Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Little Dorrit by Charles Dickens

I've been reading Little Dorrit for about a month now, and as much as I would like to tell you the good news--that I've finished--it would be a falsehood by about 100 pages. I couldn't stop myself from posting about this book anyway, though, because it has been such a joy each day as my bookmark has crawled from page to page.

Charles Dickens is my favorite author, a position rivaled only by his acquaintance and writing partner Wilkie Collins. To date, I've read nine Dickens novels, and Lil' D will make 10. Quite an accomplishment! Dickens is hard to get through, if only because of the hundreds of characters that make their way into the seven or eight hundred page plots, but he is well worth the effort.

I have been laughing, smiling, crying, and *God knows* chortling at the humor and tragedy of the Dorrit family. Little Amy Dorrit is my heroine, if ever I have had a literary one. She is tired but strong, and she warms my heart each time I learn more about her. Her endearing qualities are rivaled only perhaps by those of Florence Dombey or Sissy Jupe, from Dombey and Son and Hard Times, respectively.

If anyone out there has read it, don't ruin the ending for me! But, if you haven't read it (and are looking for a long, drawn out, hilariously unlikely but precious tale that may or may not take you a month to finish), go right out and find a copy!! I really do love this book. :)

Thursday, September 10, 2009

expectations

I'm easily embarrassed, but that's usually because I have low self-esteem. It's silly, really, because I've accomplished amazing things in my life. I'm a great wife, daughter, and sister. I'm a dedicated student, professor, tutor, and life-long learner. I'm a creative writer, reader, cook, and lover. I'm an honest friend.

So today when I had a great conversation with someone I hadn't seen in about 4 months, I was feeling happy and sure of myself. I smiled at the right time. Made jokes at the right time. And even though I made the unfortunate and inevitable references to how busy I am (teaching three classes, studying for qualifying exams, tutoring three days a week at a writing center, etc., etc.), we had an overall enjoyable few minutes of catching up. And then it happened.

My life changed.

My timid walls of self-confidence crashed.

My heart pounded and my cheeks flushed.

She had said, "You are amazing, doing all of these things with a baby on the way. I don't see how you handle all the pressure."

I swallowed. Hard.

I said, "Excuse me?"

She said, "Teaching and tutoring and studying and expecting!"

I said, "What...? No..."

She paused. I wished desperately that the floor would swallow me whole, or that I could tesser away in true Madeleine L'Engle fashion, so far away in time.

She said, "You are expecting, yes?"

"No."

She said, "Oh, I just saw your, um...you looked, I just...um...oh."

I saw her difficulty in processing her mistake into appropriate words, and so I took a deep breath, smiled, giggled a little and said loudly, "Oh, no, not yet! We're trying to finish our degrees first before we have a family. But it's a nice thought!"

Despite my pretense, I'm sure my eyes gave away my embarrassment, because it was mirrored in her eyes. I made a quick get-away, saying a short goodbye, and turned as I blinked away tears and tried to swallow the lump that had formed in my throat. Bitter humiliation.

Just one more thing that will end up in my stomach.

Friday, September 4, 2009

three questions

Since my school has started up classes, the library is open until 1 a.m. again on weekdays. The wimpy abbreviated hours were cramping my style, but now Scott and I are back at this doctorate stuff in full force. APU doesn't start until after Labor Day, so I have a few more days of independence from teaching*grading*teaching*grading.

Last night, there was a faculty/staff kick-off dinner for all who work at the university, and the whole night rocked my socks off. (Okay, well the standing in 100+ heat and humidity for several hours was less than comfortable, but the inside part of the night was great. Especially the blueberry cheesecake!) From the distinguished speakers, we heard about the amazing growth that Azusa Pacific University has gone through in the past year, both in terms of students and budget. Plus, the school was endowed with 5 fragments of the Dead Sea scrolls this summer. Five! Only three academic institutions in the country have DSS fragments, and neither of the other two schools have five. This is going to be amazing for the Biblical Studies department, and I hope that they'll be able to contract much more funding for outside scholars to come work on these tiny pieces dating back to 150 BC.

But, I guess what really impressed me about the whole evening was the sense of community and teamwork that exuded from everyone. We are all prayerful and excited about what this school year will bring, and I know that it is a blessing to teach for an institution that strives for God-honoring academic excellence. It's encouraging, you know?

As I begin this semester of my own education (which, often, is hard to distinguish from the education of others--just ask any teacher), there are three questions that I'm going to ask myself every day.

The Honesty Questions

1. Of the million things that "must" get done today, what are the one or two most important tasks?

--And I will work on those two things until they are done. No more schitzo, crazy Ph.D. student behavior. Only rational, God-honoring perseverance.

2. What can I do today to make tomorrow easier?

--And I will try to do it without whining or procrastinating. Whether it's getting all the dishes done before going upstairs, or reading 100 extra pages from the quals list if I know the next day will be too full to meet my pg. quota...

3. Is this healthy--emotionally, physically, spiritually?

--I'll be taking better care of myself, asking myself this question when I'm eating, drinking, driving, studying, talking to myself, reading, praying...

I would like to challenge each of you to come up with a system to make your days healthier, positive, and more enjoyable and productive. Ask yourself these questions, or --better yet--come up with your own three. And make it a point to be as honest as you can be as you answer your questions. (I'm talking to myself here, because I have a bad habit of tricking myself.)

I wish everyone a special back-to-school season. Surprise yourself at how awesome you can be!

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Updates and hellos and PICTURES!

If you're a regular reader of my blog, you know that I've "gone quiet" for several months. It was a much needed break, but I hope I can get back in the swing of things. It wasn't practical for me to try to blog during our 5-wk trip across the country, and then life was a bit too overwhelming to make time for non-academic writing once we got back. But I have been busy reading! (and working, and cleaning, and baking, attending writing teachers' workshops, and planning three different syllabi!)

I have some challenge updates to make, and I am SO excited to make these lists. They have been a long time in the making.

I've been reading steadily for months and months for Trish's Classics Challenge 2009, and these are a few of the classics that I am counting for this challenge. Trish broke the challenge into various categories, and I signed up for the Classics Feast, which means reading 6 classics. I also participated in the bonus round, which meant reading one extra book that I felt should someday be considered a classic. I don't have reviews for these books posted, mostly because I have finished them since the last time I posted, but also because...how does one review Hamlet? :) I'll add links to this page once I get more reviews typed. It will actually be really helpful as I study for qualifying exams.

My Classics Feast + Bonus
1) Hamlet by Shakespeare
2) Dracula by Bram Stoker
3) Villette by Charlotte Bronte
4) The Moonstone by Wilkie Collins
5) The Law and the Lady by Wilkie Collins
6) The Woman in White by Wilkie Collins
7) Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen
8) Hard Times by Charles Dickens
9) The Castle of Otranto by Horace Walpole
10) Alice's Adventures in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll
11) Through the Looking Glass by Lewis Carroll
12) Bonus "someday" classic: The End of the Alphabet by CS Richardson

The next challenge update I have is the 2009 Read-your-own-books Challenge. I'm doing really well on this one, and it mirrors the above list since I owned all of those novels...only with the exception of the last book, which I read from the library. So, I've completed both of these challenges!!

The final challenge update that I have tonight is the 100+ Challenge, which is shaping up pretty nicely. I count 53 books so far, although I need to go back through my records to find the others.


Fiction
1. Caleb Williams by William Godwin
2. The Hudson Book of Fiction: 30 Stories Worth Reading
3. The Giver by Lois Lowry
4. Gathering Blue by Lois Lowry
5. The Messenger by Lois Lowry
6. Sleeping Murder by Agatha Christie
7. And Then There Were None by Agatha Christie
8. Dracula by Bram Stoker
9. The Declaration by Gemma Malley
10. Dr. Dredd's Wagon of Wonders by Bill Brittain
May
11. A Day with Wilbur Robinson by William Joyce
12. The Essence of the Thing by Madeleine St. John
June
13. The Wonderful O by James Thurber
14. The Housekeeper and the Professor by Yoko Ogawa
15. The Moonstone by Wilkie Collins
16. The Law and the Lady by Wilkie Collins
17. The Woman in White by Wilkie Collins
18. Hard Times by Charles Dickens
19. Villette by Charlotte Bronte
20. Alice's Adventures in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll
21. Through the Looking Glass by Lewis Carroll
22. When You Reach Me by Rebecca Stead
23. The Castle of Otranto by Horace Walpole
24. Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen

Drama
1. Antony and Cleopatra by William Shakespeare
2. Oedipus Rex by Sophocles
3. Comedy of Errors by William Shakespeare
4. A Streetcar Named Desire by Tennessee Williams
5. Blasted by Sarah Kane
6. Henry V by William Shakespeare
7. Romeo and Juliet by William Shakespeare
8. Hamlet by William Shakespeare
9. King Lear by William Shakespeare
10. The Tempest by Williams Shakespeare
11. Much Ado About Nothing by Williams Shakespeare

Non-fiction
1. At Day's Close by Ekirch
2. New England Funeral Sermons ed. by Bosco
3. The Book of Common Prayer
4. The Puritan Way of Death by David Stannard
5. Film Noir by Bruce Crowther
6. How to read literature like a professor by Thomas C. Foster
7. Being Perfect by Anna Quindlen
8. The Short Guide to a Happy Life by Anna Quindlen
9. The Big Moo edited by Seth Godin
10. Be Happy Without Being Perfect by Alice D. Domar and Alice Lesch Kelly
11. Detection & Its Designs: Narrative and Power in 19th-Century Detective Fiction by Peter Thoms
12. Perfecting Ourselves To Death: The Pursuit Of Excellence And The Perils Of Perfectionism by Richard Winter
13. All Cooked Up: Recipes and Memories from Elvis' Family and Friends
14. Students Must Write: Guide to Better Writing in Coursework and Examinations by Robert Barrass
15. The Kitchen Diaries by Nigel Slater
16. A Broom of One's Own by Nancy Peacock
17. Eat that Frog by Brian Tracy
more here...I'll have to find them

Volumes of Poetry
1. The Hudson Book of Poetry: 150 Poems Worth Reading

The end of 100+ list...

Now, enough book talk! Here are a few of the highlights from this summer:
All the cousins on one side of the family, from left to right:
me (KB), Emily, beautiful bride Bethany, Kristen, and Jenny
The group of us that drove together to Tennessee:
Scott, me (KB), little Tim, my sister Christy, and her husband Nick
One of my best friends in the entire world: the lovely Erin
Above--My nephew Timothy letting us know that it's time to open birthday presents!
He turned 2 during our trip. :)
Below--My handsome husband Scott reading to the genius newphew. Or more likely, Tim was reading to Scott!
Hope you enjoyed my pictures! I'll be back to blogging soon.