to do so. Of course, I have really bad credit, so I don't even know if I'll be able to get loans. I might have to starve some. Thank god, I don't have a car payment. My poor Altima with almost 250,000 miles is going to have to last me for quite a while yet. I have always taken decent care of it, but I will have to baby it from now on. Maybe I will ask for money for family Christmas gifts.

Of course, I have procrastinated a bit here and there during the week. I read Daisy Miller by Henry James. (I have decided that novella will be my AP students' holiday homework between semesters this year.) The funny thing about the copy that I checked out from the school library: the introduction is almost as long as the novel. Sadly, it tells the whole story. The copies that I get for my students will not do that, I hope. I really enjoyed the story anyway. I like the character of Daisy Miller. She is very much the head-strong American woman who wants to have her own way but also wants to do the proper things. I'm anxious to see how today's teenagers react to her. Also, I think she makes a great lead-in to a unit that includes Wuthering Heights, The Awakening, and Their Eyes Were Watching God. All great novels with great female characters. I love teaching AP literature, but more importantly, I love reading these novels.

I spent part of this afternoon reading some of The Secret Garden, which I bought for my niece but haven't mailed yet. I did go to the post office on Friday intending to mail it, but it was Veteran's Day so no mailing. I must mail it tomorrow. I had missed her birthday--she's a first grader--and had mentioned to her mother that I would put something in the mail. I completely forgot about saying that and when I went to my niece's son's birthday party last week. My little niece asked me about her present. I wish someone had told me earlier that she had been checking the mail every day. I felt so bad. I hope she likes the book; it's one of my favorites from my childhood. I think I will stop by Half-Priced books and get a copy for myself. I really want to re-read it.

Now, I have to tell something extremely funny about myself. Friday evening on the way home from work, Valerie and I stopped at Target so I could buy a gift for my niece's baby shower, which I was going to on yesterday. Yesterday, I got up and started to get ready to go to the shower. I was very upset by the fact that I had no hot water. After calling the answering service for my apartment complex's management office, I learned that mgmt. knew there was no hot water on Friday, had a plumber out, but the problem wasn't repaired. I was extremely angry about not being warned about the lack of hot water for the weekend. However, I didn't have time to waste. I had to dress and drive three hours to get to the baby shower. I called Valerie and borrowed her shower, came home, got dressed, and headed out of town. When I'm heading to J'ville, my sister Susy will usually call me to see what my timetable is. I knew she had to work Saturday morning, so I wasn't worried about her not calling. As I backed out of my parking spot, I dialed her number. I told her that I was just leaving, but I had to stop by Walgreens for a gift bag. She said, "Where are you going?" I told her that I was coming to the shower. She told me the shower is November 19--next Saturday. I laughed so hard that I literally cried. I have had dreams before about showing up for work or other events on the wrong day, and I have woken on a weekend day, panicked that I had overslept for work. I have never gotten dressed for something and headed to it on the wrong day. I'm such an IDIOT! I never even looked at the date on the invitation. Duh!!

I guess that's all I have for this Sunday post. I hope everyone has a great week. I will spend mine counting down the days to next week's Thanksgiving break, a needed week off for me. Later.

Tuesday, November 08, 2005

A Very Long-Winded Catching Up

Yes, CM, I read your comment and decided that I had to catch up tonight. I actually started a post yesterday morning on my pda, but I never uploaded it to my computer at work. I hate it when work gets in the way of play--being responsible is such a drag sometimes. ;-)

I will reproduce what I wrote and finish the post now. Hey, maybe before I'm finish, I will even upload a photo or two from the World Series. Too exciting!!!

From yesterday:
Last week was very stressful. I had procrastinated to the point where I could not possibly get all grading finished without at least one all-nighter, which I am no longer able to do--getting old sucks. However, I did the best I could and actually got close to finishing. I have decided that my procrastination is out of control. I think that I might need to seek professional help for this problem. Anyone know where I can find a good 12 step program for procrastinators?

Because of my work problems, I didn't have time to blog, read, or watch TV much last week, so this post is for catching up, and it will probably be too long for even my most faithful readers, all 3 of you.

Before I begin catching up, I have to say one thing about Houston weather of late--it's too HOT for November. I've been thinking a lot about moving some place that really has four seasons. That idea was reinforced on Saturday when I drove to my hometown in East Texas. I seldom say anything good about J'ville, but I will today. It is absolutely beautiful there this time of year. The trees are a cornucopia of colors. I was actually in awe of the beauty. I wished so much that I had a camera phone so I could take a picture. The beauty actually made me nostalgic for life there. (This is where I left off on Monday morning.)

The rest of this post will be a mix of things that I haven't had time to talk about yet. Things from the past two weeks or so.

Recent readings
The week that August Wilson died I decided to read Fences in his honor. Five of my six classes have 15 minutes of silent reading everyday, so I read Fences during that time for a few days. I have only seen one of his plays, Jitney, performed, and I had never read any of them. Fences is the story of Troy Maxson, a proud man who performs his familial duties purely out of a sense of responsibility rather than love. Unfortunately, for him and his family, a little more love and understanding might have made for a happier life together. I really found this drama interesting in light of the number of absentee fathers these days. Troy was physically present, but emotionally absent. This play shows that the mere presence of a father isn't enough. I figure some publisher will publish a book of Wilson's cycle of ten plays, each set in a different decade, depicting the comedy and tragedy of the African-American experience in the 20th century. I will have to put that on my to-buy list when it comes out. Hopefully, one of the theater companies here will do a series of his plays too. I would love to see them all.

Mutual Life & Casualty by Elizabeth Poliner was one of the nominees for the fall Read This! at The LitBlog Co-op. I was intrigued by The Happy Booker's recommendation of this novel in stories that I ordered it from Amazon. The stories come together to tell of the Kahn sisters and their mother as they make their way through the late 70s. I enjoyed the book in part because I could relate to the sisters since I grew up in the late 70s. The book is very much about the changing ideals and lives of women during that time. Of course, when you read a novel in stories, some characters are not fully developed, only appearing in one or two stories, and stories told from varying points of view, as these are, sometimes seem to miss their connections. Despite those flaws, I really enjoyed this book. I especially liked the story told from the point of view of the great elementary teacher who had no children of her own. It depicted perfectly the attitudes toward childless women then.

Reading Lolita in Tehran
by Azar Nafisi is one of the most disappointing books that I have ever read. (The most disappointing book? Don Delillo's Underworld) I was reading this book during my classes' silent reading time, and I thought I would never finish it. As a rule, I don't read memoirs. I just don't like them. I am a literary fiction snob for the most part. I do like a good mystery, British ones especially, now and then, but I love literary fiction. However, I decided to try Reading Lolita because I had heard some good things about it. Valerie warned me that her friend and her mother didn't like it (both of whom I trust as readers), but I thought I would like it because it was about the secretive study of literature. Well, very little was really about the secretive study, and I never felt that the author or her students were in real danger by reading the books she selected or by meeting at her home to discuss them. Nafisi did not make me sympathize with her plight or her students'. She did, however, make me worry about the Christian rights determination to shape the morals of our society. Each time she spoke of the morality squads, I pictured men like Rush Limbaugh and Jerry Falwell racing around accusing Americans of being immoral and arresting them. I do believe we live in dangerous times for us liberals. She also made me want to articulate some philosophy of why I read, why literature is so important to me. Maybe I will do that some time, but not now. The worst parts of the book were Prof. Nafisi's complaints about teaching. They were so similar to the complaints that I have and hear everyday that I just wanted to tell her to shut up. I'm tired of thinking my complaints, and I don't want to read some other teacher's complaints--that's not pleasurable reading. I do have to give her some credit for the part of the book that concerns The Great Gatsby--one of my favorites--and I have to admit that I have put Nabokov on my to-read-soon list.

Currently, I'm reading Ireland by Frank Delaney (at home), and The Color Purple by Alice Walker (at work). My students voted on my current silent reading book, and The Color Purple was the winner. My students were surprised that I had never read it and a bit concerned by the "inappropriate" content. I assured them that I was a mature reader and could handle the content. So far, I'm enjoying both of these books, but I need more time to read at home. Alas, I always do. :-(

Other news
Enough about books, let's talk about freedom of religion. I believe very strongly in the separation of church and state. As a result of my belief, I have started a controversy at my campus. We have a faculty breakfast at the end of each month. Each department is assigned a breakfast for which to provide food. Last year, we had a moment of silence at each breakfast. Except for the math department's, when a teacher who never attended any other breakfast decided that he needed to say a prayer. This year, I assumed we would continue the moment of silence. However, at the first breakfast, the principal made a speech about bad things that had happened to some of our faculty/staff and about Hurricane Katrina and Rita then he said we would have a prayer. I emailed him, voiced my opinion that a prayer was inappropriate and possibly illegal, and questioned whether this would be the norm for future breakfasts. After waiting 15 days to reply, he said that he had decided to continue with a prayer. I again emailed, asking him why a moment of silence wasn't good enough and informed him that I had been researching the legalities of the prayer. In the meantime, Valerie also emailed him her concerns about being forced to pray. Oh, at some point, he suggested that if the prayer made me feel uncomfortable that I should wait until it was over to come to breakfast. This option didn't set very well with me. Eventually, he consulted the school district's attorney who told him to stick with a moment of silence. So at the most recent breakfast, he started to do the moment of silence but was interrupted by a teacher who called all those who wanted to pray out into the main hall to pray--which because it's in the presence is still illegal, I think--I was rather shaken by the number of people who turned to look at me to see my reaction. I had only told a couple of people, and I knew that Valerie had not told anyone. Of course, very few of us didn't go out to pray. We still had our moment of silence, and later the principal told the faculty present that the lawyers had said we could not pray. The teacher who led the prayer voiced opposition, but the principal stood his ground. A new staff member spoke up for not having prayer, but no one else said anything. Wait, another English teacher did email the principal voicing her disapproval of the teacher leading the prayer. Another teacher sent me an email accusing me of excluding people who want to pray and demanding that I exclude myself if I don't want to pray--a bit ironic, huh. So, next week, we have another breakfast. I am anxious to see how things go. If the same thing happens, I will consider pursuing some kind of legal resolution if I have to with the help of organizations like Americans United for the Separation of Church and State.

Now for the most exciting thing that I have ever attended--the World Series!!!! I'm still a bit speechless, can't do it justice for some reason. I thoroughly enjoyed the whole experience, despite the freezing the whole 14 innings of the game and despite the Astros coming out on the losing end. I have never been to a professional championship, and I LOVE sports. I couldn't believe the tension in the stadium from the very first pitch. It was just so damn exciting! I was really going to upload some photos, but it's late now. I want to get this post published and go to bed. I will post photos tomorrow--they aren't anything special anyway. I'm no photographer.

I have bored you long enough; now I must sleep--sleep, perchance to dream. :-) Good night.

ps: If you see typos, please ignore them. I'm too tired to fix them now.

Tuesday, November 01, 2005

Work Woes

I really need to stay home from work today to get caught up with work today. Do people in other professions feel this need? Seriously, I need to spend a whole day working on work without the distraction of students or co-workers. Grades are due at 8:00 this morning, and I am far from finished. I also have things that I need to get done for myself personally, but I can't seem to find the time for those things either. Since it's my week to drive the carpool, I have decided that I will not take off today, but I'm going to give my students a To Do list and tell them to pretend that I'm not there. I hope this works and that I can finish my grading by the end of the day. I really can't stand the thought of working all day then having to come home and work all night too. I feel like I need to get something under control now, or I will have a meltdown very soon. Next week, I have to be out for a training one day, and I'm taking the next day off for me. I just hope I can stave off the meltdown until then.

I really need to find time to finish a blog about the World Series and some recent readings. Maybe my students will be the mature, independent workers that I need them to be today, and I will be able to get everything done at work today. Then I can blog tonight, if I'm not too tired.

I really hate being a fucking teacher.