Last semester was the most difficult four months I’ve experienced in my job. By December, I was burned out, depressed, anxious, and overwhelmed. If I’m honest, it wasn’t just that four months. It was a long time coming. I wasn’t satisfied with my job or my life. I felt that I hadn’t been the teacher I needed to be, the colleague I needed to be, the organizer I needed to be, the wife I needed to be, the person I wanted to be. I felt like a failure.
In fact, the semester was so rough I wasn’t looking forward to another one. Normally, even if I’m tired, I am excited about the beginning of a new semester. I genuinely enjoy planning my courses and am like a kid on the first day of school. Not this time. I really and truly felt I had lost my joy in teaching, and as the first day of classes approached, I became even more apathetic and was filled with dread. I needed perspective.
I spent some time over the break reflecting and trying to figure out what went wrong. There are many contributing factors in the workplace that are beyond my control, but what I realized is that the most significant factor is who I am and what I need. I was neglecting myself in trying to be perfect. Continue reading
Anyone who knows me also knows my love of fairy tales. However, I know a lot about fairy tales and haven’t encountered an unfamiliar telling since reading Uprooted by Naomi Novik a couple of years ago. Until, I discovered Katherine Arden’s debut, The Bear and the Nightingale.
The Bear and the Nightingale takes readers on a thrilling journey to a northern village in medieval Russia where religion and magic coexist and where the long winters are cruel. When Pyotr’s wife, Marina, dies in childbirth, he tries for years to raise his children alone, including his last-born daughter. Vasya is a wild, strong-willed, “unmaidenly” girl with “fae green eyes” and the abilities of her grandmother to see magic all around her. Continue reading
I mentioned in a recent post that one of my goals for 2017 is to read more books on my shelf (or those I borrow from the library). To help me to meet that goal, I decided to ban myself from buying any new books for at least two months.
Because I am an honest person, I have a confession to make: 10 minutes after I published that post, I bought a book (hangs my head in shame). In my defense, it was a book I have heard lots of good things about and it was like 1000% off the original price. Because I am a bad/good influence, I thought I would let you know that the kindle edition of The Walls Around Us is still on sale for $1.99.
My book buying ban begins…now…or until the next 1000% off sale.
I believe in supporting emerging literary voices, so in 2016, I vowed to read more debut novels. I read many, and some were my favorite books of the year. Emily Bitto’s The Strays was one such book. I read the book in the Fall of 2016, but The Strays only became available to readers in the U.S. yesterday, January 3, 2017 (hence, I didn’t include it in my 2016 list of books).
In 2015, debut novelist, Emily Bitto, received the Stella Award, a book award that recognizes Australian women writers of fiction and nonfiction and the second major literary award in Australia.
Her debut, The Strays, is story of friendship, an avant-garde artists’ colony, a band of bohemian artists, and secrets that bind or break relationships. The novel is framed as a memoir. In 1985, Lily reflects on one of her most influential childhood friendships and her experiences living with the eccentric Trentham family in the 1930s.
Lily and Eva meet when they are eight years old, though they come from very different worlds. Lily, a child of middle-class suburban parents, lives a relatively “normal” and sedate life, a life filled with routine and order. Eva, the child of two wealthy, bohemian parents lives in a world of beauty, chaos, and passion. For Lily, her attraction to Eva and the Trentham family is immediate and profound. It is this attraction that Lily describes in the opening of the book: Continue reading
Happy New Year, readers! I have a confession. I don’t do New Year resolutions. They never work for me. The problem is that I can resolve to do something all day long, but without a logical and practical plan, I’m adrift.
I’m a planner. Nothing brings me more relief and joy than to write down my daily agendas, goals, and plans in my bullet journal. I keep it with me always, and it keeps me sane (and those who have to deal with me everyday). Though I don’t do resolutions, I do have goals at the beginning of every year, and then I come up with a plan to meet those goals. Sometimes I’m successful. Sometimes I fail miserably. But, having a plan that I can revisit helps.
This year, I certainly have personal life goals (like do more yoga, create more work/life balance, make more time for writing what I want to write, and stressing less). While I’m still coming up with a plan for how to achieve those things( any secrets for the work/life balance and not stressing for this Type A perfectionist?) , I thought I would share some of my reading goals for 2017 and how I plan to accomplish them. Continue reading
I will get caught up. I will get caught up. I will get caught up.
That has been my mantra this year. I never seemed to get caught up, however. In my last post (in October! gasp!), I mentioned some of the busyness and teaching difficulties I was dealing with. Just when things seemed to be settling down at the beginning of November, I was asked to take over an ENG 102 class when the instructor had to take a leave of absence. With only six weeks left, I had to teach a crash course in research writing to a group of tired and overwhelmed students. We all survived (and some really good things came out of the class), but my blogging, reading, and writing came to a halt. Now that I can breathe a little, I decided a good place to start back would be with a year end review of my favorite books this year.
Before I begin, I need to provide a few caveats.
- I have a love/hate relationship with end-of-the-year lists. I love to read them, to see what books other readers enjoyed, to affirm my own loves of the year, and to add to my ever-growing TBR. But, I also hate when books are overlooked, and I find it so difficult to come up with a list.
- I don’t read books that I don’t enjoy. If I don’t like it, I stop reading (there will be a post about this in 2017). The result is that my list of books at the end of the year is a list of books I loved–or at least liked–which makes narrowing the list really difficult.
- I challenged myself this year to read more diversely. I wanted to expand the genres I read, the authors I read, the places, experiences, and cultures represented in the books I read. In some areas, I succeeded. I read more creative nonfiction and debut novels (categories severely lacking in my previous reading lists). In others, I still need more work.
- Although I still don’t feel like it’s enough, I read more this year than I have the last three years. I’ve enjoyed something about every book that I read. The books that follow, though, are ones that have stuck with me the most.
Every year I try to remind myself that I always survive the month of October, even when it feels that I won’t. Between committee work, meetings, mentoring, advising, organizing our annual celebration of student writing, and observing graduate instructors’ classes, I have little time to read, to write, to sleep, or to think clearly, for that matter. On top of all of these responsibilities, I also have several classes to teach.
I’m not special. October is busy for everyone in academia. Continue reading