A Year of Thanks

1 post a day for 365 days showing gratitude

rainy sunday days December 1, 2014

Filed under: books and reading — courtsbrogno @ 5:10 am

Nothing makes a Sunday better than the rain falling and hitting my window, staying wrapped up in bed all day, and reading all day long.

Unless you have a friend who says, “Come over and read at my place. I have a fireplace.”

To which I must say, makes the day better.

And then, lying by the fire and seeing this beautiful view of our town:

unnamed

OMG. Even better.

So, I’m thankful for this rainy day and the beauty of my town and the warmth of a friend’s fireplace.

 

Sunday, funday: otherwise known as a day of New York Times takedown June 29, 2014

Filed under: books and reading — courtsbrogno @ 12:48 pm

Sundays. My favorite day of the week. I crave every single Sunday because I have a ritual. I wake between 6 and 6:30 am, throw off the covers, pull on a pair of shoes and a sweatshirt, and drive to Starbucks to pick up a cup of coffee and the Sunday New York Times. (Note: I apologize for going to Starbucks, but it’s the only place that carries the New York Times) (Note, part 2: The Sunday NYT cost $6. Some may say that’s a ridiculous price, but I disagree. That paper is worth every penny. Plus, I like to think I’m helping print media stay in business).

So my routine: I read the Review first, then the Business Section (Ok, I scan), then I flip through the Travel Section (which I barely read because it just makes me mad and jealous), then onto Style (because who doesn’t love Modern Love?), then onto Sports (I only read the human interest stories, which are quite good), then Arts and Leisure (I skip anything about Opera–boring!), then the Book Review (which should be renamed Book Review of mostly non-fiction), and finally the Front Page. Then, for desert, the always amazing Sunday New York Times Magazine.

If I make it through the entire paper in one day, it’s a miracle. Usually it takes me most of the week, and I actually have a pile of papers in the living room that I promised myself I’d get through by the end of summer.

But this morning, something interesting happened. As I was reading, I picked up a pen from my nightstand, and started making notes. I must be missing grading essays on some subconscious level (The horror!!!) because I wrote comments like I would as if the articles were student essays. Actually, when I looked back at my comments they were pretty harsh, so it might be more fair to state that I wrote the comments I usually think in my head about student essays. Considering the NYT hires professional writers–for the most part–I’m sure they won’t mind my sometimes biting marginal comments.

Thus, I thought I’d share. Consider this Courtney’s Sunday Review Cliff Notes:

Page 1:

“Why Teenagers Act Crazy:” Basically, now I have to say “Maddie, your prefrontal cortex is grounded rather than Maddie, you’re grounded.”

“Inequality is Not Inevitable:” With quotes like “The American political system is overrun by money,” and “Justice has become a commodity, affordable by only a few,” I have learned nothing new. And by ending the article with the proposal of “It is only engaged citizens who can fight to restore a fairer America, and they can do so only if they understand the depths and dimensions of the challenge. It is not too late to restore our position in the world and recapture our sense of who we are as a nation,” led me to have good laugh. Are you really that naive? Please. Take off those rose colored glasses and come up with a better proposal. You might as well have ended with “Fuck yeah. Go America!”

Page 2:

“Quick History:” Interestingly, this rather new part of the Review attempts to sum up the week’s news in about 1/2 a page. This has been obviously stolen from The Week. Well played, NYT. Well played. Also, with news summed up in 1/2 a page, I don’t know how we’re to accomplish the proposal from “Inequality is not Inevitable.”

“Download: Dale Chihuly:” This glass sculptor is incredibly boring. Thanks for letting me know that you’ve been eating foie gras torchon. Now go do something worthwhile with your life.

Page 3:

“Britain’s Strange Identity Crisis:” No one cares. At all. The only part of this article that was even slightly engaging was the sentence: “And let’s not get started on England’s humiliation in the World Cup.” There, Scotland, you have your reason to leave in May.

“Who has the World’s Best Colleges:” Not us. Despite the common knowledge that the U.S. has a terrible K-12 international reputation we seem to believe our colleges are exemplary, as Obama was quoted as stating, “We have the best universities.” How do people figure that a terrible K-12 education will thus lead to a not terrible university education? Whatever. Finland beats us again.

Page 4:

“How the Terrorist got Rich:” Now this IS interesting: “The ISIS publication Al-Naba (The News) has kept donors informed about the progress of specific operations, while Twitter feeds are updated with body counts and photos of the equipment and territory fighters now control.” Wait a second. The ISIS is on Twitter? Does Washington know about this? How come no one can control these militants? My God.

“Life in Iraq Grinds on, Whoever is in Charge:” This quote stands out, “Engineers had recently learned that the Akkas oil and gas field beneath the Anbar desert was far large than previously known.” Well, that’s awesome. When will we learn that if we get off big oil not only will the environment improve but so will the political environment in the Middle East. Whatever , though, as the title suggests,  life in Iraq will just grind on. As will life in America, I guess. Keep rocking on Finland

Page 5:

“When Civil-Rights Unity Fractured:” an uninspiring history lesson (and I’m all for civil rights).

“What Nurse Jackie gets Right about the E.R.” I guess I learned that nurses are drug addicts (Woo hoo. Who doesn’t know that?) and that can be a problem. Thanks. I feel more informed already.

Page 6:

“China’s Threat to Wild Tigers:” This is kind of a misleading title since most of the article is about farmed tigers, but this article wins best quote of the entire day: “A real estate developer identified as Mr. Xu, pleaded guilty to consuming three tigers in 2013. A prosecutor said he had ‘ a quirky appetite for eating tiger penis and drinking tiger blood.'” AMAZING.

Page 8:

“Be not Afraid of My Body:” a young man comes to grips with his sexuality by reading Walt Whitman, but the young man/now writer just has to end his article with the most overused  line of Whitman: “For every atom belonging to me as good belongs to you.” Ugh…D- for being so cliche.

“The Right to Write:” Haha. Clever title. Just kidding; it’s not at all. But let’s explore what this writer wants to know: Do novelists have the right to tell any story they want or should they be marginalized to their own gender, race, culture? OH. MY. GOD. Are we rally even pondering this question? What part of fiction don’t people understand?

Page 9:

“My Father’s Dead Dialect:” I don’t even understand the purpose of this essay. I’m assuming the Times was low on content this week.

Page 10

The editorial section that no one I know reads.

Because it’s that boring.

Page 11:

“‘Jane’ Didn’t get the Help She Needed:” A human interest story that relies too much on pathos, but reminds readers that the criminal justice system is flawed, especially for foster kids, like ‘Jane.’ Fascinating. Too bad the solution lies in the obvious: “It would be economically efficient, as well as humane, to invest in interventions from the beginning of life that reduce delinquency.” Paging Finland again. Can someone get over there and see how they do it? And then maybe implement something? Probably not. We can just keep reading the same reused ideas in the paper. By the way, in paragraph 17, you actually wrote “robust research.” What the hell does robust research even mean?

“Arsonists and Firefighters:” The Middle East is seriously caught in a never-ending cycle, but thanks Friedman for the interesting metaphor.

“Stopping Campus Rape:” Now here’s a article with some solid proposals. Too bad all of them are terrible, with even the writer stating, “Probably none of them will happen.”  That’s because they’re ridiculous. Solution #1: Lower the drinking age to 18. That’s a problem because it’s not the age limit that keeps people from drinking and doing stupid things, it’s the American culture’s relationship with alcohol. I know plenty of adults who blackout drink and they’re not driven underground by an age limit. Ever been to an AA meeting? You should go. The people there would be happy to tell you that American culture has a BIG problem with drinking in general, and lowering the drinking age will not sole this problem (Hey, how does Finland do with alcoholism? Someone might want to investigate that). Solution #2: College administrators need to break the ties they have with “the on-campus party scene,” including Greek life and sports. Haha. You’re so funny. As if this were to happen, all problem drinking would stop. As if college students wouldn’t just go OFF CAMPUS to drink. Solution #3: colleges need to separate the sexes and supervise social life. This gave me the biggest laugh. Creating hurdles for predators will not necessarily work since most campus rape victims and perpetrators aren’t even necessarily aware that what they’ve done is wrong, something your article alluded to.  But hey, I have an idea. How about a mandatory freshman seminar in which a variety of common campus issues were taught in a way that was truthful, engaging, and not condescending: binge drinking, rape, healthy eating, depression, anxiety, stress, meditation. I know, I know, that 3-4 unit mandatory class might get in the way of graduation rates. Whatever, we’ve still got the best universities. Oh, wait a second. WE DON”T.

Page 12:

“The Trauma of Parenthood:” I swear to God if I have to read one more article about parenthood being so difficult, I’m going to explode. Most of this article focuses on parents who are depressed because, well, they have kids, and kids take a lot of work, takes a “toll on your relationships,” and  then the article notes that the overall level of satisfaction in parents’ lives goes down. No, really? Whoever thought parenthood would be easy? Did your parents make it look easy? For Christ’s sake, suck it up and quit whining (note: unless you do have postpartum depression–then please get help.)

Public Editor: “Covering New War, in Shadow of Old One:” This is one of my favorite parts of the Review because it’s the public editor noting the faults of the Times while simultaneously noting how awesome the Times is. This can be seen in these few sentences: “The coverage of the Iraq war was the cause of much soul-searching for The Times. Afterward, a stronger policy on anonymous sources was put into place, and an extraordinary editors’ note acknowledged reporting that lacked rigor and skepticism.” Did she–a well-respected journalists– just use the words “soul-searching” and “extraordinary”?   Why yes, yes she did. See what I mean? Highly amusing.

“The Power of a Deed:” Probably my favorite article of the whole Review because I’m a sucker for a good human interest story. The article focuses on Rabbi Menachem Mendel Schneerson–usually called Rebbe–who’s been dead for 20 years. What makes this man so remarkable, at least according to the article, is how much good he did in his lifetime. He was tolerant, participated in dialogue that fostered community engagement, did not conform to his religion’s agenda, taught kindness, and showed humility. It seems to me that most of the problems we face today could use more thinking from men and women like him. Oops, there are my rose-colored glasses slipping on.

———————-

Well, that’s the end of the Review Cliff Notes. Although I didn’t find this week’s Review very interesting or even well-written, I will say this: You’ve got me NYT. And my $6. Every Sunday.

I just can’t help but love you.

 

 

 

how to make a literature professor mad January 14, 2012

Filed under: books and reading — courtsbrogno @ 12:05 pm

Yesterday I was sitting in my office with my office mate, Leslie, working. Our office door was open, and in walked an English professor. Abruptly interrupting our work with an angry soliloquy on students today, specifically students in his class.

First, this professor is a highly esteemed, older gentleman known to be a really “cool” instructor. His specialty lies in Modern Literature, and he has a perchance for the Beat writers. He sits on the table cross-legged while he lectures.  Despite his age, he relates well to students, and in return, students adore him. I had him as an instructor years ago and can attest that he is funny, captivating, and brilliant. I loved him.

So this professor, before he came storming into my office, had been teaching an upper-division Modern Literature class. As he explained–disheveled and distraught–he was introducing the novel the class was about to begin reading: To The Lighthouse. To his utter dismay not one student in his 30 person class had ever heard of Virginia Woolf. He asked if they had seen (at this point he assumed that they probably had not read) The Hours. “You know,” he said, “the movie with Nicole Kidman? She won an Oscar for her performance.”

Blank stares. He asked if anyone had heard of the play Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? Blank stares.

He was besides himself. How could not one of these students not even know who Virginia Woolf was, surely one of the greatest female writers of all time? He blamed Katy Perry. He stomped around my office. Then he blamed Gwen Stefani.

Leslie and I sympathized with him. We too grew upset over the state of our school system. Why aren’t kids reading Woolf in school? But mostly, we just let him vent.

I said, “Well, think of the power you have now. Now you get to introduced them to the greatest woman writer ever. You can change their whole lives!”

He looked at me. Turned around and walked out of my office. As he left, he said, “Bye. I’m going to go kill myself now.”

And that is how you piss off a literature professor.

But, his anger is warranted. These days–and I see it with my own kids–reading is replaced with video games, TV, phones, computers. How sad.

So, as a reminder of the beauty of books, I found this video (it’s gone viral so it’s not like I actually *found* it):

 

 

 

blissed out lazy summer days August 5, 2011

Filed under: books and reading,family fun,friends,kids — courtsbrogno @ 1:48 pm

I have finally found my summer stride and all this means is that I’m feeling rather peaceful and really, really lazy. For example,  I usually have a really clean house (as noted on several of my blog posts) and take advantage of every free moment I have to do the house “extras”: cleaning out closets, fixing up the backyard, doing something for work.

But this summer, I’m doing none of that. Don’t get me wrong, I still clean my house, but instead of a good cleaning every other day, I’m waiting until the last possible moment to bust out the broom and mop. But by forgoing my neurotic cleaning, I’m actually enjoying summer a lot more. The kids and I have almost perfected the art of lounging in our PJs, meals come when we decide we’re hungry rather than on any timed or planned schedule, and basically, we’re just playing a whole lot.

I have also perfected the art of procrastination this summer. I had planned so many projects to do this summer–changing an entire class structure in one comp class I teach, working with a couple of learning communities, quilting a few quilts–and I’ve done almost nothing. Even this blog has been put on the back burner of things I need to do. Surprisingly I am feeling no guilt what-so-ever about this. Even when Christine, my adorable roomie for the summer, came up to me the other day with a pouting face and said, “when are you going to write your blog post? I really miss it,” I just smiled and said, “soon.” And so this has become my summer mantra, “I’ll get around to it when I feel like it.”

Feels pretty damn good.

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I can’t tell you how many amazing beach days we’ve had. It’s so nice to hop into the car, drive 10 minutes, and be at the beach, relaxing. I must admit, I get a little smug when I meet a stranger who tells me about how much she likes vacationing here. In a moment of schadenfreude, I smile and say, “I know; I’m so fortunate,” but what I really want to say is “Fuck yeah, sucka!”

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Maddie asked if she could give me a pen tattoo. I said sure. This is what she tattooed on my thigh:

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My dad’s sister, our dear Aunt Judy, just got into town from New Jersey. She’ll be here for 10 days and we’re all so excited and thankful.

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My brother also came back into town. He’s been living in Hawaii for the past year and a half, and I haven’t seen him since he moved. We only got to see him for a few days because he’s moving to the Bay area, but I was thrilled to have him back. He’s cool, funny, insightful, and damn, do I just love him so much. We’re pretty close and I can–and do–tell him everything, so having him back stateside and close by makes me feel all warm and fuzzy inside.

To celebrate his return, I invited a bunch of friends over for a big dinner. It was so nice to all be together.

(Jonathan, my sister, and me. Reunited again.)

(Jon and Jon: best brother and best brother-in-law)

(Kids playing during the party.)

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Luke’s been needing an unusual amount of love and comfort lately. I’m not sure why he’s feeling this way, but I can’t resist holding him and hugging him and loving him. I mean, really, who can resist this face:

(“I want you mama,” Luke says about 100 times a day.)

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In the biggest news of my summer, we all had the chance to witness my Uncle Mike do something incredible: compete and finish in his very first ironman. For the past year, my uncle has been training and running smaller races (he even completed a half-ironman earlier this year) all to be ready for the big one. The ironman triathlon is a monster of a race: a 2.4 mile swim, a 114 mile bike race, and then a marathon. The ironman my uncle competed in was in Sonoma and is called the Vineman. He started the race at 6 in the morning and finished at 10p.m. 15 HOURS!!! I can’t imagine doing anything for 15 hours, let alone competing in a race. Like my brother said, “I can’t even sleep for 15 hours!!!1”

But he completed the race despite having some pretty bad knee and calf cramping by the time he got to the marathon portion. We are so very proud of him!

(Waiting for the race to begin)

(Finishing the swim portion)

(Starting the bike portion)


(About 16 miles into the run. Looking good!)

(The finish line)

(Luke and I waiting at the finish line.)

(Finished! Maddie with Uncle Mike. He’s now an official IRONMAN!!!)

It was a long day and I didn’t do anything but show up for the end. Much props goes out to my Aunt Debbie, her husband David, my sister, and my mom who were there for almost the entire race, cheering and handing out gel packs. I’m so fortunate to have seen such an amazing feat. And even though my uncle said this was the only ironman he’d ever do, he’s already signed up for another 1/2 ironman and a 50K ultra marathon all in the fall. he also just announced yesterday that he’s going to do the Vineman again next year and try to cut off two hours from his time! I think he’s a bit batty, but you can bet we’ll be there to support him!

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Because my uncle was doing the Vineman and it was in Sonoma, most of my family decided to make a vacation out of it and rent a house on the Russian River. My mom and dad, my sister and her family, my Aunt Debbie and her husband, my brother-in-law’s sister, and I all enjoyed a beautiful house right on the Russian River, complete with a private beach. It was heaven.

I actually left a few days before everyone else, so I could stop and visit friends and family along the way.

I just love driving over the Golden Gate Bridge. Is there a more beautiful bridge anywhere? I think not.

The first stop I made was to visit my old college roommate, Cory and his son Jake (his beautiful wife, Kara, was working so we didn’t have a chance to see her.).

(Picture taken from facebook. Had to steal it because it’s just the most beautiful photo ever!)

We met at Cory’s house and then took the kids to the park and took a walk in a little creek. We all had the best time.

From Cory’s house, we drove to my cousin Nicole’s house to spend the night. Nicole and her husband are the nicest people and their two sons are not only gorgeous, but so well-behaved!

(Nicole and Chris. Another pic stolen from facebook because I suck at taking good pictures!)

(Beckett, the most adorable two-year old ever! P.S. Pic stolen from facebook)

(Baby Finn, the newest member of Nicole and Chris’s family. And I actually took this photo)

(Nicole and Chris have a little studio under their house, aptly named the Rose Cottage, which is where we had the privilege of staying!)

It’s funny because when we were all little kids, all the cousins would see each other quite often, but then distance and family changes separated us and we didn’t see each other very often at all. Over the past year or so, as adults, we’ve all made a concerted effort to see each other more often, and I’m so glad we’ve done this. It’s not only nice to get together and talk about our kids and lives, but also to catch up on the past. I feel so very blessed that we were able to spend some time together and I look forward to many more nights chatting over wine with the kids playing in the background. This is what life should be about.

After a great visit, we left Nicole’s house and battled some terrible traffic to make it to Sonoma.

We arrived at our destination, a huge 5 bedroom house right on the Russian River. The whole weekend was filled with relaxation and river time (after the big ironman day that is). My best friend Michelle, her husband, and their two kids even joined us. We had such a nice time. I would go back in a heart beat.

(The view from our house. From the trees you can see the beach and river.)


(The river)

(Big family dinners are my favorite!)

(Luke, Cate, and Olivia relaxing in the river)

(Michelle’s daughter Olivia is pretty much the cutest little girl ever!)

(Olivia and Luke watching a movie and resting)

(My dad with Cate and Luke on the hammock.)

(My dad and Cain [Michelle’s husband] took all the kids on a canoe ride.)

(Luke and I lounging and chatting)

(Enjoying inner tubes)

(Naps outside under an umbrella may be Luke’s new favorite thing)

(Michelle holding baby Lila and me.)

The weather was perfect, the company was amazing, and the river was awesome. I could get used to a lifestyle like this.

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I had the most random fun night out. It all started with Garth coming to town. We went to a poetry reading, then out to dinner, then met up with some friends, and then spent the rest of the night dancing. Well, let’s be honest, Garth sat in the corner talking and I danced. It’s so nice to know that Garth and I can be friends, really good friends, and go out and have a really fun night with really fun people. It always amazes me how far we’ve come from when we dated. But it just goes to show: we were better friends than anything else.

(Garth and I)

(Garth went to school with this woman, Sabina. Turns out she’s one of the top tattoo pin-up girls. Besides being absolutely beautiful [and a mother of three kids!], she was one of the  nicest girls I’ve met in a long time.)

(This guy danced with me all night long, and he’s a practiced swing dancer, which meant that we really, actually danced together. Which I was terrible at. he pointed out that I just don’t know how to let a man lead [big surprise!], so he asked me to trust him, and I did. Then he flipped me over his head and spun me around. Everyone saw my undies. Awesome.)

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As someone who’s just getting her toes wet dating again, I’ve had a lot of time to think about what I like and don’t like in a partner, as well as what I need to work on myself. Finding the right balance seems impossible at times, and it’s so easy for me to get caught up in the moment rather than thinking ahead and making wise decisions. But this past week, I saw a few images that help remind me of what I should look for in a man, in myself, and in life.

I also read this great blog post by Donald Miller. Donald Miller is actually a Christian writer, though pretty liberal. And why I don’t consider myself a Christian, or maybe a good Christian, or maybe what I’m trying to say is a practicing Christian, I did think his post was beyond wise, and I basically just ignored all the Biblical connections (though to be honest, there weren’t many). His post is titled, “How to Live a Great Love Story Vol II For the Guys” (as soon as I typed that I realized that there must be a Vol I for the girls, which I haven’t read, but will do so immediately). I seriously urge you to read this. It doesn’t matter if you’re a male or female, dating or married: This guys makes some excellent points.

READ THE ARTICLE HERE

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My writing project is coming along nicely. I’ve written 40,000 words, and I still feel confident in the direction its taking. But that doesn’t mean I’m confident. I have moments of confidence where I think, “Yes. This is good. This is really good. I’m actually going to make an impact on American modern literature.” These moments mostly come to me when I’m drunk, which isn’t really that often. And when I’m drunk I feel pretty confident. And make incredibly stupid comments that I’ll actually change American literature.

Mostly though, I’ll write a thousand words, unsure, and then have a serious panic. I’ll think everything I’m writing is absolute crap, and I’ve wasted almost an entire summer writing terrible prose and an overly-sentimental plot and a character that no one will like. I feel like this about 80% of the day.I know that my dialogue and descriptions and language are terrible, but I also know a lot of revisions will improve that. But I keep getting stuck in the same cycle of self-doubt: what about the plot and the main characters? What if the actual plot sucks and the characters do too and no one wants to read it (not even me!).

So I finally made a decision: I broke my promise to have no one read a draft and sent it to three people. Three.

The first person I sent it to was my friend Jeremi, who actually read the first 15,000 words and liked it. I trust Jeremi’s opinion more than almost anyone I know and I told him to give me good constructive criticism.

The second person I sent it to was my sister. She actually did not want to read it because she feels like she’s not in the right literary caliber. Which is exactly why I picked her. I’m too embarrassed to give this to one of my high-literary colleagues, but my sister is smart, and she reads a lot. All I asked her to do is read what I have so far and tell me if she wants to read more. I don’t want her to worry about critiquing anything else.

The third person I gave it to was my brother and only because he begged and I hadn’t seen him in such a long time. I gave him the same instructions as my sister. Part of what I also told Jeremi, my sister, and my brother is that the 2 page introduction is super lame and I’m taking it out, so to pretty much ignore it. I feel like I made a mistake in giving my writing project to my brother because as soon as he started reading it, he said, “The intro is really terrible. I mean really bad. Whiny. Girl-whiny. God. It’s just bad.”

“I know,” I said, “that’s why I’m taking it out. Ignore it. Just read the whole thing quickly and tell me if you’d want to keep reading. If you’re interested.”

“Well, I hope it’s better than the intro cause that really sucked.”

Ugh. Maybe I’ve made a huge mistake, but I do want the honest truth, and I’d much rather be exercising and getting my ass in shape than just writing a load of crap. No one’s gotten back to me about it yet and so I feel anxious all day long. It’s like the first time you tell a man (or woman) that you love them. There’s always a pause and you wonder:

1. Will he/she say ‘I love you too’ quickly and actually mean it? Which makes you feel VICTORIOUS and totally full of love and happiness and encouragement.

2. Will he/she say ‘I love you too’ slowly and just be saying it to appease you, but in no way does he/she mean it. Which makes you feel depressed, but at least hopeful that the real love will come around.

3. Will he/she say nothing and just look at you in some sad, pathetic way and then you’re screwed and you feel like an idiot. And don’t give me all that self-help shit about how at least you said it and were true to your feelings because that doesn’t change the feeling of being a complete and total sad sack moron.

All three of these things have happened to me in the past and waiting for writing  feedback today is like being stuck in the long pause between saying ‘I love you’ and getting a response: torturous.

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All in all, I’ve had a wonderful couple of weeks and we’ve been pretty busy doing almost nothing everyday except enjoying ourselves. I feel these blissed out lazy days are exactly how summer should be.

 

a full week of things I love June 7, 2011

Filed under: books and reading,family fun,friends,garden — courtsbrogno @ 8:38 pm

This past week was full of everything good in life. OK, that’s not entirely true. I had a lot of work to do this week.  Yet, in between all the essays that I graded, the students I conferenced with,  and all the hours spent cleaning up after Luke the destroyer, there was a lot of times I felt full of gratitude and love for my life. It’s almost magical how full circle my life has come. A year ago, I worried about everything and now I’m getting pretty good at letting almost everything just float by me. A year ago, I felt like I was swimming in mud, unable to see all the good around me (unable, really, to even notice how much GOOD there was), and now I find it difficult to notice anything that annoys me (Wait. You know what really annoys me? People who honk when the car in front of them doesn’t immediately go. I can’t stand that.).

Life has been good this week, and I’m thankful for all moments of love and gratitude I’ve felt this week. My heart feels wide open and if my arms could extend around my entire town, I’d engulf every last person and place in a warm embrace (even the honkers).

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This past week was full of parties. I love a good party, but three in a row almost did me in. I may have been tired the next day, but I realized it’s so rare that my social calendar is full that I just need to be thankful I have people in my life to celebrate.

First I and a few friends celebrated Jenny’s  birthday:

I’ve said it a million times before, but I just love Jenny, and in typical Jenny fashion, she invited a few friends, made some food, and we all drank some wine. It was such a low-key gathering, but I has so much fun. Every woman in attendance is vastly different, and we all don’t know each other very well, but to come together, drink wine, and share our stories–who we are, what we like, who we want to be, and even who we wish we were–was an incredible feeling of camaraderie.

I feel like I learned a lot about life and took all their wise advice and thoughts on life to heart. There’s something so accepting and easy-going about Jenny that good people gravitate to her, and I’m thankful to be able to circulate through her life coming out always better and brighter. I hope we were able to give Jenny the love and attention she deserved and that her birthday was one to remember.

The second party was the English department’s annual end-of-year party. It’s a pretty basic party where everyone who teaches and works for the English department get together and complain about how much grading we all do. But on a more positive note, a few people were retiring this year, and it was nice to listen to all the speeches given. It’s amazing when I think about how much one instructor can change not only his/her students, but also an entire department. there was laughter and tears and even jealousy (most of us will still be grading papers for decades), but mostly there was an immense feeling of respect, and I’m thankful to be part of such a great department.

The last party I went to was for my sister.

My sister’s birthday took on epic proportions as the night went on. We started with dinner and drinks and ended up at a bar. I actually left early, but from what I heard my sister was in rare form, and I think turning 33 meant really turning 21 again for her.

She spent the entire next day in bed recovering, but I’m so glad she had the opportunity to go out and have fun and let loose with all her friends. My sister always seems to be taking care of someone–her kids, her husband, me and my kids, friends, extended family–that she deserved a night of only focusing on herself and doing what she does best: dancing on bar tables.

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It’s well-known that I have a nightly ritual where I put Luke to bed, read books to him, and then I stay in bed and read for a few hours myself. Friends always seem amazed that I can finish a book so quickly, but I have to remind them that I HAVE NO LIFE AND LITERALLY LIE IN BED EVERY NIGHT AT 8PM. I have no patience for TV (even Glee…what’s wrong with me???) nor movies, but I can read a novel for hours on end with no problem. It’s really not glamorous, but it does suit me. In the past few weeks, I’ve finished 3 good books worth noting:

This book was good. It won the Man Booker Prize in 2008, so I knew it had to be worth the effort. It took me awhile to slip into the character and appreciate him, though I can’t say that I liked him. The themes of corruption in India and the effect on India (and other countries) due to globalization were a little heavy-handed at times, but the satirical writing lessened the blow a bit. Furthermore, it was an easy read, and I finished it in two days.

A friend recommended this book to me claiming it was one of his top 5 novels of all time, and so I just borrowed his copy, and now, of course, since I loved it so much, I will have to buy my own damn copy. But this novel was really great. I loved the interwoven stories and the unfolding of the narrative. I am amazed at how A.S. Byatt took on all the different tones and time periods and emulated the poetry as well. I loved how drawn I was to the characters and the different time periods. I loved this quote: ‘We come to grief and regret anyway–and I for one would rather regret the reality than its phantasm, knowledge than hope, the deed than the hesitation, true life and not merely sickly potentialities.” When I read this quote, I immediately wrote it down (couldn’t underline it since it wasn’t my book. sigh.). And I think this has become my mantra lately. I would rather LIVE than regret or hide. I would rather feel pain than nothing at all. And while I’m not yet ready to lay all my cards on the table, I definitely think there’s nothing to really fear in just being open and vulnerable (though if my therapist was reading this, he’d be laughing hysterically at me right now, telling my how I’m NOT actually letting myself be vulnerable, but that’s another story, and hey, therapist, I’M TRYING.)

This last book, the first of my reader’s group summer picks, is by far, my favorite. I’m actually a little amazed at myself by how quickly I read this book, but I just couldn’t put it down. The writing, oh the writing. It’s simplistic yet the depths of description are vast. Every character, I mean every damn character, is explored. And I cried, I really did. And not the sentimental crying where I know the writer has tricked me into feeling a certain way (I’m talking to you Nicholas Sparks). I mean, if someone can read the early chapters of Phillip’s youth and not shed a tear than that person is a cold-hearted individual that I don’t think you should be friends with at all. Oh, and Fanny Price. Has there ever been such a sad, pathetic character that I loved so much?

Besides the character development, it was also a novel of ideas, and for the first time in a long time, I found myself underlining huge portions of text and writing little notes on the side. I will say, however, that Maugham doesn’t seem to like or understand women, but the one thing he gets is that desperate love we’ve all felt, the rejection we’ve all succumbed to, and he makes an acute observation when he writes: “there could be no greater torture in the world than at the same time to love and to contemn.”

Really, go read this novel.

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In typical June fashion, it rained part of this week, and we were stuck inside for a few days. But on Sunday, my friend Megan asked me and the kids to go on a rain hike, so I bundled us up, and headed to a nearby town to take a new hike. As soon as I entered our neighboring hike, the clouds parted and there was no rain. Just shine.

I think Megan’s four boys and I were kind of sad not to be hiking in rain, but Maddie was happy beyond belief and our hike was gorgeous.

It was an easy trail and the majority of the time, we were hiking through forest, which was stunning. We walked slowly and let the kids meander on their own, climbing up trees and stopping to eat lunch. The one downfall was that we didn’t look at the map very clearly and we thought the trail would loop around, but it didn’t and just ended, so we had to turn around and hike back. The big kids were fine with walking 5 miles, but Megan and I had the littles on our backs, and by the time we got back to the car, my back was aching from Luke being on it. But it felt great to be outside and even better to be spending the time with Megan and her boys. Even Maddie had a fun time.

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I’ve said before how much I love the new coffee shop in town, and I’ll say it again. I spend so much time there grading and conferencing with students that it’s begun to feel like a second home for me.

I love the coffee art:

I love the notes people write and hang on the wall:

But mostly I love that almost every time I’m in there, I meet someone new, and this week was no different. I sat down to grade and a man sitting next to me made a comment about the rain. I would never ignore a person, but I really didn’t want to talk to anyone. I had a pile of essays to grade and a limited amount of time to get everything done, but he looked so kind and even a little bit like a shorter, older, rounder Indiana Jones. So we started talking and in the course of an hour he had told me his life story.

His parents died when he was 3 and he grew up in an orphanage. His father’s friend came once a month to make sure he was being treated well (he was, though the orphanage was on a farm so he had to work from dawn to dusk doing farm chores), and when he was about to graduate high school, his father’s friend came to visit and asked him what he planned on doing. The man explained to me that in those days, not many went to college and so he had the idea of doing what every other young man did–work in a factory. His father;s friend, however, asked him to try college for one year. “For me. Not for you,” he asked. So this man applied to universities and received a scholarship to attend Columbia University, where he stayed much longer than a year, and eventually became a physician. He opened a practice and worked for many years before his kids all moved away and his wife died. He retired but found retirement boring, so now he works as a physician for migrant workers and travels up and down the coast of California.

I know, right? An incredible story. And I’m not doing it justice because the way he spoke about his first year in college, the first time he discovered scholarship and academia and medicine was magnetic. I truly felt drawn into this man’s life story and sat eager to hear more. I forgot all about the essays I had to grade because I felt like I was learning so much more from this man. He said to me, “have you ever asked your children to do something for you rather than themselves? Something big…not just chore stuff. Because it works and I think it’s good for kids to know that sometimes we have to do things for other people. In fact, we should do much for other people. That’s how we cultivate humanists.”

He soon got up to leave and take a hike, and right before he parted I asked him how old he was.

“76,” he answered,

I was blown away. I would have guessed 60, and I told him so.

‘That’s because I eat right, I exercise right, but mostly it’s because I think right.”

Best advice I’ve heard in a long time. The funny thing is that I never even learned his name, but he’s had a lasting impression on me all week, and for that, I’m so grateful.

:::::

We finally finished planting our summer garden. I think this has been the latest we’ve ever got plants into the ground. I was a little worries that we wouldn’t be reaping any vegetables until September, but the master gardener where we buy our plants from assured me that it’s been a cool spring anyway, so even if we had planted early on, our plants wouldn’t have grown very much. I actually kind of doubt this as my friends garden is in full-bloom, but he made me feel better about being such a procrastinator. So we bought and we planted.

Now we just watch. And wait.

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My mom once told me that when she met my biological father’s family for the first time, she thought she had entered a flop-house. My grandmother had an open door policy and people were always staying in the small New York apartment. Friends, family, lovers: people camped out on the floor and ate freely from the fridge.

Well, I think I’ve got a bit of my grandmother in me because my house has often resembled a flop house as well. I never mind friends staying with me and I would never think of charging them a dime to live with me. Steve, Jason, Katy, Tasha, Jenn, Christine…and I’m sure there are more friends who have lived with me at one time or another.

Just this past week, I said good-bye to my friend Jenn who had been staying with me on and off since December and said hello to Christine who will be staying with me for the summer.

And while I know many people couldn’t stand to have friends constantly staying in their house, I really don’t mind. Sure my house is small, but I like hearing noises. Mostly, I like being able to help friends in need.

But I’ve got to admit, sometimes having no one in the house almost feels like heaven.

Like this past Monday when both kids and Christine were gone. I had worked all day, graded, gone to therapy, run errands, and by the time I walked in my door around 9p.m., I was transfixed by the quiet house. A friend came over, we drank whiskey and wine, and just read. Quietly. It was bliss. I like nights like this and it may have to become a house rule: if you live with me, one night a week, I need a quiet, quiet house all to myself. I think that’s a fair compromise.

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This week was long and hectic and fun. It was a good week. A week that I’m still feeling the effects of. Unlike a year ago, though, the effects feel like a warm embrace rather than a stiff and quick hug. I’m leaning to enjoy life a little more, to be less insistent on rules and regulations, to unwind, and to enjoy the moment rather than the expectation.

 

celebrating May 4, 2011

Filed under: books and reading,family fun,friends,kids — courtsbrogno @ 8:22 am

This past week has been all about celebrating: celebrating life, Spring flowers, family, and even illness.

First and foremost, I finished reading a novel last week early in the evening. I got up and looked for a new book to read. And I found…nothing! Sure there were a few non-fiction books that I had yet to read, but for the most part, all books in my house have been read. What was a girl to do?

That’s right. I logged straight onto amazon and ordered myself five new books. I had made myself a promise earlier in the year that I would not buy one more book until I finished what I already had in my house, which minus a few slips, I didn’t break.  But now, without a new novel to read, I felt completely justified and even, dare I say encourage to buy new books. And when they arrived a few days later, it almost felt like Christmas morning. A book celebration: Five new books to read! Five new worlds to dive into! Five new stories to guide me to sleep! In essence, five things to be thankful for.

(Notice the quilting book? Oh yeah, I’m going to learn to quilt this summer. Can’t wait!)

Unfortunately, I had the opportunity to celebrate motherhood in its most extreme meaning.  Luke got sick. Really sick. That poor kid had 104 degree fever, which greatly disrupted my plans for the evening (I did have tickets to see a dance performance with my friend Jenny) as well as any plans of having personal space for a few days. because when Luke is that sick the only place he wants to be is on my lap. Huddled as close to me as he can get. I was able to slip him into Maddie’s lap for a few brief moments so I could escape to the bathroom, but that was about it. Luke and I became one for a few days.


(Look at those rosy, feverish checks!)

Luke being sick doesn’t make me celebrate illness, but it does make me celebrate motherhood. As much as it is a complete physical drain to have my kid stuck to me, all feverish and uncomfortable, it is also in these moments that I feel like I can offer the most comfort, the most love, the most care. I really feel like a super hero. Like just the cool touch of my hand is all it takes to fix the world’s problems. I love that feeling. I’m glad Luke’s feeling much better but I have to admit, I kind of miss having him stuck to me.

Luke’s illness cleared up in time for our biggest celebration this week: Cate, my niece’s, birthday. Cate turned 3 and mys sister had a big backyard party for all Cate’s friends that was just perfect. I mean, really, the party could not have been any more perfect. The weather was in the 80s, the kids played in the sprinklers, and the parents lounged in the sun and talked. Cate was in heaven, happy to be surrounded by all her friends.

Cate is the sassiest, funniest, most kind-hearted little girl I know. We often tease that she acts like a little Jewish mother, always making sure everyone is having a good time and rushing to take care of any problem she sees. She follows Luke around all the time to make sure he doesn’t fall or get hurt. She tries to change other kid’s diapers. She shares her food. Really, she is like a little mama and we love her so much more for it. Cate: we celebrate you!

Being outside so much for Cate’s birthday made me remember one of the things I love about spring and summer so much–fresh flowers. My mom’s house has tons of roses as does my neighborhood. In general, there’s not much I’m very particular about when it comes to my bedroom. I don’t care if my bedroom sheets match the decor of my room and I almost never make my bed. Books lie in piles all over and clothes gather in corners. Essays and midterms stack up high on my desk. Mostly, none of this bothers me and I’ve never been someone who cares too much about the state of my bedroom.  But there’s one thing I absolutely insist on in the spring and summer. And that’s fresh flowers by my bed. I love smelling sweet roses as I go to sleep; I’m convinced it brings better dreams. And so as soon as I saw some fresh roses, just waiting, really waiting, to be cut, I had at them. And now, as easy as that, fresh flowers are on my nightstand. Every morning when I wake, I glance over at the flowers and think of how I want my day to go. The flowers remind me that only I can master how a day will be, how I will process what happens. I choose to celebrate life, not ignore it. I’m thankful for the daily reminder.

In my household, it’s become a battle of the wills between Luke and I, who just recently figured out how to take off all his clothes so he can be naked. Which is fine most of the time. But that kid can’t be naked always, and since he’s not potty trained yet, not having him in a diaper is a gamble every time. I’ve cleaned up a lot of pee around the house since he learned this new trick. But damn if it doesn’t make him happy as can be to run naked. So for now, I’m celebrating Luke’s nakedness.

This past week,  I had a surprise visit by an old boyfriend, Garth.

As I’ve already written about him, Garth was a great man, and we had a pretty good relationships, one that had many ups and downs. We split up a few times, but the last time was the most difficult for both of us. We could not speak to each other. We could not see each other. This was the only way we would ever move on. And so we didn’t. He moved to San Francisco and I stayed here; we had other relationships; we continued on with life.

For a long time, I thought we’d never be friends, and not because we had hurt each other so badly that there was too much pain or resentment. In fact, I think we both hold each other in the highest regard and I know that I would never say anything negative about him. But, I figured it might be too hard in an emotional sense. We were, in many ways, always such a good fit, and I feared that seeing him again would remind me of a deep love I once held for him.

But slowly, we have become friends. Over an email, a text message, a dinner in the city with friends, and then last week, he came by to see Maddie, Luke, and I. It was unexpected. Garth called 2 hours outside of town and asked to come over. It was his lucky night as I was cooking a good dinner for the family, so he joined us all for dinner. We had a great time. It almost felt like 5 years hadn’t passed and we were eating just any other normal dinner with an ease of conversation and joking that I consider one of the main reasons I loved Garth so much: I could talk to him about anything and vice versa. In my life, I have never been so open and honest with anyone, and it felt good to have that feeling back during dinner.

And you know what? I did feel love for him. A deep love. And I realize that I will always love him in some way. He got  a part of my heart years ago, and I’m ok with that.  It’s his. My heart is pretty big, so there’s lots more room for love in it, but I’m not going to be stubborn about: He can keep his part of my heart.

But the best part about this is that Garth and I are friends. Good friends. And maybe that’s all we should have ever been in the first place, but for five years, I didn’t realize how much I missed my friend. And I did. And do. So, more than anything, I’m thankful for a renewed friendship. Not many couples I know can let go of pain and hurt and be able to come together as something better, something wiser, really. I celebrate that.

Finally, the reason this post is going up Wednesday morning is because I was out late last night at….readers’ group (I only wrote half of this post last night and then I fell asleep)! Our wild and crazy reader’s group met to discuss Jennifer Egan’s The Goon Squad. It’s dorky to admit, but I don’t even care. I so look forward to my readers’ group almost more than anything else I do. And this time was no exception. We laughed, we agreed, we disagreed, we teased each other, and yet, these are the people I want around when life is good and bad. They make me smile for no reason. God, do I celebrate that!

The last celebratory bit of my week? Spending so much time with the kids. Slowing down because of illness, lounging around the house in pajamas, canceling all plans: in the end, it was so very worth it.

 

figuring it all out April 26, 2011

Filed under: books and reading,family fun,favorites,friends,kids,self-discovery — courtsbrogno @ 8:17 pm

Spring Break

Last Thursday was the last day I taught at the community college for a little over a week. Yes, it is officially spring break for those students. I felt so happy and light when I left campus, and then I came home and looked at the stack of work I have to do while on spring break, and since the university is still in session (and going strong), I still have to work my entire spring break. But, it’s like this every year, and I’ve figured out to be grateful for the extra time I do have to grade. And, quite frankly, with gas prices as high as they are right now, I’m also grateful for driving less this week.

Readers’ Group Movie Night

Every once in a while, when a movie comes out from a book my readers’ group has read, we try to organize a night when we can all get together to see the film. Friday night we did just this. The movie: Jane Eyre. Since we had done a meeting last summer to Bronte vs. Bronte, seeing the film seemed obvious. But seeing it together made it fun.

I started the night out by walking over to my neighbor Andy’s house to make sure he didn’t flake on the movie (also a readers’ group member). We wound up chatting for a bit, drinking a glass of wine, and then riding our bikes downtown. My bike is still getting fixed, so Andy’s neighbor kindly lent me his. However, he’s much taller than me, and though I did ride is successfully, it was rather difficult at times (especially stopping when I had to jump off the seat as my feet wouldn’t touch the ground), but I haven’t ridden a bike in almost a year, and the feeling of being on a bike again was one that brought back so many old memories. Plus, it’s such a freeing experience. I love the wind flowing through my hair and the freedom to ride between lanes. I’m thankful for that bike ride.

We got to the movie, met the other readers’ group members, and settled down to watch Jane Eyre. I have to admit I wasn’t very impressed. The film lacked transitions and I really think you must have read the book to understand what was going on. I also thought the dialogue was incredibly cheesy. But, our entire group was split, and there were several of us who loved the film.

After the film, some of us went to Mary Kay’s house, another RG member, who lives close to downtown. We sat around, drank wine, ate cheese and crackers, and all talked. While we get together to discuss books, and while I work with many of them, and even more importantly,  consider them friends, even dear friends,  we’re all so busy,  we rarely see each other except for when we meet to discuss a book. Watching the film and meeting to discuss it was wonderful and I’m thankful we all figured out a time to get together. I’m thankful to have spent some extra time with all these friends.

After the film, Andy and I hopped back on our bikes and headed to a local wine bar that has a great lounge area with a DJ every Friday night. I love this wine bar and their lounge area is intimate and really, just great. Andy and I drank some more wine and ran into some other friends. It was a great last-minute decision to go. It was great to catch up with other friends. In general, it was just a fantastic way to extend our evening out even further.

(Andy, enjoying his night)

(Zach. So nice to run into you. So nice to share stories)

Then Andy and I were back on our bikes, riding home. I returned his neighbor’s bike and we sat around and all  drank a beer together.

I stayed up way later than I had anticipated, but what a wonderful night I had. I’m thankful for it all.

Easter

I’m just going to say it: Easter is my least favorite holiday. I hate dying eggs, I hate hiding eggs, I’m not a huge fan of ham, and in general having to buy big Easter baskets for my kids filled with chocolate and candy kills me.

So this year, I cut back on  a lot. We didn’t dye any eggs, and instead I bought 10 plastic eggs that Maddie filled up with 3 jelly beans each and then she hid them (she was so happy to do this for Luke). Neither kid received one Easter basket from me (or, ahem, the Easter Bunny). Luke woke up and gathered the plastic eggs Maddie had hidden, and he enjoyed every second of it.

The rest of the day was spent just hanging out with family, eating together (yes, and I actually did enjoy this year’s ham), and letting the kids collect empty easter eggs all day long.

It was one of the simplest Easters I can recall having. And it was wonderful because I figured out how to make it fun and simple and somehow meaningful (and not comprised of candy). The only thing we all really indulged in was talking. OK, and I totally indulged in banana cream pie, but only because it’s my favorite and I never eat it, and I just couldn’t stop myself from gorging.

(But damn you banana cream pie. I ate so much, I felt ill the entire rest of the night. So worth it though.)


Being Cranky

Monday morning, yesterday, I woke up cranky. Really cranky. And I have no real reason to explain this crankiness. Nothing is bothering me; nothing is going wrong in my life right now. But still, I was cranky. And the thing is, I’m never really cranky, so I don’t know exactly what to do with this feeling.

I thought by the time I got to school, my mood would improve. But it didn’t. Not at all. Instead, my student irritated me and I felt even more on edge. So as soon as I left campus, I changed my clothes, grabbed my neighbor Andy and my dog, and headed up a local mountain for a hike. With both my kids gone for the night, I had all the time in the world, but even that didn’t ease my mood. However, laughing and walking up the mountain helped change my mood almost immediately. I realized that because I hadn’t hiked or really gotten outside on Sunday like I usually do was probably part of the reason I felt so irritated. And because we didn’t even start our hike until 5:30p.m., it was chilly and the fog was rolling in. I love hiking in the fog. I love not being able to see the view from the top, just dense, moist clouds that surround me.


At the end of our hike, my mood significantly lifted, Andy and I were both hungry, so we ordered Thai food, settled in his house, and Andy, his neighbor, and I all ate and drank some wine, told stories, laughed, and listened to Wilco’s album, “Yankee, Hotel, Foxtrot.” I left feeling completely back to normal. I’m thankful I figured out that all I need to feel better is to be outside, eat good food, and surround myself with friends.

Therapy Experiments

It’s no secret that I love my therapist and I especially love how he constantly challenges me. Every time I see him, I feel like I’ve grown and become a better version of myself. But sometimes, I have a hard time articulating exactly what it is I’m trying to accomplish. Then this morning, I was responding to an email from a friend, and I was just writing, and in the middle I wrote this:

“A year ago I started going to therapy. I have no deep hidden problems; I’m no more damaged than the person sitting next to me at any given moment (and actually, perhaps a lot less damaged). I’m not suffering from depression, I am not bi-polar, I have no suicidal tendencies. But something was seriously broken in my life and I couldn’t figure out what it was. And when I saw my therapist and told him about my most recent life-failure of marrying matt, he asked me how it was that I could marry someone when I hid, literally hid, from him our entire engagement. In discussing this event, I realized I had completely divorced my feelings (gut level instincts, ones that led to hiding) from my thinking (i.e. this is a good thing. I’m 31. I should be married). Then I realized I had not been feeling anything at all for many years. Partly this is because I had Maddie young, had to get my shit together–finish school, get a job, pay my bills, work hard, hard, hard, pay off debt, etc.–and that’s all good. And necessary. But somehow for about a decade, I had stopped following my instincts and become completely encompassed in my analytical mind. Anyway, seeing this disconnect and all that had manifested from it, caused me to pause. And change. And experiment. Now, I try to stay out of my analytical mind as much as I can. Now I’m enamored in my feelings. How does my gut feel is almost all I’m concerned about.

I used to hike and do yoga because it was good for my body, healthy, toning. Now, I just want to feel my body. I want to–literally-roll in the mud. Lie against a tree. Stop and stare at a bird. I don’t rush. I used to have dinners all the time and invite friends over to cook and talk and catch up on life. Now, I still have the dinners and invite friends, but I find myself wanting to almost make love to my friends–metaphorically, of course. To dive into their bodies and connect on some different, deeper level. Before, I hated my breasts. Now, I love them. Oh, I know that they are not ideal, far from it. I will never make it onto the cover of playboy, and I guess, technically I could have a boob job (and I often tease that i will), but I gave life to two kids, and though they definitely show that, I love that about my body. If someone has a problem with them, I understand, really I do. But it doesn’t make me love them less. I’ve always read for pleasure but now I read to be one with words and sentences. To take a word and put it on my wall. Or write it on my body with a pen.”

The funny thing is that what I wrote, casually and without really thinking every much, was not really connected at all to what the email was about. Well, loosely connected. It was for certain a digression and it did–somewhat–have to do with a bigger argument I was making (not about therapy, rather about photographs and images) , but the words just flowed. And then I hit send.

And then a few minutes later, I thought about this email I had sent and how odd it was that I included all this extra information. But then it just kind of hit me. In some way, in a way I’m actually discussing in my email, I had left my analytical mind and had traveled into how I felt. This is what therapy has taught me the most. That I was able to articulate a change in myself through a casual, seemingly meaningless email message made the lesson seem even more important. I feel like I just stumbled across the greatest change I’ve made in my life. I’ve figured something HUGE out, and I’m so thankful for that.

Sharing an Inspiration

This afternoon, after grading, I went to my favorite coffees hop to catch up on some grading, and as soon as I walked in I ran into the son of a my former mentor. My mentor was an instructor at the university that I worked with for two years while I was a grad student, studying his teaching style, grading for him, and even teaching some of his classes. The reason I initially began working  for him was because he was battling a terrible form of cancer, but within days of taking the job, it no longer seemed like a job. Rather it seemed like the greatest experience in my life, a time to learn from one of the greatest minds I’ve ever known. To learn from the best. Tp be critiqued by the best. he taught me more about life than I think he even did about teaching. sadly, he passed away years ago. But his teaching lives on in all those he mentored, me included.

His son was in college in Texas for the majority of the time I worked with his father, and we only met a few times. Since his father’s passing, I’ve run into him a handful of times, and we always say hello and I ask about his mother and just generally express pleasantries.

But today when I ran into him, I sat down and we started chatting–about what he’s been doing with his life (now that he’s been out of college for a while) how his mother is, etc–and then I just started sharing how much his father meant to me and how much of what I teach today I learned from him. I mean, I almost couldn’t stop talking.

But then, suddenly, I stopped. Had I gone too far? Was I bringing up painful memories of his dad?

His comments to me assured me that I hadn’t. He seemed so pleased to know his father’s legacy lives on in so many of us. He’s trying to figure out still how to live without his father, and I’m trying to figure out still how to teach without my mentor, but we both expressed gratitude for what he bestowed upon us both.

It was a great conversation. I’m thankful for the chance I had to express my feelings. I’m glad I told him how much his father meant to me, how much he changed not only how I teach and what I teach, but how I look at life.