Friday, July 22, 2011

My Good Summer

What do you know? The best summer I’ve had in years is almost over.

It’s the first summer that my husband has actually been home nearly every day. Sure, he’s had a few week-long business trips and too many late-night meetings, but he’s been home. As in, not at camp for ten weeks straight. It’s been heavenly.

Also, Little Boo has gotten to be so much fun, and so cute. Sure, she was fun and cute last summer, but she has reached ever-greater heights of fun and cuteness since then. I don’t even know what to write about the Little Boo. It all sounds so normal—she loves to eat and dance and sing and laugh—but it’s all so wonderful. She has the sweetest, softest skin, and I just kiss her and kiss her and kiss her. She has the most darling little dimple, just below and to the right of her mouth. She still loves books more than anything, though I think my mom’s Book Nook (or is it Nook Book?) is a close second. Oh, and Elmo. She still adores Elmo. I’m actually starting to get a little sick of Elmo.

But, you know how songs that are played often at a particular time in your life will always remind you of that time? Well, Jason Mraz’s “Outdoors,” featuring Elmo and some other monsters, is always going to remind me of this happy summer. Always.

It’s also been a great summer because I’ve loved teaching. In May and June, I taught Expository Writing to a class of 17. It was a lot of work, getting back into the swing of teaching and having it be a compressed, five-week summer course, but it was so much fun. I truly believe I am a “natural” in the classroom. By that, I mean that it just feels so right to be up there, talking about writing, helping students to understand and practice different aspects of the craft. And I particularly love working with students one-on-one.

For the past five weeks, I’ve taught Literature-Based Research. The class is essentially an introduction to writing about literature. I’ve loved every minute of it; I’ve gotten to teach some stories, poems, and authors I hadn’t visited in a long time: Faulkner and “A Rose for Emily,” Welty and “A Worn Path,” Lawrence and “The Horse-Dealer’s Daughter,” and then Blake, Whitman, Hopkins, Keats, and of course Shakespeare. Yesterday in class, we watched A Midsummer Night’s Dream, the version with Kevin Kline as Bottom. I popped popcorn for everyone, and we just relaxed and enjoyed the show. Fun class!

The class ends Wednesday, and then I’m “off” for a couple of weeks. Then the fall semester starts. Will I be teaching? It looks like it. I’m going to try to work part-time as a tech writer and part-time as an English instructor. It will be a lot of work, but my life will be more flexible (and will allow more time for Boo) if half of it is spent on school. Plus, I really, really love teaching. While I believe I enjoy tech writing more than most, I truly love teaching.

Another benefit of teaching: I’ve found myself having glimmers of deep thoughts. I haven’t had deep thoughts in forever. I forgot how much I love pondering the meaning of life, seeing the world as one big metaphor, exploring subtleties of emotion, etc. For so long, even before Boo was born, my thoughts pretty much consisted of to-do lists, work projects, and the like. Oh, and numbers (figuring out schedules, counting down how many more tenths of a mile I have left to run, working to deadlines, minding the budget, etc.). But deep thoughts? Letting my imagination flow, “ceaselessly musing, venturing, throwing,—seeking the spheres, to connect them”? Nah. Not for a long time. Until now.

Yeah, it’s been a good summer.

Friday, July 1, 2011

Why We Need Books

Johann Hari in The Independent:

"That's why we need books, and why I believe they will survive. Because most humans have a desire to engage in deep thought and deep concentration. Those muscles are necessary for deep feeling and deep engagement. Most humans don't just want mental snacks forever; they also want meals."

Literature and Life

From "Practicing Medicine Can Be Grimm Work," an op-ed by Valerie Gribben, an English major and fairy-tale enthusiast who is now a fourth-year medical student:

Fairy tales are, at their core, heightened portrayals of human nature, revealing, as the glare of injury and illness does, the underbelly of mankind. Both fairy tales and medical charts chronicle the bizarre, the unfair, the tragic. And the terrifying things that go bump in the night are what doctors treat at 3 a.m. in emergency rooms. 

And this:

Healing, I’m learning, begins with kindness, and most fairy tales teach us to show kindness wherever we can, to the stooped little beggar and the highest nobleman. In another year, I’ll be among the new doctors reporting to residency training. And the Brothers Grimm will be with me.      

And He Has a Great T-shirt, Too!

I'd never heard of Taylor Mali until a friend sent me a link to this video yesterday. Now I'm a fan.