Friday, December 30, 2011

Reading List 2011

Well, it’s that time again.  Time to review the books I’ve read in 2011.  (And, as always, I’m listing just the “grown up people” books.  I read TONS of children’s literature, but am not including their titles here.)  The list is fairly short this go-round, for a number of reasons.  2011 has been busy.  I spent the first half of the year teaching my delightful Kindergarteners, and teaching rarely leaves “free” time.  In July I moved roughly 370 miles across several state lines and endured all the time-suck that corresponds with packing up and transporting your life.  I spent October through December nannying 60+ hours a week for my beautiful niece.  I spent decent chunks of November and December applying for and prepping for my upcoming time in India.  And, on top of it all, I (finally) finished writing, editing, and defending my (300+ pages) thesis.  Life’s been busy.  As such, opportunities to read for the joy of reading have been limited.  But it’s okay!  Here’s the list, busted up into fiction and non-fiction categories, per usual.  And, if you care, the books are in date order throughout the course of the year; the higher the number, the later in the year.  And, in instances in which I wrote reviews over at GoodReads, I have included links.

Until next year, READ ON!

  1. 1.  The Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky
  2. 2The Magician's Nephew (Chronicles of Narnia #1) by C.S. Lewis (reread)
  3. 3.  The Silver Chair (Chronicles of Narnia #6) by C.S. Lewis (reread)
  4. 4.  The Last Battle (Chronicles of Narnia #7) by C.S. Lewis (reread)
  5. 5.  How Beautiful the Ordinary:  Twelve Stories of Identity edited by Michael Cart (short stories)
  6. 6.  Mockingjay (The Hunger Games #3) by Suzanne Collins
  7. 7.  Potential:  The High School Comic Chronicles of Ariel Schrag by Ariel Schrag (graphic novel)
  8. 8.  A Ring of Endless Light by Madeleine L'Engle
  9. 9.  Tuck Everlasting by Natalie Babbitt (reread)
  10. 10.  A Wrinkle in Time (Time #1) by Madeleine L'Engle (reread)
  11. 11.  Hard Love by Ellen Wittlinger
  12. 12.  Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson
  13. 13.  A Wind in the Door (Time #2) by Madeleine L'Engle (reread)
  14. 14.  A Swiftly Tilting Planet (Time #3) by Madeleine L'Engle (reread)
  15. 15.  Wintergirls by Laurie Halse Anderson
  16. 16.  Interpreter of Maladies by Jhumpa Lahiri (short stories)

  1. 1.  Listen Up:  Voices from the Next Feminist Generation edited by Barbara Findlen
  2. 2.  Kids:  How Biology and Culture Shape the Way We Raise Young Children by Meredith Small
  3. 3.  Mom's Cancer by Brian Fies (graphic novel)
  4. 4.  Fat Girl:  A True Story by Judith Moore
  5. 5.  Nurture Shock:  New Thinking about Children by Po Bronson and Ashley Merryman
  6. 6.  Food Rules:  An Eater's Manual by Michael Pollan
  7. 7.  Eat, Pray, Love by Elizabeth Gilbert
  8. 8.  The Full Spectrum:  A New Generation of Writing About Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, Transgender, Questioning, and Other Identities edited by David Levithan and Billy Merrell
  9. 9.  Half and Half:  Writers on Growing Up Biracial and Bicultural edited by Claudine Chiawei O'Hearn


Friday, December 23, 2011

Video Spotlight: How to be alone

The video "How to Be Alone" has been out for more than a year, but I like it and now just seems a good time to be reminded of the potential power and value of spending quality time with one's self. The holidays can often be a hectic time and a time with high expectations to see everyone and be "other minded." I value balancing that focus on others with making time for one's self.

Also, I just really enjoy spending time alone.

The poem, music, and performance are by Tanya Davis, and the film's animation, photography, and editing were done by Andrea Dorman.

I wish you pleasant time alone.

Thursday, December 22, 2011

A 40 by 40 update

A few weeks shy of 11 months after posting my list of 40 things I would like to accomplish by the time I turn 40, it seems relevant to report in on my progress. The past year has been a time of pretty intense change in my life. I made the decision to leave a city and state I didn’t particularly love, not because I had somewhere better to be, but merely because I no longer wanted to be where I was. I left two jobs, both of which had aspects that were incredibly rewarding and aspects that were gnawingly upsetting. Neither job was sustainable financially, nor offered enough benefits (like health insurance or benefits of any kind) to stay long term. So it was time to go. As such, much of the year has been spent addressing old commitments and responsibilities while trying to create and allow space for new ones to develop. It hasn’t necessarily been a wish list year, but definitely a building year nonetheless.

There are only two things I feel prepared to cross off my 40 by 40 list:

First, “21. Take a self-defense class.” I took a six-week self-defense class this Fall at the local gym. My instructor was this tall, skinny ex-Marine with a black belt in Tae Kwon Do who was pretty much a ninja (and who thinks his sensei may be training him to be an assassin). He is also a very cool dude. I learned a ton, perhaps most importantly that my knowledge (and skill) is very limited. I left the class with a collection of useable moves and knowledge, but also understand that self-defense is a practice – one of those “use it or lose it” skill sets. I’m hoping not to have to put my newly acquired skills into active use, and yet I don’t want to forget the things I’ve learned. In fact, I’d love for them to become instinctual. Short of taking up martial arts, I’m uncertain how that will come to pass, so in the meantime I am content to say I took the class and will figure out the next step later.

Second, I can officially cross “5. Earn a Masters degree” off the list. It has been a long, tedious path and even saying “I did it, finally” seems like tempting fate. Most every roadblock that could have impeded my work did. IRB folks took a month off while I faced down a deadline they imposed. The academic advising folks decided at the last minute to try to hold me accountable to program requirements implemented two full years after I began the program. An advisor gave me an “R” grade (an incomplete in a research course) for no discernable reason and didn’t change it to a letter grade (an “A,” thank you very much) ‘til the eleventh hour when I was facing down a deadline that would have prevented me from graduating. And that doesn’t include the numerous years and hundreds of hours it took to complete the thesis itself. It’s been a long journey. But, as of Tuesday afternoon, I have an email and a transcript informing me that my degree has indeed been conferred. Thank goodness. Now I can walk away from the hellish bureaucracy and focus on more important things. (And yet, it still doesn’t feel real. And I have a month-long wait until they send me my actual degree. That’s one VERY expensive piece of paper.) Regardless… yay!

I have one goal that I completed roughly one-third of: “16. Buy a bicycle and a helmet. And ride whenever possible.” A bicycle was bequeathed to me by an old roommate who moved to Iowa and knowingly left it in our basement. I carted the bike across the country with me when I moved, but never succeeded in getting the tune up I decided it needed, nor in buying a helmet. Thus, no riding took place. And now it’s cold and wet and I’m not hardcore enough to ride in the wintery ick. I have hopes for completing the remainder of the goal next Spring/Summer…

Running Man. (The yoga pose, not the dance move.)
image via Kate Taylor
And I have three goals that are what I would consider “lifestyle goals” – the kind that you can’t really accomplish except continually. (As such, I am uncertain the requirements for successfully checking them off of my list. Something to ponder…) First, I have tried (with varying levels of success) to “17. Be committed to having physical activity as a central component of life. This can include running, yoga, pilates, biking, etc. on a regular basis (at least 3-4 times a week).” I’ve been taking a fantastic yoga class at the local gym with a wonderful teacher that challenges me and makes me feel strong. (On Monday I learned the Running Man, though I hold mine barely above the ground, not all fancy high-in-the-sky like the photo to the right. Wow!)
My ridiculously adorable niece
with whom I spent 60+ hours a week.
And before I was nannying 60 hours a week I was getting to the gym roughly three times a week. Now it’s once or twice. It’s hard (for me) to build in time for intentional physical activity when I leave for work at 6am and get home 6:30pm or after. So, a goal in progress… (and that’s okay).

Second, I’ve had the opportunity to “25. Play the piano regularly again.” I’m currently living in a house with a piano and can play nearly any time I want. It’s lovely, and while I would really like to buckle down and play/practice an hour every day, or some similar routine, I’m grateful to have this happy outlet accessible as time permits. I often play 15-20 minutes a few times a week. It makes me happy. (And helps me see both how much my piano skills really have remained instinctual and how much has slowly faded of over the years of non-use.) It’s a joyful time, nonetheless.

And third, I’ve been able to “26. Join a regularly performing choral group that challenges me and brings me joy.” It’s nothing fancy – a local church choir, but one that does a good variety of music and holds itself to a high standard. It’s been great to practice my sight-reading skills and revisit the self-reliance of singing in a fairly small group (only 3-5 regular altos). And the obligation is minimal – rehearsal one night a week and performances on Sunday mornings. A few of the pieces we’ve done have included (one of my favorites) Manz’ “E’en So Lord Jesus Quickly Come” (this version is a bit slow, but…), Benjamin Britten’s “Jubilate Deo,” John Rutter’s “The Lord Bless You and Keep You,” “For the Beauty of the Earth,” and “Star Carol,” and the classic 16th century German carol “Lo, How a Rose E’er Blooming.” And I’ve been working on remembering all those years of Latin, as well as once again picking up a Gregorian chant here and there. I’m grateful to be in a space that I can really sing. What a gift.

Otherwise, life carries on. And more changes seem to be on the horizon. I’m uncertain what 40 by 40 goals are next on the agenda, but I’ll fill you in as time passes. Hope you all are well!