I am bitter at life right now. There is simply not enough time for this, that, and the other. School's started and the last ten days of my vacation were spent in a whirlwind attempt to prepare curriculum for the new class I'm teaching in addition to all the other back to school stuff I do each year. I had so many things I wanted to do this summer and now I feel like those opportunities must be set aside for another year and THAT makes me bitter.
Since school started I've not been able to exercise like I was doing in the weeks before and that is in part just because I'm busier and I don't have the extra time, not just for the exercise but to cram in the second shower of the day before doing the next thing on the list. And now this week I've had another workout obstacle--I've come home from work tired... I mean, DEAD TIRED. Yesterday I had a couple things planned after work and that ended about 7 pm, without any intention of doing so I managed to turn "resting my head for a second" into a two hour "nap" and I would have probably slept until morning had I not been awakened by a phone call. In the end I figure I slept about 11 hours last night and, despite the extra sleep, I still overslept my alarm by an hour.
The thing I am MOST bitter about is the fact that the Democratic National Convention has been on and I've not managed to see one bit of the coverage. I hear about it the next day at work, but I've not had the energy or the time to turn on the TV and find out what's going on. I've glanced at the newspapers each day at work, but even those I've not had time to read because once the day starts, there's no stopping. Part of the problem is that in the midst of the chaos of my school world I actually FORGOT about it and when I could haVE been at least DVRing it to watch later, I just spaced it out entirely. It's like I have some kind of exhausted survival mode going that requires me to simply do the next thing on the list and forget everything else that isn't essential. When I hear folks talk about the DNC I get wistful and Sara at Midwestern Position said she's addicted to it, and I know that was my intention... to eat up all the speeches and the coverage I could. I missed the entire Olympics, though that is something I am less enthusiastic about. I know I could watch some of that coverage on the Internet or on You Tube and I will, I'm just bitter that I haven't been able to relax and enjoy it.
I know that this sounds all "the glass is half empty" and that's a bit how I feel right now, but it's only because there are too many things pressing me to be done all at once --some of them fun and frivolous, but things that I've committed to nonetheless... Ashlee Hewitt concert on Tuesday, drinks with friends, and last but not least, preparation for trivia hosting --which has been a joyless effort since Barry, the former trivia host is bent on sapping every bit of pleasure I can get from that experience... I'm sure when things start to settle into a routine I'll be able to take on as much as I have been with greater ease and won't feel the mounting pressure I feel today. But that won't bring the Democratic National Convention back and so I guess I just have to just suck it up and watch the online version of things and get over it.
On Tuesday I heard The Hewitt Sisters perform at The Empire. Ashlee Hewitt, a Hallock, MN native, was in the top five on Nashville Star, the country music version of American Idol. It's clear that she has quite the local following and the Empire looked to be a packed house. The tickets were reasonably priced and that fact plus the promise of good music brought me out.
I'm not really a fan of country music, but I AM a fan of good music and so I was eager to hear what Ashlee and her sister sounded like. I was pleased and actually thought that together they were better.... but I guess Nashville Star only wanted Ashlee as a solo artist? Not sure. Her older sister Katrice sang harmonies and did some solo work too and I thought she was great and her husband, unobtrusively backing them on a second guitar, was fantastic. His bass lines and solid playing made me want to dig out my guitar and give 'er a try. Of course I say that after EVERY concert. One of these days I AM going to do it.
I have to say it was funny to hear Ashlee refer to "old songs" and mean ones from the 90s!!! That cracked me up. When she sang "Strawberry Wine" by Deanna Carter I realized who she sounded like--there is definite evidence of Ashlee's influences creeping in to her style and into her songwriting, but there was no denying she was good. I really enjoyed her rendition of Brandi Carlile's "The Story," a song that was new to me. One of my favorite songs of the evening was when Katrice sang an old Patsy Cline hit "Leavin' On Your Mind" and I loved Ashlee's version of "Help Me Make it Through the Night." Now THOSE are old country songs and good ones too.
Ahhh... yes, I've been doing a fair bit of this lately. My apologies for the lack of blogging goodness. It started with an insane amount of back-to-school prep, then a school-is-now-in-session frenzy and now the weekend has brought much needed relief, which I translates for me into books. I will be back soon.
Regardless of what my last post might suggest, I've not been filling every spare second with exercise and healthful living. After all, that workout only lasts about 30 minutes! I have been faithfully doing it though, which is great for me. What I've been doing this week is mainly school preparation in small doses. Bulletin boards. Organizing room furniture. Washing my coffee cups to start the year off right. Sending worksheets and so forth to the print shop. I have a large-ish stack of brand new teacher supplementary materials aimed at improving my teaching of grammar and writing and more than anything I want to dig into those (well, not EXACTLY more than anything... more than anything I want another month of summer vacation, but you know what I mean). Instead the last great big thing I must conquer in the next few days is a reading strategies guide for my new reading class and so I'm wading through reading texts in order to pull that together.
At home, I'm playing a lot of Facebook Scrabble. And devouring books whole. In the past seven days I've read five books and started two more. It's like the world ends next Monday and I'm just trying to get in a few more books before it does!
At any rate, I had hopes for today. Things to do. Places to go. I crammed all that into one solid hour and spent the rest of it parked on my couch reading books. It was indulgent and probably not the best use of my final days of summer, but it was just what the doctor ordered. I'll do the dishes tomorrow. Oh yeah, and probably go to school for a few hours too. Sigh.
After listening to my friend Julie talk about doing Jillian Michaels 30 Day Shred and how it really kicked her butt, I decided to learn a bit more. Then I just went for it and picked up a copy at Best Buy. I actually dislike home workout DVDs. I buy them or try them and it's usually a one time deal. Either they are boring or too difficult or too long or whatever. This one is perfect for me. And I knew it as soon as I read the description. First of all it's not all dorky and dancey. And next the warm up sequence is brief. I really don't like spending 10 minutes warming up, it just seems like a waste of time.
"Each workout is based on Jillian's exclusive 3-2-1 Strength/Cardio/Ab training circuit: Three minutes of strength, two minutes of cardio and one minute of ab work. There is also a brief warm-up session and a cool-down stretch."
After a brief warm up do this 3-2-1 circuit three times and then cool down. It's simple and yet obviously works since today I can barely walk. Granted, I've let my muscles atrophy blogging nonstop all of July, but it's still impressive.
I'm going to try my darndest to do this workout daily and see if I can notice any progress beyond the incredible pain of rebellious muscles. I'll keep you posted.
TV is so sparse in the summer. I've been watching the new season of Weeds as the episodes appear on the Internet. I am pretty excited that Project Runway is back. And who can resist a little Darth Vader when you stumble across it. I love this pic. It's just a daddy reaching out to his son. :) TV on DVD Friends Seasons 3 and 5
I've become addicted to watching Friends this summer. Season after season... as I write this I've already moved on to Season Six.
It seems that the nice weather and the busyness of summer has me watching fewer and fewer movies. The only ones that were "new to me" were Definitely, Maybe and Lars and the Real Girl. I've already posted about my great love for Lars. Check it out. It's a must see.
I didn't expect to like Definitely, Maybe as much as I did. I didn't realize at first that it's made by the same folks who did Love, Actually.... though the title should have given it away. It turns out I rather enjoyed this film and would recommend it. It's a typical romantic comedy but I preferred this one to the 27 dresses and PS I Love You seen earlier this year.
Run Lola Run is a favorite foreign film that plays with "time" and the "what it." If you've seen Sliding Doors, it's a bit like that one. I love the actress and music and the pace of the film. It's worth a rent for sure.
I watched Pride and Prejudice with my pal Marci and she'd never seen it before. It was so fun to watch her discover the wonder of the film and story. I've seen it so many times, I think I have it memorized but I totally love it every time.
I've already blogged a bit about Mamma Mia and The Dark Knight, both films I loved. Baby Mama was entertaining but it was probably good that I saw it at the dollar theatre. It wasn't worth too much more. I love Tina Fey, but this film wasn't as funny as she usually is. Hancock is a bad boy superhero film which was a bit predictable for me and had a somewhat stupid ending. I wouldn't really rush out to see it, but it might be worth a rent.
What I Was Listening to in July
Chutes Too Narrow by The Shins I got this cd from the library and even before I'd exhausted my love for Wincing The Night Away, I had to move on to this one. I love all the songs. They rock. This is definitely my favorite band of 2008.
Passed from student to student all year long, Twilight is a book I've been "dying" to read and discover the appeal. Now that I've read it, I'm still not sure what the appeal was. While all of us at book club seemed to agree the writing wasn't the best, three of our group had either already READ the next two books or were in the process. They had to know what happens next and I guess there is something to be said for curiosity that drives you through 500 pages. I think Brian said he didn't really like the main character and others agreed that she didn't feel very developed. I can see that. I felt that there was a TON of repetition in words and images... just when I thought there couldn't be one more comment about Edward's teeth, there was. Judy thought the sexual tension/anticipation and forbidden love was probably a big draw for the typical teenager and I can see that. For me the book dragged a bit but the ending was gripping and I flew through the last 200 pages. I think Meyer could have done a bit more editing and the book would have been better for it. Even though I didn't love it, I will read the next book at least. I, too, am a curious girl.
When we met for our book club discussion of Twilight, Kristine pointed out that each book is supposed to bear resemblance to a work of classic literature. She suggested Pride and Prejudice for the first novel and I wasn't convinced. New Moon, however, is clearly meant to mirror Romeo and Juliet. I'm not sure how I feel about that. Overly dramatic, deep depressive states, over the top teenage passion and angst. Hmmmm... Maybe there is a reason TEENS love these books more than me.
Edward, her vampire love, is absent for most of the book and Bella gets involved with a monster of a different variety. All the while, her poor father, out of the loop. I am still pretty apathetic toward Bella Swan and wouldn't mind seeing her get eaten or sucked bone dry. :)
Still, I know when I get a chance I'll probably read Eclipse. I'm a sucker, no pun intended.
Jerry Spinelli is the author of one of my very favorite children's books of all time--Maniac Magee. That is why I picked up a copy of Milkweed. Though stylistically done in a similar way, I didn't love this one as much. Perhaps it's the subject matter which I sort of ignored as I checked this one out from the library. It's another holocaust book. This time the protagonist is an orphan boy in Warsaw. From his young and naive eyes we see the "jackboots" and the "ghetto" and the "hunger" and the life on the streets. As a person who DOES know about the holocaust and its devastation, I felt the impending doom and was expecting certain things that Misha could not see coming. I wonder if a young reader would have enough background knowledge to do that and if it matters. Ultimately this was a very good book.. well written, engaging, touching, but I wasn't blown away.
Because of my affinity for story, myth, legend, fairy tale I particularly enjoyed Fishing for Myth. Because Erdrich and I share a geographical heritage, I could relate to and recognize images and ideas in her poems and that is one of the pleasures of poetry. The connections.
These are the ones I liked best of all:
True Myth (p13) Origin of Poem (p14) Sweeping Heaven (p17) Breaking and Entering (p18) One Girl (p22) The Pond (p33) Fat in America (p35) Sweet Short (p40) Sex in the Desert (p41) Short Hand (p55) The Widow's Grove (p64)
I am hope to read more of her work.
Honeybee: Poems and Short Prose by Naomi Shihab Nye is the first book I've read by this author, though I've long liked a number of her poems. The inside flap of the book says,
"In eighty-two poems and paragraphs, Naomi Shihab Nye alights on the essentials of our time--our loved ones, our dense air, our wars, our memories, our planet--and leaves us feeling curiously sweeter and profoundly soothed."
This describes the book pretty well.
I tend to prefer poetry anthologies rather than books in which all the poems are by one author. I find that there is a wee bit of disappointment in realizing that an author can't be brilliant with every poem. I am never sure the ratio that makes the book "good" for me.. or "worthwhile"... I find I love a few poems in every book.. maybe a handful. In this book these are my favorites:
Poems: Honeybee (title page) The Frogs Did Not Forget (p 32) Missing Thomas Jefferson (pp 41-43) Deputies Raid Bexar Cockfight (pp 77-78) Companions (p 85) Letters My Prez is Not Sending (p 89) To One Now Grown (p 120) Watch Your Language (p 121) Hibernate (p 125) My President Went (pp 130-131 Consolation (p 146)
---------------------------------------- Prose: Honeybees Drinking (pp 53-55) Slump (pp 75-76) Before I read The Kite Runner (p 142) Gate A-4 (pp 162-164)
Perhaps because I've seen Sedaris live or because I've read essays by him on the Internet, but I felt as if I'd read much of When You Are Engulfed in Flames already. It was more or less what I've come to expect from Sedaris, meaning I loved it. I had some laugh out loud moments, but it wasn't quite as good as some of the stuff I've read and loved in the past. I think that "Stadium Pal" remains my favorite bit.
Miranda July is a filmmaker, writer, performing artist and also the director and star of the film Me and You and Everyone We Know which I loved. This is what led me to her short story collection "No One Belongs Here More Than You." Each of these 16 stories reflects the quirky, fantastic, twisty mind of July. I think that if I could sum up an element that nearly every story has it would be beautiful, awkward, fragility.
I will also admit that I found some of the sexuality in the stories to be "jarring" and more than I was expecting. In every story there were moments, phrases, ideas that I LOVED, but there were stories that as a whole I did NOT love. If you enjoyed her film, it's likely you will also enjoy these stories.
The characters in her stories are neurotic, sometimes obsessive compulsive. They are filled with delusions, longings, and palpable loneliness. My favorite stories are as follows:
The Shared Patio The Swim Team The Boy from Lam Kien Making Love in 2003 Birthmark
I think that Miranda July writes like I think. Now if you choose to read this book and then remember that I said that you might look at me differently. I don't want to alarm you. It's not like I think those very thoughts or anything. I just think there is an essence there. And something about these stories reminds me of one time when I saw a therapist and he asked, "When did you learn you were different?" and I was shocked. Because I think it was when he asked me that question. But maybe we are ALL "different" and if we're not... that is when there is something wrong. At any rate, the therapy ended there and I never really learned what more there was to explore along that vein. Somehow Miranda July takes me there.
If you enjoy short stories, admire a fresh, unique voice (though there is not a lot of variety in voice from story to story despite the different characters), are willing to encounter some edgy sexuality, then you might enjoy this collection, though it's best read in small doses.
Set in North Carolina, Garden Spells explore the lives of the Waverly women and their strangeness in a community where everyone has their expectations for the long family lines native to the area. The Waverley's have a garden where an enchanted apple tree grows and Claire masterfully creates foods with properties that do more than tantalize the taste buds. The ideas behind this are great and this first novel for Sarah Addison Allen might be a fun summer read for someone less picky than me. While I enjoyed the IDEAS Allen was trying to carry out in the novel and the lovely cover art, I found it predictable and contrived, repetitive and far too much like a heaving breasts romance novel at times. I really didn't care for her style of writing.
The Rough Guide to His Dark Materials offers a wealth of information on the sources Pullman uses in his trilogy and the roots for many of his ideas. It appears the author has been VERY upfront about all the borrowing he's done and is not striving to maintain any illusions or mystery about his stories. I do find that a bit refreshing and so it's interesting to learn the behind the scenes of this fantastical world. One thing I learned is there are TONS of books and online sites that are dedicated to this topic. Pullman loves William Blake and also the Victorian World. I learned that. This guide's most interesting section was part two where we learned more about the characters, the inspirations, the science, the religion, the politics, the magic and the Victorian world. This was also the slowest reading. Overall, I found this interesting but dense and a bit repetitive.