Music: True Love Lasts a Lifetime

music photo
Photo by Neo Love

I don’t write much about my story as a musician and music lover. I was doing that Facebook meme that’s going around with the top ten high school albums, and it made me feel all nostalgic, and nostalgic for more than just the albums themselves, but the cassettes and the sort of cruddy boom box I had in my room. I remember taping the radio. I think a lot of us did that. By the time I was a teenager, vinyl was on the way out, and in any case, I didn’t have a stereo with a turntable, though my dad did, and it was so much more convenient to listen to cassettes with Walkmans as ubiquitous back then as iPhones are today for listening. I remember going to bed listening to my Walkman, which wasn’t a real Sony kind (though I think most of us called those cassette players Walkmans, regardless of the brand, sort of like Kleenex). Mine had an auto-reverse feature, so I would have the music playing all night, and as long as the batteries held out, it would be playing in the morning when I woke up, too. I remember sometimes the players would try to eat the tapes, and the tape would crinkle up like an accordion. The only way to fix it was to gently pull the tape out and use a pencil or pen to wind it back around the cassette spools. Sometimes, the tape would break, and you could fix it with Scotch tape, but afterwards it would always have a place that would skip.

Once I went to college, I got a real CD player, and I used to go to downtown Athens, GA, where I went to college, and look for used CD’s I could add to my collection. There used to be two really good music stories downtown. I am not sure if they’re still there; I haven’t been to Athens in a long time. I was really trying to figure out who I was back in those days, and I listened to a lot of different kinds of music. I had a roommate who played bass, and I pilfered her music collection and combined it with my own by making mix tapes. I loved making mix tapes, and I was told more than once that I was pretty good at it. Composing the correct order of songs and stretching to the end of the tape was an art of sorts.

In those days, music seemed like it was everything, and I still listen to some of the things I listened to back then. When I was in high school, I started playing guitar and took guitar class. I loved picking up instruments and seeing if I could play them. My sister starting playing clarinet, and I picked it up and worked my way through beginner exercises in her lesson book. The neighbor boy picked up the violin, so I borrowed it and tried a few of the exercises in his lesson book as well. When I was in eighth grade, I found a French horn tucked away among the school instruments. My eighth grade band was pitifully small, so my director was glad to let me take it home and see if I could make it work. I did. I played it most of that year, along with the flute, which was my first instrument, and I even had a solo in one of our concerts. I botched it, unfortunately, out of nerves. I never really liked being on display as a musician, and it’s probably that feeling, as much as anything, that prevented me from ever making a real go of playing music. I liked to blend into a large band. Anytime I had a solo or had to play in a small enough group that my contributions would be noticed, I hated it. But there was still something in me that wanted to be a good musician, even if just for myself. I bought myself an electric guitar for Christmas last year. I had wanted one forever. I immediately signed up for a guitar course—which turned out to be a really great course—through Berklee College of Music on Coursera. I love taking the odd online course here and there. So much fun to learn. And most of the courses I have taken have been music courses. I took a two-part introduction to the History of Rock, a Beatles course, and a Rolling Stones course. The guitar course was the first course I took that involved actually playing, and it could be brutal. I had to record myself doing exercises set by the instructor, and I was graded by my peers. If what I turned in didn’t sound good enough, my peers didn’t pass me, and that did happen. I could re-record the lesson and try again, which I also did. I learned more about music theory and good musicianship in that course than I did in seven years of band classes and two years of guitar classes in school. The band instructor at the school where I teach is a fine guitarist himself and has offered me lessons. I need to take him up on it! He said he would give me enough material in a single lesson to keep me busy for a month.

Like a lot of people, I really found music an escape when I was in high school, and it was then that I really started listening to it a lot. Around my mid-thirties, I started realizing I was disconnected from what was happening in music at that time. I think that happens to most people, but most people are okay with it and continue to enjoy the music they liked in their formative years in high school and their twenties. I wasn’t having it, though. I made myself listen to the music that was out there, and I found a new connection to music that I had come pretty close to losing. I discovered artists I had missed out on, like Jeff Buckley. I rediscovered my old loves. I found new favorites, like Jack White and his work with the White Stripes and the Raconteurs.

I am really glad I did wake up, if that’s what you want to call it, and return to that love of music. I’d like to think I will be the kind of person who tries to keep an ear to the ground and listen for new artists. One line I just love from Love Actually is a response of Karen’s after her husband Harry asks her what she’s listening to and seems surprised she still listens to Joni Mitchell: “I love her. And true love lasts a lifetime.” Of course, perhaps neither of them realize that they are also sort of discussing their marriage. But I think Karen is right about true music love, too. I do have some true music loves. True loves that have lasted a lifetime.

Here is a randomized list of 100 of my favorite songs, and when I say random, I mean it. I used a randomizer website to shuffle the order. So not carefully ordered like my old mix tapes, but still something of the flavor of those carefully curated music collections. All of these songs mean something to me, and many are old favorites, going back to childhood.

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A Reading Bucket List

bucket photo
Photo by downing.amanda

Friday’s Shelf Awareness newsletter linked to a post on Pop Sugar that included a book lover’s bucket list. I but a strike through each one I’ve completed.

  1. Go to a library bar. [Wait. These exist?]
  2. Reread your favorite picture book from childhood.
  3. Create a reading nook.
  4. Read a book from a genre you tend to stay away from.
  5. Stay up all night to finish a novel.
  6. Read a book that will teach you to do something.
  7. Read a romance novel in a cafe.
  8. Curl up with a mystery novel in a library. [I feel like I must have done this at some point, but since I can’t remember, I am not counting it.]
  9. Listen to an author’s reading of his or her memoir.
  10. Leave an inspirational note in a bookstore.
  11. Read a poetry book while drinking wine.
  12. Light up a literary candle.
  13. Read a book that’s becoming a movie.
  14. Give detailed reviews of books on Goodreads.
  15. Get a book signed by your favorite author. [I have had books signed, but Shakespeare doesn’t do autographs, so this one’s not possible.]
  16. Kiss someone special in an old bookshop. [Probably have done. The Hubs and I go to old bookstores on occasion.]
  17. Start a book club.
  18. Visit a famous library.
  19. Read a controversial book.
  20. Read a book in your softest PJs.
  21. Read an outdoor book in nature.
  22. Make book art.
  23. Give away books to those in need.
  24. Read a book with your mom.
  25. Dress up as a book character.
  26. Read a book while watching the sunset.
  27. Throw a book-themed party.
  28. Read an adventure novel in a tree.
  29. Read a nonfiction book that will change your life.
  30. Read a thriller during a thunderstorm.
  31. Wear book-themed jewelry.
  32. Read a book to a child.
  33. Make a book-themed cake.
  34. Read a historical fiction novel in a historical place.
  35. Buy or build yourself a new bookshelf.
  36. Relax with a book in the bathtub.
  37. Read a self-help book while listening to meditation music.
  38. Read a book that you’ve seen the movie version of.
  39. Read an inspiring book written by a woman.

I don’t know. Not much of a challenge, right? It got me wondering what actually would make a good bucket list. I don’t have an answer, but I’m taking suggestions.

I am going through archives and trying to fix posts in which I used an old plugin to build Amazon links. At some point, it stopped working, and instead of just creating links normally, it embedded some code that just no longer works. It’s tedious, but I would like my old posts to have links that work. I think I’ll just work on it a little bit at a time until it’s done, or I will make myself crazy. I was really excited to learn that Amazon had build their own plugin for Amazon associates until I tried to use it. I guess it’s manually building links for me. Sigh.

I am really trying to figure out what to read. I really want to read Midnight’s Children, and I have a copy somewhere, but I can’t find it. There is a waiting list at my library on Overdrive, too. I don’t want to buy it again. I have enough books I can’t find a place for as it is. I need to see if my school’s library has it, I guess. Perhaps I’ll just return to the book I’ve been picking away at on my Kindle.

Perhaps a good bucket list item would be for me to weed my books and get proper shelves for all the books stacked around my house.

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Birthday Weekend

Birthday petit-fours from my husband
Birthday petit-fours from my husband

It was my birthday this weekend. I have moved into a new demographic!

I decided I wanted to go to Northampton and Amherst for my birthday. There was a Poetry Festival in Amherst, but unfortunately, most of the events I wanted to go to were on Thursday or Friday before I could get there. Bummer. On Saturday, the Emily Dickinson House was sponsoring a marathon reading of all 1789 of her poems, but I really didn’t want to just dip in and out of that, so I wound up deciding to spend Saturday afternoon in Northampton.

Northampton and Amherst are college towns. Between the two of them, I count U Mass Amherst, Amherst College, Smith College, Mouth Holyoke College, and Hampshire College. I may be forgetting some. At any rate, they are close together, and with all those colleges, you can imagine the college-town vibe is strong. Northampton is definitely fairly funky, at least the downtown area.

We found a wonderful used bookstore. I loved it because the books were mostly in pristine condition. So many used bookstores don’t have really nice books, and most of them certainly don’t have the kind of selection Raven Used Books has. Here is my haul from Saturday.

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We went back today before leaving for home, and I scored two more books: Mary Sharratt’s Illuminations and Elena Mauli Shapiro’s 13 Rue Thérèse. The Club Dumas looks like it might be perfect for the R. I. P. Challenge, and who knew that there was a historical fiction novel about Hildegard von Bingen (Illuminations)? Byatt’s novel doesn’t have great reviews on Amazon, but I’ll give it a go. I loved Possession so much.

For my birthday lunch, we went to a burger place called Local Burger. Back when I was in college, I could get an excellent hamburger for about a buck at the cafeteria on campus. It had a nice charbroiled flavor, and it was juicy without being pink (pink ground beef skeeves me out). I hadn’t had a burger as good as those old cheap cafeteria burgers since. Until this one. And the fries were amazing.

We drove into Amherst and stopped into Amherst Books where I found a remainder of Remembering Shakespeare by David Scott Kastan and Kathryn James and Living with Shakespeare edited by Susannah Carson with essays by so many people—F. Murray Abraham, Isabel Allende, Brian Cox, Ralph Fiennes, James Earl Jones, Maxine Hong Kingston, Jane Smiley, Joyce Carol Oates, and many others.

Last night for dinner, we had some excellent Italian food at Pasta e Basta. I was “that person” and took a picture of my pasta because it was so pretty.

photo-sep-17-7-37-47-pm

I wish I could have brought my leftovers home. There was at least another meal left on that plate. I didn’t think it would travel well, though.

After dinner we picked up some cookies at Insomnia Cookies. Had such a thing existed when I was in college, I have no idea how big I’d be by now. We got four kinds of cookies, and I can definitely recommend the Double Chocolate Mint. I also tried Peanut Butter Chip, but the Chocolate Chunk and M&M cookies were all gone too fast.

This morning, we went to Jake’s for breakfast, and I had some fantastic eggs, potatoes, and toast. We walked around and did some more shopping. I found myself this glorious Brontë sisters mug with quotes from the sisters’ works.

photo-sep-18-6-37-33-pm

Northampton and Amherst are nice places to visit, and they’re only a little over an hour away. They have a different feel from other places in Massachusetts—perhaps because they’re college towns, or perhaps because they’re in the western part of the state. We don’t really have indie bookstores in Worcester, either (that I know of)—just B&N, so it was nice to go book shopping in those places and score some deals on some great-looking new and used books. In addition, everything was pretty reasonably priced—another of the virtues of a college town, I suppose.

photo-sep-17-7-08-37-pm
Steve and Dylan at dinner
Maggie and Me
Maggie and Me

Once I was home, Steve presented with two more books: A Loaded Gun: Emily Dickinson for the 21st Century by Jerome Charyn and The Life-Changing Magic of Not Giving a Fuck by Sarah Knight. He had already given me Emily Dickinson’s Poems: As She Preserved Them. My parents sent me a gift card for more goodies from Amazon, too. I really need to do some reading!

P. S. I have no idea why the last image is upside-down on some devices. I can’t figure out how to fix it without deleting and starting over, though, so I just left it.

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Me

fall leaves photo
Photo by LABabble

Doesn’t the R. I. P. Challenge make you feel like fall is finally coming? Fall has always been my favorite season, even when I was a girl. Ever since I was girl, it has felt like the real beginning of the year. Perhaps there is something to the holiday of Rosh Hashanah or even Samhain that makes more sense to me than New Years Eve, which is a holiday I have always disliked. Fall really feels like the beginning of the year to me. It could be that I’m a teacher, and I work to the rhythm of the school year. It has always seemed to me that each September brings new opportunities and a clean slate—a chance to start anew.

I don’t think I’m too different from many women in that I spent a great deal of my life worrying about myself, what people think of me, and whether I’m okay. It has taken a long time and a lot of work, as well as questioning a lot of what I was brought up and socialized to think, but I am finally becoming comfortable with myself. I could kick myself over how long it’s taken, or I could just be happy it is happening. I decided to do the latter. After all, I think plenty of people never arrive at that place. I do feel happier and more confident than I have in a long time. Perhaps ever. What a gift.

On the one hand, I wonder if my levothyroxine might have something to do with it. An underactive thyroid can cause depression symptoms (in addition to a whole host of other seemingly unrelated symptoms). I have now been on my medication for a month. I can’t remember the last time I felt so little anxiety. I am not sure I’d be me if I didn’t have some anxiety, but it’s been freeing to worry less.

I was socialized, like a lot of girls, to put others before myself. On some of the occasions when I have not done so, particularly as an adult, the repercussions, particularly from family, have been swift. I have spent a great deal of time—too much time—worrying about what other people think of me. Perhaps it is my approaching 45th birthday, but I just can’t do it anymore. I admit I admire some of these millennial women I see who have such strong ideas of who they are, of what is fair and equal treatment for women, of what they want. Perhaps it’s just a perception, and they feel the same inside as I always felt. It sure seems to me like their demands to be treated with respect are different from what I’ve seen in women of my generation and previous generations. I have come to realize that I really do need to take care of myself and that I need to see my own value. That doesn’t mean I need to be selfish. It means I need to love myself.

It’s hard to say that. That I love myself. It’s a new feeling. I have spent a lot of my life not really sure if I do love myself or if it was appropriate to feel that way about myself. I spent a lot of time doubting and second-guessing and worrying. I just don’t want to do it anymore. And it doesn’t really matter if I do because if I doubt and second-guess and worry, it doesn’t change what other people think about me anyway. So, in the end, there really isn’t much point in all the worrying.

I don’t know how it will change my relationships, or if it will, but I already sense a shift in my marriage. I feel closer to my husband. I’m also sensing a shift at work. Yes, I work hard, and give my job the attention it deserves. But I am trying, and succeeding more all the time, to leave my job at work and be more present at home.

I just feel different. I’m happy. It feels good.

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Site Has Returned

reading beach photo
Photo by jgoge

I apologize to folks who have been trying to access this site and found it had been suspended by my former host. I wrote a post on my education blog about my experience, so I don’t feel the need to replicate it here. Just follow the link if you are interested. In the end, I was able to find a new host and get my site up and running again within three days. I wish I had spent the last three days reading on the beach instead, but nope!

Some books in the review pipeline:

I have finished the first one and the second and third are in progress. I am reviewing the first two as part of a TLC Book Tour in the beginning of October, so those reviews won’t appear until then. Also, I joined up with three different reading/book subscription boxes—think Birch Box or Stitch Fix for books. I plan to review/unbox each of them here on the blog. I am hoping to get back into it with my reading mojo pretty soon. I did really enjoy The Bitch is Back, but I didn’t read a lot this summer, and now it’s nearly over. One week from today, I need to return to work. Students will be returning soon after.

We did have a good summer, though. We went to Bar Harbor, Maine and visited Acadia National Park, which is probably the most beautiful place I’ve ever seen with my own eyes. We drove up to Montpelier and Waterbury, Vermont and bought maple syrup and cheese and toured the Ben & Jerry’s factory. My oldest daughter visited and we took her to Salem, MA (it was hot as the side of the sun that day!) and Amherst (to see Emily’s house, naturally). We also went to the Worcester Art Museum, and wouldn’t you know it, I recognized this painting from an old paperback cover of The Scarlet Letter. Because that is how I would recognize a painting, you know? It was a fairly excellent summer for exploring New England a bit for sure.

I’ll leave you with a poem.

The Summer that we did not prize
Her treasures were so easy
Instructs us by departure now
And recognition lazy—
Bestirs itself—puts on its Coat
And scans with fatal promptness
For Trains that moment out of sight
Unconscious of his smartness—

Emily Dickinson, Fr# 1622

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Hypothyroidism

I recently had a physical for the first time in years. I know, I know. One of the reasons I went is that I have had some fairly bad pain in my knees, and I was worried I was developing arthritis. Knowing that my pain would likely only get worse, and worrying I might not be able to walk if I didn’t do something, I asked my doctor about it. She checked my knees. She asked me if I sprained my ankles a lot when I was a kid. I think so. I can’t really remember. I do remember hurting my ankle so bad one time playing basketball that I thought I broke it. My friend Darcy managed to help me get home. I also pronate when I walk, which is something I have attributed to my hips. Who knows. She also ordered x-rays just to be sure that I wasn’t developing arthritis and ordered a physical therapy appointment. I have had the x-rays, and I understand that my knees look normal. My physical therapy starts Wednesday.

Anyway, my doctor is really thorough, and she orders a series of blood and urine lab tests for all her new patients. I was a bit surprised to get a phone call from her office the day after I had all my lab work done. I have an under-active thyroid, and she had prescribed levothyroxine for me. The prescription had already been called in to my pharmacist. Minutes later, my pharmacist called to let me know it was ready.

I did some research, and it turns out that a laundry list of what I thought were unrelated physical complaints might all be due to an under-active thyroid. Fatigue, joint pain, some gastrointestinal issues, sensitivity to cold (I am always cold when everyone else is fine), and slow metabolism, most of which I chalked up to “getting older,” if I even thought it was a concern. I didn’t really think there was much I could do about it. I was most concerned about the knee pain because it impacted me most through my day. The fatigue was not negligible. I thought it might be job stress. I am naturally introverted, too, and people wear me out. I am a teacher, and I’m around people all day. My husband was concerned about the fatigue, but I don’t think I remembered to mention it to my doctor. I don’t have as much trouble with it during the summer.

I have been taking my medication less than a week. It’s supposed to take a few weeks before I feel any difference (I thought). But my knees already seem to feel better. I can’t decide if there is real change or if it’s in my head (cue Dumbledore quote from Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows), but I just walked up and down the stairs today for the first time without thinking my knees were going to give out on me. Even getting up from a sitting position was hard with my knee pain. People asked me often if I was okay. I grimaced and said I was fine. My knees just hurt a little. A lot, really, but I don’t like to trouble others with my issues.

To be honest, my first reaction on hearing I had this condition and that I would have to take medicine, probably for the rest of my life was Here we go. The aging thing starts. Before long I’ll need one of those pill packs so I can put my daily pills in the compartment for each day of the week. I’m not ready for that part of my life. I’ll be 45 next month. Still, if this medicine will make me feel more energetic and just, well, better, I don’t mind.

Sorry for any folks who come across this page Googling “hypothyroidism” and expecting to learn something. I’m no expert. I know a lot more than I did a week ago, though. I have joked with my husband, who is nearly four years older than I am, that I’m older than he is because I felt older. I have gray hair. He doesn’t. I don’t have his energy or strength. He can walk up the stairs without grasping the banister for support. For the first time in a few years, I’m actually hopeful that I can feel a bit more like my old self again.

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Reading Rules

reading photo
Photo by Moyan_Brenn

A three-year-old Book Riot post with a clickbait-y title came across my radar this morning. While I didn’t learn anything about my personality based on my reading rules, I did start thinking about just what those rules are, exactly. I think most people have reading rules. It could be certain kinds of books you read or won’t read. It could be how you treat a book. It could be whether or not you re-read books and what you re-read. It could be how your ratings system works. At any rate, these are my own special reading tics, and I guess you could call them rules if you want.

  1. I don’t dog-ear pages. I am trying to promote reading in my classes, and one of my students borrowed The Things They Carried by Tim O’Brien. And he dog-eared the pages. I was horrified when I saw it. It took a lot of self-control not to react, but I didn’t. After all, I did donate the book to my classroom library. But now I might need to have to buy a pristine copy for myself.
  2. I always have a few books going. My mood strikes differently. Sometimes I want to listen, and sometimes I want to be on my iPad and not in paper book. Sometimes I want to read a paper book. For that reason, I usually have at least three books going all the time, one in each format. Often more.
  3. I review pretty much everything I read here, and I rate it, too. I have done this for the last decade at least. I find I remember the books better if I reflect on them a bit before moving on to the next. Had Goodreads been around before I started this blog, I”m not sure this blog would exist. However, now that it’s established, I don’t want to move everything over to Goodreads. That said, I don’t like the Goodreads rating system. I have devised my own rating system instead. I still use stars, but my stars mean different things.
  4. I prefer paperbacks or e-books to hardcovers. I just find them difficult to hold. I don’t fold over my paperbacks or anything, but if a book is not available in paperback, I will try to get it in e-book or wait rather than get it in hardcover. The exceptions to this rule are special collectors books.
  5. I don’t like to break the spines in my books. Sometimes it happens with the cheaper ones.
  6. I don’t like stopping in the middle of a chapter. Sometimes it is unavoidable. If a book has really long chapters or worse, no chapters, it’s probably going to lose at least a star in its rating for me because it has inconvenienced me as a reader and possibly required me to break this reading rule.
  7. I re-read whatever and whenever I feel like it, and I don’t worry about it. I count those books as reads for whatever challenges I am doing as well because I see no reason why they shouldn’t count.
  8. I really prefer reading longer books on my Kindle. They are easier for me to get through that way. I am very sad that Citizens is not available for Kindle. It will take me forever to read.
  9. I give myself permission to stop reading books that are not grabbing me. I don’t have a hard and fast rule about how long I give it before I stop. Mainly, I play it by ear. But I never force myself to finish a book that is not working for me, and I think that is a rule everyone should follow. I helped a student out with this rule earlier this year. I think he was grateful. It might surprise some folks that kids might not understand you don’t have to finish a book just because you started it, but it’s true. I am, of course, excluding class reads from this rule. However (shh… don’t tell), if I kid doesn’t finish a required text for class, well, they missed out on a good book. I don’t get mad at them about it. I hope they’ll pick it up later when they are ready, and the choice likely means they will do poorly on some reading quizzes and writing assignments, but that’s their call. I don’t see any reason to flog a kid over it. I think (sadly) that I am unusual in this regard, and I think that’s how and why we create adults who don’t read.
  10. I don’t worry about what anyone thinks about my reading. I read what I want. If people judge others for reading, then they’re book snobs, and they are not worth my time. The most important rule I have about reading is that everyone should read. They should read what they want to read and not apologize.

Do you have any reading rules? I know some folks disagree with a few of mine, and ultimately, the thing I care about most is that people do their reading thing and don’t feel judged for it.

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Ditching Shelfari?

Goodreads and ShelfariI am contemplating the idea of ditching Shelfari. I don’t really use it as a social network near as much as I use Goodreads, but it has two features I like:

  • It lets you count re-reads, and you don’t have to delete your previous reading date to do it. You can simply add a new date. Goodreads makes you delete the previous date if you want to count the latest date. Lots of folks re-read. Not sure why a re-reading feature hasn’t been implemented.
  • It has pretty shelves that you can display on your blog if you like or just look at.

I ditched LibraryThing some time back with no qualms. It limits the number of books you can put in your library for free. But Shelfari, I’m just not sure about. The first reason, re-reads, is the main reason I keep using Shelfari. If Goodreads ever implemented re-reads, I’d be all set, and as soon as I saved my re-read data to Goodreads, I’d leave Shelfari in a heartbeat.

Apparently Goodreads is weighing incorporating this feature, but frankly, from what I understand, there has been a lot of thinking and not much movement when it comes to the re-reading feature. A lot of people want it, if the thread I linked is any indication. I even joined the feedback group for the express purpose of adding my opinion to the conversation.

I really wish that Goodreads would just add the re-reading feature. I know it would mean making some database changes. I am growing a little tired of keeping track of books on Shelfari altogether mainly because I just don’t use its features, and I don’t seem to have as many reader friends who use and with whom I connect on that site.

What do you think? Do you use either Goodreads or Shelfari?

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Reading Updates and Other News

I have been busy, busy. I am making soap to gear up for fall. When you’re a soapmaker, you have to make the soap about four-six weeks in advance of the selling season because it needs that long to cure. I am doing a big arts and crafts fair on September 21, and I want have a good amount of stock.

School has started, at least for me. My students don’t return until September 8. We have pre-planning, though, and I have taken on a new role as English department chair. The start of the year has already been great.

I have been re-reading the Harry Potter series with Maggie. I have read Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince and Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows much less often than the other books in the series. Re-reading Harry Potter And The Order Of The Phoenix this last time made me think two things:

  1. A lot folks don’t like this one because Harry is so angry. Well, he was dealing with Voldemort’s emotions influencing his own, and even if that were not the case, he has a right, after everything that’s happened to him, to a bit of righteous anger. And he struggles through so much of that book.
  2. Every teacher and administrator working in schools should read this book. It has interesting things to say about teaching, especially about what happens when the government, and especially government officials who know nothing about education, interfere in schools.

I’m really enjoying reading these books with Maggie. I think she’s liking them as well.

I don’t have a lot of extra time with all this craziness, but my wardrobe is really frightening. I mean, I never shop for myself because I hate, hate, hate shopping. I absolutely loathe it. I hate hunting for something I like, I hate continually taking off my clothes and trying on outfits only to find they fit weird or I don’t like them, and I hate being in the store around people I don’t know well and with whom I have to have conversations. I also hate having to decline offers of a store credit card, along with the attempts to convince me that I could be saving so much money if only I had one. As a result, my clothing situation was getting close to desperate. One of my friends posted a link to this personal shopping service called Stitch Fix, and I thought, “yeah right, like I can afford a personal shopping service.”

Nevertheless, I visited the site, and I discovered that it was fairly reasonable. The styling fee is just $20, and the fee is applied to anything you buy. The personal stylist picks five items and sends them to you. You can set how often you receive packages. You fill out a comprehensive styling profile. I was impressed that Stitch Fix asked me for links to a Pinterest board where I pin clothes I like and my LinkedIn profile. I wouldn’t have thought to do either one, but it looks like it was helpful because I received my first shipment, and I liked everything so much that I kept it.

I am posting pictures of myself without makeup and with messy hair, so don’t look at my face, but check out what I received.

Plum Dress and White CardiganFirst, this plum wrap dress. I would have walked right by it if I had seen it in the store because I would never, ever have thought it would look good on me. The waist, however, is a little higher, so it actually covers up areas I might not want to show. It has capped sleeves, so I can easily add a long-sleeve sweater, tights, and boots, and I have a good winter/fall outfit, too. No, I do not have on tights; those are my really white legs.

Jeans, Cardigan, Dotted Print ShirtNext up, skinny jeans. Another item I’d have walked right by if I had seen them in the store. Truly. And they fit me really well. They are actually comfortable. I really liked the print on this shirt. It has no sleeves, so I have to wear the little short-sleeved cardigan they sent, which, incidentally, I also probably wouldn’t have picked out for myself. I have to admit it’s perfect for pairing with all sorts of outfits, thought.

Green ShirtI really liked this green shirt. It fit me well, and it’s versatile enough for work or casual dress. And it’s not too tight around my hips.

I was really pleased and surprised at how much I liked everything once I tried it on, with the prices (I got everything for less than $200), and with the convenience. I really think this is going to solve some of my issues with my wardrobe. I am trying out clothes I might not have tried, and I don’t have to go anywhere. And it costs about the same as I’d spend if I hauled my tuchus to the store. So I’m pretty happy. If you want to try it out, I have a referral code, and it would be awesome if you would use it when you sign up.

Stitch Fix

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A Young Girl Reading

Five Things I’ve Gained from Reading

A Young Girl Reading
A Young Girl Reading by Jean-Honoré Fragonard

Carol Jago, an English teacher I admire, published a paper several years ago about why we should teach literature. In reply, Traci Gardner suggested we share what we’ve gained from reading literature. I’m not sure if Traci’s familiar with memes, but I like the idea. That said, this blog post has been sitting waiting to be finished since April 2009. Time to post it.

Instructions: Copy the questions and instructions below, and paste them into a blog entry, a note on Facebook, or a discussion forum—anywhere that you can reach the people you want to. You can use the comments area on this blog entry if you’d like as well. Delete my answers to the questions, and add your own. Feel free to any extra instructions or invite specific people to answer the questions when you post them.

Questions: Think about the literature you’ve read—short stories, novels, plays, memoirs, and poetry. Any literature counts, from picture books to epic poems, and from romance novels to sci-fi fan-fiction. Answer each question, and explain your response in a few sentences. Just copy the questions, remove my answers, add your own, and then invite others to respond.

  1. What piece of literature has stayed with you, even though you haven’t read it recently?
    One piece of literature I find myself thinking about a lot is [amazon_link id=”0380730405″ target=”_blank” ]Rebecca[/amazon_link]. We just watched the movie the other night, for one thing, but for another, I have been searching and searching for a book with that same sort of feel. I love that book, and I’ve been looking for one like without much success.
  2. What character or story has influenced something you’ve done?
    You’re going to laugh, but I married my husband because of [amazon_link id=”0440212561″ target=”_blank” ]Outlander[/amazon_link]. For a lot of reasons. He knows and thinks it’s funny.
  3. What character or piece of literature seemed to relate to a recent news story or personal experience?
    I don’t know that the story is all that recent, but when the Rod Blagojevich story blew up, I immediately thought of [amazon_link id=”0743477103″ target=”_blank” ]Macbeth[/amazon_link]. Then the comparisons started coming. Now I feel like I see Macbeth everywhere, which is really frightening. So many people seem willing to lose themselves entirely to their ambition. Politicians especially. And the way they play with human lives is disgusting. We might as well all be the Macduffs. In which case, the politicians better watch it if we decide we’ve had enough one day.
  4. What character has make you wonder why he or she did/said something?
    This is a tough one because there are a lot of characters who make me wonder this sort of thing. I hardly know which one to choose! But I always wondered if Boo Radley really did stab his father with the scissors, and if he really did, why? Actually I wonder a lot about Boo Radley (rather like Scout!).
  5. Name something from a work of literature (such as a character, setting, or quotation) that you find beautiful or vivid.
    [amazon_link id=”0743273567″ target=”_blank” ]The Great Gatsby[/amazon_link] has so many beautiful and vivid passages. Here are some of my favorite ones.

“His heart beat faster and faster as Daisy’s white face came up to his own. He knew that when he kissed this girl, and forever wed his unutterable visions to her perishable breath, his mind would never romp again like the mind of God. So he waited, listening for a moment longer to the tuning fork that had been struck upon a star. Then he kissed her. At his lips’ touch she blossomed like a flower and the incarnation was complete.”

 

“And as I sat there brooding on the old, unknown world, I thought of Gatsby’s wonder when he first picked out the green light at the end of Daisy’s dock. He had come a long way to this blue lawn, and his dream must have seemed so close that he could hardly fail to grasp it. He did not know that it was already behind him, somewhere back in that vast obscurity beyond the city, where the dark fields of the republic rolled on under the night.

Gatsby believed in the green light, the orgastic future that year by year recedes before us. It eluded us then, but that’s no matter—to-morrow we will run faster, stretch out our arms farther. . . . And one fine morning——

So we beat on, boats against the current, borne back ceaselessly into the past.”

 

And here is another of my favorites, from [amazon_link id=”0684801469″ target=”_blank” ]A Farewell To Arms[/amazon_link]:

“If people bring so much courage to this world the world has to kill them to break them, so of course it kills them. The world breaks every one and afterward many are strong at the broken places. But those that will not break it kills. It kills the very good and the very gentle and the very brave impartially. If you are none of these you can be sure it will kill you too but there will be no special hurry.”

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