Show Yourself Some Love

Today was the first day of the fall semester, and while I did not have class today, I did go into the office to organize and prepare for the two classes that I have tomorrow and Thursday. It was a busy day on campus and over the course of the week there will all sorts of emotions circulating through the halls. There are many tasks I want to accomplish this semester, but I found myself re-committing to a promise that I made to myself about four years ago (around the time I was hired on full time at my community college). The promise was to take better care of myself during the semester and it is something I actively think about every term.

This vow to care for myself came from years of being a graduate student/teaching fellow and then an adjunct instructor. I wasn’t kind to myself in those years. I didn’t eat well, I didn’t sleep well, I didn’t exercise regularly, I didn’t take quiet time for myself and I didn’t say “no” very often. In fact, when it came to my time as an adjunct, I never said no. This was an active strategy on my part. I wanted to be seen as a team player and dependable and flexible. I felt all of these things would serve me well if I were ever in the position to apply for a full time position. As it turned out, that full time position popped up after I had been at my community college for about a year and a half. I applied. I was offered the job. I accepted.

At the lovely IMA.

The first year I was full time, I fell back into my old habits. The spring semester I took on seven, yes, seven, classes (don’t ask) and I suffered for it. I was cranky. I was tired. I felt gross physically and sluggish mentally. I ate poorly and exercise? Forget it. I decided that I needed to reevaluate how I was living my life because what I was doing wasn’t working.

The first thing I started to do was say “no.” Admittedly, this was easier given my past behaviors. I wasn’t criticized for cutting back, in fact, I was encouraged to, so I did. I focused only on my courses and the student creative writing group I advised for.  I also started getting back to exercise and eating better. I started cooking more and discovered I really enjoyed it. In fact, doing things I enjoyed made me happy, so I added to the list. I went on walks, read books I wanted to read during the semester, watched movies, got manicures, and went hiking in the woods. I was happier and more balanced. This taking care of myself was working.

I found myself in a familiar position this time last year, when I realized that once again, I was over committed to things I wasn’t necessarily that invested in, so I cut back. eliminated some stresses at work and re-committed to self care. I started going to yoga and discovered Zumba and turbo kick. I read more books, took time to go to the pool in the summer and spent some weekends away with my husband.

I need balance. I am much happier if I have balance and I’m fiercely protective of my own time because it is mine. It makes me sound self centered, but I don’t necessarily have to be alone to enjoy “me time.” However, I do need to give myself breaks and special treatment every now and then. This isn’t being selfish. It is being a human being. Be kind to yourself. Take care of yourself. Love yourself. You deserve it.

Happy Mother’s Day

Today is day to celebrate all the women in the world who have dedicated the larger part of their lives to raising their children, their grand-children and sometimes other people’s children. On a smaller, more personal scale, my mother spent many of her mother’s days doing one of the following:

1. Attending Allegheny College graduation x2 (my sister and I both went there as undergrads)
2. Attending the Mother’s Day Show at the Erie Hunt & Saddle Club. I’m not sure how many times she did this, but I’m going to guess it was at least five. She also gets extra points for this one because it rained at least three out of those five times.
3. Eating “breakfast” in bed at 7 AM on a Sunday because we (my sister and I) were so excited to make it for her that we couldn’t let her sleep. It also important to note that her “breakfast” consisted of toast and tea. Ash and I were not yet the culinary connoisseurs that we are today.
4. Driving around Erie County on one of my father’s epic “Sunday” drives. Hey, Ash. Need a bathroom?
5. Enjoying a Mother’s Day dinner at one of the finer dining establishments in Erie. These restaurants included Outback, Olive Garden and Chi-Chi’s (spelling?). Yeah, Erie is the the capital of chain restaurants. Luckily, as we got older, we smartened up and started to look for fine dining establishments outside of Peach Street.

The point of this list? My mother is a good sport. She’s a very good sport, so I hope she spends today doing something she wants to do and gets a good meal out of it too. I sent her a small package that included this (I liked it so much I made one for myself):

It was a fun little project. Special thanks to Tisha for posting the link on my wall. If you’d like to make one, click on this link.

Happy Mother’s Day, mom. Love you.

Love Letters

While I understand that a lot of people have mixed feelings about Valentine’s Day, I don’t really have a problem with the holiday. Do I agree that it has become hyper commercialized? Sure, but you have been into a Target around Christmas? Hell, have you been in to a Target around Christmas, Halloween, St. Patrick’s Day, Easter? We’re Americans. We see it as our job to over hype holidays. I’ve never thought of Valentines Day as a day necessarily for couples, which I think is why it’s never stressed me out much. When I was growing up, I had the great fortune of having a father who brought flowers for his wife and his two daughters. My mom always gave us cards and candy. My aunt sent me Valentine’s Day care packages when I was in college and I used to go out for drinks with my other girlfriends to celebrate the holiday. To me, Valentine’s Day is about celebrating people you love. Period. If you attached, that person falls into that category but so does you mother, you father, your grandmother, your sister, your brother and even your pets (yes, I think of my pets as people. We’ve covered this before).

Cards ready to be put on the mail…

This year I wanted to make cards to send out to for Valentine’s Day. It was fun and it gave me a chance to be creative. On Saturday I took all of my cards to the post office, bought some “Love” stamps and sent them off to all corners of the world. I hope these cards bring a smile to their recipients and that they feel loved, because after all, that’s what Valentine’s Day is about.

Grateful for Good Friends At Work

I’m lucky in many things when it comes to my job. I get to teach a subject I love, I teach a challenging and diverse student body, I have much more scheduling flexibility than most and I find myself teaching class in a brand new, beautiful academic building. However, I am most lucky in the friends I have at work. This occurred today when I saw a friend who has recently taken on a new position at the college and as a result, I see him a lot less. We were both attending the same meeting and afterwards we walked over to the new building, grabbed a snack from the food court and went up to my office to say hello to my office mate. We proceeded to chat about our students and our classes and all things academic (and a few non academic) and we had a good time.

I am lucky that when I come to the office in the morning there are two people who are smart, funny and excellent professors. We solve problems, we vent our frustrations, we talk about how to make our classes better and we make each other laugh.

I am lucky to be involved in a division (LAS) that believes in hanging out after hours. That cultivates good relationships in and out of classroom. That supports staff and faculty in good times and in bad and that genuinely cares about the professional and personal happiness of its faculty.

I am lucky to be part a department that creates things like a book club, chooses Jane Eyre as a book, and then hosts a full English tea to celebrate. I am lucky that my department chair is understanding, smart, knowledgeable and efficient. I am lucky that the faculty in my department are creative and supportive.

I am lucky to have made an especially good friend at work and I am lucky that she and I were hired at the same time. She’s one of the smartest people I know and she knits beautiful shawls and mittens and socks. There are days that I would have surely lost my mind if she weren’t around to talk to. I’m really lucky to know her.

Teaching can be a grueling profession and often times you need a plan A, B, C, D, etc. It is rewarding but that is because it is a lot of work and it is so important to have a support system among your peers. So thank you to all my friends at my community college. You are awesome and often times you are the reason I can get through a particularly brutal day.

Love you guys.

I Feel Loved…

My friend Sam is awesome for many reasons. He has an excellent attitude about life, he’s a wonderful writer and he has a cool blog. Check it out here. He recently nominated my blog for The Versatile Blogger Award, so that also makes him kind.

The guidelines for this award are as follows. First, I must thank the person who nominated me. Check. Second, I must list seven things about me. Here goes:

1. I’m a poet, or at least I try to be. I love to read, listen to and write poetry. I’m a working poet, so sometimes finding time to write is a challenge but I do the best I can.

2. I’m a teacher. My technical title is Assistant Professor but I’m not much for titles. I teach at a community college and I really enjoy it. This semester I’m teaching mostly creative writing and it is awesome. My students are talented and hilarious, which is a good combination in the classroom.

3. I love animals of all kinds. I currently have a dog, Kweli; a kitty, Nimbus; and two Zebra Finches, Humphrey and Calliope. I rode horses growing up and we had a barn on our property. I cry during the ASPCA commercials (damn you, Sarah McLaughlin!) and I donate to the World Wildlife Fund.

4. I love to cook and bake. I’m on a vegetarian kick at the moment but I love to make bread, pasta, soup, casseroles, dip, whatever. Cooking is good.

5. I like to write letters and make cards and stationary. This past Friday I spent three hours making cards for friends and family and I was a happy camper.

6. Friends and family are very important to me. I have a sister who is five years younger (check out her blog) and we are very close. I value keeping up with friends from all over the country, even though I don’t keep up as much as I should.

7. I think the 30’s are awesome. I liked my 20’s but I just turned 30 last year and I’m really liking it. I have a house, I have a career, I have pets, I got married and overall, it’s been a banner year so far. Let’s keep it going.

Now I am supposed to name ten blogs I admire and want you all to read. Here goes:

1. Emperor of Ice Cream Cakes: Poems Are Jokes
2. Mark Doty
3.The Iris Chronicles
4.16 Sparrows
5. Letter Writers Alliance
6.HiFi Hilarity
7. the INtangible Blog
8.Quilty Therapy
9.Sincerely Me
10. The Sassy Curmudgeon

Sam, I think we’re well on our way to that party…

For Basil

A Dog Has Died

My dog has died.
I buried him in the garden
next to a rusted old machine.

Some day I’ll join him right there,
but now he’s gone with his shaggy coat,
his bad manners and his cold nose,
and I, the materialist, who never believed
in any promised heaven in the sky
for any human being,
I believe in a heaven I’ll never enter.
Yes, I believe in a heaven for all dogdom
where my dog waits for my arrival
waving his fan-like tail in friendship.

Ai, I’ll not speak of sadness here on earth,
of having lost a companion
who was never servile.
His friendship for me, like that of a porcupine
withholding its authority,
was the friendship of a star, aloof,
with no more intimacy than was called for,
with no exaggerations:
he never climbed all over my clothes
filling me full of his hair or his mange,
he never rubbed up against my knee
like other dogs obsessed with sex.

No, my dog used to gaze at me,
paying me the attention I need,
the attention required
to make a vain person like me understand
that, being a dog, he was wasting time,
but, with those eyes so much purer than mine,
he’d keep on gazing at me
with a look that reserved for me alone
all his sweet and shaggy life,
always near me, never troubling me,
and asking nothing.

Ai, how many times have I envied his tail
as we walked together on the shores of the sea
in the lonely winter of Isla Negra
where the wintering birds filled the sky
and my hairy dog was jumping about
full of the voltage of the sea’s movement:
my wandering dog, sniffing away
with his golden tail held high,
face to face with the ocean’s spray.

Joyful, joyful, joyful,
as only dogs know how to be happy
with only the autonomy
of their shameless spirit.

There are no good-byes for my dog who has died,
and we don’t now and never did lie to each other.

So now he’s gone and I buried him,
and that’s all there is to it.

~Pablo Neruda

Basil during Christmas 2008. 

Where Have I Been? Well…

On November 5, 2011 I was here:

Absolutely gorgeous day.

I was doing this:

That’s me and my new husband.

This is not an excuse for my long, shameful absence from the blogging world but I knew I was in trouble when my mother, who was arguably more excited about my pending nuptials than I was, said to me not more than 24 hours after the wedding “When are you going to update your blog? Every damn time I look at it I see Midnight in Paris!”

Point taken & stay tuned.

A List to Sum Up the Past Two Weeks…

Took a break from blogging to manage a busy week or two. During those weeks the following events occurred (not in chronological order):

1. Our dog, Kweli, suffered some terrible dog plague and proceeded to throw up everywhere. Everywhere includes a pile of old sweaters in R’s closet that thankfully “were going to be donated anyway.”

2. Binoculars were purchased so I could watch the birds at my bird feeder.

3. I bought my wedding dress.

4. I became newly aware that eye glass frames are incredibly expensive.

5. I discovered that my Kindle cover caused my Kindle to reset all the time. The answer? A new Kindle cover with a reading light.

6. Elizabeth Bishop had a birthday.

7. I am going to Seattle in April for a conference.

8. My sister visited. She’s awesome.

9. I learned I am teaching all online classes this summer.

10. I went mini golfing with my colleagues in Liberal Arts & Sciences.

11. I went to a talk given by a survivor of one of the death camps in the Congo.

12. I ate the most amazing brunch ever at Zest & then drew all over the tables (see pics below).

13. I had a fun book club meeting where we discussed Murder on the Orient Express.

14. I attended a performance by my community college’s chapter of the Odeon Society.

15. I chatted with my best friend who I don’t talk to nearly enough.

16. I bought Elizabeth Bishop and The New Yorker.

17. I got my taxes done and almost had a heart attack when the accountant thought I owed $5000. Thankfully, she was wrong.

18. We began the registering process at Crate & Barrel.

19. I ran almost three miles at 5.3 on the treadmill.

20. I sent out more poetry submissions.

21. RJ and I celebrated Valentines Day with a trip to Santorini and Best Chocolate in Town.

Zombies, rings, 4th of July, and fireworks in a fir tree…

On Friday July 2, 2010 I pulled this ring (see below)…

out of this zombie…
RJ and I are engaged. I am very happy. I think the zombie is too.

My parents visited this weekend and like all good parents, they did not arrive empty handed. They gifted us their original dining room set, which means now every room in our house has the appropriate furniture in it. To celebrate, see pictures below of our house with actual furniture. Hooray!


My garden is blooming in full force.