Monday, March 30, 2009

Monday Morning

I woke up feeling lousy. Honestly, I can't remember a school year when I've been sick more, except for the year (or two or three - surely it wasn't just nine months) of my first pregnancy, when I used up all my saved sick days, between morning sickness and surgery on my broken leg and then delivering during finals week.

Which brings me to the great post I just read at Kristen's blog (always worth a look): Everyone loves a pregnant woman - but kids we can do without.

By the way, it's not like that where I live. Random strangers act like they love children genuinely and are always trying to help you when you have small ones. Even in the airport, you get hustled to the front of every line. Everyone wants to give you advice, which is another annoyance, but people don't treat you as an inconvenience.

Sunday, March 29, 2009


I'm back from church and about to settle down with a good book, but I have a few links to share first:

Last night was Earth Hour. People around the world were supposed to turn out all "non-essential lights" between 8:30 and 9:30. We didn't even have city power at all during that hour, but it wasn't through any particular eco-consciousness of our local utility company, but because we just generally don't have power at that time. I didn't find out about it until the hour had already started. I felt briefly self-righteous, though, especially when I read that Rush Limbaugh was planning to light his house - actually, he said all five of his houses - up like a Christmas tree. Way to be an ugly American. This article says that an hour of darkness illuminated the minds of the participants. In that case my mind must be really, really illuminated. That makes me happy.

Today at the New York Times site, they are featuring a video about an NGO working in Haiti. I can't link to it directly, but if you're reading this after it's not available there any more, you can also look at the organization's website here. Here are two young American girls putting their money and their lives where their mouths are, and doing it in a less than glamorous way. (Hint - toilets are involved.)

My husband asked me this morning if I had read Three Cups of Tea. Uh, yes, I not only read it, I reviewed it here on this very blog! So if you, gentle reader, like my dear husband, do not remember this post, here it is. Read it and then go read the book!

Here's today's collect from the Book of Common Prayer:

Fifth Sunday in Lent

O Almighty God, who alone canst order the unruly wills and
affections of sinful men: Grant unto thy people that they may
love the thing which thou commandest, and desire that
which thou dost promise; that so, among the sundry and
manifold changes of the world, our hearts may surely there
be fixed where true joys are to be found; through Jesus
Christ our Lord, who liveth and reigneth with thee and the
Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.


Friday, March 27, 2009

Poetry Friday - Soliloquy of the Solipsist

Since I was thinking about Sylvia Plath this week, I looked for some of her poems online and found this link to many of them. I wanted to post one today and eventually chose this.

Soliloquy of the Solipsist

I walk alone;
The midnight street
Spins itself from under my feet;
When my eyes shut
These dreaming houses all snuff out;
Through a whim of mine
Over gables the moon's celestial onion
Hangs high.

Make houses shrink
And trees diminish
By going far; my look's leash
Dangles the puppet-people
Who, unaware how they dwindle,
Laugh, kiss, get drunk,
Nor guess that if I choose to blink
They die.

You can find the rest of the poem here. I enjoyed the mordant wit of the last stanza.

It's hard to keep biography out of my head as I read, and I particularly found that to be true of Child, which seems to be about trying to be a good parent while depressed, and struggling with the difference between the idealized mother in one's head and the "wringing of hands" that is actually happening.

Here's today's Poetry Friday roundup.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Goodbye to Nicholas Hughes

I was surprised to see Sylvia Plath's name in the "In the News" sidebar on Google News this morning, and then sad when I learned why. Plath's son, Nicholas Hughes, just killed himself, 46 years after his mother's suicide. While the post I just linked cautions against considering him an "inevitably tragic figure," I imagine the suicide of a parent is a wound that never goes away.

I remember reading Plath in college and writing an insufferably arrogant essay about how "self-indulgent" her poetry was. I was still a teenager then, and not much had happened to me; I am not as quick now to shrug off people's deep pain and struggles. Clearly her son had his own pain and struggles. This article about his death doesn't even include his own picture, but hers. I prefer this one, which describes his own achievements apart from being the son of a famous poet who died when he was a year old.

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Reading Update

I've been an absent blogger lately, and one of my readers has even complained. Given how few readers I have, this is a serious matter.

I don't have much to say, but here's an update on what I've been reading lately.

Book #5 of the year was a re-read - Twilight. Well, half my students were reading it, and putting pictures from the movie as the wallpaper on the classroom computers, and writing about Edward. Like most books that are almost entirely plot-driven, this one didn't hold up as well on second reading. I think all the books are funny, and I enjoy the satirical comparison of "normal" teenage life with what Bella is experiencing - like the prom scene. My favorite scene in the whole saga is the one in Breaking Dawn where Charlie, Bella's father, has just been filled in on the whole alternative world of vampires - information he'd just as soon not know. He deals with his new knowledge by...sitting down to watch televised sports. (I also read the draft of Midnight Sun, available here. Again, all the kids were doing it!)

Book #6 was Teacher Man, by Frank McCourt, a memoir about his thirty years teaching. McCourt's writing is wonderful and vivid as always, except that I get irritated by his lack of quotation marks - but that's just me. Here's a taste:

Every moment of your life, you're writing. Even in your dreams you're writing. When you walk the halls in this school you meet various people and you write furiously in your head. There's the principal. You have to make a decision, a greeting decision. Will you nod? Will you smile? Will you say, Good morning, Mr. Baumel? or will you simply say, Hi? You see someone you dislike. Furious writing again in your head. Decision to be made. Turn your head away? Stare as you pass? Nod? Hiss a Hi? You see someone you like and you say, Hi, in a warm melting way, a Hi that conjures up splash of oars, singing violins, eyes shining in the moonlight. There are so many ways of saying Hi. Hiss it, trill it, bark it, sing it, bellow it, laugh it, cough it. A simple stroll in the hallway calls for paragraphs, sentences in your head, decisions galore. . . . You might be one of those cool characters who could saunter up to Helen of Troy and ask her what she's doing after the siege, that you know a nice lamb-and-ouzo place in the ruins of Ilium. The cool character, the charmer, doesn't have to prepare much of a script. The rest of us are writing. . . . Dreaming, wishing, planning: it's all writing, but the difference between you and the man on on the street is that you are looking at it, friends, getting it set in your head, realizing the significance of the insignificant, getting it on paper. You might be in the throes of love or grief but you are ruthless in observation. You are your material. You are writers and one thing is certain: no matter what happens on Saturday night, or any other night, you'll never be bored again. Never. Nothing human is alien to you. Hold your applause and pass up your homework.

McCourt is great on the mind-games teachers play, the way you find yourself playing to one particular student, imagining what he or she is thinking, only to find afterwards that you were completely wrong, totally misjudged the situation.

Book #7 was The Graveyard Book, by Neil Gaiman. I liked this one fine, but I thought the press it got was exaggerated, and so did my highly literate 11-year-old.

Book #8 was Flush, by Carl Hiaasen. My seventh graders are currently enjoying this one. They think it would make a good movie - and for sure, it would. The characters are memorable and the kids can all picture them in their heads. The book was the source of a great minilesson on character development last week. This is a lot of fun and non-stop action - just what that class loves.

Book #9 was Hero-Type, by Barry Lyga. This one is thought-provoking, the story of Kevin Ross and his journey from nothing to hero and back again. I'd hoped this would be a read-aloud for my eighth graders, but eventually decided to pass because of a little too much "mature content." The ending, though, blew me away with a spiritual sensitivity I did not at all see coming.

Book #10 was Alabama Moon, by Watt Key. I enjoyed this book - it's the story of Moon, who lives in the woods with his slightly wacky survivalist father. After his father dies in the first chapter, Moon is on his own and has to make his way in a world that's different from the one for which his father prepared him. Moon is 10, and I found him a little too mature in spots, but he's a strong character and I think kids will want him to succeed.

I'm reading several books right now and I hope the next Reading Update will not be quite so long in coming.

Monday, March 02, 2009

Barbie - Evil or Neutral?

I've never been much of a Barbie fan, but when my daughter had a period of six months or so when she liked Barbie, we just went with it. Someone gave her one, and I think I picked up some at a yard sale. She played with them for a while, and then lost interest.

Of course I have read about the criticisms of Barbie and how she ruins girls' self-esteem. I was interested to read this article, which says that we can't blame Barbie for the damage society does to our daughters - or for the damage we ourselves do to them.

What do you think?

Sunday, March 01, 2009

Theme Day - Glass

It's the first of March, and today's DP blogs' theme is "Glass." You can see thumbnails of the participants' photos here.