Sunday, April 30, 2006

Lesson Planning for Tonight

I only have energy for Yeats ... no energy for anything else--not creative writing, not homework-grading, no, not even Liszt or Bach. In fact, I'll be in bed well before 9:00 tonight. But life is good. These are the things I get to focus on this week:

To Kill a Mockingbird
A.E. Housman
W.B. Yeats
T.S. Eliot
Dylan Thomas
Setting and character in creative writing

No science this week--the girls are taking the Iowa Test all morning for four days. Which means I have an extra planning period every day this week, except Friday. Yee-ha!

Pop Songs Inspired by Classical Music

Here's a Wikipedia list of pop songs that were inspired by and/or based on classical melodies. Most of us probably knew that Procol Harum's "A Whiter Shade of Pale" was based loosely on Bach's "Air on the G String," but did you know that Elvis's "I Can't Help Falling in Love with You" was origially a melody titled "Plaisir d'Amour" by classical composer Jean Paul Egide Martini (1741-1816)? I sure didn't.

How sad it is, though, that so many people copied Pachelbel's Canon in D. Many will beg to differ, but that is one piece of music I simply do not like.

Wikipedia hasn't listed "Somewhere Out There" (the theme from the animated movie An American Tail, sung by Linda Ronstadt and James Ingram) as being based on the second movement to Beethoven's "Pathetique" sonata. Maybe I'll write to the Wikipedia people and tell them to add it.

The Rare Piano Update

It's been so hard to make time for the piano lately. We're in the home stretch for school, and all of the busy-ness has kept me on my toes--and away from George. Then, yesterday I was so tired that I opted to take a long, long nap when the notes on the page weren't making sense.

I didn't go to church this morning; I was still feeling woozy and under the weather, plus I was waiting for Hubster to come home from an out-of-town trip. I've been practicing for the last hour or so. It's been good. Not great, but good.

Piano really is a two-steps-forward-one-step-back kind of thing. Take scales for instance: I'll go for months, playing them as smoothly as humanly possible (perhaps I exaggerate), and then one day, as if a magic wand has been waved, one or two particular scales--usually in the minor keys--will suddenly cease to make any sense at all. Some of the culprits, I know, are (1) lack of practice time, and (2) mind-numbing fatigue, but all the same, it's very frustrating to think that I can't even retain the simplest scales.

But then I work extra hard, through my fatigue-addled brain, to get the scale I seem to have "lost." And I end up learning it better than I would have otherwise. So I guess that's the silver lining to it all.

I worked on the fugue this morning. I'm still learning it all hands-separately, learning each of the voices. I could probably sing each voice for the first three pages at this point, which is one of the goals--I need to have those notes well-ensconced in my memory so I can hear and recognize them once I start playing the voices together.

Poor Liszt is neglected, sulking in some dark corner of the Inner Sanctum. I'm out of practice time for now, and I need to do all of the school planning tonight that I didn't do yesterday because I was too tired. So Liszt is going to have to wait another week--or five. I cannot tell you how profoundly this depresses me.

Come to think of it, I've been more depressed than usual for the last four days. I'm hoping the piano concert today and the Yeats planning session tonight will help it to lift a bit.

Tar Heel Tavern is Up

This weeks edition of the Tar Heel Tavern is up at Bull City Bully Pulpit. "Bull City Booster" asked us to send in posts regarding the best things about living in or visiting North Carolina. Enjoy!

Saturday, April 29, 2006

So Much For Those Saturday Plans

I had so much to do today. I had everything planned. Then I slept nearly the entire day.

When I wasn't sleeping, I was bumbling around the house like a zombie, knocking over just about everything I touched.

I got on the computer for a few minutes here and there, but I couldn't keep my eyes open.

I tried to practice piano about six times, but I can't even match the note on the paper to the note on the piano. I haven't had that problem since I was about six, when I was first learning to read music.

I guess my brain is fried. Or I'm coming down with a virus. Or I'm falling back into the depression that hit me last February and never really went away, even though it's lessened in the last couple of weeks.

It feels like a little bit of everything. It's times like these that Hubster tells me to consider another profession, one that doesn't take so much out of me.

I'm too tired to think about it. Back to bed, perhaps for the night.

Thinking About Next Year

I'll meet with folks next week to discuss job-related stuff: teaching evaluation for this year, and plans for next year (this includes the all important salary).

Obviously, I'm not going to report the results of that discussion here. I do hope I'll get a decent raise, though. If I don't, I may have to shop around for other jobs because it's been very difficult to subsist on what I've been making. It's been a "lean year," to say the least. And I'm being paid for a 40-hour workweek, when my typical work hours per week is often in the 90s or even the 100s.

So, we'll see what happens. One thing I do know about is the courseload they plan for me to have next year. I'm not so naive to think that it won't change (after all, I--a first-year English teacher with no other teaching experience--was handed the seventh-grade science class after the school year started). But, since I'm the only English teacher and the only one with the background knowledge to teach these subjects, and the only one who knows how to teach writing, I think my courses will be relatively set in stone. They are, with the ones I'll have already taught in bold:

Fundamentals of Literature (9th grade)
World Literature (10th grade)
American Literature (11th grade)
British Literature (12th grade)
Composition (elective for college-bound juniors and seniors)
Creative Writing (elective)

I actually requested the creative writing class. I know. I'm a sick, sick woman. But I think it will actually energize me. Plus, it will make for a time slot that they can't fill at the last minute with a P.E. class (that happened to a few teachers this year). Yes, friends, it's all about self-preservation. And we do have a few students who would really get a lot out of a creative-writing class.

I'll be overworked again next year. So I do hope they offer me a noticeable raise.

Plans for Saturday

OK, it's time for the weekend. That means I'll only work a 10-hour work day, and that the nature of the work will change a little bit. I'll be in a coffee shop instead of a classroom. Then the library. Then home on the computer.

My plan today is to plan for the next five weeks of school.

Yes, planning is a waste of time. But I do need to sketch things out to make sure I at least try to fit everything in before the final exam. I have to make painful decisions about which Major Writers I will leave out in British Lit. I need to draw the line on which Grammar Concepts can wait until next year for my ninth-graders. I need to think about what assignments I'll give in creative writing/composition in order to have students work on different elements of fiction. I need to think about the Biomes unit for science, and the subsequent things we'll cover between now and the end of school.

I'm also going to write in my notebook (my hard-copy journal) for about an hour to get my mind straight, practice piano for a few hours, and take a long walk and/or work out. It'll be a full day, but a productive one.

After-School Special

I left school a few minutes early on Friday because we couldn't have my last-period class due to scheduling snafus. So I headed over to my coffee shop, as I often do on Fridays after school, to get all of my homework-grading done before the weekend.

My British Lit kids had a homework assignment to read Tennyson's "Charge of the Light Brigade" and write their impression of Tennyson's view of war as based on this poem. They were told to include references to the text. The assignment was for only a paragraph or two of brief analysis: nothing major.

As I read and commented on the paragraphs I was just ... I can't explain it. I hesitate to say "surprised" because I wasn't really surprised. "Happy" is a good word. "Proud" is another. But those aren't quite right, either. It's just that they had written some really nice paragraphs. Topic sentences were clear, succinct, and grammatically correct. Quotes from the poem were relevant, well-interpreted, and (sigh) cited according to MLA guidelines. And quotes weren't little islands among a bunch of sentences saying, "This quote means that ..." These quotes were smoothly integrated into my students' well-worded sentences. There were no sentences that started with "Well, what I think is ..." or "This is like a boring poem and I totally don't understand it but ..."

They even used their commas correctly.

Now, I'm not one of these teachers for whom punctuation is everything (though semicolons are indeed the sweet spice of life). I don't focus on conventions to the neglect of everything else. But I do require that the i's are dotted and the t's are crossed if they're going to turn work in to me. My philosophy is this: content, organization, tone, etc., are hard to learn. Grammar, spelling, and punctuation either (1) have relatively reliable rules that can be learned, or (2) can easily enough be looked up in either MLA or a dictionary. Learn the rules, or at least learn how to find the rules, and then you can devote the rest of your energies to the more difficult tasks of content, organization, tone, etc.

The paragraphs I read today were well organized. The analyses were basically good at worst, and original and thought-provoking at best. The content was better than I expected. And the punctuation, citations, spelling, etc., were done correctly.

I was thrilled. Perhaps "thrilled" is the word I'm looking for.

These kids are learning. Or else they are cheating. But I don't think they are. They're good kids. And I am a happy teacher lady.

Friday, April 28, 2006

You're From Where?

Sparrow has written a very nice "Where I am From" poem on her blog. So has a blogger named Holy Mama that I never knew about until I saw the link from Sparrow's blog. This is a great meme/writing exercise. I wrote one a while back, and I also had my students write their own in composition as a creative writing exercise.

Want to try your hand at it? Go here.

Little Victories, or Taking Life Too Seriously?

It's Friday morning, and I'm ready for the weekend.

Because of scheduling snafus, I didn't have an English Lit class yesterday afternoon. Because of scheduling snafus, I won't have an English Lit class today. Because of scheduling snafus, I let off steam in the principal's office and complained that English seems to be the least important subject taught here because it keeps getting pushed to the bottom of the priority list.

So I earned back some classes. A teacher is going to be out on Monday and Tuesday of next week, and her class happens to contain most of the students in my cancelled English classes. My Brit Lit students will come to English twice on Monday and Tuesday.

Little victories.

Then, today I talked to another teacher who is also being forced to "cancel" classes due to scheduling snafus. She's a good teacher (one of the best here), and not one to blow off her responsibilities or not take her job seriously. She is thrilled, thrilled with the fact that she's had extra planning periods for two days while the students are gone.

Am I taking school too seriously? Should I simply chalk up my 20 or so percent of missed classes this year and just welcome the free time? I don't know. True, this other teacher is even more overworked than I am in that she has no planning periods at all. Perhaps the better-natured attitude will come to me with time and experience. Or maybe it won't. Maybe, as a teacher, I am the spitting image of my Aunt Joyce (after whom I was named), a veteran teacher who has always taken education very, very seriously.

I won't worry or wonder. For now, I'm just happy that we'll get to fit Yeats, Eliot, and Dylan Thomas into our study of 20th-century literature! :)

Update: I just learned that there's going to be a minor non-academic activity on Monday for the seniors, and that the principal specified that my English Lit students will not be exempt from the activity because they needed to be in my class. I'm glad. I might have made some more head-marks on the wall if I'd learned that I'd have to cancel my classes on Monday, too.

Little victories, indeed. Even though it probably makes me look like an all-work-and-no-play Waterfall

Thursday, April 27, 2006

Murphy's Law

About the day at the river ... it was a textbook example of Murphy's Law. A veritable smorgasbord, I say, of textbook examples. We came back early (it was supposed to be an all-day thing), and now I have three classes for which I have nary a plan.

I think I'll beat my head against this cold, hard wall for a few minutes, and maybe I'll feel better.

Shall We Gather at the River?

Today the whole high school goes to a river all day to do scientific research. I don't teach high school science, so I have another teacher substituting for my seventh-grade science class. For that, I wrote a rockin' Jeopardy!-style test review for them last night.

I was kind of looking forward to "river day" (even though I didn't find out about it until last week, which meant another scheduling snafu for me), but I just checked the weather, and it's not supposed to stop raining until 10:00 or get above 60 degrees before noon.

Teachers are supposed to "lead" activities, which means getting into the river and getting wet.


I kind of hope they'll reschedule for after senior trip, when the weather is warmer and possibly drier (even though it would mean last-minute lesson planning today). If I don't lose today and tomorrow, or any days next week, then that means I'll be able to fit in two days of Yeats, two days of Eliot, and two days of Dylan Thomas (flyin' right through the 20th century poets, I am). Otherwise, I'll have to skimp on one or more, and I'm having a really hard time trying to decide whom to neglect. It is painful because they are all important. I hate the thought of any of these poets being mere one-day blips on the screens of my dear students' brains.

How can you spend only one day on Eliot? Or Yeats? Or Thomas? The thought of flying through these guys truly depresses me.

I'll let y'all know how the day at the river goes.

Nice to Read First Thing in the Morning

The first thing I read this morning was this article about a volunteer program called Backpack Buddies, begun by a teacher to feed hungry students.

Spotted at The Education Wonks.

Wednesday, April 26, 2006

Very Cool Science-Class Stuff

In science, we're talking about competition, commensalism, mutualism, etc., in animal populations. (I love this stuff. I'd rather talk ecology any day than dissect those nasty grasshoppers.) The main topic for today was predator-prey relationships, so I googled "predator prey lesson plan" and came up with this. Very cool!

We had so much fun playing the predator-prey game this morning. We weren't able to finish it, so we'll either continue it or start it over next Friday after they've finished the ITBS. (I know, I know ... another scheduling snafu, and I call it a snafu because no one told me that I was going to lose a week of teaching science. Grr.) Anyway, they'll also learn to plot two populations over 20 generations on a graph (something they've never done before) and see how the predator-prey populations rise and fall. Very cool!

And I won't complain too much about losing a week of classes. Half the high school will be in D.C. the week after next, and I'm planning to take my girls hiking for a day while they're gone. Because we lose a week, we'll start the biomes unit a week late--which will be the week we go hiking! Now, won't it be cool to take them to Great Smoky Mountains National Park or Pisgah National Forest, less than an hour away? With 6,000+-foot peaks, lots of waterfalls, and awesome trails, these deciduous forest biomes have up to five forest types, plus features of other biomes, plus some of the greatest biological diversity in the world. Very cool!

I'll also have time (since we lose a week) to go out to the trails and find a trail that's short enough and easy enough for them, yet will still allow them to see different forest types and learn about the critters and plants that inhabit them. So everything will work out after all. (I know. A little voice in my head is snickering and saying, "famous last words ...")

Wait ... I just realized ... five forest types ... five students in my class ... can someone say "Presentation Time?" :-D Yes! I can have them do research/presentations on the forest types before we go hiking ... that way they'll know what they're looking at, and each student can identify her own forest type! Very, very cool! This will be so much fun! Never in my wildest dreams have I imagined a job where I could pretend to be my favorite college biology prof and get paid for it!

I really love this stuff. And we're gonna take my favorite wildflower ID guide on the hike, too. :)

Poetry of Wartime

Today we read some of the poetry of World War I in British Literature.

I don't know about you, but I remember the first time I ever read Wilfred Owen's "Dulce Et Decorum Est." I was in the eleventh grade. We were in Dr. Falzarano's English Lit class at Episcopal, and I sat in the front seat of the second row in that classroom and felt like I was suffocating as I watched a man suffer and slowly die from poison gas inhalation.

For today's class, we began by discussing "The Charge of the Light Brigade" and Rupert Brooke's "The Soldier," and we talked about the idea of war as something by which men gain glory and honor. Then we looked at Siegfried Sassoon's "They" and contrasted that more positive view to the more bitter, immediate viewpoint taken by Sassoon and other World War I poets. That was the buildup. We spent the last 20 minutes of class reading "Dulce Et Decorum Est." I don't know if they were as revulsed and disturbed as I was the first time I read this poem--for all I know, they were perfecting the art of sleeping with eyes open--but there were no whisperings or sidelong looks or anything of the typical afternoon classroom behavior.

Wilfred Owen was a tutor when he joined the military in 1916, and his dream was to be a poet. He certainly had the gift; sadly, he died at the age of 25 on November 4, 1917--just seven days before the Armistice.

The poem for which he is most famous, "Dulce Et Decorum Est," gets its title from Horace, who wrote "Dulce et decorum est pro patria mori," or "It is sweet and fitting to die for one's country."


Bent double, like old beggars under sacks,
Knock-kneed, coughing like hags, we cursed through sludge,
Till on the haunting flares we turned our backs
And towards our distant rest began to trudge.
Men marched asleep. Many had lost their boots
But limped on, blood-shod. All went lame; all blind;
Drunk with fatigue; deaf even to the hoots
Of tired, outstripped Five-Nines that dropped behind.

Gas! GAS! Quick, boys!-- An ecstasy of fumbling,
Fitting the clumsy helmets just in time;
But someone still was yelling out and stumbling
And floundering like a man in fire or lime ...
Dim, through the misty panes and thick green light
As under a green sea, I saw him drowning.

In all my dreams, before my helpless sight,
He plunges at me, guttering, choking, drowning.

If in some smothering dreams you too could pace
Behind the wagon that we flung him in,
And watch the white eyes writhing in his face,
His hanging face, like a devil's sick of sin;
If you could hear, at every jolt, the blood
Come gargling from the froth-corrupted lungs,
Obscene as cancer, bitter as the cud
Of vile, incurable sores on innocent tongues,--
My friend, you would not tell with such high zest
To children ardent for some desperate glory,
The old Lie: Dulce et decorum est
Pro patria mori.

(October 1917-March 1918)

Action Adjustment for George!

George has a tuning appointment on May 13! Actually, he is going to get his action fixed. I don't know if he'll be as good as new after that, but he'll be a lot better.

Woo hoo! I can't wait!

Tuesday, April 25, 2006


Someone googled "Uncle Bubber" and ended up here.

Interesting bit of trivia: If you google "Uncle Bubber," this blog appears at the top of the list.

I don't know. Getting here by googling "Uncle Bubber." That just makes me giggle.

(Yes, I do have an Uncle Bubber. He lives here on the web.)

A Good Day of Teaching Today

This hasn't happened in a long time. Or it least it doesn't feel like it has.

Every class went well today. Kids listened and were responsive. We had a blast in science, talking about animal groups and interactions between species. At the end, we went through a fun list of collective names for animals, and they had a lot of fun trying to guess what the names would be. (A stripe of tigers? A quack of ducks?)

Then, in English Lit, we discussed some poems by Thomas Hardy. I don't know if they liked him or not, but I do know that my passion for Hardy's poetry came through. I got some really good responses in that class, which shows that (most of) the students were thinking.

In composition, we're doing creative writing, and I had them "rush write" a scene based on their earliest memories. Then, after we read through them and saw that a few had never made the jump from "telling exactly what happened" to "fictionalizing," I said, "OK. Continue the story. Only have a very old man enter the scene ... carrying a ... duck." We wrote, and some interesting things came out of it!

In English 9, we continued To Kill a Mocking bird. We're about halfway through the book. They are enjoying it, and it was a fun class. I just love this book so much. We talked about the situation Calpurnia is in, being black yet spending her days in the "white world," and how she changes the way she talks when she's among other black people. Also, we discussed a character named Lula and the subject of Helen Robinson and how Scout's experiences here are enabling her to be able to "get inside the skin" of people not like her on the surface ... what a wonderful, wonderful, book this is.

So cool ... the tools of my trade these days are the Norton Anthology, a novel, a couple of field guides, and books on fiction-writing. Life is good.

I Want, I Want, I Want

I could listen to--have listened to--Emmylou Harris and/or Mark Knopfler all day long. And they just came out with a CD together. It took them seven years to make it, but from what I've heard of samples on iTunes, it's been worth the wait.

I want. I want.

Neutral Tones

It's an odd thing, explaining how dark and depressing and pessimistic and angry-at-a-nonexistent-God much of Thomas Hardy's writings are--and then adding that he's one of my favorite poets. Perhaps I shouldn't do that in a Christian school. But I do love Hardy. I would love to someday travel the Hardy Trail in Dorset, Hardy's "Wessex"; in fact, when I was at Oxford one summer in college, I made a special pilgrimage to the land of Hardy.

Still, he has one dark outlook on life. Whew.


We stood by a pond that winter day,
And the sun was white, as though chidden of God,
And a few leaves lay on the starving sod,
—They had fallen from an ash, and were gray.

Your eyes on me were as eyes that rove
Over tedious riddles solved years ago;
And some words played between us to and fro—
On which lost the more by our love.

The smile on your mouth was the deadest thing
Alive enough to have strength to die;
And a grin of bitterness swept thereby
Like an ominous bird a-wing….

Since then, keen lessons that love deceives,
And wrings with wrong, have shaped to me
Your face, and the God-curst sun, and a tree,
And a pond edged with grayish leaves.

P.S. Can someone tell me how to make indents in a blog post? They never come through on the blog.

Monday, April 24, 2006

Master Self, Child Self, Big Pieces, and Piano Insecurities

I'm learning a couple of "big" pieces on piano. As I practice them, a little voice in my head keeps saying, "You're not good enough. These are too hard for you. You've bitten off more than you can chew ... again. You idiot."

Yes, it's a nasty little demeaning voice. Once I get involved enough in a practice session, the voice eventually disappears. But it's always there, on some level. What's really annoying is that, if I'm working on something that I don't consider too difficult, it tells me how pathetically remedial I am as a pianist, to be working on such easy pieces.

Maybe other adult piano students deal with this kind of thing. One one level, maybe I'm a wanna-be classical pianist, but I really don't think that's it. On another level, I'm definitely a perfectionist, and this ugly self-talk is probably a "symptom" of that perfectionism.

I love my piano teacher because I can tell her the weird, self-doubting thoughts I have regarding piano, and she lets me know that I'm being ridiculous.

Here's a question I asked her today: Why do I feel compelled to have a piano teacher? I know very few adults who take piano lessons. Aren't you supposed to quit taking them in high school or college?

In answer to my question, Deborah said it made perfect sense for me to want a piano teacher. She said this was because I need a piano teacher. She was quick to add that it wasn't because I wasn't any good at piano. (She thinks I'm immensely talented, which is good for my ego, I suppose!) But she said that most people quit taking lessons because they don't feel any desire to improve--either they lose interest, or they play as well as they ever wanted to, and that's that.

I'm different. I know I can be so much better than I am, so I have that desire to improve. I want to play the big pieces. I want the challenge and the joy of playing a Bach fugue or a difficult Liszt piece. I want to play one of the big Beethoven sonatas one day. I would so love to play a Mozart piano concerto in the future. It's not because I want to show off or be a Great Pianist; it's because I simply love the music--I love the process of learning, I love playing, I love performing, I love sharing the musical experience with the composer and the audience, and I relish the thought of someday being worthy of the music.

Why do I desire these things?

Did God put this desire in my heart? Deborah said something to this effect, and that if the desire is there, then it's already within my reach. I may not think so, but it doesn't really matter what I think. I just need to listen to what my heart desires most deeply, and go for it.

She also said that, on some level, I know the big pieces are within my reach. But that on another level--my conscious level--I keep seeing roadblocks and impossibilities. "This is too hard." "This is so confusing." "&#%@, I can't even figure out the first %#*& note of this @^#& section" (this is a thought I regularly have--expletives and all!--when practicing the 7-sharp C#-major fugue).

She said I have to let my "master self"--the self that knows I'm capable--teach the "child self"--the stubborn self that won't accept possibilities--that I am indeed up to the task of the big pieces.

It sounds a little New-Agey, and perhaps it is, but I was also reading a quote by Madeleine L'Engle in Walking on Water, a book about Christianity, art, and the Christian artist. She writes that "You write the book that wants to be written." She writes of writing (and all art) as an act of faith. The art itself wants to be made. The books want to be written. The music wants to be played. The artist need only listen for the need and do the work required.

She writes of art as an incarnational act--an act of enfleshing the idea. She compares the artist to Mary, who didn't ask questions, who just accepted God's will for her.

I don't exactly know where I'm going with this, except that what Deborah said about desire and capability, and what L'Engle says about creating art, seem to be a bit in the same vein.

If God wants me to create, to write, to play these big pieces that I feel incapable of playing, then He will give me the ability. Deborah would say that he has given me the ability, or at least the talent and the potential. Of course, I will have to practice my fingers off, deliberately, slowly, perhaps for years, but I will get it because I'm meant to get it. I just need to have patience and faith--two things I am typically short on.

But I will get it. If I look at the writing, the music, the art as something God wants me to do, then I feel a much greater responsibility to follow through with it. And the Bach fugue, and the Liszt piece, and all the others, will come with time--God willing--because I want them to come.

It sounds entirely too pat and easy. I don't know if I completely believe it. But I do know one thing: they'll come a lot faster if I blog less and practice more. :) So, the next 30 minutes of my life will be spent with George. Then more school-related work. Then bed.

First Day Back

School started again today. I made no plans. Not a one. I've come a long way (I think), or else I've become very jaded. I didn't make plans, not even for today's classes, until I got to school this morning.


Because I'm tired of having my earnestly, diligently built little card-castle lesson plans knocked down by scheduling tsunamis.

When I got to school, I was broadsided. Half my English Lit class was gone for a baseball/softball game today. We don't have classes on Thursday. Half my students will be gone on Friday. Next week is all-day testing for four days for my science girls. No one told me until now.

It's really hard to get excited about lessons when you never know if you'll be able to actually do them.

So let's move on to more cheerful things ...

Today was Piano Day #1 of the week!

Yes, folks, I have a make-up lesson on Thursday, which means two lessons this week. I have much to write about today's piano lesson, but school work awaits me. I'm not very eager to do school work; after all, who knows what scheduling snafus will occur tomorrow?

One day at a time. And there are only 29 school days left. :)

Sunday, April 23, 2006

Shakespeare Confession Time

I've had the same conversation numerous times with other English-major types, and it hinges on the question, "What major work of literature have you never read?"

Now, there are so many major works out there that no podunky English-major type can be expected to have read all of them, but there are also those that are so canonized, so assigned in schools, so often taught and quoted and read, that we English-major types should have read them at some point.

For a long time, my never-read texts were The Great Gatsby and The Faerie Queene--two works that, I would expect, any self-respecting English major would have at least tasted before college graduation. Others have confessed to never having read a word of Paradise Lost, or Pride and Prejudice, or Beowulf, or 1984.

Well, folks, I have a confession to make today. I didn't realize this was the case until last week when I was packing up for our backpacking trip.

I've never read A Midsummer Night's Dream.

I've ready probably 15 Shakespeare plays, and I've never once read A Midsummer Night's Dream.

It's not like I don't know the story. I've seen it numerous times (though never on the big screen). The first time I ever saw it was when I was 16 and my high school put on the play. My favorite performance, though, was the LSU/Swine Palace production years ago, featuring Jamie Wax as Puck and John McConnell as Bottom. Wow, I just found a write-up about that performance in the LSU archives.

So, to celebrate Shakespeare's birthday, I've been reading A Midsummer Night's Dream over the last few days.

Then I'll have to think of another Great Work of Literature I must confess to never having read. I'm sure I won't have to think very hard. :)

Today's Agenda

Happy Birthday, Shakespeare!

School starts again tomorrow. Six more weeks.

It hit me yesterday morning. Only six more weeks. Can I survive six more weeks? Time will tell!

I have a lot of schoolwork/planning to do today. I'm curiously (or perhaps not) unmotivated. The very thought of school makes me tired. I worked at school for about four and a half hours yesterday, grading papers and entering grades for the last six-week period.

Six more weeks.

So. Here's what I need to do today, school-wise:

1) Read over the science lesson and make sure I'm ready for it.

2) Put together an "Intro to 20th-century literature" lecture for English Lit; maybe find a short poem from the early 20th century for us to look at as a "kick-off" for this unit.

3) Think more on how I'll do the creative-writing unit for composition, and plan another kick-off type lesson for tomorrow.

4) Look over the two chapters of To Kill a Mockingbird to be discussed tomorrow in English 9.

I did some classroom-cleaning and straightening up yesterday while I was at school. I'm glad I took the time to do that.

Happy Birthday, Shakespeare!

Other stuff to do today, George-wise:

1. Scales and arpeggios

2. Work on the first 19 measures of the fugue, each voice, making sure my playing is smooth and I know each voice like the back of my hand.

3. Review section 12 of the Liszt, and work on section 12.5.

Those are the only plans for today. I've already done some of it, and I want to work on Section 12.5 before I leave to work out this afternoon.

I can already see that I'll be up late, stressed. It's disheartening. But I only have six more weeks.

Oh. By the way, today is what's traditionally known as William Shakespeare's birthday (and death-day, for that matter).

Happy Birthday, Shakespeare!

Saturday, April 22, 2006

Color Me Fugue-iful

I've added a few colors since the last time I posted my Color-By-Voices music. This is the C#-major fugue by my Beloved, Bewigged, and Bejowled One, with the soprano in blue, the alto in green, and the bass in reddish-brown (what we used to call "Indian Red" until the Crayola people changed the name to "Chestnut"). Rests are in yellow. It helps to have the rests stand out.

Here's the first page, which features the exposition and the start of Episode I:

And the second page continues Episode I, restates the subject (soprano voice) and countersubject (alto voice), has a two-bar "link" (in-between music that's not part of the subject, countersubject, or episode), and then begins Episode II.

I'd like to find a way to color-code it even further. Maybe use dark blue for soprano subject, medium blue for soprano countersubject, light blue for soprano voice in episodes, etc. But if I were to do that, I'd never actually get to actually practice the music on the piano. :)

Back to George!

What Do You Tell Friends Who Are Depressed?

What do you tell friends when they tell you that they've been diagnosed with depression?

Do you try to make them feel better? Do you just say "I'm sorry," as if someone has died?

I've struggled with depression for over 20 years now. I've been through the therapy, the meds, the bills (so many bills!), even the stay in ICU, the stomach pump, and the extended hospitalizations. When someone tells me they're dealing with depression, I immediately dive into medtalk. "So, what are you taking? Prozac? Ah, that one's pretty good. Took it for a few years, but it left me flat. You'll lose some weight, though. Oh, you were on Imipramine at first. Yuck, I hate the tricyclics. Side effects are the horrible."

On one hand, I think I would be a wonderful person for a depressed person to talk to, because I've been there and I'm not judgmental. I'm not going to tell them that they just need to "get right with God" (how many times have I heard that one?), and I won't assume that they're crazy or weak or pathetic. Sometimes it helps people just to be able to tell them, "I know how it is. I know what you're going through."

On the other hand, I'm not exactly therapist material. I don't have answers. I know better than to offer a pat answer. Depression is something one endures, and it sucks, and, in my experience, it never truly goes away. It's a long road and a burden, and it may be a long time before any faint bit of light appears at the end of the proverbial tunnel. Prayer helps us endure, I suppose, but it doesn't necessarily fix the depression. The most practical advice I can give, if they're even looking for advice, is to exercise and eat right. It doesn't fix the depression either, but it helps.

And then, of course, I check up on them. Ask how they're doing. Give them a call. Send a card out of the blue. Little things like that don't fix the depression, but they help.

Of course, when a friend tells you that they're depressed (as a friend just told me very recently), the last thing you want to tell them is that they may not get better for a while. Because who knows? Maybe they will. Maybe they'll respond better to medication and therapy than I ever did. Maybe, unlike me, they'll be lucky enough to find a good shrink right from the start.

So what do you tell a friend who has just been diagnosed with depression? Do you say anything? Do you do anything?

Friday, April 21, 2006

Five Glorious Hours

I have two sets of favorite guys. Set #1 consists of Hubster and my cat, Beau (in that order). Set #2 consists of George the Piano, Sebastian, Franz, Frederic, Wolfie, and whatever other composers I happen to be learning at the time.

I spent an hour today taking a walk with Set #1 (yes, Beau came with us). Then I spent another hour making and eating dinner with Hubster.

But I spent five--count 'em--five glorious hours with Set #2. My hands are coursing with energy. They ache, but they feel so wonderful. What a workout.

One of the most frustrating things about being an adult piano student is that I have long periods of life where I'm too busy and/or too tired to practice. So practice sessions are sometimes few and far between. My five hours today came after a full week of not touching the piano, and I haven't practiced on a regular basis since I started teaching last August. This means seriously slow progress. It is frustrating, but it's all I can do for now.

I spent a couple of hours early this afternoon working mostly on the fugue. I'm learning the individual parts and can play each part pretty smoothly up to Episode II. A lot of today's practice consisted of getting re-acquainted with the piece. I worked on it pretty intensely several weeks ago, and most of it came back pretty quickly. I did a bit of work on the prelude, but my real focus is the fugue because it's about 1,000 times more complicated.

Then, this evening, I worked mostly on Standchen (the Liszt). I feel like I got the music for this ages ago (I did--last February), but I've maybe spent two hours on it in the last two months. Really. I've divided the piece into 13 sections and ranked them from most difficult to least. Then I dove into the most difficult section tonight: Section 12. I ended up dividing it into Section 12 and Section 12.5 because it's kind of long.

I worked on Section 12 tonight and kept thinking, "This piece is really too hard for me. I don't know if I should be learning it yet." After an hour, I had Section 12 down cold and no longer thought the piece was too hard. If I could learn the most difficult section, hands together, within an hour, then the piece isn't too hard. It's just about right.

And it's soooo beautiful. I can't wait until I can play it well. I have this longing to play it, and, while each step of learning it is a joy in itself, I yearn for the day when I can sit down and really put myself into it, without worrying about hitting the right notes.

Drilling is a part of any piano practice--playing the same little bits and pieces over and over again. With this practice, I made sure I had a goal for each time I played a set of measures. Make sure I play a certain part smoothly. Make sure I have the crescendo at the end of the measure. Make sure I hit that G that I keep missing. Stuff like that. Very focused, very directed practice. Is is already paying off.

I can't wait until tomorrow. I wanted to keep practicing, but it's almost 11:00 and I'm tired! Besides, Set #1 is on the couch, waiting for me to snuggle while the three of us watch the beginning of a movie!


I just checked out sitemeter and found that this blog had its 35,000th hit sometime last night.

Thanks, all, for stopping by!

Upcoming Recitals in North Carolina

I'll be attending not one but two piano recitals in the next month or so. My birthmother, Sherry, has begun taking piano lessons and will be in a student recital over Memorial Day weekend. This is very exciting--she played piano for me at the adoption agency, while I was still in the womb, but she never had the opportunities that I've had for formal lessons. So it's pretty thrilling, not only that she's finally able to take lessons, but that she'll be performing some pieces she's learned for an audience. I am really looking forward to this. Since Sherry moved to North Carolina after Katrina and is now only a few hours away, I'll actually be able to go and hear her play!


And, for a recital that you're all invited to (at least those of you in western North Carolina):

"Close Focus on Piano" will be presented by the Asheville Area Piano Forum on Sunday, April 30, at 3:00 p.m. It's a spring benefit concert, with wine and hors d'oeuvres and everything, and it'll take place at New Hope Presbyterian Church in Asheville. The program will include works by Mendelssohn, Schubert, Schumann, Prokoviev, Brahms, and of course, my beloved Bach. Adult admission is $15, though there's a special group rate; I'm trying to get a group together so we can get it. Student admission is free.

If you're interested, contact AAPF at 828-669-4869 for tickets and information.

Oh, did I mention that my piano teacher will be playing in this one? I think she's doing a duet with pianist John Cobb, as well as playing the complete Kinderszenen by Schumann.

If any of you North Carolina folks are interested in getting in on the group rate, please e-mail me. My e-mail address is listed in the right column of this blog.

Books by Women Writers Meme

My apologies to the blogger from whom I copied this list. I copied and pasted a few days ago, and I can't remember where I found it online.

OK, now for some fun ...

Just BOLD those you’ve read, ITALICIZE the ones you’ve been meaning to read and ??? the ones you have never heard of. (My comments are in purple.)

Alcott, Louisa May–Little Women
Allende, Isabel–The House of Spirits
Angelou, Maya–I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings
Atwood, Margaret–Cat’s Eye (I read The Handmaid’s Tale and hated it.)
Austen, Jane–Emma (Ah, probably the best book on this list)
Bambara, Toni Cade–Salt Eaters???
Barnes, Djuna–Nightwood???
de Beauvoir, Simone–The Second Sex
Blume, Judy–Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret.
Burnett, Frances–The Secret Garden (This is one of those that everyone seems to love, except for me.)
Bronte, Charlotte–Jane Eyre
Bronte, Emily–Wuthering Heights
Buck, Pearl S.–The Good Earth
Byatt, A.S.–Possession???
Cather, Willa–My Antonia
Christie, Agatha–Murder on the Orient Express
Cisneros, Sandra–The House on Mango Street
(This one's been on my list for a few years. Hoping to read it this summer, finally.)
Clinton, Hillary Rodham–Living History
Cooper, Anna Julia–A Voice From the South???
Danticat, Edwidge–Breath, Eyes, Memory???
Davis, Angela–Women, Culture, and Politics???
Desai, Anita–Clear Light of Day???
Dickinson, Emily–Collected Poems (Most of them. She wrote a lot of poems.)
Duncan, Lois–I Know What You Did Last Summer (I know I've read this. I don't remember anything about it, though. I hate when that happens.)
DuMaurier, Daphne–Rebecca
Eliot, George–Middlemarch
(loved this one)
Emecheta, Buchi–Second Class Citizen???
Erdrich, Louise–Tracks
Esquivel, Laura–Like Water for Chocolate
Flagg, Fannie–Fried Green Tomatoes at the Whistle Stop Café
(Loved this one. I love everything I’ve read by Fannie Flagg, though most of my experience of her books has been through books on tape.)
Friedan, Betty–The Feminine Mystique
Frank, Anne–Diary of a Young Girl
Gilman, Charlotte Perkins–The Yellow Wallpaper
Gordimer, Nadine–July’s People
(I'm not sure if I've read this one or not. I know I read several books by Gordimer a few years back ... they were really good, so I feel bad that I can't remember the titles.)
Grafton, Sue–S is for Silence
Hamilton, Edith–Mythology
Highsmith, Patricia–The Talented Mr. Ripley
Hooks, Bell–Bone Black
Hurston, Zora Neale–Dust Tracks on the Road (Their Eyes Were Watching God is my favorite by Hurston.)
Jacobs, Harriet–Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl
Jackson, Helen Hunt–Ramona
Jackson, Shirley–The Haunting of Hill House (Is this one as bad as that awful “The Lottery”?)
Jong, Erica–Fear of Flying
Keene, Carolyn–The Nancy Drew Mysteries (any of them)
Kidd, Sue Monk–The Secret Life of Bees
(Read it. Liked it. But can’t understand why everyone was so ga-ga over it.)
Kincaid, Jamaica–Lucy
Kingsolver, Barbara–The Poisonwood Bible (I couldn't put this one down, for most of the book. It started to get slow at the very end, though.)
Kingston, Maxine Hong–The Woman Warrior
Larsen, Nella–Passing???
L’Engle, Madeleine–A Wrinkle in Time (Wonderful!)
Le Guin, Ursula K.–The Left Hand of Darkness
Lee, Harper–To Kill a Mockingbird (Ah, probably the second-best book on this list!)
Lessing, Doris–The Golden Notebook
Lively, Penelope–Moon Tiger???
Lorde, Audre–The Cancer Journals???
Martin, Ann M.–The Babysitters Club Series (Huh? These were after my time.)
McCullers, Carson–The Member of the Wedding
McMillan, Terry–Disappearing Acts???
Markandaya, Kamala–Nectar in a Sieve???
Marshall, Paule–Brown Girl, Brownstones???
Mitchell, Margaret–Gone with the Wind (Nope, I’ve really never read this one.)
Montgomery, Lucy–Anne of Green Gables
Morgan, Joan–When Chickenheads Come Home to Roost???
Morrison, Toni–Song of Solomon
Murasaki, Lady Shikibu–The Tale of Genji???
Munro, Alice–Lives of Girls and Women???
Murdoch, Iris–Severed Head???
Naylor, Gloria–Mama Day???
Niffenegger, Audrey–The Time Traveller’s Wife
Oates, Joyce Carol–We Were the Mulvaneys (Read it. This is another one that everyone except me seemed to love.)
O’Connor, Flannery–A Good Man is Hard to Find
Piercy, Marge–Woman on the Edge of Time???
Picoult, Jodi–My Sister’s Keeper???
Plath, Sylvia–The Bell Jar (What a downer this one is …)
Porter, Katharine Anne–Ship of Fools
Proulx, E. Annie–The Shipping News (loved this one)
Rand, Ayn–The Fountainhead
Ray, Rachel–365: No Repeats???
Rhys, Jean–Wide Sargasso Sea
Robinson, Marilynne–Housekeeping???
Rocha, Sharon–For Laci???
Sebold, Alice–The Lovely Bones (What a morbid, morbid book.)
Shelley, Mary–Frankenstein (Yes!)
Smith, Betty–A Tree Grows in Brooklyn
Smith, Zadie–White Teeth
Spark, Muriel–The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie
Spyri, Johanna–Heidi
Strout, Elizabeth–Amy and Isabelle???
Steel, Danielle–The House???
Tan, Amy–The Joy Luck Club
Tannen, Deborah–You’re Wearing That??? (I’ve read some of her books on language, but haven’t heard of this one)
Ulrich, Laurel–A Midwife’s Tale???
Urquhart, Jane–Away???
Walker, Alice–The Temple of My Familiar
Welty, Eudora–One Writer’s Beginnings (Eudora, I love you.)
Wharton, Edith–Age of Innocence
Wilder, Laura Ingalls–Little House in the Big Woods
Wollstonecraft, Mary–A Vindication of the Rights of Women
Woolf, Virginia–A Room of One’s Own

Thursday, April 20, 2006

Giving Up

I'm giving up on spring cleaning. The more I clean, the messier the house gets. I am just about ready to set fire to the whole thing and start my life over. I hate cleaning. It's doing no good. So I'm quitting. I realized a few minutes ago that I would rather walk in front of a speeding bus and die a painful death than scrub any more grit or arrange any more books.

I'm giving up my Southern Living subscription. I haven't the time for cooking, flower arranging, or gardening. I haven't the money for travel, much less for putting a new addition onto the house. What a depressing magazine, Southern Living. And not a single picture of my southern house and my overgrown southern yard, or the southern dust gracing my southern furniture, or the southern heat-and-humidity-fed mold growing on my well-worn copies of Percy, Faulkner, and Welty. It also depresses me that I have a stack of two years' worth of subscriptions cluttering up my southern living room. Lately I don't have time to read it at all, so it never gets read. But I hate to throw away a magazine I haven't read, particularly since the subscription was a gift. Maybe I'll store them with the yarn thing.

I'm giving up my scrapbooking habit. OK, so it's never been a habit. I tried. I organized all of my hundreds of photos from the last 25 years, spent gobs of money on clever little scrapbooking tools like cutters and corner-curvers and borders. Oh, I was going to be such a good scrapbooker! And I was good--I was creative! I was clever! I had so many ideas for themes and borders and everything! Yes, I had a plethora of ideas ... for about ten minutes, two years ago. Ahhh ... since then, all of that stuff has sat in a box under my bed, collecting some good southern dust. The few times I did scrapbook, I felt like I was on a slow road to boredom hell. In the end, sadly, the themes and borders failed to inspire.

Oh. I was cleaning off the shelf with all of the organized hundreds of pictures, and the box fell. Pictures went everywhere. I have half a mind to shred them and be done with them.

Yes, spring cleaning brings out the ugliest part of me. I hate it so much, and I hate that I've spent two days of my much-awaited spring break doing something I hate. I'd rather walk in front of ... oh, I already wrote that, didn't I. And I just realized that I used the word "hate" three times in this paragraph. Whew. So you see how I feel about cleaning house!

So I'm giving up. I'd much rather work on my much-neglected piano music. So good-bye, mop and broom! Farewell, endless supply of Southern Living! Ta-ta, hundreds of disorganized pictures and discarded theme ideas! So long, you horrid housework!

Hel-lo, George and Johann Sebastian! It's been much too long!

Spring Cleaning Question

What do you do when you come across a faded, dirty, raggedy little yarn thing that an old relative crocheted for you ten years ago? It will fall apart if I try to wash it. It's not particularly pretty, and it wasn't made by a relative that I knew very well. I don't really have anywhere to keep it, but I feel bad about throwing it away. After all, I've dragged this yarn thing from apartment to apartment to house to house over the last ten years. It seems wrong to unceremoniously dump it into the Spring Cleaning Trash Bag after all this time.

Am I being overly sentimental? Am I merely afraid that said relative will come back to haunt me if I throw away her yarn thing? Is it simply time to say goodbye to the yarn thing? What to do, what to do?

From the Trail

No, this picture isn't sideways. The violet is growing out of the side of the rock. There's just enough dirt/vegetation there to support it, so grow it did.

I just love violets.

New to the Blogroll

I've added a couple of new blogs to the blogroll.

A Beautiful Theme is a brand-new blog about "Classical Music, resources on the web, Bach, Beethoven, piano, CD's, and more." Sounds good to me! The most recent post is a review of David Dubal's The Art of the Piano. Since it's such a new blog, there's not a lot up there yet, but it looks like this will be a good one that I'll visit often.

Yesterday I clicked on the blog of a commenter, Ann V., and found the most delightful, refreshing blog: Holy Experience. Her latest post begins this way:
"A line of dirt tracked like a fenceline across the boys’ white teeth today. The
whites of their eyes shone out from raccoon rings of dirt and soil. Certain
elements of a face –eye whites and teeth---dazzle further against a backdrop of
caked dust and dirt. But smiles and eyes both danced when I pulled up into the
field with plates of steaming hot food and pitchers of clear, cold water."

This lovely blog interweaves the farming experience, the mothering experience, and the Christian experience in such a quiet, humble way, and it's so beautifully written ... I read the first few posts knew that this was a blog I would return to again and again.

So ... hope y'all are able to stop by these blogs and enjoy them as much as I did!

Wednesday, April 19, 2006

Taking a Pleasant Little Break from Spring Cleaning

When I was hiking the other day, I thought to myself, "Self, when you get home, you'll have to do spring cleaning." It really depressed me.

If I were to rank life's tasks in order of "most loved" to "most despised," house-cleaning would be right at the bottom of that list.

I have been working for five hours and have only begun to scratch the surface.


I try to be happy and play upbeat music and sing while I clean, but I can't do it. I would rather have a root canal. With no pain killers. While undergoing water torture. And listening to the horrid "Y" section of our CD collection (Yanni, Neil Young, and Dwight Yoakam--all Hubster's).

Speaking of CDs, I spent the first two hours of spring cleaning matching up loose CDs to their CD cases to their CD covers. Some were in the CD changer, some were in the car, many were in random CD carriers, and some were, oddly enough, on the dusty top of the fridge. Some are at school, but I'm not about to go there on spring break. Then I put all the CDs in alphabetical order and arranged them in the CD library we bought two years ago but have yet to organize. (It's organized now.)

Then I moved half-heartedly to the kitchen. When Hub and I first got married, I arranged all of the beans and pastas and canned vegetables and baking goods and supplies all neatly in our shoebox of a cupboard. I arranged the dressings and condiments and jellies all nicely in the fridge.

Today I threw out a bunch of that stuff that we never used. Most of it expired in early 2004.

I also threw out a bunch of really limp vegetables and a two-week-old salad.

Now I have to go to the grocery store and buy groceries for the next week. Then I'm cooking dinner. Then I'll probably finish up the clothes.

Then I'll start Day 2 of spring cleaning tomorrow.

Then I won't have to clean again for another couple of years! Oh, happiness! Oh, joy!

(Just kidding about waiting a couple more years!) (Well, mostly.)

Wandering Aimlessly

It's been a long, long time since I've been able to wander aimlessly through the blogosphere. I see from Sitemeter that more and more people have decided to wander this way in the last month, so I'm thankful for those of you who have started reading my blog, as well as for those of you who never stopped!

Meanwhile ...

Here's some very exciting news: Hilda, the Dominican Oboist, recently played in an orchestra for the first time. Having read Hilda's blog from the very beginning, when she first wrote of her discovery of the oboe as her instrument, I was thrilled to read that she has come so far in such a short time.

I found some food for thought (as usual) at the 2Blowhards, where Donald writes about his pop-music cluelessness. I started to comment on that one, but it ended up being a book instead, so I've decided to write about it on my own blog in the next couple of days. I, too, am clueless about today's pop music, and I don't believe I'm missing anything by it. But more on that later.

What the heck happened to the blog named for my favorite punctuation mark? Semicolon, where are you? Update: Yay! The blog is back up and running!

Sadly, the blogosphere has had to say goodbye to two wonderful blogs: Just Marla, formerly known as the Proverbial Wife (no link available anymore), and Divertimenti. Marla Swoffer's blog was what inspired me to start my own blog, and Divertimenti, written by "Dulciana," an organist, pianist, music teacher, and mommy, has been among my favorite piano/music blogs.

I see, from reading Bittersweet Life, that I'm not the only non-professor in the world who relishes the thought of writing research papers (and it sounds like Ariel has found a fascinating topic to pursue--C.S. Lewis and the Atonement).

I was shocked, shocked! and delighted to see that Forrest Covington posted to The Muse at Sunset for the first time since September of last year. Can't wait to see his new music blog!

CaliforniaTeacherGuy has some good thoughts on the importance of teaching children to listen to nature.

There is so much good stuff out there ... these are just a few that I've read and enjoyed in the last couple of hours while procrastinating (I'm supposed to be spring cleaning today). I've also done a few other things while procrastinating, including making new resolutions to lose weight, outlining and drafting an essay that I'd like to see published in the local newspaper, and practicing a bit of Bach.

But now, I really need to spring clean. If you could see my house right now, you'd swear that my housekeeper's name was Sarah Cynthia Sylvia Stout.

The Hikes

The original plan was to spend five days and four nights on the Foothills Trail, which runs along the border of western North Carolina/western South Carolina. Hubster started to get heat exhaustion on the second day, however, so we hopped (good Easter word there) off the trail and came home. I really needed to hike, so we decided to spend a few days hiking in our back yard, a.k.a. Great Smoky Mountains National Park.

We headed up to the Cosby, Tennessee, area (about 45 minutes away) and to the Cosby Campground to hit the Snake Den Ridge Trail. From there, we hiked a two-day loop that includes the Albright Loop (a 0.7-mile stand of virgin forest) and picks up the Gabes Mountain Trail back to the campground. It's an 18-mile hike, and it's supposed to be a three-day hike. We got to our second night's campsite at noon yesterday, though, so we just decided to hike the last four miles back to the car.

It was an incredible hike--the trees there have legs and mouths. I'm not lying. It seems they took root (several roots) over decaying logs, maybe, and by the time the logs had decayed to nothing, the tree roots were strong and "standing" on two or three roots, sometimes up to three feet off the ground. They looked like Ents suspended in motion. Hubster and I decided that they only walk around at night, and when they sun rises, they freeze in position. They can't move again until it gets dark again. Some trees looked like they were picking up huge boulders, ready to throw them at Saruman's evil Uruk-hai breeding factory.

There were a few nice views of the mountains and the valleys, but the real highlight of this hike was the forest itself. Not only were there huge trees (in an eastern-forest kind of way), but many wildflowers were in bloom. The forest floor was carpeted with spring beauties, and we saw nodding trillium, many species of violet, Dutchman's breeches, clintonia, rue anemone, bellwort, wake-robin, solomon's seal, and showy orchis, and of course dogwoods, which were just beginning to bloom. The bloodroots and mayapples hadn't bloomed yet. I was wishing I'd brought my wildflower ID book; I know a few wildflowers, but there are plenty I don't know and want to learn. It's just so cool hiking in spring and seeing the wildflowers; it's like seeing old friends that I haven't seen in a year.

Everything was so green. The rocks all had green growing on them, and there were flowers and even small trees growing out of the rocks. The dead trees were covered with green. We went through a "hell," or tangled mass of stunted rhododendrons and other plants at 5,200 feet, and even that was a grayish-green from all the lichens. Wintergreen was growing at the higher elevations, and various spruce and firs--it smelled like Vermont!

I want to upload pictures, but they are huge, so Blogger seems to have trouble uploading (or maybe it's my computer). I don't have any special photo programs through with I can make them into smaller files, so if anyone can give me some advice, I'd appreciate it. I would really love to put some pictures from the hikes on this blog.

Update: The uploading seems to be working fine now. I guess I just need to be patient.

I'd planned to go back out to the trails for a few days, probably to hike up the AT from Davenport Gap (northern end of the Smokies) to Max Patch (south of Hot Springs), but it's supposed to do nothing but storm for the next three days. The house needs a serious spring-cleaning workover, and I have a piano lesson scheduled for tomorrow. So, for now, it's back to "real life" and back to Bach.

I love the "back to Bach" part. It's the "real life" aspect that I could do without. I really wish I could just go to the woods and stay out there for a few months.

Back from the Land of the Ents

Sunday, April 16, 2006

Gear List

Heh … I haven’t made one of these in a long, long time. I weighed my pack tonight, and it’s 28 pounds. Am I regular or what? My pack weight is always, always, always between 28 and 32 pounds. I've pasted my gear list below, for anyone who is interested. Items in purple are ones that I used on my actual AT thru-hike in 2000. Items in red are those that I've just started using in the past year.

Here’s what I’ll be carrying/wearing for the next three or five days of my life:

The House
Backpack--Gregory Reality
Lightweight pack cover (I finally quit using a garbage bag)

The Bedroom
Tent stakes (Hubster carries the tent)
Feathered Friends sleeping bag
Z-rest sleeping pad

The Car
EMS Women’s Dry Hikers (boots)
Leki hiking poles
Hiking socks and liners (1 worn, plus 1 extra pair of each)
Short gaiters (just bought replacements)

The Kitchen
Titanium pot
Alcohol fuel
Lexan spoon
1-pint Nalgene bottle
2 Gatorade bottles
Bandanna for cleaning dishes
Aqua Mira water treatment

The Closet
Coolmax t-shirt
Nylon shorts
Rain pants
Rain jacket
Patagonia Puffball jacket
1 pr. synthetic long underwear
Balaclava (I doubt that I’ll need this)

The Powder Room
Toilet paper roll
Wash 'n' Dri moist towelettes
Antibacterial alcohol gel in small bottle
Ziploc for bathroom trash
Small tube toothpaste
Travel-size toothbrush
Dental floss
Small hairbrush
Hair ties
Glasses in bombproof case
Contact case and solution

The Medicine Cabinet
A few bandaids
Immodium A-D
Cortisone cream
Nasal spray
Hand lotion

MacGyver Stuff
Small Swiss Army knife
Duct tape
Headlamp and batteries
A couple of bandannas
A couple of extra Ziploc bags

The Library
Map & guidebook
Notebook for journal
2 pens for journal
A Midsummer Night’s Dream

The Wallet
Driver’s license, credit card, a little bit of money

The Pantry
Breakfast: Healthy Organic Pop-Tarts (an oxymoron?)
Lunch: String cheese, beef jerky, a couple of apples and oranges (heavy, but worth it)
Dinner: One-half of a Lipton Noodle meal for each night
Snacks: Gorp (trail mix) and a couple of Power Bars

They say that your pack weight is related to your degree of fear. For example, if you're scared you'll go hungry, you're likely to pack too much food and increase your pack weight. My fear is being cold. I always pack too many layers. I'm really trying not to do so, but I still can't manage to leave my balaclava, my gloves, and my 20-degree sleeping bag behind!

I don't read much when I'm hiking. I don't write much either, for that matter, though I do tend to write more (journaling) than I read. I don't listen to music at all. When I do pack a book, I tend to pack a small volume of poetry or a Shakespeare play. I'm so tired at night that I can only read for about five or ten minutes before I drop off to sleep--perfect for reading a couple of sonnets or a scene from Shakespeare.

OK, it's time to go to bed. I'm all packed and ready to go. Again.


I've been tagged by Kat to write six weird things/habits about myself. I'm supposed to tag others, but I don't know who's been tagged yet. I do know that I'd enjoy reading Seb's answers. So, Seb or anyone else, feel free to pick up the stick if you want, and let me know if you've done so.

OK, six weird things about me:

1. My brain constantly makes anagrams and puns of words. We can be having a conversation, you and I, but my brain is busily anagramming and looking for puns on every other word you say. Sorry. I really am paying attention. Mostly.

2. I get misty-eyed when I hear "The Farmer and the Cowman" from Oklahoma! Sometimes I outright cry.

3. My favorite color is purple, even though one is supposed to outgrow it after age 16 or so. Purple is often the favorite color of the mentally ill.

4. I hate a lot of things about myself, particularly my depression and a really nasty streak of cynicism that I mostly keep to myself. (I wonder ... how can a person can be a cynic yet can be moved to tears by "The Farmer and the Cowman"? It's true, the farmer and the cowman should be friends. But then, maybe the farmer and the cowman are simply having a spat. Maybe they really wish everyone wouldn't sing and dance and hoot and holler about their very personal relationship problems. Maybe the farmer and the cowman have deeper, more sinister issues than simply "being friends." Maybe they're both jerks. Maybe it really is a stupid song after all. Sigh. See what I mean?)

5. My favorite people are cats, generally speaking.

6. Sometimes I wish my name were Ingeborg.

6.5. I love the subjunctive voice so much that I think I overuse it. Did I misuse it in the previous sentence? I need to know, as I plan to use this sentence often in the future.

I just re-read this list and was struck by how silly and mindless it is. Please, someone, write a list of your weird stuff, and make it more interesting than mine!

Going Hiking Again

We had to get off of the Foothills Trail because Hubster was having some health problems. We're headed out again tomorrow for a shorter, cooler trail. See y'all soon.

Friday, April 14, 2006

From "La Corona"

"La Corona" is a set of sonnets by 17th-century English poet John Donne. "Corona" means crown, but it also means wreath, the the sonnets are meant to be read in a cycle; the first line of the first sonnet is the same as the last line of the last sonnet. In addition, the last line of every sonnet is the same as the first line of the next, so there is a sense of continuity.

The sonnets work through the life of Christ, ending with the Ascension. Here are the two that are relevant for this weekend:


By miracles exceeding power of man,
He faith in some, envy in some begat,
For, what weak spirits admire, ambitious hate :
In both affections many to Him ran.
But O ! the worst are most, they will and can,
Alas ! and do, unto th' Immaculate,
Whose creature Fate is, now prescribe a fate,
Measuring self-life's infinity to span,
Nay to an inch. Lo ! where condemned He
Bears His own cross, with pain, yet by and by
When it bears him, He must bear more and die.
Now Thou art lifted up, draw me to Thee,
And at Thy death giving such liberal dole,
Moist with one drop of Thy blood my dry soul.


Moist with one drop of Thy blood, my dry soul
Shall—though she now be in extreme degree
Too stony hard, and yet too fleshly—be
Freed by that drop, from being starved, hard or foul,
And life by this death abled shall control
Death, whom Thy death slew ; nor shall to me
Fear of first or last death bring misery,
If in thy life-book my name thou enroll.
Flesh in that long sleep is not putrified,
But made that there, of which, and for which it was ;
Nor can by other means be glorified.
May then sin's sleep and death soon from me pass,
That waked from both, I again risen may
Salute the last and everlasting day.

Read the entire set of sonnets here.

Thursday, April 13, 2006

Morphodites and Fantasie Animals

I've counted. Ever since I posted about the word morphodite, I've had over 100 hits from people googling the word "morphodite."

It's really strange, the ways people end up at one's blog.

Here are the Google searches that have led to me lately:

work sheets for a modest proposal by swift (I actually get quite a few people who are looking for lesson plan materials)

morphodite (yep)

law and order svu poems (hmm ... I love "Law and Order: SVU." I love poems. Makes sense.)

isis and jackrabbit (these are the trail names of a couple of friends of mine)

morphodite (again)

english translation of schubert standchen (my beloved standchen)

southbounder 2006 (right way to go!)

different types of humor in the importance of being earnest (sorry, I don't think they found my site very helpful)

the fear of the unknown (ahh ... mysterious!)

morphodite (again)

drowning in renaissance lit (Oooh ... been there, done that. Loved every minute of it.)

personality test fantasie animal (what's your fantasie animal?)

morphodite (again)

There are 5 houses in 5 different colours. In each house lives a person of different nationality. The 5 owners drink a certain type of beverage, smoke a certain brand of cigar, and keep a certain pet. Using the clue (Yes, someone looked this all up. With my luck, they were probably looking for copyright infringements.)

It's nice to have time to do completely meaningless activities such as this one. (:

Next, I think I'll spend a few minutes trying to figure out what my fantasie animal is.

I Made It!!!

Whew. Looks like I made it to spring break!

Here's even better news:

Because we didn't use all of our snow days, they're shaving three days off of our intended school year (I guess they assume "X" number of snow days when they make the schedule.) So our last day of school is June 5 instead of June 8! And, since June 5 is a Monday, this actually really means that our last day is June 2! And my friend LiteShoe and I can hit the Art Loeb Trail as early June 7 or so!

Now, two of the final six weeks will be, er, shall we say, educationally challenging for me. Half the high school will be on a field trip for one week, and then the seniors will be gone on senior trip the following week. My students will continue to work--no blow-off movie days for them, not in Mrs. Waterfall's class, no sirree--but I'll need to figure how how to handle all of the big absences.

Still, what this really means is that I only have four real weeks of school left.

And during those weeks, one class will be a creative writing class.

Life is getting better and better. We're still not out of the woods yet, folks, but things are definitely improving.

And, stressful as the year has been, I haven't once regretted leaving Cubicle Land. I particularly don't regret it now, seeing as we have no "days left until summer" countdowns in endless drudgery that was my Cubicle Land existence!

Wednesday, April 12, 2006

Switching Modes

I'll be undergoing a transformation in the next day or two.

I'm going to change from stressed-out teacher and classical-music and literary conoisseur to dirty, stinky, happy-go-lucky woods-woman. I'll trade my grade book for a map, my slacks for a pair of sweaty wicking shorts, my blog for a soggy assignment-pad journal, my Bach for a handful of John Denver tunes in the old noggin.

I have a secret life. It's true. I, Waterfall, am actually a Narnia Dweller. And a hobbit. Conceived in a series of literary discussions at The Eagle and Child pub in Oxford sometime in the middle of the last century. Shhh ... it's my secret. Don't tell.

Or maybe the teaching- and classical-music thing is my secret life. Shh ... don't tell the Narnians about my muggle lifestyle. They'd never let me live it down. I do wish they hadn't dropped the digital camera in the water, though. The misty spot in the lens left an awful blur over my eye in the photo above. Or is that misty spot a little sprite that flew into the picture just as it was snapped?

I don't really belong to this world. I'm not really the tired, stressed-out, red-pen-wielding teacher lady that I pretend to be.

My name isn't really Ernest, either.

Alas. Thanks to my hideous bad haircut, I cannot be the adorable pigtailed hiking thang I once was.

But I can still look my cute hiker-babe self, particularly when I'm next to such a studly he-hiker as ye olde Hubsteroonimeister.

The housesitter/catsitter arrives tomorrow. And ole Hub and I start hiking soon after that. We'll cover about 15 miles a day.

I won't have to take a shower for five days. I won't have to analyze sentences for adverbs for a week. I won't have to grade a single paper ... until next weekend.

But I'm not going to think about school. Oh, who am I kidding? I'll think about school, but not too much. I'll be too busy stopping to smell the flowers.

It's going to be a good break.

Spring Break is Almost Here!

It looks like I'm going to make it after all!

I'm listening to the Mass in B Minor right now, and all is well.

I just graded the Victorian Lit tests, and there were three A's, one B, eight C's, a D, and two F's. Seems like a pretty nice bell curve to me.

My beloved aunt had a pacemaker put in today, and everything went fine.

I had a few really good one-on-one talks with students today about their papers.

I love my ninth-graders.

I forgive my seventh graders for voting to cut open frog heads tomorrow so we can see the brains. (I was outnumbered. I voted for watching "March of the Penguins.")

There is a Kiss-a-Pig fundraiser tomorrow. Students have been paying money all week to vote for which teacher will kiss a pig. Right now, the top two teachers are Mr. S (a popular math teacher) and me. I'm counting on Mr. S. winning. At least I hope Mr. S. wins!

The Hubster is on his way home right now so we can go on a long walk and hold hands and say mushy things to each other that we never have time for when I'm snowed under with work. I still have to write a quiz for my ninth-graders, but there will be time for that.

If I speak mushily enough to the Hubster, maybe he may take me out to dinner. We can sit and eat and make goo-goo eyes at each other.

Spring break starts in 18 hours. Life is good.


Nothing is so beautiful as spring—
When weeds, in wheels, shoot long and lovely and lush;
Thrush’s eggs look little low heavens, and thrush
Through the echoing timber does so rinse and wring
The ear, it strikes like lightnings to hear him sing;
The glassy peartree leaves and blooms, they brush
The descending blue; that blue is all in a rush
With richness; the racing lambs too have fair their fling.

What is all this juice and all this joy?
A strain of the earth’s sweet being in the beginning
In Eden garden.—Have, get, before it cloy,
Before it cloud, Christ, lord, and sour with sinning,
Innocent mind and Mayday in girl and boy,
Most, O maid’s child, thy choice and worthy the winning.

--Gerard Manley Hopkins


I hate night-time because I can't sleep.

I hate daytime because I'm so tired from not sleeping the night before.

I'm hating life these days.

One and a half days until spring break begins.

Tuesday, April 11, 2006

Tar Heel Tavern #59

Oops ... I forgot to mention, this week's Tarheel Tavern is up at The View From The Cheap Seats. Go visit, and see what some of our North Carolina bloggers are writing about these days.

A Stomach in the Lab Kit

My science girls hid a frog stomach in the lab kit of one of next period's students.

Sigh. There are just some work-related experiences that you folks in Cubicle Land never get to have. :)

Monday, April 10, 2006

One of those Days?

Teachers, do you ever have days when you just feel like all of the students hate you? Even though you know you're the last thing on their mind, and that, if anything, you're merely an inconvenient intrusion on their thoughts, which are everywhere but at school? But still, there's this nagging feeling of, "What did I do to make everyone hate me so much?"

Three more days!

Dissecting Froggies Today

Ohhhh geez, I forgot how much I hate the smell of formaldehyde. And I remember now why, as fascinated as I was by biology in college, I primarily took classes in the areas of ecology and botany ...

Four More Days to Go

Today, tomorrow, Wednesday, and Thursday: those are the four school days we have left before spring break.

I will try my best to be motivated. This spring break has been a long time coming. If my blogging increases over the next few days, you'll know it's because I'm not doing a good job of being motivated. :)

Sunday, April 9, 2006

Logan's Song

Tonight I played "Logan's Song" in memory of Nova, the little boy of Erin of Poetic Acceptance. Nova died several days ago after many medical complications. "Logan's Song" was written for another little boy who died before he ever really had a chance to live.

Please, keep Erin and her family in your prayers. I don't know her any more than I know any of you, but as often happens in the blogosphere, we often become involved in the lives of others just by reading about and commenting on their lives, their joys, their daily struggles. And this family has had more than their share of suffering lately.

Here are the lyrics to the song. I wrote them many years ago. They're rather cliche'-ridden and include a preposition at the end of a sentence (horrors!), and I'm a little nervous about displaying them here, but oh well. They are what they are. I wrote the music many years ago, too, which you can find here (sans words), if you have time to wait for it to download (about 4 minutes, give or take a minute). The recording itself is about four and a half minutes long.

LOGAN'S SONG by Waterfall

Come into my world, I said
Created here for me
Take my bright and tiny thread and weave your tapestry
Let me bring to you my hope
Let me make you smile
Share with you the newborn spirit of the child

You did for me these things
And you did even more
Allowed me to experience the joy of life
To know that I am beautiful
To know that I am loved
You gave me security you'd been dreaming of

I played among the autumn leaves
The color of my hair
Reflecting in the sunlight, see the rainbow there
And in the dawn of morning
I heard the music ring
Beholding all the while the wonder life can bring

To know that I am beautiful
To know that I am loved
You gave me security you'd been dreaming of
And now I've brought you joy
I long to give you peace
And let you know the love that you have give me

Come into my world I said
Created here for me
Take my bright and tiny thread and weave your tapestry
And though my thread has ended
Yours continues on
I seek my tiny life in yours, reflecting like the morning sun

So till you hold me in your arms again
Or clasp my tiny hand
I wish you could know all the life you have within
And now I've brought you joy
I long to give you peace
And let you know the love that you have give me.

Rest in peace, Nova.

Birthday Meme

A birthday meme. Just type in your birthday (minus the year) in the search bar at Wikipedia Next, list three interesting facts, two births, and one death that happened on that day.

Below are the exciting events for my birthday. I feel as though, somehow, a joke should be made that involves Pluto and a cow jumping over the moon in 1930 ...

1885 - Mark Twain's Adventures of Huckleberry Finn is published for the first time.
1930 - While studying photographs taken in January, Clyde Tombaugh discovers Pluto.
1930 - Elm Farm Ollie becomes the first cow to fly in an airplane and also the first cow to be milked in an airplane.

1516 - Queen Mary I of England
1848 - Louis Comfort Tiffany, American glass artist

1546 - Martin Luther, German religious reformer

I found this over at A Sweet, Familiar Dissonance.

I Hate to Miss Church ...

... particularly since we'll miss it next week (Easter), too. But I think I ate some bad meat on Friday night, and I've had to remain within spitting distance of a bathroom all weekend long.

I hate feeling yucky. Grumble, grumble, grumble.

Saturday, April 8, 2006

Fugue'in Fun on a Rainy Saturday

I graded papers and homeworks all morning, and finally got to start practicing piano this afternoon ... for the first time since Wednesday's practice lesson (argh!). I'm working on the exposition of the fugue.

The slow pace of my progress is maddening, particularly since I know I would progress much faster if I didn't have to work all the time.

But these moments I get here and there, mostly on weekends, when I can shut the door to the Inner Sanctum and practice scales, arpeggios, measures of pieces, and (now) fugue voices, are PRICELESS. I've been familiarizing myself with the different voices of the C#-major fugue for the past half-hour, and I have the rest of the afternoon ahead of me until our out-of-town visitors get here.

Four more glorious hours. Back to George!

Friday, April 7, 2006

Some Gems

Thanks, first of all, to those who have responded to my requests for book-title suggestions. Y'all have been big help! I've also enjoyed visiting your blogs, some of which I'd never visited before. A few blogs I've recently "discovered" are Mei Flower, who is a fellow English teacher; Kassie, who is a Suzuki violin teacher; and CaliforniaTeacherGuy, who I assume is teacher guy in California. (Yup. I'm pretty observant.)

CaliforniaTeacherGuy recently wrote this on his blog, which had me nodding in agreement:

"Teaching is hard work. It is not for the faint of heart, or the dull of wit. To teach well day after day requires stamina. Stamina comes from caring for the soul. Reflecting on one’s teaching practice is not only essential to growing as an educator, but it is also is a form of soul-care. Those who walk out of their classrooms as soon as the last bell rings without thinking about what happened during the day and how they could improve, run the risk of doing irreparable harm to their inmost being. They may also end up dropping out of the education profession.


Effective teachers are committed to the task of making a difference in the lives of their students. Leaving the classroom is not an option. They know that children need them. They’ve seen the hunger in their students' eyes; they won't let them starve for lack of knowledge."

Pretty good, huh?

Blogging Elsewhere

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