Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Real Summer Break

It has been so long since I wrote in this blog that everything about it has changed and I don't know what I'm doing. I can't figure out how to look at old blogs or change designs (not that I knew how to do that before) or anything. So I hope this gets to all two of you who read this. (Hi, Daddy!)

Despite what it sometimes looks like, I am a hard worker. In my profession (teaching college English), much of the hardest work happens inside one's head. You wouldn't think that would be tiring, but it is. My wise father warned me of this when I went into teaching, and of course, he was right. And of course, I didn't really listen. Thus it is that I have spent every glorious summer break of my teaching career planning lessons, reading for lessons, thinking about lessons, and, most of all, feeling guilty any time I wasn't thinking of or doing these things.  Finally, I got so exhausted that my little well ran almost entirely dry. When I sent down a bucket for a lesson plan, it came up with mud. And then dust. And then nothing.

So this summer, I cut off my long hair and made the momentous decision to have a real summer break -- no work, no thought of work. At first, I tried to cheat by working on my upcoming conference presentation.  I did it on the porch with a glass of tea, but it was still work.  Then I tried to revise one of my novels -- not the one I wanted to work on; the one I thought I ought to work on. My soul rebelled.

It's like I forgot how to have fun that wasn't actually some kind of work.

But gradually I figured it out. I went to Niagara Falls and watched Nik Wallenda's historic and inspiring tightrope walk. (I meant to blog about that, but it felt too  much like work.  I'll do it someday.) From there, I went to Oklahoma and spent some time with my always-fun relatives and baby nephew (who is 1 as of yesterday!). We watched the Oklahoma City Thunder in our matching blue shirts. We had a cupcake birthday party for my mother and aunt. I rode around with my other nephew, the drummer for an excellent Black Sabbath-sounding metal band, and talked about music.

When I got back, it was The Airborne's (that's what my father calls my husband) leave, but he couldn't go beyond an eight-hour radius because of a complicated Army thing I'm probably not supposed to talk about in my blog. OPSEC is everybody's business, after all. So we went to Buffalo and hung out with my sisters-in-law and niece, then spent some time in the actual city of Buffalo. It's much more fun than you think -- especially if you happen upon a pit-bull rescue benefit featuring rockabilly bands and a burlesque show.

After that, we went to Connecticut to visit one of Joseph's gun friends and my college roommate, who now works at ESPN. By then, I was definitely on vacation and it was great fun to see her after all these years -- and talk as if it had been but a very eventful week since our last visit. We got the "friend tour" of ESPN, which was very interesting and exciting because she is part of it, and I knew her when we were just learning AP style. We also visited Mark Twain's majestic mansion and Harriet Beecher Stowe's efficient little house. We also missed several things I hope to see when we go back. Who knew Connecticut was so fun?

Soon after that, Mama came to our house in New York, spontaneously. She was here for about four days, and we went on the St. Lawrence River tour boats and spent the day in Kingston, ON. She seems to approve of The Land of Mist and Snow. At least in the summer, when it is the Land of Flowers and Sunshine.

I'm not sure what I've been doing since then, but it hasn't been work.  Once she left, however, a strange impatience began to grow within me.  I began to have dreams about forgetting to teach class. I suddenly wanted to buy autumn-themed tea towels for the kitchen. And that is a sign that I have had enough summer break for once. Now, I am ready to think about how to share literature, not just consume it.

Several terrible things have happened in the last few days:  A good friend was severely injured in combat, so we wait for news and pray without ceasing. Another friend and former student is being sent home early from a volunteer trip to Sri Lanka because she is so sick and malnourished. The Airborne now knows for sure that there is a deployment on the way (which isn't unexpected or that terrible, but which is always surreal if looked upon directly).

I don't mean this in the selfish way it sounds, but I am glad I decided to have a real summer break. My part in all dealing with all of these things will be made easier for having fortified myself with sun and good books and travel.

Today, our new professor is coming over to have lunch and talk about teaching. I am ready for that kind of lunch (aside from the table being piled with old student papers and gun parts). I know very well how much harder my life could be, so I am glad I was smart enough, for once, to enjoy it during the easy part.


  1. Yay for you having a real summer break. I tried to have one, since we were traveling so much, but I was teaching this summer, and now, when I'm done teaching I feel the need to start planning my new course. But I did spend copious amounts of time just hanging out with my husband and baby and it was glorious! I know what you mean about anticipating the fall for the new semester though. :)We should get together for lunch before the semester starts. :)

  2. Sounds like you've had a wonderful summer and I'm glad you got to spend it doing proper summer break things.:-)

    I'm also very excited to see you have a blog. I've always loved your status updates on FB and now I get to read them in long form. Awesome. I'm so sorry to hear about your friend and I hope he's getting better. Didn't The Airborne just come back?

  3. Cynthia...Teaching in the summer. With a new baby. You are Superwoman! And yes to lunch!

    Carleen...The Airborne always seems to have just gotten back, doesn't he? But no...He's been home for a year. He's gone to a couple of month-long things, so that may be what you're thinking about. He's going to be gone for September also. Alas.