Sunday, July 31, 2005

Maybe It Was Meant to Be

You know, ever since I've started the hectic planning process for teaching English, I keep thinking of how ... appropriate ... it is for me to pursue this career. I never realized how much I quote poetry in everyday conversation until recently. It never seemed strange to me that I write essays all the time, just for fun ... until I thought about the fact that I'll be assigning them to people. And then today, I decided to clean out my desk--the same desk that has served as little more than a junk-shelf for the past two years.

In the desk, among other things, I found the following:

1) Sticky stars. Shiny gold, silver, red, and blue.
2) Stickers of books wearing great big smiley faces.
3) A grade book.
4) A handful of syllabi that I made for myself in past autodidactical learning efforts.
5) Art supplies.
6) Crayons.
7) Elmer's School Glue.
8) A box of unused transparencies.
9) A seating-chart chart (from an old education class, apparently)
10) A blank lesson-plan book.
11) A framed woodblock-looking picture of Malvolio with the caption, "Some are become great, fome atcheeve greatneffe, and fome have greatneffe thruft upon em."

There were a few other teacher- and English-class-nerd type things, but I'll stop there.

I'm wondering if I shoulda gotten a job teaching first grade, though, with my shiny stars and smiling book stickers. Kids that young would probably even like the funny Malvolio picture.

A Novel Afternoon

My goal was to get to page 200 of TNP before the end of the month. That means I have 15 pages to write today. I usually write four or five in a single sitting, if that much. So this is a challenge.

Luckily, I know exactly what I'm going to write. It's just a matter of getting off my lazy rump and writing it.

Then after that, I'll spend the rest of the evening showering attention on the three men in my life: Hubster, Beau the Cat, and George the Piano.

Saturday, July 30, 2005

An Idea for the Friends

The Friends of the Library have their annual book sale every year (is that a redundant statement?). I went yesterday and bought about 15 books for $8.75. I went today and bought another stack fo $10.00.

Where, now, do I expect to store these books? I have no clue. Hubster and I recently got a new bookcase because our books were overflowing off the ones we already had. We filled the new bookcase in the process of Dewey-decimal-systematizing everything. It was perfect. Every last book fit. For the most part.

And now I have all these new books. Once again, we'll be doubling books up on the shelves until we can get a new bookcase (and a new house ... we have no more room for bookcases).

So I told the Friends of the Library people, I said, "You know, you should have a raffle for everyone that buys books at this sale. The winner of the raffle should win a free bookcase, so they'll have a place to put all their newly acquired books."

The Friends laughed merrily. But I was serious. I thought it was more polite than saying outright, "I think the Friends should buy me a new bookcase, since they've put the book-buying temptation there--a temptation to which I cannot help but yield."

Yeah. Kind of like people want to make the cigarette companies pay their medical bills when they get lung disease. Yeah.

Think the Friends'll go for that? ;-)

Prayers Unawares

The other day, as I was looking through my materials for teaching English Lit, I thought to myself, "Self, there was a little book you read in grad school, called The Elizabethan World Picture, by E.M.W. Tillyard. It's a classic volume, maybe 100 pages, and it gives clear, straightforward information about what Shakespeare's world was like. I sure would like to find a copy of that book."

Then, the very next day, I happened upon the Friends of the Library Annual Book Sale at our local library. I'd forgotten all about The Elizabethan World Picture, but I ended up in the English Literature section of the sale anyway (funny how that happens). And what's the first book I lay eyes on? Yep. The Elizabethan World Picture. On sale for 50 cents.

Then, last night, as I was working on a syllabus for English I and feeling a little overwhelmed, I thought to myself, "Self, I sure wish you had a mentor: Someone who has taught English, who knows how to teach English, and could perhaps give you advice and answer your questions regarding the teaching of English in high school." See, we had mentors when I taught at LSU. Each graduate teaching assistant had someone, usually one of the many instructors who also taught freshman comp. I found the mentor arrangement extremely helpful, and longed for something like that now.

Then today at my coffee shop, a man came over to me and asked me what I was writing. (I get that a lot; people see me writing furiously every morning, and finally, one day, their curiosity overcomes them, and they have to ask what the heck I'm writing.) I told him, and then we chatted a bit ... then somewhere I mentioned that I'm going to be teaching English.

"Oh," he said. "My wife teaches AP English."

Long story short: Not only is his wife a seasoned English teacher, but she teaches teachers and has often served as a mentor for new teachers. Do you see the connection here? She is a mentor! I am a new teacher who needs a mentor! She was there at the coffee shop, and we only had a few minutes to talk, so she gave me a few suggestions and left her e-mail address with me so I could e-mail her and ask her stuff.

So there you have it. I didn't technically pray for these things, but I did wish for them. And God heard me, and next thing I know, the things I wished for are mine.

Unbelievable. Not really, but you know what I mean.

Thursday, July 28, 2005

This Made Me Chuckle

Sojourner is a sick silly man.

Hopkins Poem & Birthday

"Pied Beauty" is one of my favorite poems by Gerard Manley Hopkins (who happens to be one of my favorite poets). I think I've posted it before on this blog ... but I'm posting it again. It's that delightful.


Glory be to God for dappled things—
For skies of couple-colour as a brinded cow;
For rose-moles all in stipple upon trout that swim;
Fresh-firecoal chestnut-falls; finches’ wings;
Landscape plotted and pieced—fold, fallow, and plough;
And áll trádes, their gear and tackle and trim.

All things counter, original, spare, strange;
Whatever is fickle, freckled (who knows how?)
With swift, slow; sweet, sour; adazzle, dim;
He fathers-forth whose beauty is past change:
Praise him.

Happy Birthday to Gerard Manley Hopkins, born this date in 1844.

Author Intimacy

Michael of the 2Blowhards talks about the collaborative nature of art--how works of art are often the product of more than one person. Then he asks, "To my mind, one of the bigger puzzles of the reading-and-writing game is the question, Why do so many readers enjoy imagining that the book they're reading was created by only one person? Why should this matter? Weird."

I don't think it's so weird. I am one person reading, so I imagine that I'm communing with the one person who wrote whatever I'm reading.

There's a quote in the movie Shadowlands that says, "We read to know we're not alone." But we don't read to know that we're one of an extended collaborative effort, of a buzz of voices and chattering. At least I don't. When I sit in a quiet place and open a book, I'm sharing that space with one special, inspired author, and the author only. When I open a book in a crowded place, it's as if the author and I looked at each other, understanding, and said, "Let's get out of here and find someplace we can talk."

We like to think that the author is a human being like us, but one who had special insight. That what he or she wrote was a labor of vision and love. Not that a book occurred the way, say, a technical document from Cubicle Land occurs. That when we have a flash of insight, or are caught by surprise as how intimately the author seems to know us, that we're on the same wavelength of someone with special powers of vision and understanding.

I think it's weird that some people find great satisfaction in pointing out why the great writers and artists weren't really as great as we thought they were. (I'm not saying Michael is doing this, and I don't think he is ... but I read a lot of that kind of thing when I was in grad school, and it really irked me at times.)

So, I know that I read with the idea (misguided or not) that I'm communing with a single author, the one who wrote the words and had the thoughts that, through the words, reach into my thoughts and find something familiar. Just the other day, I was thinking about how odd it seems that an I, an average kid from a po-dunk little town in south Louisiana, can feel like Shakespeare and Mozart are my intimate friends. They're not, obviously, but they seem to connect to me in ways that even my closest friends cannot.

Also, when I read, when I feel that intimacy with an author, it doesn't matter to me that a gazillion other people have read the same book, and perhaps felt that same intimacy. It's a one-to-one thing. (When I read the newest Harry Potter a few weeks ago, I was the only person reading it, as far as I was concerned. And the six other people reading it in my same coffee shop at the time probably felt the same way ...)

But the fact that we all feel that same intimacy ... that sort of connects all of us readers with each other, doesn't it, in a way?

I'm thankful for all of the people who have played a role in the success, and the voices, of my favorite artists. But most of all, I'm thankful for the artists themselves, whose words, thoughts, insights, and sheer entertainment ability have made richer my own world, and that of my fellow readers.

I'm such a dork. It's 8:45. Time to get ready to take Miss Hideaway to the vet.

Tuesday, July 26, 2005

What's Your Hidden Talent?

Your Hidden Talent
You are a great communicator. You have a real way with words.
You're never at a loss to explain what you mean or how you feel.
People find it easy to empathize with you, no matter what your situation.
When you're up, you make everyone happy. But when you're down, everyone suffers.

A Ramble about my Piano Dilemma

It's after midnight and I can't sleep. So many thoughts, uncertainties, and questions going through my head, mainly of this nature: Whatever am I going to do about piano?

Ah, piano. If you're a regular reader of this blog, then you know how much I love piano. You may also have noticed that I haven't blogged about piano very much this summer. It isn't that I haven't been playing; I've just been more focused on other things, so piano hasn't been the center of my blogging attention for a couple of months. (Nothing has been the center of my blogging attention lately, but that's another matter.)

But that's not the issue. The issue is this: Do I continue taking piano lessons for the fall semester?

I'm going to be starting a full-time teaching job in which I'm teaching five different classes. I've never taught high school before, and I've never taught most of the subjects I'm teaching. I think I'll do fine ... but I know, as sure as I'm sitting here, that my tendency will be to devote 100% of my efforts to school.

I need balance in my life, and the challenge is going to be to balance my school/job life with the other important aspects of my life. It's just that my life seems to have so many important aspects: Hubster, the house, church, writing, exercise, piano, reading, family ... I could go on, but I won't.

Now, that's a lot to balance. I don't know if I can do it. I don't know if I want to fork over the money for piano lessons (we pay in advance, by half-semester) when I'm not sure that I'll be able to devote adequate time (or any time) to piano study. And it's not like the money is flowing all that freely these days. And Deborah's piano studio, while convenient to my old job, is a 45-minute drive from the school--longer in the afternoon traffic, which I'll be facing once a week if I do take lessons.

Of course, I'll still play--I'm planning to play for church every week--but that's "fun" playing, and it doesn't take a lot of effort to learn. Piano-lesson playing does. It's harder, but more rewarding, musically.

At the same time, piano practicing could be a wonderful means of helping prevent the burnout that would surely result if I were to give 100% (or more) of my efforts to teaching.

I don't know what to do. I am really leaning toward one of two things:

1) No lessons for the first quarter. Focus on school. If the school schedule seems to allow for piano (once I've learned the ropes a bit), pay for lessons for second quarter.

2) Pay as I go. Just pay for those lessons I'm able to make. I don't really like this idea because of all the uncertainty. I need a sense of routine if I'm going to take lessons. Also, Deborah may not go for this idea.

The other alternative is:

3) Pay in advance and do my best to practice and make it to lessons (although I'm dreading the rush-hour commute to piano). If lessons don't work out, then I'm out several hundred dollars, but oh well.

I just don't want to make myself miserable over this. I'm already stressing too much over it.

Monday, July 25, 2005

Back Home from the Wedding Weekend

I'm back, and I have much to blog, but I'm wondering ... when will I ever have time for it? TNP is my priority for the next few weeks, next to school planning and George (poor, neglected George).

I've been writing up a storm in my personal, non-electronic journal, though. I think that's why I have so much to blog.

But now is not the time. TNP calls. I'm hoping to blog a bit more tonight.

Happy Monday!

Friday, July 22, 2005

Reader, She's Marrying Him

She is my sister, "Mu." And he's a soft-spoken, quiet, sweet, and very intelligent man I call "Stu." Blogging has been, and will be, light for a few days as I join family and friends in celebration of this joyful event.

Tuesday, July 19, 2005

TNP Update

As some of you know, "TNP" is the acronym for my novel-in-progress. I haven't provided many updates here because (1) I'm not comfortable talking about it while it's still in progress, and (2) these pesky jobs have gotten in the way of my writing habit.

But, I've still managed to write at least three pages a day most days, sometimes more. I'm now on page 173. (I made it to page 173 in Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince after a few hours ... but it took me a month and a half to get to page 173 of "TNP" ... sigh.)

Anyway, I'm about halfway through the outline, which means I should be halfway through the first draft of the novel. I've stuck to the original outline (which was basically a rough list of stuff I wanted to happen), more or less. My great dream is to have the draft finished before school begins. It takes so much effort just to write it all down, and I know I won't have time for a lot of that once I'm in school. So I at least want to complete that phase of the novel while I have the leisure to do so.

I killed my first character today. I knew from the beginning that he was going to die, and I even had an idea of how he would die. I've been building up to his death for weeks now. He's a likable enough character, but he's only a subplot character ... so why did it make me so sad to off him? I drowned him, and told it all from his point of view. Had him in the water, and wrote about what it was like to be there, to realize there's a bunch of water in your lungs, to feel numb and cold, and then for there to be nothing more. I hated to do it to him. By the time I finished, I felt like I needed to come up for air myself.

Then, at work today, I left a sheet of paper on my desk. One side had the phone number of the transmission guy (which is why I had the sheet with me at work), and the other side had a map I'd drawn from my book, and different things labeled, including where this character dies. And a note to myself: "Might not be best place to kill him, don't want body to wash up south of town downstream." Or something like that.

I went to make some copies for work, then came back to my desk. First thing I read was "Might not be best place to kill him, don't want body to wash up south of town downstream." I'd accidentally left the "map side" facing up after I called the transmission guy. Whew. Good thing my co-workers didn't come across that. Whatever would they have thought of their quiet, mild-mannered part-time temporary assistant? ("And she was such a quiet type ...")

I also think I've read waay too many English novels in my short lifetime. My characters keep wanting to stop and have tea. No reason. Just seems like a good thing to do. I'm a coffee drinker myself, but coffee just seems so ... non-literary, I suppose. Anyway, when they start talking tea, I stop them, erase, and move them into the direction they were going before they decided they wanted tea. What's with that?

OK, enough of "TNP." I don't want to talk about it too much, or I'll mislead my brain into thinking it's more finished than it is. Back to work!

Monday, July 18, 2005


I just found a good reference site for information and related links on literary figures. LitLinks is part of the Bedford-St. Martin's website and is for students who want to do further research on an author or work of literature. You can find author information (generally a short biography and some related links) and can also access information by literary period and genre (essays, poetry, fiction, drama, and critical theory).

It's by no means a complete listing of everything that's out there, but it's a great research starting-point for literature nerds like me students of literature.

Sunday, July 17, 2005

Isaac Watts, 1674-1748

Joy to the world, the Lord is come!
Let earth receive her King;
Let every heart prepare Him room,
And Heaven and nature sing,
And Heaven and nature sing,
And Heaven, and Heaven, and nature sing.

Joy to the earth, the Savior reigns!
Let men their songs employ;
While fields and floods, rocks, hills and plains
Repeat the sounding joy,
Repeat the sounding joy,
Repeat, repeat, the sounding joy.

No more let sins and sorrows grow,
Nor thorns infest the ground;
He comes to make His blessings flow
Far as the curse is found,
Far as the curse is found,
Far as, far as, the curse is found.

He rules the world with truth and grace,
And makes the nations prove
The glories of His righteousness,
And wonders of His love,
And wonders of His love,
And wonders, wonders, of His love.

"Joy to the World" is one of those songs that are so ingrained in most of us, that we never really think about the fact that someone actually sat down and wrote the lyrics, once upon a time.

The words were adapted from the Bible and penned by Issac Watts, the famed hymn-writer and Puritan pastor and thinker.

Isaac Watts, 1674-1748

Watts was born this date in 1674, in Southampton, England. His Hymns and Spiritual Songs, published in the first decade of the eighteenth century, were written when Watts was in his early twenties. He wrote about 600 hymns in his lifetime, but most of these were written when he was a young man.

Watts showed a penchant for versifying from a very young age. Here's a fun little anecdote from an Anglican website I found:

Even as a small boy, Watts had a great interest in versifying. Once, during family prayers, he began to laugh. His father asked him why. He replied that he had heard a sound and opened his eyes to see a mouse climbing a rope in a corner, and had immediately thought,

A little mouse for want of stairs

Ran up a rope to say its prayers.

His father thought this irreverent, and proceeded to administer corporal punishment, in the midst of which Isaac called out,

Father, father, mercy take,

And I will no more verses make.
The Anglican site from which I lifted that anectode includes a few paragraphs describing the church history and culture--including controversies regarding the types of hymns to be used--into which Watts was born.

Oh, about "Joy to the World": The lyrics to this popular Christmas carol were taken from Psalm 98 by Watts in 1719. The music was added in 1822 by Lowell Mason, an American choir director, composer, and publisher. To write the tune, he started with a melody line in Handel's Messiah.

Incidentally, Handel knew and respected Watts, but his music wouldn't be joined to Watts's lyrics until many years later.

This page has a list of the hymns Watts wrote. If you can get my comments feature to work, I'd love to know if you have a favorite--and what it is. I'm partial to "When I Survey the Wondrous Cross"--have always loved that one.

Of course, "Joy to the World" is right up there, too. It's one of the few Christmas carols I don't get sick of each year.

I love this stuff. It'll be fun to cover Watts in English lit in the fall. If I remember right, he'll fit in right after Milton.

P.S. Sherry at Semicolon also wrote about Watts today, plus she includes actual links to some of the hymns.

My, How Time Flies ...

Welp, I finished Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince a little while ago. I cannot believe I read 600+ pages in, oh about eight hours. I also did some work, practiced piano, talked to my sister on the phone, and watched Into the West between chapters. Came home after church this morning and read the last three.

I cried at the end, but not nearly the way I boo-hooed after Sirius died. The whole thing with Snape was weird but not unexpected, I guess. I'm just glad the online sorting hat made me a Gryffindor and not a Snapey old Slytherin.

Want to Get Sorted?
I'm a Gryffindor!

I was sad that Dobby had such a minor role in this installment. I was glad the kids all dropped Care of Magical Creatures (no offense to Hagrid). I'm sad that the book is over. Wish it had been longer.

Oh well. I don't want to put a bunch of spoilers out because I know some of my readers haven't received their copies yet.

Very satisfying book, for the most part. I think Book 4 (Goblet of Fire) is still my favorite of all the Harry Potter books. I loved Mad-Eye Moody.

Saturday, July 16, 2005

Disappearing Comments

Has anyone besides me had trouble commenting on this blog? I responded to Sherry, Pei Yun, and violet this morning, and now those comments are gone. I checked my Haloscan account, and it's as if I never wrote them. But I know they were there this morning.

This isn't the first time I've responded to a comment, only to have it wiped away by some annoying comments poltergeist. Haloscan users, have you had the same problem on your blogs?

Friday, July 15, 2005

Tired and Wired

Uh-oh. The Hubster is worried. I'm on another one of my crazy manic binges.

I haven't slept in, oh, about 36 hours. My TMJ is killing me because I'm so tense. But it's not a bad tension. Or a bad-feeling tension. It's an exhilirating tension. It's a weird fight-or-flight response that rises to the challenge when I find myself overwhelmed with a million billion trillion delightful things to do. Things like:

- Writing the novel I'm writing (made it to page 165 today)
- Planning for five (count 'em) different classes (school starts in 37 days)
- Working part-time at a new job and learning the ropes there
- Planning for my Hopkins presentation in a couple of weeks
- Writing music
- Practicing my beloved, bewigged, and bejowled Bach on piano
- Learning new stuff to play for church on Sunday

The school thing is what's really getting me. It used to get me this way when I was in grad school, too. I spent half of grad school feeling like I was flying. Dizzy and disoriented, yet more tense and intense than ever.

It's like I'm high on ... Beowulf. And Shakespeare. And Milton. I love this stuff. It's really started to hit me that I'm really going to be teaching this stuff that I love so much. Whether the students care about it or not. I just get to be with all of my favorite dead British poets for an entire year. And the thought of it makes me want to go outside into the rain and dance like Snoopy in the joyful night.

How can I expect to sleep when I feel this way? So I stay up, re-reading all this wonderful poetry, thinking about schedules and lesson plans, working out the calendar for this class or that class.

I need to get some sleep. So I took some NyQuil. A great big swaller.

Then--duh--I remembered about the Harry Potter midnight party at the bookstore. Where my pre-ordered copy awaits me. And where I can't drive because ol' Hubster is sound asleep from his overly busy past couple of days, and I'm loopy on the Sniffling-Sneezing-Coughing-Aching-Stuffy-Head-Fever-So-You-Can-Rest Medicine.

Does Hogwarts teach a spell for sleeping? Somnulo, or something like that?

Harry Potter Weekend Is Here!

Note: I missed the midnight party. I seem to have come down with some sort of sore-throat throat illness today. Ah, an even better excuse to stay home and do nothing but read. :)


I get my book tonight at midnight.

I will not be leaving my house tomorrow.

I will not be making lesson plans or working on syllabi.

I will not be answering the phone.

If I feel so inclined, I might practice George ... but then again, I might not feel so inclined.

I'm buying some red wine, ordering a pizza, planting myself on the couch (or the front porch, if the weather is nice), and READING. All. Weekend. Long.

Life is good! Sojourner thinks so, too.

Thursday, July 14, 2005

Little Miss Remiss. Or, It's About Time I Mentioned Intellectuelle

Oh, my. I have been terribly remiss. I could blame it on the fact that I've been taking a bit of a blog sabbatical, but that's really not an excuse. My apologies, Marla and company!

Most of you know this by now, but perhaps a few of you don't: Intellectuelle is up and running, and has been for a couple of weeks now. This group blog, which is written by seven very bright women, focuses on Christian apologetics, C.S. Lewis-style.

So far, the topics have ranged from spiritual neutrality to sexual purity, from open theism to sin and salvation. Lots of folks are visiting and commenting, and some good discussions have already arisen on this brand-new blog.

So, check it out if you haven't already!

Wednesday, July 13, 2005

Carnival of Education

A quick google on "education blogs" (or something like that) brought up the Carnival of Education, which is in its 23rd week. I hope to submit something from FYWT for the next go 'round. The links listed for this week certainly provide lots of food (and blog fodder) for thought.

FYWT Updates

Just letting y'all know, I've updated my other blog, First-Year Writing Teacher.

This separate-blog thing is an experiment. I've tried to start additional blogs before, but never with much success. With this education-focused blog, I hope to spare many of my regular readers from my musings on pedagogy, discipline, lesson plans, and school lunches.

If the Blog #2 thing doesn't work out, I'll merge it with this one. But I'm hoping it can hold its own. Because I know y'all don't want to read about school lunches!

That Sweet Flute, John Clare

Today is the birthday of poet John Clare (1793-1864).

19th-century English poet John Clare

Born at Helpston, a village of Northamptonshire, Clare was the child of a poor, mostly illiterate field-laboring family. While himself working in the fields, Clare said that he wrote verses "for downright pleasure in giving vent to my feelings" (kind of like us modern-day folks, with our at-work blogging, hm?). His Poems Descriptive of Rural Life (1820) was critically praised, and he had some resulting success and popularity. However, his subsequent publications of poetry were failures.

In 1837, the sensitive Clare lost his mind, and he was put into an asylum, where he spent most of the rest of his life. It wasn't all bad; he could roam the countryside at will, and he was encouraged to write more poetry. In fact, some of the poems we consider Clare's "best" were composed in his times of madness. Many of his earlier poems celebrate and honor simple, rustic life (Clare was actually known as the "Peasant Poet"). His later poems, written in the asylum, are often poignantly introspective.

American poet Mary Oliver has written a wonderful poem of artists gone mad, which begins with the line, "That sweet flute John Clare .." and which I've posted here.

Today I'm sharing "I Am," which Clare wrote in 1848, more than a decade after he was committed.


I am--yet what I am none cares or knows;
My friends forsake me like a memory lost:
I am the self-consumer of my woes--
They rise and vanish in oblivious host,
Like shadows in love's frenzied stifled throes
And yet I am, and live--like vapours tossed

Into the nothingness of scorn and noise,
Into the living sea of waking dreams,
Where there is neither sense of life nor joys,
But the vast shipwreck of my life's esteems;
Even the dearest that I love the best
Are strange--nay, rather stranger than the rest.

I long for scenes where man has never trod
A place where woman never smiled or wept
There to abide with my Creator God,
And sleep as I in childhood sweetly slept,
Untroubling and untroubled where I lie
The grass below, above, the vaulted sky.


Read more of Clare's biography at poetryconnection.

Tuesday, July 12, 2005

I Just Found Out ...

... that I'm going to be teaching English Lit as well as writing and a few other things.

I love English Lit. I am excited about teaching English Lit. I just wish I'd known about this sooner. I have a lot of planning to do. And school begins in a mere 40 days and 40 nights.

I don't feel panicked. Perhaps my panic button isn't working. Or maybe the effect is being slow to kick in.

I should be panicking, right? Instead, I am feeling energized and a little jittery. I think this is a naive way to feel. I think that panic would be a more appropriate response.

Our textbook is the Norton Anthology of English Literature. Looks like I am indeed following in the footsteps of Falz.

Monday, July 11, 2005

Demons and Angels, etc.

This week marks was the third set of performances by the Swannanoa Chamber Music Festival here in western North Carolina. Last night, we heard the following at the Performing Art Center in Waynesville:

- Trio Sonata for Flute, Oboe, and Bassoon, by Alessandro Besozzi (1702-1793)

- String Quartet No. 2, “Demons and Angels,” by Stacy Garrop (b. 1970)

- Divertissement for Oboe, Clarinet & Bassoon
, by Jean Francais (1912-1997)

- Trio in E-flat Major, Op. 40, by Johannes Brahms (for violin, horn, and piano)

Of course, I was thrilled at all the attention the oboe got. The sounds of other instruments simply pale in comparison with the oboe. Oboist Keve Wilson did not disappoint this oboe-enthusiast.

Of the four pieces, though, the one that’s really haunted me all day is Stacy Garrop’s string quartet movement, “Demons and Angels.” Apparently, Garrop decided one day to Google an old boyfriend … to learn that he’d become a serial killer. If I heard the story right (it wasn’t in the program, but Festival Director Frank Ell mentioned it before the performance), Garrop wrote this piece as part of her reaction to discovering such a disturbing thing.

And “Demons and Angels” was disturbing, but it was also … amazing. I was spellbound. It was harsh and loud, and then the violins would wail, or whisper, or die out with a sense of hopelessness. It had large sections of silence toward the end, and its conclusion reminded me of the line, “not with a bang, but a whimper.” The Biava String Quartet played with great passion, with an intensity that matched the deep intensity of the piece.

I don’t know enough about music to tell you much more than that. Unfortunately, the program notes don’t tell us anything about “Demons and Angels,” but we do learn a little bit about the composer, Stacy Garrop:

She has written in several musical genres, including choral and chamber music, and has had some of her compositions recorded by contemporary ensembles. The present work [“Demons and Angels”] was commissioned for the Biava Quartet, who gave the world premiere for the Chicago “Music in the Loft” series.

I’d never heard of Garrop before, but I do hope to hear more of her music performed in the future. I tried to find online mp3 samples, but could only find one, a snippet of something called “Untaming the Fury.”

The Biava String Quartet comprises four young musicians: Austin Hartman (violin), Hyunsu Ko (violin), Mary Persin (viola), and Jacob Braun (cello).

Not only are they excellent musicians in their own right, but they are a joy to watch. Very passionate, intense group. And the cellist is a cutie.

I’m hoping to make it to the final Festival Performance next week, which will feature works by Persichetti, Debussy, and Spohr. It doesn’t look like I’ve ever heard any of the pieces that will be played, so I guess it’ll be yet another learning experience for the ol’ Waterfall.

My music education never ends. That's part of what I love about it.

Who Knew? There's a Music Carnival Out There

... and this week it's being hosted by Fred, one of the funniest music bloggers in the blogosphere.

Maybe the Music Carnival was common knowledge, and it's just something I've missed due to my absence from the blogging world of late.

So go visit!

Sunday, July 10, 2005

Saul Bellow

"A great deal of intelligence can be invested in ignorance when the need for illusion is deep."

-- Nobel laureate Saul Bellow, born on this date in 1915

I'm currently reading Saul Bellow's novel, Ravelstein, which is based on the author's friendship with Allan Bloom (author of The Closing of the American Mind). It's the first thing by Bellow that I've ever read. I want to read more--partly because I'm enjoying Ravelstein, and partly because, when reading Conversations with Walker Percy last month, I learned that Percy, one of my favorite writers ever, had great respect for Bellow's work.

Saul Bellow died just a few months ago, on April 5, 2005.

Technorati Finds

I hadn't done a Technorati search on my blog in a long, long time. On a whim, I just did one. And learned that lots of blogs I've never seen have linked to my little old Sort of Notebook. All of the unexpected "attention" has inspired me to put more effort into making this blog worth reading for those who visit (i.e., more on interesting stuff and less on my petty daily complaints).

Thanks to all of you who have linked me. I have most of you in my blogroll, but here is a list of Waterfall-linking blogs I found through Technorati that are new to me.

Treasures of Darkness is written by "Glorybeam," a wonderful writer and INFP blogger (she's linked in the INFP blogs in my sidebar).

A Stop at Willoughby is written by Patrick, a novelist living in Virginia.

The Better Bibles Blog is a blog of ideas for improving English Bible translations. I've never read it, but it looks interesting, so I hope to plow through its archives later this week!

Life in Cyprus is the personal blog of a Brit living in Cyprus.

I Hear the Baby Birds is an "okay pianist" (her words) and Outer Life reader. Obviously a blogger with excellent taste. :) I love her blog title, too.

To Tell You the Truth is a written by Dave Cruver, a Christian blogger in South Carolina.

Kathleen Dalton of The Minor Prophet is another Christian blogger.

Jennifer of Bocca della Vertia' linked my "Where I am From" poem and wrote her own.

Julia is a writer in Texas who blogs Musings of a Writing Wife.

I feel like a bad blogger friend because I have never visited most of these blogs before I found out about them via the Technorati search. But they're on my list now of blogs to explore this week. Hope y'all will visit them, too!

Meme-Time Again

I found this at Reflections in d minor. Why are these things so hard to resist filling out and posting for all to read?

10 years ago: Unmarried, halfway through grad school, had recently fallen deeply in love with someone I would later be engaged to, but wouldn’t marry.

5 years ago: Thru-hiking the AT! If I remember right, I was somewhere in the Maine/New Hampshire vicinity.

1 year ago: I was newly and happily married, but was also deeply depressed and frustrated with life.

Yesterday: I finished up work at Café Teria and got back to work on my novel. Played the piano till midnight. (Hubster was away for the weekend.)

Today: Went to church this morning, and afterward went to a wedding shower for a couple in our church.

Tomorrow: Working on the novel in the morning, then going to my new part-time job in the afternoon. Somewhere in there, I’m going to have a couple hours of piano practice, plus an hour or so of exercise.

5 snacks I enjoy: Ritz crackers, amaretto truffles, red wine (is that a snack?), chocolate-chip cookies, bizzini (a natural-food snack you can get at Earth Fare).

5 bands that I know the lyrics of MOST of their songs: The Eagles, Rick Springfield (is he a band?), Billy Joel (if Rick can be a band, then so can Billy), Bart Ramsey & Neti Vaan (local band in New Orleans), The Carpenters

5 things I would do with $100,000,000: Pay off my paltry debts. Get a housekeeper. Write books. Travel the world incognito. Surprise people with anonymous gifts.

5 locations I’d like to run away to: I have no clue. I’m pretty happy where I am right now.

5 bad habits I have: Eating too much junk food. Watching Law and Order: SVU reruns when I could be writing or practicing piano. Telling people "yes" when I really mean "no," and then finally telling them "no" at the last minute. Not e-mailing or writing people back in a timely manner (I am really bad about this). Not spoiling Hubster enough.

5 things I like doing: Walking. Being in the presence of books. Listening to music. Playing piano. Being silly.

5 things I would never wear: Really short shorts. A shirtdress. Stiletto heels. Hoop earrings. A tube top.

5 TV shows I like: Law and Order, Law and Order: SVU, Law and Order: Trial by Jury (boo-hoo, it was cancelled), Into the West, 30-Minute Meals

5 movies I like: Amadeus, Shadowlands, Dead Poets’ Society, Harold and Maude, Shawshank’s Redemption.

5 famous people I’d like to meet: Bob Denver, George W. Bush, Laura Bush, Dick Cheney, Bill Clinton

5 biggest joys at the moment: My novel, my husband, the Smoky Mountains in my backyard, my church, and the cats.

5 favorite toys: The computer, George, the dictionary, the catnip we’re growing (hours of fun! just add cat!), my issues of Cooking Light magazine.

I'm not tagging anyone. I know some of you are just as weak to meme temptations as I am (and you know who you are!), so I'll look forward to reading your answers! :)

Tar Heel Tavern is Up!

This weeks edition of the Tar Heel Tavern, hosted by Scrutiny Hooligans, is up! Check it out for the latest from North Carolina bloggers.

Saturday, July 9, 2005

Farewell, Café Teria: Reflections on a Π-Week Job

P(re).S(cript). I just remembered that the Tar Heel Tavern theme for this week is "pirates." I have nothing about pirates to submit ... wonder if it's OK if I rate my Π-week job (I give it an 8 on a scale of 1 to 10) and merely call this a "Π-rating" post. Har, har, har! I mean, yo-ho-ho!


OK, so my job lasted approximately 3.14 weeks. Not exactly pi, but it seemed fun to think of it as a Π-week job. Particularly since part of my job was, um, serving Πs. I mean, pies. Chocolate pies, strawberry cream pies, pumpkin pies, you-name-it pies. All kinds of pies.

The job ended at 2:00 today. Had it ended yesterday, I would have walked away thinking, “Thank God that’s over.” Which would have been unfortunate, because yesterday was probably the only “bad” day I’d had in Π weeks at Café Teria. It was one of those days when all of the lazy staff members are working, when the friendly, hard-working staff members are on vacation, and you’re doing the brunt of the work while the others shuffle and drag through what few tasks they fail to avoid.

But today was different. Good people were there today: energetic, hard-working kids who were actually happy to be at Café Teria on a sunny Saturday (or at least they pretended to be). And when your co-workers are positive, work can be fun. And today was fun.

So I left Café Teria in a good mood. And, of course, some thoughts: thoughts that, naturally, I’ll share with you now. :-)

My first (and only, prior to this summer) food-service job was as Kitchen Help at Yellowstone National Park in 1989. I made sandwiches and did prep work at the Grant Village Dining Room for a summer. I loved it. Really, I did. I loved “working the line,” particularly when it got busy and I had two, three, and four sandwich orders coming in at a time.

But I got bored. After a full summer of making sandwiches and chopping vegetables, my brain started to get really bored. I started writing poems on napkins when I should have been chopping lettuce on the “whopper chopper” or making antipasto salad mix. I sneaked in books to read during the slow period between breakfast and lunch … and sometimes during breakfast or lunch. I practiced an imaginary piano in the prep area. I made up songs in my head, wrote lyrics and chord progressions on napkins, then raced back to the dorms after work, went straight to the piano, and played what I could remember.

If there had been a computer in that kitchen, and blogging had been invented at the time, guess what else you would have found me doing … :-)

But the long and short of it is this: by the time I finished my glorious summer at Yellowstone, I thought to myself, “This job was fun, and I will never regret my summer as Kitchen Help, but food service is definitely not something I want to do for the rest of my life. I need job where I'm allowed to write a lot.

So, I won’t kid myself. Part of the appeal of my Café Teria job these Π weeks was that it specifically wasn’t a Cubicle Land job. There are plenty of underpaid Café Teria workers who would love the cushy, well-paid Cubicle Land job I gave up last spring. So I don’t want to romanticize the wonderful world of food service.

But …

There is something to be said for Café Teria work. Something that can’t be said for my now-defunct Cubicle Land career.

(1) For one thing, Café Teria work is all about seeing results of your labor. You wipe a table, and voila! … it’s clean. You take a customer the spoonful of brown sugar they requested, and voila! … they’re happy and thankful. You forget to check the salad-bar cherry tomatoes for nasty, runny ex-tomatoes, and voila! …someone (hopefully a co-worker and not a customer or the boss!) is going to let you know. In no uncertain terms. And if you do mess up, chances are that you won't be jeopardizing a multi-million-dollar contract with some big-name company.

At my Cubicle Land job, I would work for literally months, but would never see the actual results of my work. Deadlines would be pushed back. Software builds would change mid-course in the documentation, and I’d have to quit what I was doing and sometimes start over completely. (Sometimes it’s easier just to start over.) I would get positive feedback from my boss … but he didn’t really see my work, either. No one did. Who reads the user guides anyway? The only true feedback I got was when a client saw something amiss in the documentation and reported it back to the company. Then the tech writers would catch hell for it (this error could jeopardize our multi-million-dollar contract! yada yada yada ...) … even though the discrepancies were rarely our fault.

(2) At Café Teria, I hardly ever sat down. Whether I was working the bar or the slop bucket, or making pudding or cutting pies (Πs?), I was standing. Sure, my feet would hurt after a day of being on them, but that was so much better than the sluggishness I would feel after sitting on my butt for eight or nine hours in Cubicle Land.

(3) At Café Teria, I did not suffer computer-generated eye-strain or hand-cramps. Ahh. There is definitely something to be said for that.

(4) I got to wear shorts at Café Teria. We did have regulation polo-style shirts, but they were maroon, and maroon is a good color for me. And they were comfy and not hideously ugly. And I never had to decide what to wear in the morning.

(5) I liked being around a bunch of teenagers at Café Teria. They so much less … resigned … than some tech-writing adults I’ve worked with. Also, I felt alternately like a Martian visiting an alien planet, and like a very old woman visiting her childhood. I didn’t like everyone I worked with (and am thankful that some of them won’t be my students in the fall!), but it was still refreshing to be around “young’uns” for a while. It was definitely a learning experience, for me in general and as an up-and-coming high-school teacher.

(6) Café Teria is ten minutes from my house. Cubicle Land was nearly an hour from my house. Oh, the joy of having to ga$ up only once a week!

Cubicle Land did have a few advantages over Café Teria. For one thing, I made lot$ and lot$ more money there. Nearly four time$ more money. Plus, I had benefit$. But you know what? Money isn’t everything. Other benefits of Cubicle Land: (1) It was next door to one of my favorite restaurants in Asheville; (2) I didn’t have to be at work for the crack of dawn; and (3) I had full-time internet access, which meant keeping up with blogs and the news, and listening to all day long. (I do miss blogs and Naxos.)

At both jobs, I was blessed with pleasant working conditions and nice bosses. At both jobs, I probably worked harder than I needed to. I made the most of them, but they’re in the past now, and I’m looking forward to what the future holds.

The next job—the next major job—will be teaching writing to high-school kids. Unlike the Cubicle Land and Café Teria jobs, high-school teaching will be a completely new experience for me. I’m sure I’ll have plenty of reflections about that job, which I’ll (of course) post here and/or on my teaching blog.

Friday, July 8, 2005

The Strangest Thing

Tomorrow is my last day at Café Teria. A lot of the folks I worked with today are off tomorrow, so I said a lot of my goodbyes today.

When I got home, I had a message on my machine. It was my friend R., who is working at a camp for the summer (she's also a teacher). They had an employee walk out on them and are desperate for help, and would I be available to help them out (for pay) a couple hours a day?

Sure, I said. Provided it's in the afternoons.

"That would be great!"

So I start Monday. Before we hung up, I asked, "So, what is this company? What am I supposed to be doing?"

It's computer stuff. They need someone who is good with computers and can work at lightning speed. Good thing they called me! (Oddly enough, had they asked me to do this work as a volunteer, I would have said yes. I've secured a few freelance jobs recently and don't even need the extra income for the rest of the summer. Which is part of the reason I was able to quit the Café Teria job.)

Weird how jobs seem to fall into my lap this way.

Stay tuned. I'm going to write an exciting (not) blog post about why Café Teria employment was preferable to working in Cubicle Land.

Wednesday, July 6, 2005

Writing Teacher Blog

I know, it seems strange that, instead of closing this blog, I'm starting a second blog. It's going to be called, originally enough, First-Year Writing Teacher. It will basically serve as a repository for my thoughts, reviews, and research on the topic of high-school composition pedagogy.

I don't know if it will be of interest to anyone here, but if you have friends who teach English composition and/or literature and like to follow blogs of this sort, please feel free to pass the link along to them.


Anyone have any idea what's going on with Unkymoods (the little mood picture that usually follows "Waterfall is feeling ..." in my sidebar)? Their domain seems to have expired. How sad. I hope they're back up soon.

Piano Update

How are all you musicians doing on your practicing? Do we dream of the day when, like symphony orchestra members Pei Yun and Patty, we'll have reason to practice and play a lot more than we do now?

Hm, maybe. I'd have to think about it. But I must admit, I have relished the time available for practicing this summer. My Dett piece (sample #10 if you click the link) is sounding really, really good. There is this one sticky part, about twelve measures, in the second half of the piece, and I still need to smooth it out. Other than that (and the fact that I need to play it faster), it sounds really good.

You would think I'd be sick of it, since I've been working on it so long. But, considering the fact that I played very little piano from February to May, thanks to my thumb injury and vacation, I guess I haven't been working on it that long. So I'm not tired of it yet. Particularly since it's begun to sound good!

The two Bach sinfonias are lovely (samples #26 and 30, if you click on the link). I love them, I love them, I love them!! Particularly the G-minor. And I'm not even playing hands together yet. I've marked all the fingering and analyzed them, and now I'm learning them hands separately, as well as learning each of the voices. At work, while working the slop bucket, I'll have so much noise and busy-ness surrounding me, but in my head I'm listening to the soprano, alto, or tenor voice of the G-minor sinfonia. Or I'll imagine two of the voices together, or all three. Talk about a brain-massage. Ah, the consolations of Bach.

My last piano lesson wasn't a piano lesson at all; it was an internet session where I helped Deborah find and order some Piazzolla music online. That was only supposed to take a few minutes, but we kept finding things. Our "lesson" started an hour late, so we decided to reschedule it for later.

I have no lesson this week, either. Instead, we have "group class." It'll be interesting, I think, because she has several new students that I haven't met. I'm going to play the Dett.

Interest in the piano practicing pact has waned, thanks to our busy schedules, so I'm going to stop it for now. If folks are interested in starting it up again in the fall (I will definitely need the motivation then, once I have a job to rival piano time), we'll do that.

Hope everyone is having a fun summer and is remembering to practice their Georges pianos (and stringed instruments, and oboes, and everything else) every now and then!

Tuesday, July 5, 2005

August 2, Gerard Manley Hopkins

My poetry group met tonight and finished up a discussion on Yeats that we started at the last meeting. We also decided who would make presentations at the next few meetings. I got August 2nd.

"What poet would you like to focus on, Waterfall?"

Hmm. I've been thinking about Gerard Manley Hopkins or George Herbert. (We've been focusing a lot on living poets, but have recently gone back to some of our favorite dead ones.) I decided on Hopkins. I love what poetry I've read by him, but must admit that I don't know a lot about him. And the Hopkins poems I've read are mostly the Hopkins poems that most college graduates have read in their Intro to English Literature courses.

So, I've decided (since I've been going through a blogging dry spell) that I'm going to post my Hopkins "research" onto this blog. It won't be anything too deep or complicated--just a few biographical facts, some notes on his poetic style, and of course, the texts of some of his poems.

Lets start with a bit of poetry, shall we?

This one is titled "The Woodlark." It's not one I'm familiar with. It is, however, very enjoyable to read aloud. Try it!



Teevo cheevo cheevio chee:
O where, what can tháat be?
Weedio-weedio: there again!
So tiny a trickle of sóng-strain;
And all round not to be found
For brier, bough, furrow, or gréen ground
Before or behind or far or at hand
Either left either right
Anywhere in the súnlight.
Well, after all! Ah but hark—
‘I am the little wóodlark.
. . . . . . . .
To-day the sky is two and two
With white strokes and strains of the blue
. . . . . . . .
Round a ring, around a ring
And while I sail (must listen) I sing
. . . . . . . .
The skylark is my cousin and he
Is known to men more than me
. . . . . . . .
…when the cry within
Says Go on then I go on
Till the longing is less and the good gone

But down drop, if it says Stop,
To the all-a-leaf of the tréetop
And after that off the bough
. . . . . . . .
I ám so véry, O soó very glad
That I dó thínk there is not to be had…
. . . . . . . .
The blue wheat-acre is underneath
And the braided ear breaks out of the sheath,
The ear in milk, lush the sash,
And crush-silk poppies aflash,
The blood-gush blade-gash
Flame-rash rudred
Bud shelling or broad-shed
Tatter-tassel-tangled and dingle-a-dangled
Dandy-hung dainty head.
. . . . . . . .
And down … the furrow dry
Sunspurge and oxeye
And laced-leaved lovely
Foam-tuft fumitory
. . . . . . . .
Through the velvety wind V-winged
To the nest’s nook I balance and buoy
With a sweet joy of a sweet joy,
Sweet, of a sweet, of a sweet joy
Of a sweet—a sweet—sweet—joy.’


Lookee here, Asheville has its own blog.

One of these days, I'm going to make it to one of the Asheville blogger get-togethers ...

What's Up With Waterfall

When I told my mom I was thinking of shutting down this blog, she said, "Well, how am I going to know what you're up to?"

Well, um, I guess we could talk on the phone or e-mail or something.

Still, it's how she keeps up with what's going through my twisted mind from day to day. So, since I don't have much else to blog about, here's what I'm up to, for family members and friends and anyone else who might be interested.

1. I've quit Café Teria. My last day is Saturday. I liked my boss and didn't mind the work, but it just wasn't working out for me. So that's three jobs I've quit in the last three months. Hm, I promise, this isn't typical behavior for me! I just hope to find a few freelance-writing assignments before starting my teaching career in the fall.

2. Café Teria is at a Christian camp. One of my pasttimes lately is to contemplate the fact that pre-teen and young teenage girls will wear their Jesus t-shirts and crucifix necklaces with shorts that are so miniscule that you can see the beginning of the curve where the bottom of their butts start. Now, I'm not one to look at that aspect of people's anatomy, but you really can't help it when these kids wear these clothes. Particularly when their Jesus t-shirts are about two sizes too small, bringing their neo-breasts into perky prominence. My word. I'm really not getting prudish in my old age ... I just find it odd that these kids, of all people, dress this way.

3. TNP (the novel I'm supposed to be writing) came to a near-standstill at about the time I started working at Café Teria. Now that I've quit, I hope it will move back into the forefront of my attention.

4. We had the opportunity to see the premiere of "Hexalogue" by 13-year-old prodigy-composer Jay "Bluejay" Greenberg this weekend. He was at the performance, which was part of the Swannanoa Chamber Music Festival. I don't understand enough about modern-day music to give even a hint of a critique. I enjoyed it, though--it was a six-part "dialogue" (get it? hexalogue?) between winds and piano. I was pretty impressed. I didn't even know what "hexalogue" meant when I was 13, and here he is writing a whole composition with that title. :)

5. I had a so-so Fourth of July. Had to work from 6:30 to 2:30 at Café Teria, then Hubster and I drove 1.5 hours to have dinner with my mom, dad, sister, future brother-in-law, and future brother-in-law's parents. Had dinner, then drove back home, which means we didn't get home until after 10:30. And I had to be at work at 6:30 a.m. again this morning.

6. It's my nephew Frankie's 16th birthday. Happy Birthday, Frankie!

Sunday, July 3, 2005

The Lovely Hideaway

I've decided to replace the picture in my sidebar. I had several "candidate pictures" for the replacement, but this one won out. Never was there a cat with more artfully asymmetrical markings. And she is chock-full of inner beauty as well.

Saturday, July 2, 2005

Need the Ultimate Bladder?

Looks like those of us in the Teeny-Tiny Bladder Association (TTBA) might have a shopping spree on the horizon!

Something I've Noticed

When you're doing some sort of a menial job, say, breaking down boxes or sorting silverware, there are some people who will just start helping you, no questions asked. There are others who, upon noticing you, will pretend they didn't see you and inconspicuously saunter away to some other place. Once they get to that other place, they just stare into space and otherwise do nothing.

It's not like they had other work to do; they just don't want to do any work at all. They would rather stare into space (thinking deep thoughts? I don't think so ...) than help out. I don't understand this. For me, to be at a job and have nothing to do is awful. "Lack of work to do" is one of the reasons I quit my last job (and jobs before that).

I've worked with these people before, in both white- and blue-collar jobs. And they never cease to dumbfound me, or to annoy me profoundly.

Grumble, grumble, grumble.

Blogging Elsewhere

Hi, Strangers! I've been blogging with my friend Anh over at Then a Gentle Whisper . Check it out!