Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Wow! Good news!

  • I took the car in Monday because it was nearly undrivable: part/labor was 40% of what they quoted me.
  • I just sold duplicated translator pen on Amazon: only posted it last week! It will pay for 75% of the repairs.
  • My students who revised their papers have shown incredible growth on this second version: THANK YOU!!!

And now, just some pretty pictures...


Gary Cooper--my favorite photo of him

Tom Brady and baby... his.

No idea: just a gorgeous photo

Oh, Damien Lewis! I missed you as Alceste

Tyrone Power, of course
Louis XIV as Apollo, of course

Djimon Hounsou

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Giving gifts: for minimalists, connoisseurs, and those who have everything

I was al-most a complete non-shopper on Friday. Living in DFW--the Land of Happy and Endless Consumerism!--I avoided the malls, and (although I thought about it) Costco and Ikea. I ended up buying only a little something in CVS.

Nowadays, in any case, I do most of my shopping online. I buy gifts through sites like Etsy, Heifer, World Vision, and drugstore.com, not only to take advantage of getting them shipped to the recipients directly, but to stay the heck out of the malls. Really, as a person who hates crowds, why would I go shop at the banal and annoying landscapes of local malls when I can stay home and run up my credit balances in peace and quiet?

There is no compensation.

Seriously, pepper spray? Midnight openings? Trampling people? Sigh.

One of the great problems is that Dallas for all its malls and outlet malls does not boast an urban area like New York, Chicago, or Paris that includes a holiday spirit of lights, decorations, and gorgeous windows. Or even people watching. The malls do feature constant choirs, bands, and other groups, but there is little to no opportunity to simply sit and watch people go by; the only cafes (like Starbucks) are always crowded and short of seats, with people impatiently waiting by your elbow. Yikes!

So strolling from shop to store to study the decorations, to watch families or shoppers enjoy is impossible. Ugh--it is hideous. The entire notion is to buy, as quickly and thoroughly as possible, to spend and save at the same time, and to get back into the SUV and drive home. In this situation, the flaneur (or flaneuse) is wasting her time.

Now, on the other hand, I highly recommend Etsy for shopping locally or simply "small businesses" --shoppers can buy vintage or handmade, and the crafts for sale are myriad. From computer cases and decals, to jewelry to knitted scarves, mitten, hats, to handmade books and ties, to photographs, prints, and sculptures, to soap, the beautiful things about Etsy is that one buys directly from the artist, thereby supprting creativity and craftsmanship.

The other glorious thing is that if you have no idea what to buy, Etsy can help you find the right thing. Or, on the other end, you can create a list of gifts you'd like yourself (as I did this year and send it to your family and friends. Hah! No more hairdryers.

If you want to give something to a minimalist or someone who has everything (and seriously needs nothing more), try World Vision or Heifer. My father wants nothing: every year, he gets a goat, given directly to a family in African. My mother gets to sponsor a woman starting a small business. Give a goat or chickens, give a child a backpack full of school supplies, give a piece of a well for a village, sponsor a child for three months... whatever. These two organizations are legit. No matter what your notions, you can give locally or globally, gifts for families, women, girls, children, or villages, and feel great without contributing to the clutter or chaos of our Western world.

Another way to give is through Kiva, an organization where you lendmoney that is given to small entrepreneurs as start-up funding and so forth. You can put as little as $25 in on a shrot-term loan,a nd when it is paid back, loan it out again to another small business; surprisingly, that is a HUGE amount in parts of the world... and you'd just spend it on one hardcover book no one will read! Or a gift card your nephew will use for one video game.

And there's no pepper spray involved.

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Happy Thanksgiving! with a Treat!

Yesterday was a bit of a surprise: I realized that I was quite sick with a cold. Realized this when I was trying to ride my bike to the grocery store for milk and last-minute T'giving items. Oops. Turned right around and got in the car...

Upside? I got the turkey breast cooked (yum!), the kitchen cleaned and dishes done, took a long nap (after taking meds with a hot toddy, so there you go!), read, and watched TV. I didn't get to the movies, or any of the more ambitious things that entailed leaving the couch.

More upside? Today I feel much, much better. Still stuffy and congested, but no longer achy all over or feverish.

So today it's movies, turkey and asparagus and pumpkin pie, and home to watch more movies, courtesy of Netflix (X-Men and True Grit).

I have to give thanks for family and friends, a lovely place to live, my general health, a steady job I mostly enjoy (with benefits), a car with new brakes, and things to look forward to in 2012. Good things are always happening, if we pay attention. 

What got "done" on Wednesday, 11.23:
  1. Grocery shopping, including color remover for the white/pink towel
  2. Email
  3. Twitter
  4. Tumblr
  5. Posted on both blogs
  6. Read... a lot!
  7. Naaaaaaaaap (thank you, meds and toddy!)
  8. Cleaned off bike and covered on porch
  9. Picked up apartment, downstairs and upstairs
  10. Took recycling out (more today)
  11. Cleaned out fridge
  12. Cooked turkey breast: lemns, garlic, herbs... mmmmm! House smells great!
That's about it, but as I said, I feel better. All over! And... treat:

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

What got "done": Tuesday, 11.22

Since I was constantly distracted by the looming vacation and a very sore throat, bear with me.
  1. Prepped quiz, exercise, and lecture for history class
  2. Prepped PowerPoint for same class (really, revised/added to PPt already in place)
  3. Posted on other blog
  4. Sent emails about next semester's classes, assignments, this semester's assignments...
  5. Checked email
  6. Texted
  7. Twittered
  8. Tumblr'd
  9. Taught class: gave quiz, gave great lecture-discussion (active participation!), handed out/explained exercise
  10. Went to Target for printer paper, candles, and color remover (didn't have last one)
  11. Dinner
  12. Opened mail: first of three catalogues I ordered from Amazon.Fr arrived: all on exhibitions I wanted/needed to see but in Paris this past summer; this one was on Edouard Manet; looked it over
  13. Sorted catalogs and tossed them
  14. Took out trash
  15. Made notes for next set of scenes for the 2nd novel
  16. Read
I think that with a few more days, I'll be able to sort through what's going on right now.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

What got "done" Sunday and Monday... plus a TREAT!

  1. Weekly breakfast routine
  2. Grocery shopping: two stores + gas
  3. Laundry: 3 loads, including turning the white towel pink, thanks to pink wash cloth in "white" load. Sigh.
    • (side note: finally washed all summer clothes and hung them in "seasonal closet": I'm officially done with summer... but is summer done with DFW?????)
  4. Read paper, cut coupons, reviewed sale circulars... began dread of Black Friday
  5. Cleaned out fridge and took out trash
  6. Cut up vegetables, planned meals for week (including T'giving), put flowers in vase
  7. Naaaaaaaaaaaap
  8. Graded.
  9. Twittered
  10. Tumblr'd
  11. Blogged
  12. Went to birthday party for friend and stayed longer than I thought I would: nice party! Chatted up 1 yr. old and dog... 4 yr. old flirted but avoided me.
  13. Came home and finished last load of washer/dryer

  1. Morning routine before class
  2. Class @ 9 am: good show from students!
  3. Met with playwriting student to discuss his short piece and revisions he's already made
  4. Met with probationary student to discuss his in-class performance: good meeting!
  5. Email, Twitter, Tumblr
  6. Went to 1 pm show of student-written short pieces, 1 by my student
  7. Class @ 2 pm: student actually finished her play, lots to talk about... yay!
  8. Called parents to clear up non-emergency
  9. Dinner
  10. Graded
  11. Watched Valentino film, fell asleep
  12. Prepped post for other blog
  13. Insomnia: read Nook from 1 am-430 am.... sigh.
Two crazy days... and in a few hours.... I'll be on vacation for the rest of the whhheeeeeeeeeek!

Here's your treat for today: watch for the sharks in the gorgeous blue waters!

Sunday, November 20, 2011

What got "done": Sunday, 11.20

Sunday was a long day.

  1. Laundry: three loads, including towels
  2. Groceries: list, bought, and shelved
  3. Breakfast at diner
  4. Loaded and ran dishwasher, plus sink strays
  5. Naaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaap
  6. Bath
  7. Shower
  8. Twittered
  9. Tumblr'd
  10. Email
  11. Graded scenes and plays
  12. Attended party for friend, 40 years old (dinner, visited, played with one-year-old and dog)
  13. Filled car with gas

What got "done": Saturday, 11.19

  1. Slept late, 2nd day in a row... meaning 8 am
  2. Phone call with friend: both of us missed semi-planned breakfast
  3. Email.
  4. Twitter
  5. Tumblr
  6. Errands: tailor, prescriptions, catfood, gift card... + Crate&Barrel (oops!)
  7. Lunch
  8. Cleaned upstairs
  9. Hung up, folded, re-arranged clothes/closet
  10. Took out remaining summer clothes and threw 'em in laundry basket for washing
  11. Naaaaaaaaaaaapzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz
  12. Read
  13. Shifted funds for car repair payback
  14. Green tea
  15. Jamesons (oops!) with ice
  16. Trash and recycling out
  17. Went to reading of a former student's play--turned out to be authored by 2 former students. Saw three more former students, plus wives, and various people I know from Dallas theatre community. A nice night! Got home about 12:30 am....

Saturday, November 19, 2011

What got "done": Friday, 11.18

  1. Met with students in extra class at my house
  2. Picked up house prior to students' arrival
  3. Picked up car at garage, paid for new brakes, discussed future repairs (oy!), drove home
  4. Read.
  5. Twittered
  6. Tumblr'd
  7. Emailed and cleaned out all email boxes
  8. Posted blog here
  9. Generated grocery list for week
  10. Generated to do list for weekend and next holiday week
  11. Long distance call to friend
  12. Went to production of OTHELLO
  13. Met friend for drinks/dinner prior to OTHELLO; nice convo

That's it: not much, but the cleaning, class, car, and production sort of took more time than I planned. Oh, well, now it's Saturday and time for errands.

Friday, November 18, 2011

If I were in Paris... Friday, November 18, 2011

Of course, this is the time that the decorations are up and Christmas windows are on view, so the first thing I would do if I were in Paris, is to head over to "les grands magasins" and see "les vitrines" and then go inside to see the decorations.

Pictures from 2008, when I was on sabbatical.

This year, Printemps has done a Karl Lagerfeld series of windows, featuring the designer as a series of tiny doll figures with models. The windows are apparently brilliant, including sixty animated figures and opened by Lagerfeld himself (who must enjoy the constant use of his "self" as a character and a bit of a self-conscious joke).

In the 16th at the Musee Guimet, there is an exhibition by Rina Banerjee, an Indian artist.

Also in the 16th, the Fondation Pierre Berge-Yves St. Laurent have an exhibition the photographer Gisele Freund that looks amazing.

In the 9th, this weekend is an open door event at the ateliers of artists from "Anvers aux Abbesses," in the spirit of the holidays, I assume.

Also in the 9th is the centenary exhibit for the composer Massenet, at the Biliotheque de l'Opera (always worth visting, anyway).

And once I'm in this area, I cannot avoid the temptation to stop in and browse through Fauchon and Hediard, cheek-by-jowl. Time for a tin of Christmas tea, or some biscuits, or a delicious spicy mustard for cold-weather foods. Mmm. And they will nicely wrap anything for you, which is almost a treat in itself.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

What got "done": Thursday, 11.17

Feeling a little "Tess of the D'Urbervilles" today....

Car. Not. Done. Brakes fixed, but the turn signals are the hold out: they ordered the wrong part from downtown. Sigh. Tomorrow--they swear!
  1. Prepped and taught history class
  2. Told students I was cancelling their second paper and redistributing the points across three other assignments (Yay! Huh? was their response)
  3. Re-did PowerPoint on French Renaissance
  4. Handed out participation points in each of my four classes: we're getting to the wall and the people with low participation are suddenly getting desperate! Yeah, it's NOT just showing up.
  5. Upgraded class site on My U's in-house course website do-hickey (platform?)
  6. Graded scenes and plays for adult students, for tonight's class
  7. Tweeted.
  8. Tumblr'd.
  9. Blogged on other site.
  10. Read all email boxes and responded; emptied email boxes for week
  11. Chatted with co-worker about production he directed which just opened (seeing t'morrow) and life in general
  12. Chatted with wife of another co-worker and his kids in hallway
  13. Got invited to "game night" of co-workers I like
  14. Rode cab to and fro, to My U; have to do it again in, oh, 45 minutes for night class
  15. Called parents, only to be told they were going out to dinner and couldn't chat! Huh!
  16. Ate lunch (and dinner, soon)
  17. Chatted with a different co-worker about her kids (it was like a holiday! I saw 3 of my co-workers in 1 day!)
  18. Taught night class
  19. Waited for cab... waited for cab... waited for cab.
That's it so far, but I do have night class... so who knows what could happen!

More pretty Becks for you...

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

What got "done": Wednesday, 11.16

Okay, this is a theme--just for this week.

 Today, I cancelled office hours and did not have my afternoon class--by agreement with my students. Instead...
  1. Dropped car at garage for brake job
  2. Visited ATM for cash (for cab later)
  3. Walked to work (exercise!)
  4. Taught 9 am class, which was a bit of a wrestling match with students' lack of focus
  5. Chatted with student after about his revisions and how they were going
  6. Sent emails to students about meetings
  7. Called cab; waited for cab; called again--cab had someone else in it; cab #2 came and brought me home (50 minutes wasted!!!!)
  8. Changed out of teaching clothes/into work clothes
  9. Picked up kitchen, dining room, living room
  10. Put away dry dishes
  11. Made lunch, coffee for me
  12. Wrote blog post for this one
  13. Tweeted
  14. Tumblr'd
  15. Wrote 2 pages of novel... procrastinated and fidgeted.
  16. Bought ebooks online, moved to Nook
  17. Organized desktop
  18. Emailed
  19. Wrote 1.5 more pages... procrastinated, fidgeted
  20. Got call from garage: brakes need new calipers, too; add $200, and pick up tomorrow!
  21. Made more coffee
  22. Replaced burnt-out lightbulb
  23. Fed cat
  24. Poured glass of wine
  25. Put on sweater (apartment coooooooool!)
  26. Facebook'd
  27. Fidgeted...

Sigh. Not what I'd call a productive day, but more time left to finish tasks. (Isn't he pretty, though?)

Realization: Depression

Today on my way to the garage to drop off the car for a brake job (sigh), I passed my old apartment. The very last one, that I left because landlord was a crack addict with guns and a grudge against his ex-wife and my neighbors... and he lived two doors away. And the apartment was a crackerbox, which was why I was thinking about it before I found out about the crack/guns/grudge business.

Today I realized this: the last two years in that apartment I was just depressed. In a depression. Emotional and physical.


I mean, I already knew this--which is why today I am actually not as depressed as I was and doing fine, thank you, but I was depressed then and there in more specific, focused, real way. And that apartment had become the setting for my depression. So today as I drove by it, I realized why I didn't even want to look at what was a perfectly good building (nice georgian brickwork and a lovely, lovely magnolia tree I actually do miss).

That building equals two messed-up years and my own fault. I was depressed. and getting no help--because I didn't know what was wrong and thus wasn't questioning my feelings and thus ignored the signs of my withdrawal and tiredness and lack of engagement with anything beyond the needs of a single day's duration. And apparently my situation wasn't evident to anyone. (Did I mention I was oblivious and not asking for help?) I don't blame co-workers, friends, or family, because frankly how could they see what was invisible to me?

I didn't break down in tears in public.
I didn't gain or lose weight in big numbers.
I didn't stop shaving or washing or cutting my hair or my nails.
I didn't cut myself.
I didn't not show up for work or meetings or other commitments, although I was aware of taking sick days, or "mental health days" or rescheduling meetings to never or... no one else was.

What happened? I did talk to friends--because I wanted to find the name of a good therapist. The surprising result was wasted time and money with two "therapists" who were useless, except that the second blessedly sent me to an endocrinologist, which was what physically started me on the road to help... but conversations with friends--all women--who said, yeah, you're depressed and I know because I was/am depressed and you've got my symptoms.


What was wrong with me? I had changed--and you've have to know me to understand that these things that follow were 180degrees unlike me--but they were where I was at.

First, I had no goals and couldn't plan anything long-term (meaning beyond the week).
I had no ambition for my job or career.
I was wearing the same clothes every day--with minimal variations.
I was sleeping on the living room couch every night--without pulling out the sleeper. I wasn't cleaning my apartment beyond the necessary.
I was watching the entire canon of MURDER SHE WROTE on Netflix, season after season, hour after hour after hour...

What did I do?

  1. I met this endocrinologist, and we put me on bio-identical estrogen and progesterone and testosterone and thyroid hormone. 
  2. I stopped going to/paying the bad therapist #1 and #2 and made my own list of goals, short-term and long-term--and then I made those goals, or some of them. Some are still in process. 
  3. I stopped sleeping on the couch... mostly.
  4. I stopped "retail therapy" and started saving and paid off debt in a big, bad way. 
  5. I moved and decluttered my stuff along the way (dumped out the past and moved on!). 
  6. I took a vacation I planned that was in no way work-related. 
  7. I grew my hair and colored it the way I had wanted to for years.
  8. I set goals for 2011 and worked to meet them, with the overall goal of increasing balance in my life. 
  9. I started writing daily, again. 
  10. I decided not to look for validation from my boss or boss's boss or students, but from my work (teaching and writing), my creativity, and my friends and family.
  11. I stopped making myself crazy with the things I couldn't control--like bullying and mendacity and misogyny and rudeness (ok, well, mostly!) and let things gooooooooooo!

It wasn't until today that I realized how well I am doing, and how far I have come in two years, a little at a time. So, yay me!

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

What got "done: Tuesday, 11.15

It rained here, briefly, today. I wish I'd been this stylish.
  1. Went to 8 am meeting for changes in new university curriculum; other people signed up from my department didn't show; stayed after to ask some questions/clarify.
  2. Got gas for car: down to fumes.
  3. Prepped and taught 2 pm class: Elizabethan theatre, stage spaces, Hamlet, and Faustus; more student questions than usual -- good sign, despite antics of "disrupters."
  4. Had painful conversation with two undergrads who got bad casting or no casting about why women in department are cast for looks (no, they're not! Really!).
  5. Stopped at grocery store for dinner materials: realized nothing thawed but leeks. Oops.
  6. Posted at other blog.
  7. Tweeted.
  8. Tumblr'd.
  9. Read Tuesday's blogs.
  10. Completed 5 new pages of novel; edited last five. (obsessively, 1,344 new words.)
  11. Printed out and graded monologues, scenes from beginning playwrights to hand back tomorrow.
  12. Sent email to students whose in-class participation has improved markedly; encouraging!
  13. Read, edited, and posted emails; deleted and filed student emails from week.
  14. Cooked dinner: chicken breasts with salsa, asparagus.
  15. Cleaned out refrigerator (Happy Refrigerator Day! Honest!).
  16. Loaded and ran dishwasher and in-sink strays.
  17. Dumped two bags of garbage (post-fridge cleanout) in trash container outside.

Still reading? If so, here's your reward.

Monday, November 14, 2011

What got "done" today: Monday, 11.14

1. Flat tire discovered/reported/fixed. By Tire Man.
2. Car got 112K check-up. Needs: front brakes, oil pressure switch, electrical system check-out. Sigh.
3. Round #1 of short plays from morning writing class: complete and successful!
4. Cover art and cover copy forms successfully completed and returned to publisher.
5. Chat with co-worker about exchange of key documents via email. (Dox not yet sent...)
6. Memo for credits re: a student spending Spring 2012 in London, written and sent to Internat'l Programs. Deadline: tomorrow.
7. Serious talk with afternoon writing class about completion/responsibilities, followed by 90-minute writing session (because no one had work ready).
8. Convos with 2 students from tomorrow's class--two different convos--almost cheery!
9. Kitchen picked up, dishes washed in dishwasher and strays in sink.
10. Gift list produced on Etsy, ready to be sent to family and friends for Xmas 2011.
11. Impressed student in monring class with my knowledge of/current obsession with Vampire Diaries.
12. Ate breakfast, lunch, and dinner!
13. Daily pages in second novel completed.
14. Car status reported to concerned friends.
15. Two blog posts, Twitter feeds, Tumblr queue.
16. Emails read, deleted, answered, forwarded... sigh.

Time for a nap!

Sunday, November 13, 2011

My Favorite Things: Dior's New Look, 1947+

The post-war designs by Christian Dior, referred to as "The New Look" are among the most beautiful clothing designs of the 20th century, in my humble opinion.

The clothing reflected the post-war boom, the luxury of non-rationing, and a return to a traditional female silhouette. Despite being a feminist, I find the styles of the Dior clothes of this period, as well as the advertisements and photographs for them, simply beautiful.

Dior put yards and yards of fabric into the skirts. The fabrics were silks, satins, chiffons, and other materials with a beautiful hand. The colors and details--like buttons--were perfect. Dresses, suits, coats, ensembles. And hugely influential on women's clothing through the 1950s and into the 1960s--when a whole new silhouette emerged.

Saturday, November 12, 2011

If I were in Paris... Friday (I mean, Saturday!), November 12, 2011

Travel down to the 15th and see an exhibition at the Maison de la Culture du Japon on the "floating world" or ukiyo-e, until 12.17. One hundred and fifty engravings by eight masters of the 18th-century art form, depicting the streets of Tokyo and other cities: geishas, kabuki, samurai, merchants, and the common folk of Japan represented by such artists as Utamaro and Hokusai.

These engravings are beautiful and capture a world long gone in Japan, but still a living part of the people there today. This style of engraving was highly influential on such Western artists as Vincent Van Gogh, James Whistler, Odilon Redon, Henri Fantin-Latour, Toulouse Lautrec, among others.

Go go go! 

Then I would walk over to the Musee d'Orsay for what promises to be a fantastic exhibition on the Aesthetic Movement in England during the last part of the 19th century: "Beaute, morale et volupte dans l'Angleterre de Oscar Wilde."  Oh, my heavens!

Go to my exhibition!
And then a lovely walk along the Seine east, toward Notre Dame... stopping somewhere for a coffee or a glass of wine.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

This Here's a Teachable Moment

Today, my life was enlarged/rewarded/made happy by two of my writing students presenting lovely pieces in class, and the growing skills of their classmates in giving feedback.

Today, my heart was broken by the growing "scandal" at PSU and the reactions of the media and others to it.

First of all, "scandal" doesn't cover it: that's a word you can use when a mayor/senator/president/presidential candidate gets caught with his baby mama/mistress/underage girlfriend on camera. Or the college president/football player/pro athlete gets caught gambling. This is the sexual abuse--rape--of children over a 15-year period (at least) that was either covered up or "managed" or "handled" or ignored by people connected with the athletic program or administration of PSU...

Second, don't blame the PSU students for celebrating the culture of football or the culture of winning at all costs. Look around, folks, and see what you're teaching your kids. For example: the entitlement of the NBA union negotiations (and I use that word with tongue in cheek). The language, the jockeying for control, and the sinful amount of money being fought over--all of which would be better used in America's food banks that buying bling for already super-rich basketball players or basketball owners or (worst!) basketball agents--just points out how much our culture celebrates athletes and their bad over-privileged bad behaviors. That's what our kids see and emulate... with our approval far too often.

So are you surprised when disappointed PSU students overturn a media van or demand Paterno's return?

And, by the way, Paterno didn't abuse anyone, he reported what he was told about... he didn't follow up on the report, it seems, which is ethically and morally wrong, yes, but not the same as what is alleged about Sandusky. He merely allowed it to be handled, or to go on, and to keep Sandusky in place, I guess. And yes, Paterno has been a great coach for a long time. And yes, he could have used his huge power to make changes in 2002 when he knew something (!) but he didn't. He reported a man he had known and promoted and worked side by side with -- and that was it.

I am not excusing him.

C'mon, folks, this is the same country where every 9 seconds a woman is abused by her boyfriend or husband... and nobody sees. Or 2.7 kids are the victims of bullying annually (2010 stats) -- and nobody stops it. Or where a married congressman tweets his private parts to multiple women he's never met... and then lies about it... and then has to be forced out of office because he himself has no shame about it. Or where an African woman who was attacked by a rich, white man can't go to trial because the DA decides she's not "credible enough," even though it seems clear the man is a serial abuser, if not rapist--not that she wasn't abused or violated, mind you, simply that he cannot present her as a believable witness against a rich, powerful, white man because 12 jury members wouldn't buy it.

If you don't like the world I've described... do something.

And, so... PSU: this is what we in the academic biz call a "teachable moment."

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Rent or Buy?

So this year I attacked my "living situation" by fixing an immediate problem (my landlord) and a long-term problem (lack of space).

Since April I have been living in a lovely apartment with what feels like twice the space (moving from 750 sq. ft. to 1050 sq. ft.), with more windows (only 1 more, to be honest--but better views, more light because not backed up on building), more green space (LOTS more green space, trees, grounds), a back porch/patio, and more quiet. It feels more open, more peaceful, more homelike.

I have rented since I was 21 and moved to NYC. Through grad schools--two degrees, two schools--and here in DFW. Even now, in what is really a boom market in Dallas for buying, I rent.


Every few years I yearn to buy a house. I look, I price, I think... but I don't.

1. I like the flexibility and freedom of renting. If the apartment gets too small/too expensive/too loud or the landlord gets too fussy/a crack habit/guns/too present or too absent, I can go. Moving is a pain, but the landlord who lives two doors away with a coke habit and handguns is no joke.

2. The plumbing is someone else's problem. Ditto landscaping, insurance, termites, and taxes.

3. "Fixer-Upper" is what I can afford in terms of price but not time... so there we are. I'm not buying to flip, I'm buying to nest.

4. I don't want to retire in DFW. But I'm thinking about retirement homes now, as vacation homes/rental properties, etc.

2012 will become the year of researching where I will build this house:

When I know where, I can plan when.

What the future location must have:
  • access to major airport for ease of travel
  • access to decent medical facilities (just in case!)
  • no freezing winters, no muggy/100+ summers
  • seasons: 4, not 2
  • bookstores, restaurants, museums, theatre/performance venues (or university with same) within reason (4 places I spend my time)
  • view of mountains or ocean... or both? + trees
  • no extreme weather: hurricanes. tornedos, blizzards, droughts
Ideas? Anyone?

Tuesday, November 8, 2011


It is quite possible that my priorities are out of order. I mean by other people's standards or expectations.

This is something I have been considering for some time.

For example: after I moved again (to this lovely new apartment), one co-worker remarked, "You moved? Again? Why don't you just buy a house?" Like me, she meant. Her first act on moving here 17 years ago, was to buy a house. Of course, she was hired at a better income level and with complete security so... we weren't exactly in the same place then. Another colleague, from a different department, said something similar only a couple days ago: surprise that I moved again, to another apartment, rather than buying a house.

But why have I moved four times since I came to this town, living in five different apartments for periods between one and seven years? Why not buy a house and be like everyone else with homeowner security?

Good questions.

For example: after I got tenured and promoted the first time why didn't I turn around and focus my energy on the next promotion? (There aren't all that many in the academic world, outside of moving into administration, ugh.) Why didn't I invest my time in writing and publishing in academic journals and books, like everyone else? Especially since I like research and find history fascinating. Why put my time into teaching, which is more and more becoming a low-level activity for professors? In other words, I am not defining "success" in traditional academic terms, and possibly not in the terms of My U.

What then are my priorities in the area of teaching, research, and academic progress?

Good questions.

As a kind of sideways answer, I can say that 2011has been about exploring and pushing at new areas in my life for balance. Like improving my living situation by moving to this fab new apartment, decluttering my goods, and turning toward buying land and building a house for retirement (2012 project!).

Like building a new community, improving my current community, and making new ties professional and personal for career, health, and sanity reasons. Initiating new projects to build connections across job and personal lines.

Like changing my diet to a non- (or low-) sugar/no processed or fast foods/three-meals-two-snacks a day minimum. Increasing exercise -- walking, biking, yoga -- for heart health. Taking care of allergies.

Like adding creative habits to my weekly activities: writing prose, photography, cooking, even teaching.

Like working on my resources: money of course, but also time and possessions and friendships and skills. Like using my time in more intelligent, more positive ways -- ways that please me, support me, feed me.

Some of this I have been successful at -- on my terms. So considering priorities and consciously setting some -- for 2012 -- is next. And I can say that it has been a long time since I've even been interested in setting short-term or long-term goals. This is another healthy step.

Monday, November 7, 2011

The Delights, Surprises, and Excitement of the Weekend...

So many good things happened, which left me limp on the couch Sunday night... but happy.

First, Happy 144th birthday to Marie Curie: only winner of TWO Nobel Prizes in two different fields! One of the first memorable biographies I read as a third grader that made me know women could do anything!

I was able to get together with a couple that I like very much; I met them in 2010 at Oxford, but hadn't seen in some time. We got together for drinks at a swanky bar downtown, and what turned out to be great conversation. It was a thoroughly delightful pre-dinner meeting. The best outcome was that the wife, who is also a lawyer, knows a lot about buying land -- which I plan to do and know nothing about. She was more than willing to talk to me about the process, especially since I am buying to build, and -- again -- she knows all about that.

Friday, I went to a dance concert with several friends, with dinner beforehand. I also had a thoroughly good time on this occasion. The dance concert was quite stunning, with six of the nine pieces really impressing me; the pieces were choreographed by alumni of the program, reaching back to the mid-70s, which was equally impressive. And, again, the conversation among friends was delightful and challenging.

I also had a mightly productive meeting about next summer's trip/teaching at Oxford. Halleluyah! Now all I need is an apartment for 3 weeks in June.... anyone?

On Saturday, I ran errands. I racked up another $15 in credit at a local vintage clothing shop: I sold only two pieces, but they were quality. I also gained two bags of clothing for Goodwill -- out of the house, is my mantra right now! This weekend, those two bags will join the other three bags of clothing, household goods, and "stuff" at the donation center (tax deduction!).

I also figured out how to work the small grant I got on My U's ID at our bookstore. Nothing like credit, especially when coupled with my faculty discount... now if I can remember to go in there and buy, rather than the regular B&N stores!

I graded a pile of papers, scenes, monologues, and exercises over the weekend as well, pushing ahead like a good little worker bee. The result: a very nice pile of graded papers (complete with notes) for students. Makes them feel good, makes me feel good.

Friday was all social and creative. Saturday was all errands and cleaning. Sunday was all grading, cooking, planning. So happy to feel productive!

And then there was cleaning... bathroom, laundry, kitchen. Cooking... salad chopping for the week, salmon with Old Bay, cranberry-orange muffins, and tonight, crockpot chickpea soup.

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Friday, November 4, 2011

If I were in Paris... Friday, November 4, 2011

And it's back... my favorite round-up of things I will miss in Paris. Sigh... but I love it.

Time to head back to the Musees des Arts Decoratifs, because they always have beautifully curated and informative exhibits, like...

One that's closing after today: "Face A Face: un project de Matthew Bakkom" in the library of the museum (111, rue de Rivoli). This includes images drawn from one of the initial donations to the museum.

One on toys, "Plastique ludique: Libuse Niklova designer des jouets," which closes Sunday. Czech designer Niklova designed toys during the mid-20th century.

One on jewelry (always a favorite with me!), "Alphonse Fouquet (1828-1911) - des dessins pour des bijoux" which are Fouquet's drawings for the glorious items created by this master jeweller during the second half of the 19th century. By the way: his son Georges Fouquet's shop is on view at the Musee Carnavalet as designed by Alphonse Mucha: glorious art deco work. It is a wonderful "family" business.

And speaking if the Musee Carnavalet -- the museum of Paris history and a lovely jewel box to visit itself -- they ahve an exhibition on the the depictions of Les Halles, the great shopping market in the heart of Paris from medieval times to the present. They also have an exhibition on "Le peuple de Paris au XIXe siecle" which looks to be fascinating: views of the city's populations from beginning to end of the most important century in the city's history (or is that just me?).

If it's Friday it must be...

This is one of those "good news, bad news" entries.

Temptation or Reward?

Good news, first: I bought myself four Sprinkles cupcakes on Tuesday to celebrate a big event: orange, pumpkin, dark chocolate, and -- of course! -- red velvet. That's not the good news -- this is: after several months of working on a "no (less) sugar" eating plan, I DIDN'T REALLY WANT THE CUPCAKES!

Huh? (the tiny part of me that still craves sugar is trying to formulate a protest, but in her weakened state gives up)

That's right. Not only did I not dive into them once I got them home, I stuck them in the fridge and had one with dinner (as dessert) on Tuesday. Meh. Okay, it was the orange, but still. Again, one on Wednesday for dinner... didn't finish it. Still meh. Looked at box and thought, I could eat another one. Didn't. Yesterday... ate the red velvet, didn't enjoy it nearly as much as usual (happy meh!) and dumped the last one plus box.

This is amazing and super-great news for me.

It's the girl behind him... that's the expression!

Bad news, now: Apparently, I don't teach at a university but at a middle school. Sigh. Yesterday's class was like watching paint dry: students unprepared, passing notes, slumping into naps, and staring at me while drool tracked down their chins... I exaggerate only a tiny bit. And when we started to discuss the play assigned for the day and none of them had read it (very clear, very quickly)... class was over.

Good news: My night class is full of eager, committed writers. They are indeed struggling with their latest challenge, but taking big risks. I love teaching them!

Picture my debit card thus...

Bad news: My bank froze my debit card because I ordered something from Amazon.Fr -- except that they only froze two of the three books I ordered... so they allowed one charge (one the same order, from the same card) and cancelled the other two... and froze my assets.  All to "protect me" -- but they didn't want credit for that, I guess, because they didn't tell me about their white knight actions. Instead I found out last night trying to buy groceries with said debit card. Oops!

Eat the box: my advice!

Good news, along the lines of the top story here: Frozen dinners stink. Last night I bought myself some frozen entrees for dinner (with credit card!) -- 9:30 after my class and no dinner yet, nothing in the fridge -- and microwaved them. Perfectly good manufactuers, organic stuff -- it all tasted like bad truckstop hash. Ugh. The good news, then, is that after a year of cooking at home for myself and not buying processed, frozen, or otherwise pre-crafted food, I can distinctly tell the difference between my delicious meals -- or even a fresh salad -- and the chemical/additive/processed junk in the frozen aisle. Blindfolded, no doubt.

So I guess "good news" wins. let the Happy Friday Dance commence!

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Thursday -- Express Checkout Experiment

Autumn version, 11.3.

I have not been particularly successful at organizing my closet this fall. I am unsure why -- because autumn is my favorite season, after all, all sweaters and suede jackets and scarves -- but apparently something is standing in the way of my choosing 15 favorite pieces to mix and match throughout the weeks.

Here are the basics:
  1. white man-style shirt (actually, shirts, as I have a loose fit and a close fitting version)
  2. blue man-style shirt
  3. blue striped man-style shirt
  4. black turtleneck (lightweight; the cashmere has to wait!)
  5. black v-neck sweater
  6. blue cashmere boyfriend cardigan
  7. jeans
  8. black trousers
  9. black ankle-length trousers
  10. black pencil skirt
  11. black a-line flip skirt
  12. brown a-line flip skirt 
  13. black-and-white polka dot dress
  14. gray sheath dress and coat
  15. black sweater coat
That's a lot of black and white, and a little blue... All of it goes beautifully together and gives me the chance to work accessories like no body's business, to be casual one day and formal the next...

But I think I need a little inspiration, and a little red, purple, and aqua (my other favorite jewel colors) to give me a much needed boost.

(I am also not counting the black/gray/white t-shirts and tanks I wear as layers under the sweaters, or the jackets, like my favorite caramel suede jacket that comes out fo the closet now to be worn all winter long, in the Big D.)

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Etsy shout-out: Sky Koltun

Last month I ordered some jewelry from Etsy from Sky Koltun, a native New Yorker making original pieces.

I bought her Philosophy bracelet, in the petite size (meaning it doesn't rach quite so far up my arm as the "regular" size).

Philosophy bracelet (her picture)

Her Joan of Arc bracelet, in all silver (it also comes in a silver/copper/gold style as well).

Joan of Arc bracelet (her picture)

Her labradorite/silver ring.

Labradorite ring (her picture!)

Each of these was as beautiful in person as in her photographs, and make quite a statement. I love them. They are simple, stunning pieces that work with my classic/casual style: they go as well with jeans as with a sheath dress and coat.

I don't buy a lot of jewelry, although I've accumulated a fair amount over time. I don't feel comfortable with the oversized jewelry advertised for women my age, or flashy pieces made without great technical skill as cheaply reproduced pieces (and therefore found everywhere, worn by everyone...). I also don't buy "statement" pieces -- which I consider these three to be -- usually, because that makes me uncomfortable.
However! All these pieces are great investments for me, because they will last (well-made!) and are simply elegant. Each piece will improve the outfit I match it to, but not overwhelm the clothes.

And I like them!

I couldn't ask for more.  

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

More "Oxford" news

I just heard from one of the several conferences I applied to for 2012. This particular one is at University of Exeter in early June -- my proposal was accepted, contingent on my being able to attend. I got the okay from my Oxford program head, as long as I am not missing on the Monday. Now (fingers crossed) hoping that panel gets scheduled midday Tuesday or Wednesday, which will put me on the British rail system for a six-hour round trip but worth it all the way...

This is an international conference that sounds fascinating--not that I'll experience much of it! but the same group that was at St. Andrew's a few years ago. Delightful and itneresting group of French scholars.

BTW: I also heard from a different conference, this one American in L.A., and they turned me down. Too many proposals, too few spaces. Tant pis!

Planning for Paris

Next summer I'll be in Paris before teaching at Oxford, again.

What will I be doing? Of course, going to Tolbiac and researching -- happily! Visiting museums and raiding their bookstores, as well as finding at least one, new museum. Walking the Seine and riding the Metro and sitting in cafes enjoying the sights.

What else will I be doing? I'll be stocking up on my favorite items that I cannot get outside of Paris.

Repettos. The classic ballet flats, on sale in July.

In 2010, I bought classic flats in a textured black. I can't wait to see what's available in June 2012, but I plan to buy two pairs.

Mixa lip balm. Wonderful stuff, in a drugstore lip balm.

Great scent, great texture, buttery soft balm.

Monoprix cashmere. Yes, good quality cashmere in Target-level clothing.
Good enough for Ines and me!

I have two gorgeous v-neck cashmere sweaters -- just like this! -- from Monoprix. I wear them once weekly during winter, and they have yet to pill, they hold their color, and I love them.

Pharmacy and Monoprix brands of skin care: do not knock it!

Avene, Nuxe, and other fantastic stuff I can stock up on, trying new products -- again, once the sales start everything is disounted, too.

Lush Happy Hippy. In the good formulation... not the US version.

Happy shampoo/bodywash combo with the brilliant scent of fresh-squeezed grapefruit!

Tea. Specifically, Mariage Freres Tea.

I spend at least a couple of hours in one of their shops deciding which of the many black, white, green, or red teas I want to take home.

Ahhhh, happy pre-summer thoughts.