Thursday, December 25, 2014

What a Brilliant Idea!

Tonight, seemingly out of nowhere, Anya declared that when she has a house or apartment of her own, she's going to have a doormat that reads "Next time bring cookies."  

Can't argue with that.  Wonder if I can find one for our house, come to think of it...

Saturday, December 20, 2014

Breathe Out...

The past month has been intense, with administrative duties and teaching and job search committee work. But the beauty of academia is that every 15 weeks, there is completion followed by a break. Granted, this break is short--just a month--and there is some work that I will have to do, but at least I get to decompress.  

For two precious weeks, I can focus (mostly) on other things.  On family and Hanukkah and home-made presents.  We can see family and friends without having to cram visits into already too-busy lives. I can play with kitchen toys like my new dutch oven and tea kettle.  I can be bold and get three novels from the library and believe that I just might have time to finish them before they are due. I can drink tea in the afternoon and go over material from last year's Hibernate in order to plan another winter retreat.  I can take walks as often as I like, and do yoga every day if I want.  

It will pass too quickly. I know this because it always does. But right now, there is much-needed time to relax and regenerate.  I plan to make the most of it.

Breathe in. Breathe out. Keep it slow.

Monday, December 8, 2014

Memory and Song

Tonight at dinner Anya told us that she learned about the constitution in her social studies class.  Howard and I both sang the preamble to it.  

Anyone else remember Schoolhouse Rock?

Sunday, November 30, 2014

On Sunday Afternoon

Last week, I spent some time alone in the house, and it was eerily quiet.  This week, we are all home...and it is unusually quiet--but not eery.  After a trip to the library, we are all reading. Three of us tucked into soft corners of the living room, pages turning.  The cat is on a radiator nearby.  My girl is upstairs in her room.  The air is filled with imagination and breath and comfort. 

It is unusual for us to be together and so quiet, and as I leave my warm spot on the couch to go cook dinner, I find myself unwilling to put on the radio as I normally do in the kitchen.  I don't want to break the spell.  Tomorrow will be busy and noisy.  I want to soak in stillness just a little bit longer today.

Monday, November 24, 2014

In Remembrance

I learned the sad news today of a colleague's death.  She spent over 30 years at our institution.  Jean was fiercely committed to public higher education and its students.  She was president of our local union chapter for many years (longer than I've been there).  I can't imagine the place without her--not our department meetings, not our institutional governance, not the campus in general. 

Her death comes at almost the five year mark since my Dad's death, and I can't help but see parallels between them.  My Dad was a party line democrat; so was Jean.  My Dad was a dedicated union person; so was Jean.  My Dad was crusty on the outside, but so soft for those he loved most; so was Jean.  My Dad was a particular sucker for his daughters and grand-daughters; Jean was constantly talking about her "grand" nieces and nephews.  

They were both salt-of-the-earth New Englanders with good hearts.  I was not personally close to Jean, but I will miss her.  If there is a heaven (I'm unconvinced in either direction), I imagine she'd enjoy a cup of tea with my Dad if she ran into him.  Hopefully both of them would be satisfied with having spent their lives trying to do what they thought was right and just.

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

This Day: Ordinary Beauty and Joy

I spent the vast majority of my day doing important but exhausting administrative work.  By the end of it, my body and mind were tight.  And yet, even on this day full of too much work, I am grateful for so many ordinary, beautiful, joyful things:
  • A great parent-teacher conference with Anya's teacher/s.  As expected, she's an ordinary, great kid who's doing just fine. Thriving, really.
  • Coffee out with Howard.  Sanity-saving.
  • While at coffee: working on a new, simple knitted hat in colors that I am loving.
  • Noticing the deep purple of blueberry jam in afternoon light.
  • 20 minutes of yoga to mark the end of the work day.
  • Simple, delicious food for dinner that felt healing.
  • Seeing a dear friend's wonderful piece on chimps in print!
  • Listening to favorite music while doing the dinner dishes
  • home-made chai this evening.
I think it's now time to let go of all of it and just relax...

What keeps you going on an insanely busy day?

Sunday, November 16, 2014

Just Sunday, in Fall

It's the little things that remind us that life is good, yes?  There was nothing terribly special about this day, and yet so many things today reminded me to be grateful.

Anya, as usual, was my guide.  At home together while Sam was out (with his Dad in tow) at a karate tournament, she set the agenda.  (Okay, she set the agenda after I insisted on taking time to drink coffee.)  First up: making peanut butter cookies to celebrate her big brother's tournament day--a longstanding tradition is to cheer him loudly whether he placed or not.  Food is sometimes involved.  Second: raking leaves into a huge pile so that she could jump in them.  I didn't think I wanted to do this, but I've gotta say--it was nice to be out in the fresh November air, it got some of the raking out of the way, and it was fun to watch her play in the leaves.

And then Sam (who doesn't let me take pictures of him these days): that boy who was pleased with how he did at the tournament, even though he didn't place.  This same boy--turning into a man before my eyes these days--has recently decided which high school he is going to go to next year (we have two).  His choice was clear, intuitive, and based on a quieter focus on the teacher-student relationship with the school he chose.  The most impressive part?  He made this choice even though he is under the impression that most of his current friends will go to the other high school.  

The day included other things--some necessary work, review of a film I'll be showing in class, cooking.  A walk in the morning.  Really, nothing out of the ordinary.

And yet, it felt extraordinarily good. (If only Monday didn't have to come...!)

Sunday, November 9, 2014


In recent weeks, a problem at work has loomed larger and longer than it merits, and I have been feeling disconnected from my family and myself.  

Quiet therefore came to me just in the nick of time this weekend.  Time on the yoga mat (both at home and in class), time cooking and baking.  Time talking to a dear friend on the phone in a quiet house--peace around me broken only by the laughter we shared over the telephone line.  

I need to make sure to invite quiet into my days more frequently.  For my sake, and for the sake of all around me!

Friday, November 7, 2014

Genius...or Evil?

To the tune of "Jingle Bells":

Helping verbs, helping verbs--there are 23
Am, is, are
Was and were
Being, been, and be!
Has, have, had,
Do, did, does
Shall, should, will, and would!
There are 5 more helping verbs...

May, might, must, can, and could!

Anya's been singing it around the house, constantly, for the past couple of days.  Her teacher is either a genius (getting her to remember helping verbs) or completely evil (driving me up a wall with this song).

Then again, these are not mutually exclusive. She just might be an evil genius, and I could respect that.

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

On Screens and Parenting

As a parent, I have had a tense and contradictory relationship with television, and with "screens" more generally.  As a kid, I got to watch as much TV as I wanted (though as the youngest, I didn't always get to watch what I wanted).  As a parent, I/we have tried to keep our kids' screen viewing to an appropriate level...very little during the week, with a bit more leeway on weekends.  But it's hard to feel like or know if we are doing the "right thing."  Are we getting our message across that it's better to read a book than veg out in front of a screen?  That using a tech tool to create something is better than just passively watching something?  

A week or so ago, we got a small sign that we must be doing something right in this regard.  To explain: we usually all watch "Dr. Who" together on Sunday nights.  One Sunday, we had guests over for dinner who stayed through our usual Whovian viewing time. Howard and I told the kids they could just watch it on their own...but neither of them wanted to. They were quite clear in their desire to wait until we could watch it as a family.

Is it strange that this made me feel at least a little better about how we deal with screens?  I mean, at least they want the family experience, not just the screen time, in this case...

That's parenting, I suppose.  Never knowing if you're "doing it right," and latching onto any hope you can find!

Sunday, October 26, 2014

Into the Woods (She was right...again)

 Anya has been bothering us to go for a walk in the woods for a couple of weeks now.  We finally managed to get there for a little while today. She was right, as usual.  We need to walk in the woods, more often and for longer.  There is no better celebration of fall than this.   

Monday, October 13, 2014


Although I know too much indigenous history to feel celebratory about Columbus day, I will admit that this was a much-needed long weekend.  I put off any grading until today, and focused the weekend on: 
  • walks in the morning
  • yoga in the afternoon
  • our first fires of the season
  • cooking and baking at leisure--and of course soup was involved
  • knitting various little projects
  • visiting my mother in Rockport and taking a walk (and pictures!) with my girl
  • listening to a new Dark is Rising book in the car on the trip to and from Rockport 
I even had the computer off for a whole day.  Strange to realize just how often I head there just to "check on something" or fill a few minutes that could otherwise be filled with...well, life.  

Even today, I prioritized a walk and didn't settle down to work til about 9:30.  Then, I set aside work at about 3 p.m. in order to do 45 minutes of yoga, followed by another fire in the fireplace and relaxed cooking, interspersed with knitting.  I think now, post-dinner, it's time for some chai and a book.  

I've probably said this before, but it bears repeating (to myself if no one else): despite my deep dilemma over when and how to "retire" from my job, I need to remember to seek simplicity and live according to my needs and values in the here-and-now.  It would have been so easy to fill more moments with work.  Alternately, it would have been easy to put off that grading this morning in favor of another day off.  But what I needed over the weekend was down time, and what I needed today was to get some momentum so that the grading would stop looming.  

The semester is always too full, and the juggle is always so painful for me, even when it's fulfilling or exciting.  But I must remember to take advantage of these opportunities, when they present themselves, to insert balance and breathing room into my life.

Especially in the fall semester.  I just so much love this time of year.

What's your favorite way to decompress when life gets too hectic?

Thursday, October 9, 2014

This Week In My Kitchen: Soup!

(Joining Heather for the kitchen blog hop)

Fall is in full sway, which means two things in my world: 
  • Grading, and
  • SOUP!
I live through the former, I live for the latter.  I have many fall foods that I love, but I could (and sometimes do) eat soup every day in the fall and winter.  Most recently, it's been aduki bean and butternut squash soup from Clean Food, autumn lentil soup from this cookbook that I've kept around ever since my first pregnancy, and pinto bean chicken chili.  Of course, there were other delicious foods in the mix as well.  Even when it gets crazy busy, I do my best to reserve time to cook at leisure on fall weekends.  

We also had "first Sunday brunch" again this past Sunday, and it's proving to be a wonderful time to connect.  I'm learning (slowly) not to make it too much work.

And you know what I plan to serve at first Sunday in November?  That's right--soup!  (with bread and salad and maybe apple crisp)

What's your favorite fall meal?