Tuesday, July 26, 2016

Tuesday, July 26: Some Seriously Wonderful Things in My Summer

1. Spending empty nest time with my beloved. Nothing spectacular, and maybe a few too many nights that the Sox blow an awesome lead and lose, but our time together makes me smile. My chosen grown-up. He's a keeper.

2. The weather! It has been hot, sunny, lovely, changeable. . . with just enough rain to keep things green. Just enough. We could use a full night of rain once a week, but oh my this has been a lovely summer.  Tomorrow we're off to the lake house on Waterview Drive for four days, and I hope hope hope hope hope it will continue!

3. Reading. I have set my mind to gorging on books, and it's been a pleasure. Below is a screen shot of my "My Books" page on goodreads, and that doesn't include my recent audiobooks (a re-listen of Georgette Heyer's The Quiet Gentleman and the first three Harry Potters!)  which have also been wonderful.

I haven't loved them all, and I didn't finish them all, but the luxury of having a big stack that I can jump into at will––at will, I say!––is a delight.

4. Hard, consistent, academic work. I am taking course #2 of Univ. of Me/Farmington's four course certificate in Proficiency-based Education, and this course required us to do some of the basics of social science research: a focus group (nerve-wracking but ultimately incredibly worthwhile), an action plan, and. . . . hardest work I've done in a long, long time, a literature review––not like the ones above, but a review of research out there on a certain topic (mine was parental involvement in the PBE reform effort) coupled with my own findings and thoughts and plans for forward movement. It was intense, overwhelming, and exhausting, but when I was done, I had kicked some major social science research butt. I was able to put three solid days into the work (on top of a few weeks of research reading and generalized panic), and when I was done, the prof. asked me if she could use my review as a model of graduate level scholarship and professionalism! Wahoo––aside from the external praise, I simply relished digging so deeply into my. own. work. Suddenly, I could imagine doing a doctorate, and really, really enjoying it. I think I'm done with this class (possibly one other tiny assignment), but man, it was a pleasure on many levels (I'm signed up for class #3 for the fall, so that's a good thing!). Also great to be able to work in my study at my desk--lovely view, and good space to dig in and work hard.

5. Project time! I finished Andy's socks (pic below, I hope),

and after a bit of unsettledness, I've resurrected a cast-off project from my sister and have been enjoying figuring it out. We've lost the pattern, so I've been winging it with pleasure. What a treat to start at the upper yoke of a huge cardigan and just crank up from there! In addition, I have been fiddling with the free Sorbetto tank pattern, digging out some fabric I got for one long ago but never did anything with. I had a lovely time piecing the pattern together while I listened to The Quiet Gentleman, but we're leaving tomorrow for our mini-lake vacation so it will sit. Ah well.

I hope when I come back (it will be August) to continue much that has been good, but to add more hiking--did a lot before my wonderful visit with Julie and my Hebron Friend Reunion, but none since, mostly due to the class; some more sewing (maybe finish the table runner? and the tank? Make a dress?); lots more reading, and more time with my man! I also hope to organize an afternoon visit/tea/knitting session with my school knitting group, as well as some other social events.

Such richness.

Saturday, July 2, 2016

July 2, Saturday: In that odd Way Summer Saturdays Are. . .

The Vigilante Poets of Selwyn AcademyThe Vigilante Poets of Selwyn Academy by Kate Hattemer
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Another strong work by Hattemer (her first published book, I think)--interesting characters and a good level of quality writing, but not as absorbing or nuanced as Land of 10,000 Madonnas. Although she drops some plot lines and doesn't develop some potential ideas as fully as they deserve, it's still an original and worthwhile read and an entertaining piece of y.a. writing.

And now for something completely different: BenedictionBenediction by Kent Haruf
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Finished Benediction around 11 pm on June 30 with the cats curled around me as I wept on the couch. It's powerful and sad--but saying that is obvious in the way that saying books about humans' relationships with their dogs are sad: the likelihood is that the dog is going to die. In Benediction, Dad is dying from the start: this is NOT a spoiler--and the power of the novel is in its steady attention to the small things that make life lovely, valuable, and memorable. I think the novel could be 100 pages longer, as I wanted to hear more about Lorraine (I felt that the one misstep in the story is the sudden mention of her own loss, though it might be the subject of another of Haruf's novels), about Frank *of course*, and I just wanted to hang out a bit more with these people.

It's not an easy, fluffy book (Marilynne Robinson's people could talk to these folks easily), but it's memorable and deep and calm, somehow. Recommended for a valuable experience when you feel ready for it.

Weird note: I bought a copy from the EPLibrary book sale (of course). The paperback is gorgeous: great cover, nice feel in the hands. My copy, however, was full of highlighting: probably 1/3 of every page had been highlighted in yellow through the entire story! I'd love to know the reason for that painstaking approach to reading a work of fiction that ended up in a book sale.

Second note: my students often complain about Sandra Cisneros's refusal to use quotation marks around dialogue in House on Mango Street. Well, I chuckled to myself when I noted that Haruf avoids them as well, and also shuns speaker tags like "he said," and "she commented" as well. Fun to note that bridge.

Sea of Poppies (Ibis Trilogy, #1)Sea of Poppies by Amitav Ghosh
My rating: 1 of 5 stars

Abandoned this one. It was fascinating at first, but then the storyline became 1. too ornate, with complex switching between characters, each of which had a huge backstory, most of which I wasn't terribly interested in (in which most of I was not interested????), 2. too predictable: it's an adventure story, and actually reminded me a lot of LA Meyer's Bloody Jack stories!, and 3. too long!!! I guess that laps back to the first point, but I just felt that the mental work it took for me to ingest the story was greater than the story actually deserved--and so, with a world of stories out there begging to be ingested, I put it back on the "to the book sale!" pile. And so the great cycle continues.

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