Monday, December 31, 2012

A Fitting End...

As some of you know, I attempted the 365 Project this year - with dismal results.  I did fairly well through mid-June, but then I essentially gave up due to life's circumstances.  A few years ago I would have viewed this as a failure, but this year I just view it as a temporary set-back.

I plan to try the 365 project again this year and I am looking forward to the challenge - and the discipline.  In anticipation of this new endeavor, I decided to take a final photo of 2012 - and it is quite a fitting summation of the year.

Last Christmas my son gave me this beautiful snow globe depicting the 75th anniversary of the Macy's Thanksgiving Day parade.  This gift had many special meanings.  First.... he chose the gift when he went to New York City to propose to his girlfriend of five years.  Second.... he knows how much his mother loves the parade (it is on my bucket list) and he took the time to find a most thoughtful gift,  And third.... Brynn loved the gift from the first time she heard the tinkling music.  It helped me form a bond with my granddaughter that I will forever cherish.

2012 began as a year filled with hope, but it quickly became a year of unsettling disappointment.  The wedding proposal did not manifest itself into a December wedding as planned - and the emotional turmoil this caused for everyone was nearly unbearable.  At the time the relationship was disintegrating,  mid-June, Brynn accidentally dropped the globe and it shattered.  Fortunately no one was cut in the incident .. but the magical globe lost its enchantment.

But six months later I look at this broken ornament and still see beauty.  I see a vision of a parade that I will one day visit - and I see magic in the romantic event that brought it into my life.  I also see wonder in the face of a toddler and I cherish the memories that are contained within its broken shell.  The couple is still together - and there is hope that they will one day become husband and wife.  What was once a broken and useless object has now become a symbol of hope rising from the depths of disaster.

Here's to a joyful and peaceful and hopeful New Year.

Pin It and Do It

Over the weekend I made the time to catch up on a bit of blog reading.  I have missed connecting with all of you and thoroughly enjoyed catching up on your literary as well as personal lives.

One meme that appeared on several blogs was Trish's Pin It and Do It Challenge for December and while I did not officially register to participate, I did think that I would join the "pinners" on this last day of the challenge.

My Pinterests tend to focus on photography and food, although I can see using the site for craft and reading inspiration in 2013.  The Pin that I would like to share today, however, falls in the realm of Creative Gift Ideas.

As the children have grown up we find that Christmas gift surprises are more and more difficult to pull off.  And truth be told, we have learned that parental tastes in clothing, music, movies.... well, just about anything, is not the same as a twenty-something.  So for the past several years we have filled stockings with small, inconsequential items and then wrapped a check for the "large" present.  Of course, some years have been more financially lucrative than others, and this year was one of the more lean holidays.

While the end-product was a bit less than perhaps anticipated, it was my hope that a unique wrapping would make it special.  And this is where Pinterest came to the rescue:

Kleenex Money Box

The idea is simple - and did not take nearly as long to assemble as I had anticipated.  But the true joy was the look on each child's face as they opened the gift of tissues....only to discover the true present within.  We had fun watching them pull the dollar bills out of the box, and then carefully separating each one into a tidy sum of cash for their own personal use.

There was also another website that illustrated several different, creative ways to give money.  I plan to refer to this again and again for future ideas - not just for Christmas, but other fun gift-giving occasions.

Saturday, December 29, 2012

A Work in Progress

I realize it has been a couple of weeks since my last post - the one where I said that I was gearing up to start blogging again.  And I wasn't lying.  I really do want to blog again and reconnect with this online community that I love so well.  But I have never been one to rush into change.  I like routine.  Even if it is boring and has lost its usefulness, I still hold on for dear life.  But I am slowly learning to let go of the grip - and I anticipate that 2013 will be a year of many changes.

Yesterday I spent time organizing photography memes and prompts to help me with my attempt at completing the 365 project in 2013.  While I was fairly consistent the first part of 2012, unexpected summer occurrences derailed me and I quit the project mid-June.  I did learn a lot about photography, however, and how to slow down long enough to view the world around me.  I hope to capitalize on this knowledge and use these prompts to help me delve into the more creative side of photography this coming year, rather than just looking at it as a documentary of my daily life.

Today I took another step forward and developed a potential weekly blogging routine.  While most of my family loathes the structure of a daily routine, I thrive on it.  And since this is my blog - I have decided that I will try to use this tool/crutch to help me focus and keep a balanced blogging life.  Of course, this is always subject to tweaking...but here is my preliminary outline:

  • Monday Morning Preview - I am not fond of Mondays, so I thought a quick preview of my week ahead, both obligations and potential projects, might be a great way to ease into the weekly writing routine.
  • Crafty Tuesday - I truly enjoy crafts (scrapbooking and rubber stamping especially) but tend to deny myself the pleasure of this past-time unless all responsibilities are complete.  This results in little creative play and a very cranky Molly.  I am hoping that designating one day of blogging that focuses on crafts that I have worked on throughout the week will get me outside this silly way of thinking.
  • Writing Wednesday - I still find great therapeutic pleasure in writing - and while most of what I write is just personal dribble, I would like to share a bit of it with others.  I also have a bee in my bonnet that I want to try to write a mystery (more on that in an upcoming post) - and this would be a good place to keep track of that progress.
  • Thoughtful Thursday - This would be a suitable follow-up to the writing entry as most of my writing focuses on personal reflections.  Although I also think that that this title could encompass a wide variety of subjects:  book reviews - movie reviews - thoughts of teaching or dogs or whatever other interest crosses my mind over the week.
  • Photography Friday - it is certainly no secret that I have found a love of photography over the past two years, but oftentimes this love of the craft does not translate into a quality product.  I do hope that designating one day a week to this topic on the blog, however, will at least keep me focused on the 365 project - and sharing at least one picture (or one book on that topic) will keep me growing and developing this skill.
  • Weekend Cooking - I have so enjoyed this weekly meme, even if I rarely participate.  I have great plans of cooking more in 2013 and regaining that gourmet passion I once had.  Either sharing a new recipe, or a new wine, or a new cookbook will be the focus on this blog entry.
  • Sunday Salon - I have participated in this meme since I first began this blog and I love the relaxed atmosphere of combining personal life with book reviews.  I hope to do a better job of actively participating in the upcoming year.
As I mentioned several times over the past few months, I have debated changing the name of this blog as it no longer qualifies as a true "book blog"  However, I have come to the decision that this blog does indeed reflect me:  who I am and what is important in my personal life.  Most of these activities do indeed take place in "my cozy book nook" on the third floor of this split level house, and so it seems like an appropriate place to maintain my blog updates.

I am indeed gearing up, but it is most definitely a work in progress.  I hope that I have my act together enough to start this new routine next week.  I have truly missed it....

Sunday, December 2, 2012

Gearing Up....

Now that we are in the last month of 2012 I have concluded that this has been a transitional year.  For those of you who have followed my blog....2011 was a transformational year:  the death of my mother, the realization that I was now the matriarch of the family, the birth of my first grandchild, and the engagement of my son.  It was a lot to process and digest, and in hindsight, I think it was natural that this year would be one of limbo.

I have had a difficult time focusing on much of anything these past eleven months.  I have read very little, and what I have read has been mostly non-fiction photography books.  Since this blog originally began as a "book blog" you can understand how unusual this behavior is for me.  And while I have read a lot about photography, and started the year off strong participating in the 365 project, I have really done very little with this hobby since May.

Writing has been another passion of mine, but I just can't seem to commit enough to complete a project.  I was so excited to participate in NaNoWriMo this year, but petered out after the first week and a mere 8,000 words.  I have not "quit" --- and I will finish this story that has been rattling around in my head for nearly three years, but apparently 2012 was not the year to do it.

And for the first time in my adult life, I have experienced health issues.  Minor ones, but issues never-the-less.  An acute gall bladder attack led to emergency surgery, and three weeks later a serious bladder infection weighed me down as well.  While I do not wish to take a fatalistic view of these events, I do know that going forward I can expect even more health issues to slow me down --- and I have too much that I want to accomplish before I slow to a crawl. So it is for that reason  I have decided that 2013 will be a year of refocus.

I have missed blogging and I am ready to return to a writing routine that includes updating my personal blog as well as reading your blogs that I so enjoy.

I am ready to read more - and while I refuse to be tempted by the enticing book challenges offered in the blogosphere, I have already started collecting books for my own reading enhancement.  For some reason I have it in my mind that I would like to write a cozy mystery --- not with the purpose of being published, but just to see if I can do it.  I have currently collected about fifteen "first in the series" cozies to read and I am sure I will add more.  I will soon write a post outlining the titles of those  have chosen, and hopefully write a blog review for each one as I finish it.

I am also ready to travel - and while the budget is not quite at the level where I can take multiple trips overseas, I plan to start local and work my way out.  I have been researching fun day visits in the Kansas City area, as well as easy weekend get away spots.  I look forward to posting reviews of these travel connections, for anyone who might be interested.

There are other changes in the works as well, but I am not at liberty to speak of those just yet.  Suffice it to say, I am ready to move on with life.  I am excited to see what 2013 holds for me and my family.  And I am ready to reconnect with long-lost blogging friends.

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Catching up...

Well, obviously I have yet to develop a consistent blog routine.  I think it is a two-fold problem.  First, I have several writing outlets that I do continue on a daily basis (morning pages and devotional journal), so I do not feel a compulsion to write on the blog (although I must confess that I do miss writing for an audience, however small that audience might be)... and second, I fear that once I start writing my own blog - and visiting other blogs, I will lose track of time and not keep focused on other interests (writing, reading, scrapbooking, photography, etc).  I am certain that there is a balance to be found, and I will continue to search for one that works for me.

In the meantime, let me catch you up on my life to date.

I find it interesting that my last entry was entitled, Wake Up Call --- because on September 30th I had yet another wake up call, this time on a more urgent note.  I woke up Sunday morning around 2:15AM with a discomfort between my shoulder blades.  No matter how I repositioned myself in bed, the pain persisted.  I got up and took two Aleve (the commercial insists it is better than any other pain reliever on the market).  Well, an hour later the pain was still there but had migrated to my midsection.  The long and the short of it was.....after 17 hours of pain I finally relented and went to the ER where I was told I had an inflamed gall bladder that needed to be removed the next day.  Surgery was scheduled for noon on Monday, October 1 --- I was released at 3:00PM on October 2 --- I taught my first teleconference class on Thursday, Oct 4 -- and I returned to work full time on Monday, Oct 8.

Talk about a wake up call.  I have never experienced any problems relating to my gall bladder in the past - and while this scenario is most unusual (so claims the surgeon), it does happen.  I am SO grateful that we have health insurance!!  If this had happened this time last year, when we were not covered, the $16,800 hospital bill would have totally devastated us.   There is definitely a need for a revamped health care system!

I also realized that it is time to stop "putting off until tomorrow"  Because my pain was in the center of my abdomen - and not to the right as is apparently normal for such conditions, they were required to run an EKG.  Praise God the results were normal -- but what if?  What if the pain was not just an indispensable gall bladder but rather a major organ?  What if this condition were not easily solved by a simple surgery but rather required a major life change?  Yes, this was most definitely a major wake up call.

And so I find myself half way through the first semester of this year wondering what my next step should be?  Should I cut back my schedule?  Should I retire all together?  Should I (fill in the blank)?  No definitive answers have surfaced, but I am determined to make the most of each passing day.

To that end I have decided to invest more time and passion in my photography.  I participated in Scott Kelby's International Photo Walk last weekend - and while the weather did not cooperate and I did not meet too many local photography enthusiasts, I did have fun being a part of a large-scale event.  I even posted a few shots on a Flickr website, something that I would have never been brave enough to do prior to October 1st (pictures on this blog post are from that photo shoot).

I have also decided to participate in NaNoWriMo again this year.  I will finally try to write the novel that has been rolling around in my brain for the past three years.  I still do not have a major conflict, but I do have a protagonist, antagonist, love interest, and setting.  I still have ten days to work on the conflict.

I have also taken my "greeting card" ministry more seriously.  I am finally starting to feel the cobwebs dissipate from the right side of my brain and the creative ideas seem to come a bit more easily now.  I am thrilled to finally use some of the craft supplies I have stored for years and to add names to my ever growing list of card recipients.  It is a wonderful outlet for me, and I am grateful that the Lord showed me how to use a hobby as a ministry.

And finally....I am starting to read again.  It has been nearly two years since I have had an interest in fiction.  I have read numerous books on photography and several self-help books over the past year and a half, but fiction has not appealed to me at all.  Over the weekend, however, I have decided that I want to write a cozy mystery for NaNoWriMo 2013 and I am SO excited!  I have gathered all the cozies that have been sitting on my shelf and have put them in a research basket.  I plan to start reading them soon - and hope to read several more over the course of the next twelve months.  I may even write a book review .....

So the wake up call has been heard --- and my desire to live a full and productive life has been taken to a new level.  I am not sure what the next few months will hold, but I do promise that I will remain true to myself - to follow the Lord's leading in my life - and to continue to have fun.  For life is to short not to do so.

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Wake up call...

This morning I followed my typical routine:  awake at 5:00AM - secure a hot cup of coffee before heading downstairs to let the dogs out of their crates - turn on the news (mostly for background noise and to notice the weather so that I know how to dress for the day) - and begin writing.

I usually start with my morning pages (750 words), move on to my devotion reading plans at You Version, and then proceed to the writing prompts of Project 137.  By this time it is usually time to return upstairs and prepare for the day.

This morning was typical is all those ways until....I read one of Patti Digh's prompts:
Capture six moments today when you felt fully alive
This may not be such a difficult writing assignment for many of you, but it stopped me in my tracks.  SIX?!  I'm not sure I could name one moment a day when I feel fully alive.  And that got me to thinking....

  • What does it mean to be "fully live"?
  • How long have I simply "existed" - going through the motions of the daily routines without really engaging in life?
  • Have I lived such a dormant lifestyle that revival to a "fully alive" is state possible --- I would settle for once a day, but is it really possible to achieve that status six times in a 24-hour period?
  • How can I begin to add "fully alive" activities to my day and/or change my attitude towards the mundane activities so that I fully engage in the moment?
I have not had time to answer any of these questions yet - but I plan to spend some serious time contemplating each one. In the mean time, I would be curious to hear your thoughts on this subject.

Friday, September 7, 2012

Lessons from Unplugging...

I know that I can use the internet as a major time waster.

Oh, it is easy for me to rationalize my excessive use:

  • Facebook helps to keep me in touch with friends from far away and friends close by.
  • Pinterest can help inspire me to make cozy home crafts for the holidays and tasty treats for others.
  • Blogs can help educate me on photography techniques and books to read.
  • Listography can help me brainstorm what to write - and to let others know a bit more about myself.

But I learned something interesting this week when our cable was inadvertently disconnected for three days - I learned that I really don't need these distractions in my life.  I can easily find other ways to spend my time, like actually reading a book that has been suggested, or taking some pictures to hone those new skills, or sending a card to one of those close friends.  And word document programs - or even the old-fashioned pen and paper, work great to journal my thoughts and feelings.

And it was very eye-opening how I did not miss cable at all for viewing television.  I like to watch my morning news - and weather - but quite frankly, I can easily obtain that information from the internet, when available.

But the lesson I really learned over these past three days is that I am incredibly dependent upon the internet for basic communication.  Our school relies on the website to update grades, correspond with parents, write lesson plans and provide homework assignments.

Email is my primary form of communication with most people in life.  And if a student or a parent has a question or concern, I feel that it is my responsibility as a teacher to answer that note in a timely fashion.

I use the website, as my journal and have finally developed the habit of writing every morning.  I was nearly lost without access to this site.

And I have used YouVersion for my daily devotionals since February.   While I could access the devotion entries on my iPhone - the journaling was made more difficult because I couldn't just copy and paste specific text into my Day One app.

Yes, it has been an interesting three days and while I learned that unplugging can bring me back to a simpler, less distracting life....I also learned that I am completely dependent upon it for some basic communication.  It is incredibly hard to believe that 20 years ago, I had never heard of the "world wide web" ... and it makes me question what 20 years from now will look like.

Friday, August 31, 2012

A Recording for Posterity

I'm not sure anyone would be interested in reading this little rambling, but I want to record this for posterity's sake.

In my English Comp class yesterday I tried a new idea.  I had originally asked students to bring in an example of a "bodacious beginning" - that is, an introductory paragraph that grabs the reader's attention and inspires them to want to read more.  I think this is imperative for any writer (as I tell my students - you WANT me to want to read your essay; not rely on the fact that I HAVE to read your essay).

This exercise is useful because it teaches students the variety of ways to grab a reader's attention:  begin with a question - or a statement that causes the reader to form his own questions - or a very short, direct sentence that leaves the reader hanging - or beginning with the climax of the story that draws the reader into the action.  There are a variety of ways to "hook" the reader - and the students seemed to learn more about writing by reading good examples.

But the twist to this assignment was that I asked students to bring in an example of an introduction that they did not find particularly inviting.  Now they thought they were going to compare and contrast the two, but instead, I asked the students to rewrite the rather dull introduction by making it more inviting.  You should have heard the moans and groans.  "This is hard!" they exclaimed.

But you know what?!  They DID it!!  They utilized what we discovered in the previous discussion and they actually improved the introductions.  They discovered that asking a question is a great way to hook the reader.  They managed to entice us to want to read an Algebra II text.  They learned that restructuring paragraphs or sentences can have a profound effect on the reader.

Sometimes my classroom experiments fall flat. But yesterday - it was engaging for both the students and the teacher.  And this, I feel, is worth recording for posterity's sake.

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

A Book Club of One

For years I have wondered what it would be like to be a part of a book club.  To meet with other adults and discuss a novel:  the likes and dislikes, the themes and how to apply them to everyday life, the fictional characters that have somehow become our personal friends.  But apparently this is an experience that I am not meant to have.

Perhaps I am supposed to focus this "book club" desire on developing that environment in the classroom.  I do try to have round table discussions rather than teacher lectures, and I always enjoy hearing the insights of the students.  I now teach only one literature class, Brit Lit, and the juniors and seniors are near adults, right?

Perhaps I am supposed to take part in an online group read, something that I have so far avoided for fear of not keeping up with the reading schedule, or with the intellectual conversation.  I think I might wait until retirement to give that a go.

But then it occurred to me that I could engage in a self-discussion of the books I read.  This past weekend I completed two books, Keepsake and The Wednesday Sisters, and both had a detailed reader section at the back of the book.  This section included an interview with the author (I LOVE those!!) as well as several questions on the work itself.  While I think these questions are included to help foster discussion in a group setting, I believe I can use these questions as personal writing prompts --- helping me to perhaps dig deeper into the reading than I did on my own -- as well as helping me learn to relate the book to my own life.

And I am rather excited about this prospect of being a member of this book club for one --- although I must admit that I feel a bit ostracized like Woody Allen in the movie, Annie Hall when he quotes Groucho Marx:  I am a bit leery of joining a club that would have someone like me as a member.

Sunday, August 26, 2012

Back in the Saddle Again....(maybe)

It has been so long since I have read - and finished - a fiction book that I truly cannot remember.  I'm not sure why.  It isn't that I haven't been reading - I have just focused on non-fiction books that relate to photography and writing.  And I enjoy reading fiction, I just couldn't seem to find a book that held my attention.  I am sure it was not due to the writing - it was due to my frame of mind.

But I have read two - count them TWO - fiction books since Thursday evening and I am ready to pick up a third later this evening.

The first book I read was purely a spontaneous decision.  I was at the bookstore with a friend and we spotted the book, Keepsake by Kristina Riggle, on one of the display tables.  The blurb on the back of the book sounded intriguing, and I was immediately hooked when I read the first three pages.

Essentially, the book focuses on two sisters - as different as night and day:  one a hoarder, just like her mother, and the other a neat freak bordering on OCD.  The book begins when the hoarder's 7-year-old son breaks his collar bone when an avalanche of collected debris falls on him.  The doctor has his suspicions and sends a social worker to inspect the living conditions.  The mom is given an ultimatum:  either clean up the house and seek help from a psychologist --- or risk losing custody.  She has already lost her teen age son and husband due to the mess, and she cannot bear the thought of losing the only person in the world who loves her unconditionally.

The novel focuses on the massive clean up of the house - and the psychological attachment that hoarders have to objects, and the compulsive aspect of hoarding compared to any other substance abuse like alcohol or cigarettes or drugs.  And the equally devastating effect that OCD can have on the ability to connect to others in a real, physical way.  And the proverbial question of "nature vs nurture" and how the best intentions of those growing up in a dysfunctional household oftentimes find the pull to repeat the cycle greater than the desire to repel it.

I must admit that I am intrigued by this topic - hoarding - although I have never allowed myself to watch the real-life television drama that chronicle examples of this lifestyle.  I think deep down I am too empathetic to their plight.  And while I pride myself on a neat, organized, clean home -- I think I can easily see "where but the grace of God go I."  There is a sadness when I read of those who hoard - or those who house the one odd stray cat that turns into 100. They truly have a compassionate heart - they just don't know how to let go without feeling supreme loss of self.

This is truly one example, I believe, where fiction tell more truth than any non-fiction story could dare. And I am still haunted by the questions that the end of the book causes the reader to ask.

The second book I read this weekend was The Wednesday Sisters by Meg Waite Calyton, and can I say that I am most anxious to read any other work by this author?!  I was ecstatic to hear that her fourth book, The Wednesday Daughters, will making its debut sometime in 2013.

Again, I am drawn in by the blurb on the back of the book - as you would imagine anyone who fancies themselves as a possible writer:
... Then one evening, as they gather to watch the Miss America Pageant, Linda admits that she aspires to write a novel herself, and the Wednesay Sisters Writing Society is born.  the five women slowly, and often reluctantly, start filling journals, sliding pages into typewriters, and sharing their work.  In the process, they explore the changing world around them:  the Vietnam War, the race to the moon and a women's movement that challenges everything they believe about themselves.  At the same time, the friends carry one another through more personal changes - one brought about by infidelity, longing, illness, failure, and success.  With one another's support and encouragement the Wenesday Sisters begin to embrace who they are and what they hope to become, welcoming readers to experience, along with them, the power of dreaming big.

 I was astonished by the author's ability to end each chapter with a captivating line that made me want to read more:

  • She didn't say anything that first afternoon about how lonely her childhood had been.
  • Still, in some way I can't even explain, we set her apart so that what happened to her couldn't possibly happen to us
  • It would all fall out over the next week, leaving him bald as the moon before the Apollo astronauts planted their unflappable flag.  But it would grow back improbably thicker, a portent of things to come
  • "If I don't believe in my work, how can I expect anyone else to?  Besides, it was only sixty-two rejections. The last one was a yes."
  • And despite our promise, despite that reminder, the moment she was out of sight we were talking about it amongst ourselves, unable to grant her even this one small request.
And this is only the first 14 out of 46 chapters!

I long to have a writing group like this one.  One that I feel comfortable enough to share my most inner thoughts and trust enough to help me make them better.  A group of women whom I can share my personal life and not be judged or criticized for what I choose to do.

I was captivated by each of these five women - and there were times when I would audibly sigh or gasp when I learned their deepest secret or when I knew they had realized their deepest fear.

The writing in this book made me want to try harder as a writer - to realize the potential in crafting fiction to illicit real emotion in the reader.  I admire Meg Waite Clayton's talent and I, for one, will be anxiously awaiting the release to the sequel of this book.  I want to hear how the daughters -- my generation - grow up and find themselves in the 21st century.

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

A writing prompt

It is not often that I share a personal writing sample here on this blog.  Well, that is probably not entirely true.  This blog is nothing but personal essays on a variety of topics.  But today I was profoundly impacted by the writing prompt from the Project 137 Days - and I decided to make it more of a public declaration.

Today's prompt was this:
"The tragedy of life is not that it ends so soon, but that we wait so long to begin it."             - W. M. Lewis 
What would you like to begin?
And here was my response (unedited --- totally rough draft):

I feel as though today I have truly begun a new chapter of life - one that provides balance to what has been a very chaotic life so far (all my own doing!)

Today was the first day of school, but today was different.  Today I taught only classes that I want to teach - that I am passionate about teaching.  And in doing so, I have truly begun to live again.

This year I am not overtaxed by lesson plans or grading or disrespectful students.  Rather - I feel as though I can take this all in stride because I am in balance; I am pursuing a vocation without a loss of self.  And I have felt lost for quite sometime.

So what would I begin?  I think I have already begun.

I have added writing to my regular routine.  I have organized a greeting card ministry.  I have found a photography hobby that promises lots of learning and personal growth opportunities.

For me the question has finally become what and how will I continue to do all these activities that stimulate my emotional, intellectual, creative, and spiritual sides --- and find a perfect sense of balance to provide a life of sustaining peace and joy.

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Another Year Begins....

While I do not necessarily feel that I was born to teach, I do feel that I was born to live the academic life.

From the time I was a junior in college and constantly asked the proverbial question, "So, what do you want to do when you graduate?" I would answer ---- I would love to be a professional student.  See, I have always loved to learn.  I never really enjoyed the assessments, and I truly hated the standardized tests, but I was born to be a life-long learner.

It only took me about two decades after my college graduation to realize that teachers are indeed professional students.  And I have been quite blessed to have the opportunity to pursue this vocation, despite my lack of qualifications.

But aside from the learning aspect of this profession, I have come to the conclusion that my internal clock is based on the academic year.  Oh sure, I celebrate December 31st with the traditional toast and the obligatory list of resolutions, but I consider my TRUE New Year's Eve today ---- the last day of summer before another academic year begins.

I will get little sleep tonight - not from worry, but from great anticipation of what this new year will hold.  I will meet new students and become reacquainted with past students.  And as far as I am concerned, we all start with a clean slate - myself included.  Mistakes of the past are behind us, and a bright future lies ahead.

And for the first time in several years I feel as though I am teaching only the classes that I am well-equipped to teach - and it feels DIVINE!  I will no longer be donning my "super teacher" cape with nine preps a week, but I will reap the benefits of time leftover to pursue personal interests.  And while I know that this year won't be perfect - there will certainly be frustrations along the way - I also know that this year feels right.

Yes, today is somewhat bittersweet, as I do enjoy my summer freedom - but tomorrow will begin a new chapter in life - and that is worth a stomach full of butterflies.

Saturday, August 18, 2012

If not now.....when?

I took an online writing class this summer, VerbTribe, offered by the author of Life is a Verb, Patti Digh.  For those of you unfamiliar with that book (I offered a series of writing prompts about two years ago based on its contents) was born out of the death of her step-father.  He was diagnosed with cancer and told he had just a few months to live -- 37 days later, he was gone.  Since that time, 37 days has become a significant demarkation of time in Patti's life, and she asks her readers this basic question:  If you knew you only had 37 days left to live (and truly who knows how many days we have left) - how would you live your life?

On the day of our final VerbTribe conference call this summer, Patti's husband was diagnosed with cancer.  One week later Patti turned 53 years old --- the age of her father when he passed away - and her eldest daughter turned 20, the age Patti was when her dad passed.  In addition, Patti had submitted the manuscript of her newest book to her editor just one week prior to the diagnosis.  The topic?  Grief and Loss.  An amazing set of coincidences, don't you agree?

So Patti has decided to do what she does best and write - documenting events, thoughts, feelings and insights.  In the process of sorting through all these changes in life, Patti discovered that there are exactly 137 days from her birthday until New Year's Eve.  Another coincidence (?)

And Patti has decided to use this opportunity to build community.  She is now offering an online course, Project 137, where we can join her on this journey of self-discovery through writing prompts from now until December 31.  The cost is whatever you choose to give - and ALL proceeds go towards medical bills, which are overwhelming due to the fact that they are currently un-insured!

I realize that this course may not be for everyone - but if you are at all interested, I urge you to check it out and consider it.  The writing prompts are thought-provoking, and the donation is for a great cause.

In the meantime....I want to share the prompt from the first day.  I am still thinking about it - and the truth contained - and how I can begin to take those first steps toward living fully:

For a long time it seemed to me that life was about to begin - real life. But there was always some obstacle in the way, something to be gotten through first, some unfinished business, time to still be served, a debt to be paid. Then life would begin. At last it dawned on me that these obstacles were my life.             -Alfred d'Souza

Suffice it to say...I think I have been waiting a long time for life to get perfect before I start living - and I have missed the point.  I used to think, when the children were young, that I would start living when....

  • they would sleep through the night (and truthfully, I am a more functional human being when I have had 6-8 hours of uninterrupted sleep).  
  • Then it became, I would start living when they all would be in school.  
  • Then I thought I would start living when we entered the empty-nest phase of life.  
But guess what?  With each phase of life there comes joys - and there comes sorrows; there is a renewed sense of freedom on the one hand, and newfound responsibilities on the other.  As I have been reminded several times this summer during my devotional readings:

If you wait until the wind and the weather are just right, you will never plant anything and never harvest anything.              (Ecclesiastes 11:4 - Good News Translation)

No, life is not perfect, but life is good.  And it is time to start living --- because if not now, when?!

Thursday, August 16, 2012

An Answer to Un-asked Prayer

I am in a good place.

It took a while to get here - and I know I can always improve but....I am in a good place.

I won't go into much detail here, although perhaps detail will be forthcoming, but suffice it to say that I have maintained a good writing regimen since February.  I have maintained my morning pages via 750words, and in February I also developed a devotional routine, which has me reading two different devotionals at YouVersion (Rick Warren's - Decade of Destiny, and Joyce Meyers' - Promises for your Everyday Life).

While my summer was far from perfect, I must admit that this writing routine, coupled with Patti Digh's Verb Tribe for Teachers, helped me to maintain perspective and find peace - something that has been lacking in my life and I have wanted for years.

I went to our teacher in-service yesterday ready to start the year.  I was teaching more classes than I wanted, but I knew that retirement was a mere three years away, so I was willing to continue.  I adore my school - I love the administration - I respect the families - and like most of the students :)

But yesterday I learned that life could be even better than I ever thought possible.  And again, without too many distracting details let me just say that I went into the meeting prepared to teach my full course load and I left the meeting lighter and freer than I ever anticipated.

There was a teacher there who wanted more classes - and who was more than qualified to teach the classes that I felt most inept.  It was a win-win situation --- for the two teachers involved as well as for the students.

I never bothered to pray for my teaching schedule to be reduced.  And yet....I desperately wanted it to be reduced.  I have wanted it to be reduced for two years.  At this time in my life I feel as though I have too many other interests to pursue:  writing - photography - a greeting card ministry.  And as I have heard so many times before:  if not now....when?!

And then I received this little love-gift from God.  Without asking for it in prayer - He knew my need and granted the desire anyway.  How awesome is that?!

I am now teaching the classes that I truly feel called to teach:  Brit Lit - Yearbook - Grammar - English Comp.  Just the sound of those classes makes me tingle with excitement.  Yes, this is indeed going to be a GREAT year.

Of course, I will no longer be known as the "super teacher" --- the one who maintains 10 different preps in the course of one academic year.  And while I never did it for the accolades (I truly do love to teach).....I must admit that those accolades boost the ole self- confidence.  And I must relinquish that crown to other "super teachers"  But I believe that this, too, is a life lesson.  I am doing what I am supposed to do:  nothing more and nothing less.  And there is great comfort in that.

I am learning that I am indeed...enough.

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

I am retiring....

Tomorrow is the teacher in-service.  This is the "official" start to the new school year.  My official start, on the other hand, was Monday when I conducted a three-hour grammar review for in-coming students - and that start continued today when I administered the required grammar proficiency test.  The in-service tomorrow will be from 8:30 - 3:00 and then Thursday night is back to school - when we meet with the parents of each class for a whopping 8 minutes to try to explain all that we plan to accomplish over the course of this academic year.

I am normally quite ready for school to start again - and I must admit that I do have some anticipatory butterflies in my stomach that accompany this fresh new beginning.  I still enjoy shopping for school supplies (there is nothing like the feel of a brand new spiral bound notebook or an unopened back of BIC pens just waiting to document snippets of truth gleaned over the course of the year) -  but this year feels a bit different.  Perhaps it is because my summer was filled with angst that never quite allowed me to fully relax and recuperate from the past academic year.  Or perhaps it is because last year was a challenge on so many levels that I am a bit leery of what this year may hold.  But mostly I is because I am preparing myself for retirement.

I have thoroughly enjoyed this profession - calling -vocation.  It sought me out...and while I did not willingly heed the call, I am truly grateful to have had the opportunity to make a difference in children's lives.  But for quite sometime now I have felt that it is time to move on.  Last May I gave notice - three years' notice - and let them know that I will officially retire May, 2013.  This feels right for a variety of reasons, but mainly, I will be 55 years old and that is a very respectable retirement age.

I still have three more years to teach - and I hope to impart as much knowledge as I ingest.  This year I plan to try to the concept of the "flipped classroom" - which will be a huge learning experience.  Next year I will drop the freshman English class in order to free up some time from grading all those papers.  And the following year....well, that will be the last hurrah.

I am ready.  But I am determined not to wish my life away.  I look forward to the classes I will teach this year:  English 8 (with 16 students); English 9 (with 10 students); Brit Lit (with 7 students); Yearbook (with 7 students); high school grammar (with 7 students); and college level English Comp (with 13 students) ---- but I also look forward to a new chapter in my own life.

Monday, August 13, 2012

Review: Hope Springs

image provided by IMBD
It is rare that I go to the movies.  Why?  I'm not sure.  Perhaps it is the price.  To think that the minimum price per ticket is $10 (multiplied by 2 since I would only go with someone else) - and the snacks are a minimum of $10 as well ( who can possibly go to a movie without indulging on popcorn?!) and the evening's entertainment is approximately $30.00.  Now I would not consider myself a cheapskate - but rather, I would like to say that I am frugal.  And if I am going to spend $30 on entertainment - I want to make darn sure that I am actually entertained.

So it is with that mindset that I coerced my husband to see the new romantic comedy, Hope Springs, starring Meryl Streep (whom I adore) and  Tommy Lee Jones (whom I consider a very viable actor).  I anticipated more comedy than romance and with Steve Carell as the marriage counselor, I thought I would be laughing non-stop throughout the movie.  Such was not the case.

My initial reaction when I left the theater - which was corroborated by my friend - was that I was just a part of a sex therapy session for an over-50 couple.  And this was not something that I cared to witness nor share.  I wanted to laugh non-stop - I wanted to laugh each time Steve Carell came on-screen, but I ended up laughing between some very awkward moments.

Now that it has been about a 24 hour waiting period, however .... I realize that this movie has more than meets the eye.

First of all....I learned that our marriage is not unique:  if  you reach the milestone of the silver anniversary (25 years) you learn that love is not passion, but rather, love is respect - love is unconditional - love is acceptance.  If you anticipate the fireworks each week, then you have unrealistic expectations.

However....I also learned that love is work.  Love is a willingness to go beyond yourself and put the other one first.  Love is acceptance, with a desire (and expectation) for fireworks every once in while.

Would I choose to purchase this film on DVD to watch over and over again - NO.  Once was enough.  Do I regret having seen the film?  NO --- the underlying message is worthy of our attention (especially for the over 50 year age group) and the message can help guide conversation to make the next 50 years more special than the last.

Sunday, August 12, 2012

Random Thoughts/Rants

As I just logged on I realized that I have not posted to this blog since April 16 --- nearly four months ago!  It is not that I have not thought about posting, or thought about my blogging friends, but I have had a very difficult time sorting through all my thoughts on this subject.  So here is my public summary of all those voices that have uttered their opinions in my head.

I love writing!!  I came to that knowledge late in life through the amazing teaching of Tilly Warnock and the Breadloaf School of English.  For over 16 months now I have participated in the 750words community - writing my three pages of stream-of-consciousness as Julia Cameron advocates in her famous book, The Artist's Way.  This has definitely become a habit and I almost need to do this on a daily basis as much as I need to breathe or eat or sleep.  I have continued to hone this craft of writing by journaling my daily devotions and daily prayers. Through this exercise I have learned that I think through writing - I process life through writing - I learn to live a better life through writing.  What I write may not be of interest to anyone else but me - but that is enough.

I have just finished an online writing class from the spectacular author/instructor, Patti Digh.  Some of you may remember my series of summer writing prompts that I provided from her book, Life is a Verb.  She offered a writing class for teachers this summer - and what a wonderful class this was.  Not only did I learn a lot about myself - and my need to write - but I learned that I am not alone.  There are several of us that bonded over these internet waves and we hope to continue this bond throughout the school year.

I like writing for an audience.  Yes, it is true.  As introverted as I may be, there is something that excites me when I think others may read what I write.  It makes me better - it causes me to be more reflected and more intentional.  I need to blog because I think blogging helps to make me a better Molly

BUT....blogging has all kinds of responsibilities attached to it.  I LOVE to visit your blogs - to learn what is going on in your life - to share in your joys and sorrows. takes so much time.  One of the primary reasons I quit blogging was because I was spending nearly two hours every day reading other blogs and posting comments - because I wanted you to know that I cared.  And I do...but I just don't have fourteen spare hours in a week to devote to this "hobby".

BUT...I dealt with this conflict by running - and as I am learning in life - running away is never the solution.  I could not afford the time I was spending - so I opted to spend no time.  No time reading blogs (or books, for that matter)....and no time writing on my own blog.  And I have missed it

And then there is the issue of the blog name:  My Cozy Book Nook.  I began this blog because I was afraid that I would run out of personal topics, but I figured I would never run out of books.  SO...why not start a book blog?  The problem?!  I have discovered that reading is but one of my passions in life --- a very big passion, mind you, but not a sole passion.  And I have created this arbitrary boundary that My Cozy Book Nook should only be about books - and not about me.  HOGWASH I many of you have tried to tell me in the past - this is my blog and I can do what I want.  And while I still love my nook - and I do have a lot of books in this nook - I also have a lot of other hobbies that I pursue in this private space:  photography and writing and scrapbooking and card making and just general thinking.

I have spent the past year taking several online classes - mostly centered around writing and photography, but too many to name at the moment.  Suffice it to say I have discovered that I have a true PASSION for writing.  I excel in these classes - not excel in terms of talent, but excel in terms of participation and relating to others and creating bonds that will last.  I have an interest in photography - but it is only that, an interest.  I am not passionate about it.  But here's the thing:  THAT IS OK.  My photography can enhance my writing --- my writing will always take center stage.

And while I may not write fiction (to me, fiction = creative) --- My writing is me.  It is what I need to do in order to fulfill my purpose.  And I am ready to finally live my own life - not the one that I think I should live - or I think others want me to live - or I think my parents would want me to live.  But rather - I am ready to lead the life that I feel God is calling to me live.

I anticipate that I will lose subscribers to my blog.  And while there was a time in my life when that was important, I must admit that now I have learned that this type of comparison is counter-productive to me.  I love you all - I want to be in contact with you all - but I first must be in contact with me.  Does that make sense?

So, My Cozy Book Nook is now back in business.  Not in the business of regular book reviews.  And not in the business of gaining followers - but rather, in the business of being authentic.  Because that is what God is calling me to do.

Monday, April 16, 2012

A Spiritual Journey through Photography

Well, it has been quite a while since I have written - but I have been very busy behind the scenes.  I have still not read much fiction, but I continue to read books on photography and writing, and know that someday I will return to my reading passion.  Geoff and I are trying to finalize plans for out 30th anniversary celebration, but we are having a difficult time deciding how to celebrate:  New York City - a cruise - a lake house retreat?  That is obviously fodder for another post at a later time.

I have had an idea for several weeks now to write a blog post on the spiritual journey I have traveled through my photography hobby.  It has now become quite lengthy and will probably be a multi-part essay.  But today I feel the need to document my weekend epiphany that came as a result of doing homework for the online class I am taking, Sense of Place.

In the first week of the class we were asked to begin an Inspiration File of travel photos.  There was no limitation except that we needed to collect 20-30 pictures that "inspired" us.  Since I have saved over 300 pictures in the favorites folder on my Flickr account - I decided to start there.  I quickly culled through the photographs and selected 18 pictures that I thought pertained to my "sense of place" and I saved them in a separate folder on my desktop.

When I viewed all 18 pictures at once I quickly found a common theme:  serenity.  Every single photograph left me with a sense of peace and tranquility.  This did not surprise me.

But as I looked closer I realized another theme emerged:  simplicity - a desire to return to a bygone era where life was lived at a slower pace and success was not measured by the number of tasks ticked off the to-do list.  I am drawn to pictures of flower boxes in windowsills - and moleskin notebooks on cafe tables with a half empty cup of espresso on the side.  Technology is a not a part of these eighteen photos, but open air markets with fresh produce is plentiful.  The pastoral setting with sheep grazing in the lush green grass is perfection to me.

And then it hit me.  An epiphany for me - but probably a "duh" moment for others.  If this is what I yearn for:  simplicity, tranquility, a desire to release 21st century technology for a lifestyle more genteel --- then why do I only indulge myself one or two weeks a year?  Why do I feel the need to live a daily hectic life that produces stress and strain when I can make minor adjustments and live that lifestyle year 'round?

While I may not have the opportunity to visit daily open air markets, I am driving distance to several Farmers' markets here in the heart of America.  If I long to sit a sip an espresso while writing long hand in a moleskin book then why I don't give up the computer and head to a local Starbucks and secure a corner table for the afternoon?  If I do not wish to define success by a to-do list, then it is time to give myself a break and say I will teach those classes which hold a passion for me (Brit Lit and English Comp) and release those that bog me down.

Vacation is a not only a physical destination beyond the everyday - it is a mental mindset.  And while I do not envision taking an extended break from life - I do believe it is possible to infuse my life with elements of simplicity that until just recently I thought were only available for one week out of the year.

Thursday, April 5, 2012

A Year of Change...

Brynn's 1st Birthday Party
The following is what I wrote this morning during my morning pages time at 750words.  While I normally keep these journal entries private, I thought perhaps there are a few family members and friends who might be interested in reading my thoughts about this past year.  Warning:  word count is over 1,200.


One year ago today I woke up a grandmother - and spoke at the memorial service of my own mom.  One year ago I had to put a smile on my face and weep tears - when I felt nothing but numb.  One year ago my life changed forever - and yet it continued on as if nothing had happened.  It has been a year of change - and while these external circumstances were certainly significant - I hope that the internal changes have been more so.

When I discovered I was going to be a grandmother - I knew it was something I could not stop, but I did not relish in the news.  But the poem, When I Grow Old I Shall Wear Purple continued to come to mind.  Many older women embrace that poem by joining a group of brash ladies sporting large bright hats that stand out in the crowd.  I prefer to focus on the color purple - quietly proclaiming my new resolve to have more fun in this next half century of my life.  I have since added much purple to my otherwise drab wardrobe of black, brown, and khaki.  This spring I even ventured out to a few more bright bold colors such as coral and turquoise.  Just yesterday I picked up my new pair of glasses that are completely different from any other pair I have worn - and I selected for the sole reason that the customer service rep said they looked "fun"  I accidentally posted a picture of myself to Facebook (meant to send it just to Flickr) and have received more likes and comments on that single post than any other status update.  What began as a silly act of rebellion against turning old has manifested itself into a more relaxed granny who has decided that fun is not an option, it is a necessity in life.

In the past year I have not only modified my outward appearance, but I have also focused on my inner being as well.  I have taken the study of photography to (perhaps) an excessive level, but I have enjoyed learning the why behind the how.  In January I decided that it was time to take action and I vowed to complete the 365 project (something I have admired for two years now - here's the link to my dedicated blog) and have done quite well with the help of a good friend who is participating in this journey with me.  I have discovered that there is joy in pursuing an interest with a likeminded friend - and I do not feel like such a hermit anymore.  I still enjoy my private time, and I will always be an introvert, but this project has taught me so much more than just the habit of taking a picture a day.  

I have also taken several online classes and have learned that not all are created equal.  Some classes were well worth the money and I was in awe how total strangers could truly bond together in a virtual format.  Other classes did not quite click as well, but I still learned something new and considered it a positive experience.  These classes ranged from personal growth, such as Susannah Conway's Unraveling, to photography, such as Darah Parker's Slice of Life, to writing, such as Dave Fox's Travel Writing.  I am currently scheduled to start Kat's online photography class on Sunday, called A Sense of Place and I am going to be a part of Patti Digh's VerbTribe for teacher in June (some of you may remember the series of posts I wrote two summers ago on her book, Life is a Verb).  All of these academic pursuits are in line with my lifetime goal of becoming a Travel Writer.

While I am at an age in life when a new career is the last thing I want to do - I am hoping to retire in the next three years -  and I have decided that I can pursue this dream for personal rather than financial gain.  Perhaps no one will read what I write - perhaps only family - but I want to learn to capture the emotion of worldwide travels in both photos and prose.  I figure if a picture is worth a thousand words, I will add another 1,500 and create an essay.  

I was blessed to take a trip of a lifetime this year - two weeks alone in Paris, France - and I loved every minute of it.  I am taking my time in reviewing the pictures - learning to use photo editing software such as Photoshop Elements and Lightroom to improve the better photos - and writing essays to accompany them.  While I had hoped to complete this project during November's NaNoWriMo - I am not disappointed in the delay.  While I would normally chastise myself for such a failure, I have learned that some deadlines in life are quite artificial.

And .... I have allowed myself to dream again.  I thought I had forgotten how -- but this year of contemplation and renewal has taught me that dreams are necessary in order to muddle through the day to day.  I not only dream of worldwide travel (specifically to London, Paris, Italy, New York, and California Wine country), but to do so for extended periods of time.  Geoff and I have talked about taking a year abroad, perhaps staying three months in each location.  After my fantastic experience with in Paris last summer, I have no qualms about using that service again in the future.

And we dream of owning our own lake house just as my parents did.  Their house provided so many wonderful memories for my children and I want to provide those kinds of memories for my own grandchildren - and their children.  After doing some online research I have found a place just outside St. Louis, Innsbrook, that I am most excited to visit the weekend of April 20.  It seems like a lovely lake community filled with activities that would accommodate every age group.  Of course, it is easy to be deceived online, so I am trying to reserve judgment until we see it in person.  The purchase of such a house is a long ways away, but short-term and long-term dreams are all part of the equation for a balanced, joyful life.

And finally this year has afforded me the opportunity to develop my spiritual life as well.  The unexpected sabbatical from teaching English 1 provided considerable free time in my schedule - something I do not take for granted and do not want to waste.  Using my iPad for the Holy Bible app was one of the best inspirations I have had (affiliated with YouVersion online).  I currently follow Rick Warren's Decade of Destiny devotional and read the short entry and journal my response each and every day.  This has not only drawn me closer to the Lord, but is also helping me to align my life so that all activities and expenses and goals and dreams are in sync with one another.  I have learned that God also knows that fun is necessary in life - and making time for that must be a priority for me.  It is also helpful that this devotion focuses on the next ten years - a significant decade as I meander through my 50s and approach 60.  There is still a lot of life yet to live - and I want to LIVE not just exist.

That is what the past year has taught me.  And I will not stop now.  I will continue to improve my mind, my body, and my soul for a future that looks bright and promising.

Sunday, February 26, 2012

Thank you...

It is my sincere hope to express my personal gratitude to each and every one of you who took the time to comment on my previous post.  Your outpouring of compassion and empathy has touched me in a way that I never expected from an "impersonal" online community.

As a very brief possible explanation for the rather depressing post....I had been given a prescription for an anti-anxiety medication to help me face the oral surgery that I had on Tuesday.  I have a true phobia of dentists and I consider myself quite fortunate to have found one who cares as much about my mental well-being as his pocketbook.  However I do wonder whether these drugs contributed to my Debbie Downer Thursday.  I, who never take anything stronger than Excedrin (and only after I have dealt with migraine pain for over four hours) might have experienced a bodily rebellion of this foreign substance in my bloodstream.  Anyway...I don't pretend to think that the issues that bothered me on Thursday are no longer a bother....but hopefully I have managed to put them into better perspective.

But today as I was reading through some photography books and experimenting with Photoshop Elements (which I feel I will never master) I was hit with another revelation, so to speak.  Bear with me.....

On Thursday I was struck with the overwhelming need to write about my emotions.  Not that I thought anyone cared nor that I expected any response - but I needed to write for me.

Lately I have felt the desire to learn photography.  Not because I am seeking another career late-in-life nor that I feel I have any real talent in this area, but I have needed to learn how to slow down and view life around me through a 2.5 inch screen.  And in doing that I have learned that a slight movement in perspective totally changes the image.  What is cluttered in one picture will become a thing of beauty in another.  I am learning that joy in life is entirely up to me -- how I choose to view it.  And if I don't like the view, then it only requires a slight move here or there to change my mental outlook.

And so here is the revelation of this Sunday afternoon in February.  Both writing and photography are creative ways that I can express myself.  I have kept myself bottled up for so long.  I'm not sure why -- but I have not allowed myself to share my inner thoughts or feelings with anyone.  And I guess after two plus decades of being moot, I now desire to find my voice.

Now for an impatient person such as myself, it is rather frustrating that I cannot write nor take pictures to my own satisfaction right out of the shoot -- but I am also learning that some things do not have to be rushed.  Just because I am over 50 does not mean that I have only months left (I have no idea where that thinking has come from).....but the cool thing is that being over 50 means I have more free time than I ever have in the past.  And I plan to use that free time to its fullest!

So thank you....for taking the time to let me know that the past few months have been stressful and I do need to cut myself a break.  Thank you for reassuring me that my love of reading will return.  Thank you for letting me know that I am not past my prime - and there is plenty of good life ahead.  But most importantly, thank you for listening - and reading - and relating to my feeble attempt to find my voice.

Thursday, February 23, 2012

A Day of Heartache

I apologize in advance for this rather depressing post - but it has been a rather depressing day and I am not sure that I can get through it without writing.  I have come to learn that writing to me is as necessary as air to breathe.

I find myself floundering today.  I'm not sure if it is because my eldest is moving into her own house this weekend -- a house!  Not an apartment, nor a town home.   But rather she and her husband and child - my granddaughter - are becoming full time mortgage owners of a beautiful house.  And I find myself rather jealous of their perfect floor plan - and rather incredulous that I am this old.  No longer will Christmas mornings be celebrated here -- they will be celebrated there.  And that is natural - and upsetting all at the same time.

And I find myself remembering that this time last year Mom was placed on hospice.  And we had no idea what that meant or what form that would take.  But by March 26th she would be gone.  And there was a part of me that was rather relieved.  I would no longer be the primary care giver and I could relax and focus on my own family for a while.  And instantly the guilt set in.  I should never have been relieved at my mother's death.

And here I am nearly 11 months to the day and I have finally allowed myself to grieve that I no longer have a mother to care for me.  I am the sole caregiver.  I am the mother - and the grandmother - of the family.  And don't think I like that pressure-filled role.

And I find myself at odds with school.  I have had three students quit my Brit Lit class in the past week.  I only had 16 students to start.  I think that must be some kind of record - and not a record that brings pride. I love Brit Lit and give my heart and soul to this class and just isn't enough.  I don't reach them all. And I desperately want to.

And I find that I can't find a book to read!  Me -- the lover of all things literary with a nook filled to the brim with unread books of every genre.  But I haven't read a book in nearly a year and that is rather distressing to me.  That is what inspired this blog in the first place.

And I wonder ..... have I passed my prime?  Is it all downhill from here? I sure hope not...but I fear so.

Monday, February 20, 2012

A New Blog...

Well, I am obviously having a difficult time keeping all the balls in the air.  I am hoping that this is a sign of too much stress in life (hence the semi-sabbatical this semester) and not a sign of aging.  I have too many hobbies and interests that I want to maintain to have to slow down now.

However, as I look at the date of my last post - January 29 - it appears that blogging is finding its way to the bottom of the priority list, and I find myself questioning why.  I love the support, encouragement, and friendship that I receive from this online community; I enjoy writing, especially for a select audience; I still enjoy reading, although that has fallen by the wayside as well.  So if I receive so much pleasure from blogging, why do I seem to avoid it?

Without boring you with all the details, I think inattention to this blog is due, in part, to my attention to other journaling endeavors.  I try to write each morning at and this seems to fulfill that daily need;  the 365 Project  encourages me to post daily pictures, with a short caption, on my Flickr photo stream, and I try to continue to improve my academic writing by working on my Paris Vacation photo essay book.

I have decided to maintain My Cozy Book Nook and use it when I wish to post more in-depth essays or book reviews or teaching commentary, and to create another daily blog for my 365 Project entitled:  2012 Photo-a-Day.  It is very simple and designed to make posting easy.  I simply copy and paste what I have posted on Flickr into the blogger template.  My hope is to utilize the Blog2Print website at the end of the year and create a softcover book of this photo adventure.

So I am definitely not giving up this blog, nor this community, nor my love of reading and writing.  I just might be a little absent over the next few months.  If you have any interest in following my daily photo progress, feel free to visit my new blog - otherwise I will be in touch here from time to time.  And I will most definitely be following your posts.

Sunday, January 29, 2012

TSS - 1.29.12

Can someone please tell me where all my free time goes in the course of a week?  I started off the New Year with great hopes of writing blog posts two to three times a week, and I find myself barely able to crank out a Sunday Salon post before the weekend is over.  This cannot be the new normal, can it?!

I have started teaching Pride and Prejudice in the British literature course.   This is the fifth time I have taught the book, and probably the seventh time I have read it.  My own children just roll their eyes when I tell them that I "have" to read the book again.  They don't understand my need to refresh my memory in the hopes of fully engaging the class in a lively discussion.

But this time around I have noticed something a bit different.  Since I am already well versed in the plot, and I essentially know what is going to happen in nearly every chapter, I am finding that this re-read is enabling me to see subtle character development that I have missed before - particularly with the minor characters such as Mary Bennet and Charlotte Lucas.  And I continue to marvel at Jane Austen's ability to weave each detailed description into the overall work as a whole.  And of course, I am always anxious to come across my favorite lines of the book - it is as though I have run into a long lost friend whom I desire to visit for awhile.
"An unhappy alternative is before you, Elizabeth. From this day you must be a stranger to one of your parents.—Your mother will never see you again if you do not marry Mr. Collins, and I will never see you again if you do."     - Mr. Bennet
One of the male students in the class remarked that nothing happens in this story, and while I disagreed with his statement I did add that this book is definitely not a plot-driven novel, but rather a character-driven novel.  As a class we spent quite a bit of time discussing this subject and I proposed that while plot-driven novels are a lot of fun to read because they keep us at the edge of our seats, they are rarely suitable for literary study.  Whereas, character-driven novels, and theme-driven novels, provide ample material for class discussions.  What do you think?  Was this too broad of a statement?

The training of Feeny, our inherited basset hound puppy, continues at a very slow pace.  I must say that I am pleased that he is now nearly house-broken - having an accident perhaps once every two or three days rather than two or three times a day.  Of course, he still prefers to use our garage to the backyard, but I figure first things first.  He still continues to bark when I leave the room, although it is not quite as immediate or as long as it used to be.  I suppose I should not be too anxious for this new dog to learn new tricks.

He almost found himself on the streets this week, however, when he managed to jump up to the table and take my husband's cell phone.  Before we could stop him, he had already chewed it to the point of destruction.  Fortunately for him - those floppy ears and droopy eyes made it impossible to stay angry for long. 

I have managed to take a picture every day this week - so the month of January only saw one missed day in the 365 Project.  The pictures still tend to chronicle my week rather than focus on creative photography, but I figure there is plenty of time to work my way into that arena.

I spent my free Thursday this week trying to teach myself PhotoShop Elements.  Oh boy, this is going to take some time.  In the nearly three hours I spent with the software program I learned how to upload a picture, make use of the quick edits, and employ the basic concept of cloning.  I tried to eradicate the "black scarf" from one of my Paris pictures (for those who are regular followers of my blog, you know to what I am referring).  While I did manage to make the blemish "disappear" - I must confess that it is rather rough around the edges - literally.  Oh well, I keep reminding myself that I am on a long journey here and I wish to enjoy every step of the way.

Unfortunately, this continued fascination with photography has meant that I have failed the TBR Double Dare Challenge.  Sorry, C.B.  I have picked up several books from the library, and actually used my recent Barnes and Noble 20% off coupon to purchase two new books for my personal collection.  To try to broaden my scope of potential pictures for the 365 Project, I purchased Jim Krause's book, Photo Idea Index.  I like the fact that he uses ordinary cameras and lenses (available to the masses rather than just the professionals) and that he uses lots of pictures to illustrate his points.

And to continue to help me understand the fundamentals of photo composition I purchased Peter Ensenberger's book, Composing Photos.  Again, this book provides lots of visual stimulation - as well as post-it note comments - to help me understand what I have read in several other books before.

I have continued to read - albeit rather slowly - the first book in the Harry Potter series.  And while I am probably half way through, I am sure that I will not finish by the end of the month - which was my original goal.  Oh well, this is another test in my resolve to enjoy the journey of life - and not be so intent on the end results.

I continue to enjoy the Travel Writing course with Dave Fox - although this week I have not been able to motivate myself to write the assigned essay.  I have received some positive feedback on the previous two essays, as well as some very good constructive criticism.  Perhaps I am afraid that I don't have a third quality essay inside me?  Or perhaps my travel journeys do not quite have the universal appeal as I originally thought?  Or perhaps I don't have the necessary discipline to be a writer?  I'm not sure....but I refuse to admit defeat - just perhaps a bit of writer's block.

I cannot that this week marks the beginning of February!  Perhaps I will be able to do a better job of posting this next month.
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