Girls

2012/12/31

Mall date with my girls. The mall doesn't hold the same allure for me that it did once upon a time, but I am happy to have a relaxing day with my girls.

Thoughts

2012/12/30

A few thoughts on teaching as I sit on top of my first semester in the trenches, all wise and worldly now. One of the main motivators for me to become a teacher, as I briefly mentioned before, is to take a personal stand against the epidemic of selfishness that I think our world suffers from. That I personally suffer from. It is an expression of my Christianity, where I put in to action the principles of service that I hold dear. But here is where things get squishy for me. Principles and ideals have been of little service to me as I deal with the daily realities of my job. The stress and overworkedness and general gritty realities that I wade through have blurred the lines of pretty much everything. There are too many immediate priorities to worry much about ideals. I'm talking both about the ideals of becoming a fantastic teacher and also the ideals of being an agent of good in the world. It's complicated.

 In my desire to become less selfish I think the reverse has happened. In reaction to the exhaustion of my job, I look for immediate comforts on a daily basis rather than managing my life in a holistic and strategic way.

 In my desire to be of service of those less fortunate than I, I have moved into a season of my life when I cannot serve my close friends and family. That is a privilege I took for granted and not realize I did not take full advantage of when it was more available to me.

 In my desire to incorporate good works as an expression of my faith, I have taken a job where the daily realities have made me question the clear lines of my faith. The world is a messy place. The Savior spent his time with the marginalized members of society, but I am having a hard time doing it (on a much lesser scale) without losing a little hope.

Lest I leave you with a sense that I am in the fits of despair or hating my new career, let me articulate that I am strangely but profoundly happy. It is exceedingly hard work but I am grateful to be doing it in the season that I am able. I know it will get easier. I know I will get better. I know in very small ways I am making a positive impact and in truth, small ways are all we really ever have at our disposal.

Rules of Civility

Rules of CivilityRules of Civility by Amor Towles
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Such a fun read. I don't know if it's my luxurious down time over winter break or if the book has a compulsive readability, but I breezed through it in just a few days.

What I loved:
The characters for sure. The author borders on throwing in too many minor characters for my taste, the protagonist especially was extremely likable and very well drawn. I enjoyed her so much that it almost came as a surprise to me when I realized that she wasn't all the perfection that I wanted her to be. Made it better.

What I learned:
The novel paints a good picture of life in New York in 1938. As is my beef with many historical novels, its hard to know how much of the characters' modern sensibility is authentic, but still I felt like I got a taste for life during that time and place.

A favorite passage:
Whatever setbacks he had faced in his life, he said, however daunting or dispiriting the unfolding of events, he always knew that he would make it through, as long as when he woke up he was looking forward to his first cup of coffee...
Uncompromising purpose and the search for eternal truth have an unquestionable sex appeal for the young and high-minded; but when a person loses the ability to take pleasure in the mundane- in the cigarette on the stoop or the ginergersnap in the bath- she has probably put herself in unnecessary danger... this risk should not be treated lightly: One must be prepared to fight for one's simple pleasures and to defend them against elegance and erudition and all manner of glamorous enticements;


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Happy

2012/12/27

I want to take a brief moment and just acknowledge how HUGELY grateful I am for some down time over winter break. It is transforming and a particular kind of joy to remember that I am not *always* cynical and stressed out. It feels so good to just be happy and remember what my self feels like under more humane circumstances. I have taken the most acute joy in small pleasures. I relish books and their beautiful words. Music makes me want to cry with it's beauty. Seriously cry. Running in the sunshine or working hard at yoga is joyous. Lots of full emotions lately and I am reveling in it all...

The Marriage Plot

The Marriage PlotThe Marriage Plot by Jeffrey Eugenides
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Even though I adored Middlesex, I told myself to leave that preconception aside when picking up this book. I had heard mixed reviews and wasn't sure what to expect, but I enjoyed it greatly. There are a few flaws - I didn't love the main female character and thought she was a little thinly drawn, but there was enough else in the novel to leave me satisfied.

What I loved:
I am always a sucker for two things: explorations of dysfunctional characters and relationships, and changes in POV to achieve that goal. This book gave me both and did it well. I liked the way the author shifted the timeline subtly to let you see the same experience from different characters' viewpoints.

What I learned:
Even though it's only a novel, I thought Eugenides did a good job in his treatment of Leonard's mental illness and it was both academically interesting to see it explored and had me empathetically drawn to his experience.

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Baker

2012/12/25

How cute is my baker girl?

Favorite

My new favorite shirt. We can only be friends if you know why.

Gingerbread!

2012/12/24

Happy Gingerbread Day! Have I mentioned that I love gingerbread? Because I love gingerbread.

The Devil's Highway

2012/12/22

The Devil's Highway: A True StoryThe Devil's Highway: A True Story by Luis Alberto Urrea
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

A beautiful little book that really humanizes the issues at the border on both sides. The amount of research he must have done seems incredible. I have enjoyed his fiction so much, it was great to try his non-fiction as well.

What I loved:
His writing style is very engaging and beautiful even though it is informative non-fiction. I loved exploring the men involved as fully human characters.

What I learned:
A lot about the perspectives on both sides of the border. I think Urrea did a great job of staying impartial and showing the issues that all of the different parties deal with. I unfortunately also learned a lot about what it means to die of sun exposure and dehydration. Harrowing.

I love the very opening paragraph:
Five men stumbled out of the mountain pass so sunstruck that they didn't know their own names, couldn't remember where they'd come from, had forgotten how long they'd been lost... They were burned nearly black, their lips huge and cracking, what paltry drool still available to them spuming from their mouths in a salty foam as they walked. Their eyes were cloudy with dust, almost too dry to blink up a tear. Their hair was hard and stiffened by old sweat, standing in crowns from their scalps, old sweat because their bodies were no longer sweating. They were drunk from having their brains baked in the pan, they were seeing God and devils, and they were dizzy from drinking their own urine, the poisons clogging their systems.


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Final

2012/12/20

Last day of school before break. I've been giving finals all week plus we've had early release every day so from my perspective at least, the week has been super relaxing. Wonderfulness.

Perfect

2012/12/19

Dinner outside in 82 degree weather at Shady Grove before heading over to Zilker Trail of Lights. Austin, I love you.

Concert

2012/12/17

Tessa's middle school choir had their winter concert at a neighborhood church tonight. I am continually impressed by what her director accomplishes with crazy middle school kids. Here all four of her choirs performed together for the first time. It was a great show.

Year in Review 2012

2012/12/16

Is it the end of the world yet? The way things have been running in my head it would be entirely possible that I would have missed it. Crazy, yes. I feel like my blog has been even more self-centered than usual so let me take a moment to first recap things for the rest of my little clan.

I had made it clear to Dave that this was my year for crazy and he was on board for being the responsible and sane one in the family - a role he has excelled at. But on top of it all he got a big promotion this fall and his responsibilities at work have been huge. Outside of work he is still running lots, although he hasn't had a race in quite a while and I can see it messing with his running mojo. He's also been playing a lot of frisbee golf with friends as well as a little mountain biking. Austin is great for the outdoor pursuits. Dave also got a new truck this year, something he has been waiting for for a long time. Much deserved and a pretty sweet ride. He hasn't completely severed ties with the Del Sol, it still lives at our house and he's leasing it to my sister. Win/win situation as it gives Xandy a set of wheels and prevents Dave from having to sell his baby.

Tessa started 6th grade this year and she is completely rocking middle school. She has a lot more responsibility to get herself to school and stay on top of her school work, all of which she has handled magnificently. She is in choir and dance at school, loving them both immensely. She is still shy about singing in front of anyone, but she dances around the house almost always. I keep waiting for the emotional jag of hormones to set in, but she is still her easy going, friendly, and helpful self 98% of the time.

Sylvie is in 3rd grade this year and has really grown into herself. I thought being on her own without Tessa in elementary school plus the added change of after school care would make life pretty difficult for her, but she has adjusted wonderfully. She has recently blossomed with a crazy well developed intuition about and skill for math and her enthusiasm for it is a delight. We are on a hiatus for piano which Sylvie (and of course Tessa) is enjoying but I am determined to correct that sooner than later. Too much talent in this girl to let it go to waste.

Besides our little foursome, my mom and my sister Xandy moved to Austin this summer. My mom has an apartment a few minutes away and has been super helpful with picking up some of my slack since I started teaching. Tessa goes to her apartment most days after school and my mom is also generous enough to cook for us frequently and provides other general sanity boosts. Great having her here. Xandy is living with us while she attends Austin Community College (waiting to gain residency so she can transfer to UT) and works two jobs nearby. She is super easy to live with. Definitely easier than the last time I lived with her 17 years ago. Back then all she did was cry and poop in her diaper.

And then there's me. How could I possibly recap what this year has meant for me? It is definitely the biggest transformation I've undergone in pretty much forever. I've never felt so frazzled or worn thin. But still happy in a very different way. It is a source of much contemplation for me to witness how much of what I thought was my "self" fall away due to the constraints of time and stress. And to wonder if what is left is a new person or just more to the core of my true Self. Hopefully this is not a manifestation of my best self because I am sloppy and brash and as I have mentioned too many times before, mediocre. Maybe 2013 is when I will reassemble into something a little more polished. I have some more thoughts on what teaching has meant for my psyche but I think I'll save that for another post.

In more logistical terms, 2012 has had some good changes for me. I have expanded my social network as I work with some incredible and highly enjoyable people who have become great friends. 2012 saw me pick up quite a bit on the running front. To date I've logged 568 miles and there have been very few of them that I have hated. I am still slow, slow, slow, but that suits me just fine. I get up most mornings at 5:15 so I can run before school and while I hate the early rise and the fact that my runs are in pitch black, it keeps my sanity in check. Essential. Yoga has been one of the things I have had to sacrifice some on the alter of teaching, which is more than a little heartbreaking. But when I am able to make it on the mat I am amazed at how good my body still feels. All of the hard work I've put in over the past few years has not been lost thank goodness. I have also lost 25 pounds this year and that transformation has been a particularly pleasant one. The first half was due to hard work on my part but honestly, the last 10+ has been with zero effort since school started. Being on my feet all day combined with chronic stress has melted away the pounds. Reading has been another hobby lost, at least in part. I am still reading of course but lack of time and lack of attention has made it slow going. I hate that but it is what it must be for now.

So there it is, or at least the version of it in my head tonight, in too many words as per usual. Lest I forget, there were a few other big events of the year, namely my (hopefully annual) hike of the Grand Canyon, our lovely and epic road trip summer vacation, and my poor Cricket passing away this year. Last December feels like a lifetime ago. Who knows what lies ahead?


P.S. It is very unfair that for the few of you that make it all the way through this lengthy post there are no cute pictures to reward you for your diligence. I have become somewhat estranged from my camera as of late but I will do my best to repair relations in the new year.

And no,

2012/12/03

I am not anywhere near to prepared for Christmas to come. Not. Even. Close.

Thanksgiving 2012

A lovely holiday for so many reasons. Thanksgiving has always been one of my favorites but this year it was extra special. Not only was it an essential oasis in my stressful first year of teaching, but all of my siblings were together under one roof for the first time since 2008. Definitely cause for gratitude and celebration.

It's crazy to think how much my life has changed since last Thanksgiving. It was last November that I learned my job at GCC would be ending. Precious little in my day to day is even recognizable when compared to a year ago. But thankfully I've got family, friends, faith and hope keep me tethered to my self. Evolution comes in fits and spurts occasionally. The journey is a good one.