Newness for a New Year

Thursday, September 27, 2007

When I grow up, I want to be a (fill in the blank) kind of person

There are so many times in my life that I think, I hope to be a (insert something like community volunteer) kind of person some day. I wonder when I think that day will begin that I will just change my life to become the person I want to become. So, I've decided in small ways to start becoming some of what I want to be.

1. The person who takes the bus. I have had a bus pass for over a year, but I didn't use it as regularly as I wanted to. I thought, I want to be the kind of person who plans ahead to take the bus. Now, day by day I am. I think all this hope of becoming depends on the day to day. And if you miss a day, start again the next day. I often get so overwhelmed by thinking about all I want to do and become that I settle into my mediocre routine of letting my discouragement shape who I become. I have already had some great "bus stories," but that will be an entire post of its own.

2. The person who does yoga everyday. I have also been doing yoga everyday. I love it. I am incorporating into into my daily life, in addition to other types of exercise. I am thinking of it not only as exercise but also as relief for my soul and body. I have practices yoga for a couple of years now, although it has been sporadic, especially as of late.

3. The person who always takes the stairs. I am usually good at taking stairs when I am out and about, but for some reason I excused myself from taking them up to my office on the top floor of my building. Sure, it would be so much easier to take the elevator, especially at the end of the day with all my books and papers from class, but hey, I want to be one of those people who take the stairs at work.

4. The person who responds quickly to email. Even though I teach my students to respond quickly, sometimes I am just no good at this. Now, I spend the few minutes each day to respond to emails, and then the whole process isn't overwhelming. I also started this blog to help with keeping my friends in on what is happening in my life. It is nice to refer people to my blog about my life without retyping the same info (or copy/pasting it) quite so much.

The nice thing about all these things is that I am choosing to do them. I realize that the application of this will be different for everyone, since we all have different time restraints and we are all in different circumstances, but the nice thing is that when we keep trying to do certain things we change our lives and routines so that we can then focus on changing more things. So, I am taking it one step at a time, up all five flights of stairs. It is refreshing to take hold of becoming who I want to be instead of letting indecision dictate who I become.

Emergency Exit Only, Alarm Will Sound

I am sure that we have all walked by doors that have just such a warning written in large red letters, and perhaps we have even wanted to push open the door just to see what would happen. I know I have always been tempted, just a little, to see if the alarm would really sound. Of course, my sense of societal norms and my respect for unwritten laws of such things always override my temptations. Well, today, I saw what would happen if the doors were pushed open ...

Not a sound.
Barely a notice by other people.

I was on my way to teach and I noticed a student push right through the double glass doors. I waited to hear that loud warning of fire, but nothing happened. I stopped to wait, but still nothing. I was amazed that the boy didn't even hesitate ... could he not have known what he had just done. But, obviously it didn't matter. The door hung open a bit, but I couldn't bring myself to walk through it after the boy who had made it through unscathed.

Although I saw that nothing happened, I will continue to suppress that need to pull the alarm or walk through the door. But, now I will always wonder about the nothing.

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Why I am loving the world of blogging

Although I am a recent convert to the world of blogging, I need to say how much I am loving it. I have caught up with so many dear friends, and I am now reading their blogs as well. I love that I get a peak into so many different worlds so easily. So, thanks for reading my blog and please share your blog with me (if you have one, and if you don't then think about starting one).

More Photos

I am going to slowly upload pictures from my European Adventures. Here are a few.

Here is the 12th Century Abbaye Saint-Michel de Frigolet I stayed at while in Southern France for the Willa Cather Conference.

Here is another view.

I stayed in an old nun bunk room. They have changed part of the Abbey into lodging to earn some money. Fairly austere, but it was amazing.

Here is the Palais des Papes in Avignon, France. It was amazing to see. Having just been to the Vatican two weeks previous, I could only imaging what it would
been like in its glory days. Oh, and speaking of glory days. I have lost almost all my French from my early college days. I pretended to know some, but no one believed I was speaking French.

Here is the great hall.

The best view was from the ferris wheel.

But the ferris wheel was also wonderful. I think everything was better because we were in Southern France.

Here is a picture from Arle, another place we went. I will post those pictures soon, but this is a preview. I now understand why people rave about the French countryside. I was overwhelmed by the beauty.

DDR and other thoughts in the middle of the day

I just came from teaching my Intro to Lit course. I always take the first few minutes of class to announce upcoming events that might be of interest to my students. I usually have some flyers and other handouts. Well, today there was a flyer from the English Department about the English Society Opening Social. At the bottom there was a description of the social that was meant to entice the students: "DDR, karaoke, pizza, and fun English stuff." As I read the list, I stopped at DDR. My first thought was DTR, which I quickly disgarded. I was stumped from there. My students could tell I had no idea what the acronym referred to. They said, Dance Dance Revolution, in a tone that meant, "We can't believe you don't know that." All I could say was, "I just proved how un-cool I am!"

Although I like to think I am still in-touch with my students, I realized there is far to much to remain in-touch with, and the gap continues to increase. But, now I know--DDR=really cool thing to do for English majors.

When I got back to my office, I pulled out a bag of carrots I brought to snack on with my chili for lunch. On the package was a blurp that reads, "Powerful Antioxidants Inside." Now, I should preface my critique by saying I spent the morning teaching about the use of precise language. When I read that blurp, I couldn't help but laugh. Are the antioxidants in the carrots, or just in the bag? Make sure to grab some as you take out a carrot, or you might miss them. Oh and ifyou find some, be careful--they are really powerful. What does that mean? How do tell the difference between a powerful antioxidant and a weak one? Shouldn't there be a way to tell, so I can avoid the weak ones and stick to the strong ones? And what effect will the powerful antioxidants have on me. I love how antioxidants are cool now--what is an antioxidant anyway?

Here is the wikipedia answer:

An Antioxidant is a molecule capable of slowing or preventing the oxidation of other molecules. Oxidation is a chemical reaction that transfers electrons from a substance to an oxidizing agent. Oxidation reactions can produce free radicals, which start chain reactions that damage cells. Antioxidants terminate these chain reactions by removing radical intermediates, and inhibit other oxidation reactions by being oxidized themselves. As a result, antioxidants are often reducing agents such as thiols or polyphenols.

Although oxidation reactions are crucial for life, they can also be damaging; hence, plants and animals maintain complex systems of multiple types of antioxidants, such as glutathione, vitamin C, and vitamin E as well as enzymes such as catalase, superoxide dismutase and various peroxidases. Low levels of antioxidants, or inhibition of the antioxidant enzymes causes oxidative stress and may damage or kill cells.

As oxidative stress has been associated with the pathogenesis of many human diseases, the use of antioxidants in pharmacology is intensively studied, particularly as treatments for stroke and neurodegenerative diseases. However, it is unknown whether oxidative stress is the cause or the consequence of such diseases. Antioxidants are also widely used as ingredients in dietary supplements in the hope of maintaining health and preventing diseases such as cancer and coronary heart disease. Although some studies have suggested antioxidant supplements have health benefits, other large clinical trials did not detect any benefit for the formulations tested, and excess supplementation may occasionally be harmful. In addition to these uses in medicine, antioxidants have many industrial uses, such as preservatives in food and cosmetics and preventing the degradation of rubber and gasoline.

Now, please pay attention to that last line--it is in bold. That's what I mean by powerful!

Monday, September 24, 2007

Good News about Clogged Sinks

I am pleased to report that my plans to write about finding a good, inexpensive plumber have been modified. I now will write about how to find someone who knows something about plumbing and get the advice for free. I guess the way to find such a person is to ask everyone you know, and talk to everyone about how silly you are that you clogged your sink with pasta noodles. In the end, you are bound to discover someone who knows something about clogged sinks.

On my end I spoke to quite a few people, but their advice was to call a plumber. But, lucky for me, Amelia also talked with her co-workers and was told to try using two plungers (since we have two drains). So early Saturday morning we went to Home Depot (which surprisingly opens at 6 a.m.) and bought one durable black plunger ($6) and one small terracotta colored plunger ($3) and returned home. We used the black plunger for the disposal side of the sink, and the terracotta colored plunger to make sure no air escaped from the other drain. I did have to stand on a chair to leverage the plunging action, and it was hard at first, but after about a minute of plunging, the drain was clear. I was ecstatic to say the least. My $9 investment had payed off and I also learned a great, easy trick for unclogging your pipes.

The moral of this story: be humble about your mistakes and admit your wrongs to everyone who might offer a solution. Oh, and in case you ever have a home improvement problem early in the morning--Home Depot opens at 6 a.m.

Friday, September 21, 2007

Did you know?

In case some of you were not aware of should and should not be put in a disposal, I am posting today to help you out a bit. I was aware that potato peels should not be put down a disposal, but I learned last night that pasta shouldn't be put down one either. My landlord told me pasta was no good for disposals. In my mind, I considered them great disposal products since they are so soft. Well, that just goes to show you I know nothing about disposals and pipes for that matter. So, Thomas and I googled what should and should not be put in a disposal. Here is a top 10 list for you from Terry at Waldman Management Group. Thanks Terry.

Terry's Top Ten Garbage Disposal Killers.

  • 10. Zip lock bags, aluminum foil, or any other packaging items. (Yes, this has happened.)
  • 9. Silverware or cooking utinsels. (Like we do that intentionally).
  • 8. Banana, apple or any fruit peel or core. (I'm not the only non fruit eater!)
  • 7. Avocado peel or core. (This one might send the disposal into orbit.)
  • 6. Sweet corn husks, silt or cob. (Trash cans love these items.)
  • 5. Bones from steaks, chops, chicken or other varments. (Also very good for trash cans.)
  • 4. Grease and drippings. (Will require a disposal by-pass.)
  • 3. Potatoes of any kind. (Your disposal is allergic to all starch items.)
  • 2. Pasta noodles of any kind. (These starches could lead to disposal cardiac arrest)

And the number one killer of Garbage Disposals is....

  • 1. RICE!!!! (Your disposal should start screaming at the sight of Rice.) (Instant death!)
Oh, and here are a few pointers for successful disposal use.

  • Never run the disposal with out first turning on the water.
  • If your disposal becomes clogged or making unusual sounds. Never insert your hand or any other object into the disposal.
  • If your disposal becomes unusable, please forward a work request to the Maintenance Department.
  • A disposal is not a “trash eater” only small amounts of food should be inserted into the disposal.
  • Excess food and waste should be put in a trash can.
  • Remember to always turn off the disposal when not in use.
I hope these are helpful. I had 8 of 10 under my radar of things to know, however I tragically didn't know the top 2 things that could clog your drain. Well, now I know--and knowing is half the battle. Stay tuned for my next blog: how to find a good, inexpensive plumber.

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Emily Dickinson and the reason I teach literature

When I was a sophomore at Ricks College, I took a British survey course. I will never forget the day I made a comment about a Wordsworth poem and my teacher dismissed my comment with a quick "Wrong" and moved on to another student. I was infuriated. How could he discount my perfectly reasonable reading of Wordsworth? I quickly discovered that he taught to his own frame of logic and understanding and anything else was simply regarded as incorrect. Although at the time I had no idea I would ever be teaching a college literature course, I know that I subconsciously determined to never dismiss the response of a person sincerely trying to contribute his/her story.

I've been thinking about this concept as this new semester has begun. I tell this story each semester as I prep my students for how my classroom discussion works. Only today, I realized my simple, tragic beginning to the discovery of my personal teaching theory actually encapsulates so much more about why I really do what I do.

The first assignment in my Introduction to Literature course is to write a one-page essay on why they study literature. I wanted them to really examine why they were sitting in my lit class. I had once been given that assignment, and I enjoyed figuring out why I loved literature so much that I would want to study it. The question, however, has evolved for me: Why do I love teaching literature. I continue to ask myself why.

Well, as I walked to class today, I paid a little more attention to all the people walking past me. There is such diversity (although many people don't think there could be at BYU) in the stories of lives that pass us everyday. My students and I read an excerpt from Tim O'Brien's novel The Things They Carried during the semester. The story tells of the burdens (both physical and emotional) that a group of soldiers carry in Vietnam. Each time I read the story, I am vividly reminded that each of us carry burdens both physical and emotional. Sure we carry our clothes, bags, books, groceries, and so many other things, but we are also carrying worries, tragedy, strengths, weaknesses, joys, and sorrows. Those weights are often more burdensome than the tangible items in our lives. The diversity I see in my walks of campus deal much more with the invisible burdens being carried. There is no way I can possible know what those burdens are, unless I am told about them, but the literature I engage with regularly reminds me that the unseen burdens and weights of life exist. If I can learn to listen and appreciate the stories told across the world, then I hope to be better at listening to and recognizing the stories going on with people in my own life. I never want to forget the importance of the personal story--the reality of another person. I read literature because it makes me remember the humanity of people all around me--it makes the vague generalization become personal and poignant. If I can extend that ability to my students, then I think the world will be a more compassionate place. If they can learn to listen to the stories passing them every day, then I think they will become more sensitive to the humanity of us all.

As for the Emily Dickinson--
We studied her today in class, and I was reminded of her striking observations of the humanity she removed herself from and yet could not dismiss. Although she did not physically contribute to her society, she gave us all a better sense of what being human means. I have included a poem or two for your reading enjoyment.

IF I can stop one heart from breaking,
I shall not live in vain;
If I can ease one life the aching,
Or cool one pain,
Or help one fainting robin 5
Unto his nest again,
I shall not live in vain.
and another ...

THAT I did always love,
I bring thee proof:
That till I loved
I did not love enough.

That I shall love alway, 5
I offer thee
That love is life,
And life hath immortality.

This, dost thou doubt, sweet?
Then have I 10
Nothing to show
But Calvary.

Monday, September 17, 2007

Book Review: The Chosen by Chaim Potok

In 1967 Chaim Potok offered a novel that brilliantly displayed not only the battles of the inner soul, but also the battles that take place between people--both on a large and small scale. His novel explores the world of two Jewish American boys during WWII in New York. The two boys, Reuven and Danny, discover the nuances of their similar yet different lives in an ever fracturing world. This novel offers smart writing and captivating reflective prose. The book challenges you to examine your purpose to life as well as the way you judge and treat people.
Not only do you learn more about Judaism, but you also learn more about familial relationships and true friendship. I have included one of the most poignant quotes in the novel. This is towards the end of the novel and the speaker is Reuven's father. The quote theorizes a part of our existence, while proposing the idea that we must make the quality of our lives something great. We can effect change and bring about goodness by being willing to contribute--whether great or small.

Human beings do not live forever, Reuven. We live less than the time it takes to blink an eye, if we measure our lives against eternity. So it may be asked what value is there to a human life. There is so much pain in the world. What does it mean to have to suffer so much if our lives are nothing more than the blink of an eye?" He paused again, his eyes misty now, then went on. "I learned a long time ago Reuven, that a blink of an eye in itself is nothing. But the eye that blinks,
that is something. A span of life is nothing. But the man who lives that span, he is something. He can fill that tiny span with meaning, so its quality is immeasurable though its quantity may be insignificant. Do you understand what I am saying? A man must fill his life with meaning, meaning is not automatically given to life. It is hard work to fill one's life with meaning. That I do not think you understand yet. A life filled with meaning is worthy of rest. I want to be worthy of rest when I am no longer here. Do you understand what I am saying?"
--Taken from Chapter 13

Pictures from the Summer

I was lucky enough to do some traveling this summer. Here are pictures and explanations from two of my trips. There are more to follow.

In June, Amelia and I went to NYC. It was great to be back in that amazing city, but to see Amelia experience for the first time was even better. Have I ever mentioned that I love hot dogs?! A lot of people told me not to eat a hot dog from a street vendor, so we bought them up by the Met, tricking ourselves into thinking they would be of a better quality. They were delicious.

Here we are taking an evening stroll on the Brooklyn Bridge. This was one of my favorite activities of the trip because there were a lot of people out for an evening stroll, and we got to see some amazing views of the city.

We also went to Boston for a day. Here we are with my friend Mark Hartvigsen who went with us to NYC. He is a good friend from my BYU-I days. We had a great time riding the China Town Bus to Boston and back.

I also went to Zion National Park for for the first time this year. I have been twice now, and I love it. Although I have grown up going to deep green mountains and fields of vibrant wildflowers, I loved spending time in the redness of Southern Utah. I love the many shades of color on the rock and bowing before the power of water that shapes the canyons and rock formations. On my second trip Mark and I decided to hike Angel's Landing.
Here I am at the top of the world, or so it seemed at the time.

We are getting pretty good at taking pictures of ourselves. I really enjoyed this hike. Mark is from St. George so he has done it many times, and it was fun to be in a place that means so much to him.

Friday, September 14, 2007

Becoming a blogger

When I was a young girl, I used to play dress up with my mom's old clothes. I loved to try on the ric-rac decorated dresses and clunky clogs that my mom remarkable still found fashionable. But, I promised myself that when I was older I would never wear anything so tacky and distasteful. Afterall, they were the dress up clothes, not the everyday clothes of the 80s (not that the everyday clothes of the 80s were all that much better, but that is a rant for a different day). So, I could only laugh at myself the day I bought a pair of re-invented clogs or stopped to take a second look at a shirt that was embellished with ric-rac. If there is one thing I have learned about myself, it is that I am prone to change my mind and change it often. I guess this applies to the creation of this blog because in some ways I have neglected the idea for some time now. Although about a year ago I created a blog that read something like, "After I finish my thesis, I will put this blog together." As most of you know, it is over a year since that time and nothing has come of it--until now. I figured that since part of my daily Internet time involves checking the blogs of many of my dear friends, I want to give back in kind to their generosity in sharing their lives with me through words. I like to think that you can only share some portions of your soul through words.
Since this is an opening blog, I will fill you in on some of the basic comings and goings of my life.
I am living in Provo, Utah.
I teach literature and writing at Brigham Young University.
I still drive an old, but incredible lovable white Jetta.
I have decided that I want to continue teaching, although I don't know where. I am not PhD bound at the moment, so I am looking into other possible teaching positions.
I went to Europe this past summer. Natalie and I went to London, Rome, Barcelona, and Paris. I then stayed another week and explored Southern France a bit with a conference I was attending. To say that it was glorious would be a shallow attempt at explaining the sounds, sights, smells, and soul stimulations that I experienced while sauntering through the real-life images I have only ever known through books. I loved it.
I can't explain where I am in my life now without also introducing you to Mark Morris. We have been dating since March, although our story is a little more complicated than that. As many of you know, I have always been the type of person who despised hearing statements such as, "When you are least expecting it, you will meet someone amazing," or "You will just know because you will be so happy," or any other fill-in-blank statements that married and/or dating people like to package and send to single people as some type of comfort on lonely Friday nights.Unfortunately, some of those cliche statements are true and yet the very nature of their cliche-ness still makes me wince when I am tempted to say them. So, here is what I have come up with for today. I never could have dreamed the glorious joy of wanting to spend time with someone you respect and adore. I find myself actually wanting to spend time with him: busy time, relaxation time, silent time, noisy time ... just time. And if you are wondering about our timetable--we are taking our time to enjoy getting to know each other.
A few facts about him that you might be interested in.
He is 29.
He works as a landscape architect and urban planner with an architect firm in Salt Lake.
He is dashing and extremely intelligent.
His character is well balanced, for example, he built a fence in his backyard and yet for our second first date he took me to a Hilary Hahn concert at Abravanel Hall in Salt Lake.
One of my favorite tidbits about him: he subscribes to a service that produces and distributes locally grown produce.

Anyway, that about sums up my life for the moment. Sure there are daily nuances that really define who I am and what I do, but you will have to check back for those.