12/31: nuts & neighbors

Our next-door neighbors invited us over this evening, but Chris wasn't feeling well enough to go. I didn't want to leave him for long, so I took our neighbors some spiced nuts I had made this afternoon. I intended just to drop them off with our regrets, but I ended up staying for an hour, chatting and nibbling and sipping. Other neighbors dropped by during that time, and it was really nice to see everyone. (And a victory for me, given my shyness.)

12/30: still & quiet

After a great short vacation to meet up with family, we're back. It was wonderful to visit with Chris' brother Lucien and Lucien's partner Jen, both of whom we hadn't seen since the spring of 2005. But after the hustle of crowded city streets and the bustle of busy airports, it's nice to be at home where it's truly quiet and we're not on the move.

12/26-12/29: holiday hiatus

Thanks for stopping by. I'm unplugged for a few days, but--of course--feel free to post a good thing from your day in the comments!

And best wishes to all for happy closing days of 2009!

12/25: home on the ridge

Two years ago today we were unpacking boxes in our then-new-to-us house. I'm so glad and grateful that we moved here.

12/24: unanticipated package!

I have a wonderful friend named Linda whom I've known for (yikes!) 20 years now. She loves to bake cookies of all kinds, and around the holidays she sends out packages containing an amazing assortment of home-made cookies. For the past couple of years she hadn't done it, and I thought it was the end of an era. But today a box as of old arrived by post, and it is full full full of delicious varieties.

12/23: remembering the good

'Tis the season for writing recommendation letters for students applying to law school and graduate school. I've had a fair number to do this year, and I'm nearing the end of them. It's a pleasure to file through my memories of particular students and remember the work they did in their courses with me. It's also a pleasure to help them with whatever will be the next step of their journey.

12/22: (kind of) polish dinner

Though my ancestry is Polish, my grandparents were hesitant to pass on much Polish culture: they wanted their descendants to be "American." I wish I knew more about where in Poland their families even came from.... Nonetheless, tonight we were able to celebrate Polish-ness a bit. I grated horseradish root this afternoon, and this evening I made a pierogi casserole (which is much easier than making individual pierogies)--and we had some Tyskie Polish beer on hand, too! Truth be told, we had sauerkraut in the pantry, as well, but I forgot about it, so that will have to wait to be served with leftovers tomorrow.

12/21: unexpectedly warm

It was in the high 50s (and maybe even low 60s) today--and clear and bright. How wonderful!

The bees were flying, and so that they wouldn't forage in vain, we poured out some of their own honey for them to take back to their hives. Only fair, given that they made it in the first place, yes? I love watching them come to gather it up, sip and bit by sip and bit. I realized today that I truly am a bee-keeper: as I spread the honey out, the bees were buzzing all around me, and though I wasn't in a bee-suit I wasn't nervous at all.

And I couldn't resist the chance to head out on the water on such a lovely day, so the afternoon found me on the lake. I saw only one other boat. Otherwise, it was me, the birds, and some dogs running along the shore. Fantastic.

12/20: spoken word & rediscovery

I really enjoy live reading-aloud, but I often have trouble with audiobook recordings. I get impatient. My mind wanders. I don't know what to do with the rest of myself as I'm listening. But I downloaded The Scarlet Letter for my iPod, and I've been enjoying listening to it as I've been walking this week. Maybe it's ushering in a new era of audiobook wonderfulness for me. (I hope so.)

I sometimes feel a little sad about books like The Scarlet Letter (and I consider The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn in the same camp): they are such amazing novels, but people often first (and only) encounter them as assigned reading in high school, when many of us are probably too young to appreciate them or their radicalness. Part of me is sad that I'm not discovering The Scarlet Letter for the first time as an adult; but part of me is glad that it's possible to rediscover a book and find it so different after so many years, largely because one's self is so different in so many ways. And yet there's also the sense of the familiar: I remember particular sentences from my first reading of The Scarlett Letter in 1985! And I even remember where in my parents' house I was sitting when I read them.

12/19: definitively

I didn't grow up with bluebirds as a common sight in Pennsylvania. They're more plentiful here in Arkansas, and I never get tired of seeing them. I always think it's special. At this time of year they're often more apparent on the ridge than in other seasons, and Chris said he saw them earlier this week. So I've been keeping my eyes peeled for them, and there have been a couple of times when I thought that maybe perhaps I caught a glimpse of one flying across the yard. But today I saw some for certain, and I was dazzled all over again by their brilliant blue.

12/18: stretching

Ever since Thanksgiving break my body has been unusually sore: I think it may have been the combination of walking-more-than-usual in Memphis and sitting-more-than-usual during the drive to and from Memphis. In any case, my back somehow got out of whack, and I knew that doing some yoga would help, but in the end of the semester flurry of things I never made time. This morning I did, and it felt thoroughly good.

12/17: stocked up

When I finished Trollope's Fixed Period earlier this week, I realized that I didn't have a novel lined up to read next. So today we went to the bookstore in Little Rock, and I bought four: Henry James' Wings of the Dove, Wilkie Collins' Rogue's Life, and two novels by Louisa May Alcott (Work and A Long Fatal Love Chase). I don't know which one I'll start first, but it's always great feeling to be excited about opening a new cover and diving in.

12/16: sights from the table

Our dinner table is placed along large floor-to-ceiling windows. We both sit on the same side of the table so we can share the view of the willow oak at the bottom of the hill, the fields below our house, and the ridge in the distance. This morning as we ate breakfast we saw three deer jump past the windows as they crossed our yard. And this evening as we ate dinner we watched a pink and blue sunset slowly change to violet.

12/15: from the sky

I walked across campus today at about 11 o'clock. The air was cold, but the sun was strong and the sky was clear and blue. As I passed by some tall willow oaks, the wind made lots of little leaves--now orange and brown--flutter to the ground. It felt like I was in a snowstorm of sorts: leafstorm? It was lovely, and I wished it could have gone on and on.

12/14: home stretch & movie at home

My beginning Latin class had its final exam this morning, and while they were taking their test I finished up the grading for my Greek class. This afternoon I got started on marking the Latin exams, and tomorrow I should finish them without too much trouble. Then there are only a handful of research papers to read--and the semester will be done! Teaching is good; resting from teaching is also good.

I got a head start on resting this evening by watching the BBC dramatization of Mansfield Park, which is my favorite Austen novel. The film versions are never as good as the books, but I always enjoy seeing what choices the screenwriters and directors made, and Chris watched this one with me, so that was an extra pleasure.

12/13: familiar laughter

At work my office is in a suite with two other offices, and for six years my suite-mates were the same two professors. One of them moved into a bigger office earlier this year, so the three of us are now rarely together in the comfortable, haphazard way that we used to be. Tonight we were all at the same dinner party, and at one point the professor who moved offices said something so typically funny and in such a typical way that I and my other suite-mate just burst out laughing. Other people at the table laughed, too, but not in the way we did. For a second it was like we were back in the suite, chatting and goofing at the end of a long day.

12/12: out of the house, out of my head

My head was swirling with some work-related stuff this afternoon, and I just needed to turn it off. So I went to the indoor walking track in town, which is always a great place. It wasn't even crowded: for the first few laps, I had it all to myself. I think I should make a resolution to go to the track at least twice a week--it always puts me in a better mood, and it's nice exercise as well.

12/11: last-minute decision

After dinner this evening I decided to drive back to campus to watch the scenes being put on by the senior directing class students. I'm glad I went. It was so nice to have new fuel for thought and to spend an hour not thinking about the various things that have been spinning in my mind over recent days.

As an extra pleasure, my ride to and from campus was spotted with colored Christmas lights strung in people's yards. It was especially lovely to see them reflected in the lake.

12/10: a.m. presentations and p.m. tlc

This morning my upper-level Latin students gave presentations on their final papers/projects. We ran it almost as if it were a panel at an academic conference, and they did such good jobs presenting themselves and their ideas. It was nice to see them in action this way.

Chris and I went out to lunch this afternoon, and we went for one of my favorite meals. But it ended up making me sick! How sad and perverse! But Chris has been a great comrade this afternoon and evening, keeping me company (even watching one of my favorite movies with me) as I feel quite unexpectedly bad.

12/9: an afternoon of students

I worked at home this morning, and then went to campus for office hours this afternoon. Seven students came by--enough for me to feel like it was definitely worthwhile to hold office hours even though it's exam period, yet not so many that I felt overwhelmed. And they were all so pleasant and cheerful, which is something I should not take for granted. I'm lucky that the general student disposition at my school is so good-natured.

12/8: beginning, middle, end

Three things for each of the three parts of the day.

From the beginning of my day: I didn't have to go in to the office as early as usual, giving me a chance to sleep in just a teeny bit in the morning (hurray for the snooze button!). Once at school, I got more done in the morning than I had anticipated. Something I had dreaded doing didn't take as long as I thought and wasn't as difficult as I had expected.

From the middle: A student and I met to send out the entries for the campus index card art swap. We had more people participate this month than last month, so we both felt good about that. I also graded a Latin bonus quiz which some of my students took; they did quite well and earned for themselves nice little bonuses going into the final exam. And a colleague dropped off a copy of her holiday letter for me--I didn't expect such a friendly gesture, and I am very touched by it.

From the end: After dinner this evening Chris and I walked through the very wet yard to survey all the small (and not so small) trees he's planted over the past two years. Once we were done with that, Chris needed to talk with his brother on the phone, so I goofed around with some rubber stamp carving. I'm terrible at it (really), but cutting into the soft blocks with the carving tools feels really nice. The very functional heat in our house also feels really nice. The heating in my building at school is broken, so it feels luxurious to be relaxing in a truly warm house this evening.

12/7: one in each arm

I don't like needles, but today's good thing involves two of them. Earlier this semester, my job had run out of flu vaccine (one of our usual annual benefits) before I had a chance to get my flu shot. They've now gotten more in, and today they held another clinic. I was in line almost as soon as they were open for business. And they had H1N1 vaccinations, so I got one of those shots, too, for good measure.

12/6: birds and berries

All the leaves are off the trees now, and the bareness of the branches draws our attention to the birds sitting on them. This morning was an amazing bird morning, as we sat in front of our large picture windows and watched all kinds of feathered friends flying from tree to tree. They particularly favored a juniper tree whose berries must be good for eating.

Chris and I had our own good-for-eating berries this evening for dinner. I made some cranberry sauce, and Chris used a sweet petit-four pan to make flower-shaped cornbread. We had home-made vegetarian chili, too, but the cranberry sauce with cornbread muffins stole the show.

12/5: helvetica

I'll confess that I'm not a fan of helvetica, the font. But I am now a fan of Helvetica, the documentary film about the font. We starting watching it last night, and I'm glad that we stopped part way through: it means that there's more pleasure ahead as we finish it tonight.

12/4: pupusas and a pause

Chris and I went with a friend this evening to a near-ish town to eat some pupusas. It was good to get off the track we've been wearing between work and home this week. And I finished today's tasks before leaving the office for dinner, so I don't have to do any grading tonight.

12/3: unexpected sound

As I stepped out on the porch this morning the geese were flying so low overhead that I could hear their wings flap. I felt lucky to be in the moment.

12/2: singing in the rain

It was a cold and rainy morning, the first morning that felt more like winter than autumn. We were on campus earlier than usual, and it still wasn't fully light as I walked to my office. As I passed through the Arkansas Garden, I was surrounded by the song of birds. Their voices amid the grey, chill, and wet seemed miraculous.

12/1: sibling sweetness

My sister wrote me a really great email today. It made me feel so good to read it that a few hours after receiving it I went back and read it again.