Monday, August 23, 2010

Thoughts on Eat, Pray, Love

Image from here
 I went to see Eat, Pray, Love with two of my friends over the weekend.  I have to say I had really high expectations for this movie.  It's not that I loved the book that much, more that I loved the idea of the book.  The idea of traveling to Italy, India, and Indonesia (or more specifically Bali) as a single women without much of a plan was intriguing to me, especially because I'm someone who always has a plan.

I also find it interesting that Elizabeth Gilbert's book has received all of this attention when there are other books that are extremely similar to hers that have been completely ignored.  The main one I'm thinking of is Tales of a Female Nomad by Rita Golden Gelman.  I read her book before reading Eat, Pray, Love and thought it was amazing that she was able to truly live with and learn from the people and places she was visiting.  The experiences of these women are so different and, in a way, I think that Elizabeth Gilbert's book has received more attention simply because it is easier for people to picture themselves traveling to different countries, living there, learning what they want to, and then leaving.  That seems much more accessible to most people than the way that Rita Golden Gelman truly embraces the culture she is living in, which is an extremely scary thing to think about.

Honestly, I find the experiences of both women intimidating because I am not someone who is good at being away from my family and friends.  The month I spent in India was the most time I've spent away from anyone I've known and, even then, I was going with a group of students led by a professor from Hope.  I am in awe of their ability to step (or more accurately leap) out of the comfortable lives they had created for themselves and embrace what the world had to offer.

As it turns out, I really wanted to get my thoughts about the books out instead of writing a review of the movie because I don't really know what to think of the movie.  Were parts of it good?  Yes.  Could parts of it have been done better? Yes. Did it show India the way that India is?  Yes and no.  Yes in the scene where she's in the taxi in India traveling from the airport to the ashram because they made a point of showing the chaos that overwhelms you and the children that are constantly begging you for money/attention/love.  No because she spent much of her time in India in the ashram.

I think the main reason I had such strong feelings about the movie is because my experiences in India have had such a deep emotional impact on me that the thought of other people experiencing India in a different way is difficult for me to grasp.  I know it happens, but I'm not always ready to acknowledge that it happens.

Sorry if these thoughts don't make sense.  They don't really make all that much sense to me.  But I thought I needed to try to get some of these thoughts out of my head before I spent too much time there thinking about India and traveling and all of the other things that these books and the movie bring up for me.

Friday, August 20, 2010

Book Review: Rooftops of Tehran

I just finished Rooftops of Tehran by Mahbod Seraji.  It has been a long time since I read (or in this case listened to) a book that I absolutely could not wait to have other people read.  (I think the last one I felt this strongly about was The Book Thief, which you should definitely go read if you haven't already...)  Rooftops of Tehran is set in Iran during the early 1970's when the country is ruled by the Shah.  The main character, Pasha, is seventeen and dealing with typical things such as getting out of high school, figuring out how to tell his parents that what they want him to do with his life is not what he wants to do with his life, and thinking about girls.  But obviously, things are different for Pasha because of where he is growing up.

The author does a wonderful job of making the story realistic, which still making it easy to relate to the characters while they experience the hardships of living under the Shah, most of which we can't even imagine.  The Iranian history and terms are explained extremely well, so don't worry if you don't know a lot of your Iranian history, I didn't either. The plot is suspenseful and surprising.  I can't tell you much else about the book because I don't want to give away any of the plot, but I would DEFINITELY recommend this book.

And a few thoughts on listening to books.  I listen to a lot of books in my car while I drive to and from work.  It lets me feel productive, even when I'm just sitting at stoplights.  There are two problems with listening to books instead of reading them:
  1. I usually end up getting really into the book I am listening to, so by the end of the book I end up listening to it whenever I can.
  2. I am one of those people that loves to mark passages in books.  I never write in my books with pens, but constantly mark passages with pencil so that I can find them when I am looking for them later.  That is something you can't do when you're listening to the book.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

A quote

"Kids need to think that you care before they care what you think."

What a fabulous quote.  The mother of the author of The Other Wes Moore said this when she was being interviewed on Oprah.  The truth of her statement completely struck me.  My students (since those are the only kids in my life at the moment) only care what I think because I care about them.  And that's why our school is different than other schools because every single student knows that the staff cares about them.

Monday, August 16, 2010

Things that are making me happy at the moment

  • The abundance of hot air balloons that have been out and about
  • My cats who always want to sleep next to me
  • Having time to knit and read without worrying about anything else
  • The familiarity of getting back into a routine
  • My wonderful husband who makes quesadillas for me, even though I'm fully capable of making them for myself
  • The weather finally getting cooler.  (And by cooler I mean less than ninety!)

Friday, August 13, 2010

Today I'm featured in the Friday Favorites series at A Few of My Favorite Things!  Be sure to check it out!

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Devotion to my students

Today was the start of another school year.  Technically, the teachers started school on Monday, but this was the first day with students, which is why I consider it the actual start of the school year.  School isn't school without the students.  Even though I've taught at this school for four years now, I still get nervous about the start of school.  This year I was even more nervous because we had so many changes going on.

We have a new schedule.  The past four years we've been on a block schedule, which meant that I only saw my classes every other day.  But this year I'll have the same classes every day for nine weeks.  That doesn't sound bad until I remember that I used to have a bad day of classes and a good day of classes on block scheduling.  With the same classes meeting every day, what if my nine weeks ends up being on long bad day of classes!?!

We have a new math teacher.  For some reason, our school has a really hard time keeping math teachers for more than a year.  This is our third new math teacher in three years.  Not such a good record.  It's not that I don't like her, it's that I don't know her yet.  And I've always been more comfortable with the known than the unknown.  But I'm definitely excited to see how she works with the students and to help her out along the way since I'm not one of the "oldest" teachers in the building (obviously based on experience at the school, not on age).

We have a bunch of new students.  This comes from the fact that we had a really big graduating class (for our school) last year and from the fact that we raised the number of students we're accepting because we have a new staff member!  We added a Spanish teacher this year who will rotate between the two schools opposite of the PE/Health teacher.  This will be an awesome addition to our program and should (fingers crossed) bring our class sizes down a little bit too.  But again, I've always been more comfortable with the known than the unknown, so new students are always harder for me.  That's one of the things I love about teaching at my school - that I get to teach the same students year after year.  I just have to remember that some of my favorite students (I know, I'm not supposed to have favorites) were new students just a few years ago.

And I apologize for the excessive amount of parentheses I used in that last paragraph.  I'll try not to make it a habit...

Monday, August 9, 2010

Book Review: The Happiness Project

That's right.  I've been reading it for months and I finally finished it!  It took me a while because I really loved this book and because there was so much in it!

I loved this book!  I originally borrowed it from the library and renewed it as many times as I could before turning it in.  I decided I liked it enough that I couldn't wait to borrow it from the library again so I bought it.  A few of the things I loved about this book included:

1.  The author's name is Gretchen!
2.  She decided to do this project and devoted an entire year to it.
3.  During the book, she's constantly changing her opinion about parts of the project.  If she wasn't enjoying something or it stopped working for her, she stopped doing it.
4.  She packs so much inspiration into this book that I really think it would be impossible to read it and not get anything out of it.  I already plan on reading it again to make sure I didn't miss anything.

Friday, August 6, 2010

I finished knitting my first baby blanket

For some reason, the camera threw the colors of the blanket way off.  The gray is actually a sky blue and all of the other colors have a lot more blue in them as well.

I just thought I'd share.

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Devotion to the gym!?!

I used to have devotion to a gym.  In fact, I used to work out with a trainer 2-3 times a week and be on my way to accomplishing my fitness goals.  That was before my trainer up and left with no warning.  And, while I shouldn't have, I used it as an excuse to stop going to the gym.  And then my gym went out of business and I've been without a gym since.

Until today.  Today I decided that it was time to check out a new gym - LA Fitness.  I had driven by it before, but had never been inside.  So I went in for a tour and was really impressed.  The membership includes the use of all of the facilities, including all of the classes, the pool, the sauna, and the squash courts.  After hearing about the squash courts, I was sold!  Just kidding...I don't even know how to play squash.

After calling Andrew and running it by him, I signed us both up for the gym membership and talked to one of the staff members about doing a personal training session later that night.  I know that personal training works really, really well for me because I have someone to hold me accountable for working out so I was really excited, I just wasn't sure if Andrew would be excited about it.  He wasn't sure about it until he actually worked out with the trainer and then I think he understood what I liked about it - being able to show up and go through a great workout without having to think about what you were going to do because the trainer is telling you what to do.

Then we found out that we can work out with a trainer at the same time and only count it as one session so we decided to go for it!  Andrew and I are working out with a trainer three times a week for the next year!  I'm so excited!  It's expensive, but we figured that it'll be a good experience for us to work out together because we can keep each other accountable and encourage each other.  Besides, it's a great investment in keeping ourselves healthy and happy so in the end we think that it's totally worth it!

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

I will sing of your mercies that lead me through valleys of sorrow to rivers of joy

This post has been a long time coming because it's a difficult topic to write about, but I think it's important to be honest about the things we struggle with.  My struggle with depression began during my sophomore year of college.  At first I didn't realize that it was depression.  I was under a lot of stress from my classes that semester and I though that once I got a break, everything would be fine.  I convinced myself that I just needed to make it to spring break and then I would feel better.

During spring break, I was participating in a mission trip to Nashville, Tennessee.  It was a really hard week for me, mostly because even though I was away from school and the stress that came with it, I was still extremely unhappy.  I distinctly remember coming to the realization one night that if I wasn't happy while I was on a break with people I liked doing things I liked, than something bigger than stress was going on.  I talked to some of the other people on the mission trip about it and they were wonderful in supporting me and encouraging me to tell my family and friends how I was feeling.  When I got back to school, I did just that.  It was really hard for me to do because I felt like it was somehow my fault, that somehow if I was stronger I wouldn't be feeling this way.  It turns out that depression is something that many people in my family have struggled with, which made it much easier for them to understand.

Obviously, realizing what I was dealing with and talking to my family and friends didn't magically make it go away.  I struggled for the rest of that year and into the next before I finally felt like I was starting to feel better.  That involved a ton of support from my friends - especially my wonderful roommate who had to put up with my crying about pretty much everything - some counseling and eventually taking antidepressants as well.  (There are so many things that can help those that are struggling with depression.  I honestly don't think there is one thing that works for everyone, you simply have to find what works for you.)

Through the years since then, my depression has come and gone and come again.  It is something that always seems to be there in some way when I get really upset about something, but I am much, much better at dealing with it now.  I recognize what helps me and what doesn't help me and - for the most part - am pretty good at asking Andrew for what I need, which is usually just for him to be there to remind me that I'm not alone in this and that people around me love and care about me.

There are several reasons for me writing about this.  1) Depression is a huge issue.  If you have not dealt with it personally, I'm sure that someone you love has.  2) As much as people claim that things are improving in terms of depression and the stigma surrounding it, people still do not like to talk about it.  They do not like to be open about it because it makes people uncomfortable.  I know that when I realized I was dealing with depression, it was a huge deal for me to tell my family and friends.  I was worried that they would think I was weak or that it was somehow my fault.  In the end, most of them were supportive and understanding about it so most of my worry was for nothing.  3)  There is a movie coming out soon that is titled Helen in which Ashley Judd plays a woman who is dealing with an extremely severe case of depression.  When she was being interviewed on The Today Show she explained depression extremely well.  She said that people who struggle with depression are not unhappy, but instead they are unwell.  It was the best explanation of depression that I'd ever heard and I thought it was worth sharing.

One final thought, the title of this post comes from a Jars of Clay song that was a huge help to me when I was really depressed.  It served as a reminder that even though I couldn't see a way out of the sadness I was feeling that I would eventually make it through to the joy on the other side.  And I am definitely living in that joy now.

Things that are making me happy at the moment

One of my favorite pictures from our wedding!
  • My wonderful husband who attempts to understand me even when I don't understand myself
  • My cat Butterball who has developed the habit of trying to sit in the most inconvenient spot when you're actually trying to accomplish something.  For example, today I was laying in bed reading a book and the place he chose to lay on our HUGE king sized bed was on top of my book.  Of course!
  • DVR.  I seriously don't know how I lived without it for this long!
  • My sister's new pet bunny.  Her name is Daisy and she is the softest bunny ever!
  • My new purple phone.  It's so cute!
  • My last week of summer!  It definitely went by quickly, but I've enjoyed every moment of it!

Monday, August 2, 2010

Book review: P.S. I Love You

Sometimes instead of simply finishing the book I'm reading, I end up starting a new one and then coming back to the one (or two or three or four or five...) I was already reading.  That's exactly what I've been doing lately.  I'm in the middle of:
  • trying to finish reading the entire Bible in a year 
    • So far I've read Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, Deuteronomy, Joshua, Judges, Ruth,1 Chronicles, 2 Chronicles, Job, Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, Song of Songs, Isaiah, Matthew, Mark, Luke, John, Acts, Romans, 1 Corinthians, 2 Corinthians, Galatians, Ephesians, Philippians, Colossians, 1 Thessalonians, 2 Thessalonians, 1 Timothy, 2 Timothy, Titus, Philemon, Hebrews, 1 Peter, 2 Peter, 1 John, 2 John, and 3 John.  
    • Whew!  That's 39 of the 66 books of the Bible, which means I'm more than halfway!!!
  • The Happiness Project: Or Why I Spent a Year Trying to Sing in the Morning, Clean My Closets, Fight Right, Read Aristotle, and Generally Have More Fun
    • I really like this book, but I've been reading it slowly to savor it:)
  • Pride and Prejudice and Zombies
    • I have to say that I'm not entirely sure about this one.  I like the concept of adding the zombies to get people who would not normally read Jane Austen interested, but I'm having a heard time reading the book because I already know the entire plot of the original.
  • For Better: The Science of a Good Marriage
    •  I had to return to the library but am going to check out again to finish because it was really interesting
  • Word Freak: Heartbreak, Triumph, Genius and Obsession in the World of Competitive Scrabble Players
    • I started this book while we were on our honeymoon, and it's really interesting.  I had no idea how crazy competitive Scrabble could be.

    So while I was in the middle of all of those books, I started reading P.S. I Love You and read it start to finish in about four days.  I thought it was an interesting idea because the book tells the story of Holly and her husband Gerry, who dies of a brain tumor before the book starts.  Even though he died, Gerry is still in the book through the letters he wrote Holly before he died telling her what he wanted her to do to continue living her life even though he's not there with her.  I really thought it was going to have a predictable ending where she ended up in a relationship with her friend Daniel who helps her through the grieving process, but she didn't!  I won't give away the ending, but I would recommend it if you're looking for a fun, fast read.  And now that I've read the book, I get to watch the movie!

    Not enough devotion

     Welcome to my blog!  I'm feeling really inspired by the title, which I borrowed from the wonderful Mark Doty.  (If you haven't read his poems and books, you should definitely check them out.  I love the way he uses language to make almost every line he writes absolutely beautiful.)
    There is little enough devotion in the world that we should be glad for it in whatever form it appears, and never mock it, or underestimate its depths.
    - from Dog Years by Mark Doty
    I love the idea of devotion because it changes so much depending on the thing you're showing your devotion to.  Of course, there are so many things that I'm devoted to - God, my husband, my family, my friends, my cats, my students, my school, learning, reading, and creating to name a few.  I couldn't narrow the focus of my blog down to just one of those things, so this is the perfect opportunity for me to blog about any and all of them!