Tuesday, May 22, 2007

One Fine Day on "Summer Retirement"

I teach during the academic year, but I work year-round, even though I am paid for only 10 months. Part of my job involves university administrative work, and that kind of work doesn't stop just because it's summertime. I work on administrative projects and do all of the things that I can't get to during the academic school year. But I have decided not to teach in the summer--that I need this time to re-coup my sanity.

Today, re-couping my sanity means that I have chosen to not go in to my office. I usually cannot work well at home: too many fun distractions. Today I am going to allow those distractions to direct my life. My day shall go where it wants to go. Plant those last wilted pansies? If I feel like it. Maybe I'll finish caning the chair that belonged to my grandmother. Clean out my tiny corner of the garage? Maybe I'll read--that delicious reading for pleasure I miss so much.

Books that are currently stacked up on my reading list:
* Refuge by Terry Tempest Williams (just finished). Williams weaves many topics together in a beautiful and rich story about the connections in her Mormon family, the 1950s bomb testings in Nevada, cancer and deaths in her family, and a bird refuge in Utah. I ordered two other books by Williams. It seems that the local bookstores in the Midwest do not keep her books on the shelves.

* Mormon America: The Power and the Promise by Richard N. Ostling and Joan K. Ostling. (reading in progress). I am reading this book because right before I read Refuge (that involves a Mormon family), I watched the 4-hour PBS series on The Mormons. I simply wanted to know more about this group. (Convert? Uh, no. You obviously do not know me if this thought even crossed your mind.)

* Bush on the Couch: Inside the Mind of the President by Justin A. Frand, M.D. (reading in progress) My son (El) and daughter-in-law (Bee) got this book for me for Christmas in 2005. I read about half of it, but grading papers took over my reading time. The book was shuffled around and ended up on the bookcase behind my couch. (Hmmmm, somehow Freudian?) Psychoanalyzing this president seems even more interesting now.

* The Reluctant Fundamentalist by Mohsin Hamid. I can't wait to start this one. It's the only novel on my list. Note to self: add a few more novels.

* Spellbound: The Surprising Origins and Astonishing Secrets of English Spelling by James Essinger. Well of course I'd read this book. I just had to find it.

* A Crack in the Edge of the World: America and the Great California Earthquake of 1906 by Simon Winchester. I have to be honest. I bought this one because 1) It was on the sale table: $5.98 in hardback and 2) the jacket cover is a fascinating bit of origami. You'd almost have to see it. It has horizontal folds, accordion-style, and then the jacket wraps around the book. The folds are such that when you completely open up the jacket, a poster-sized collage emerges. Refolding it is like dealing with a roadmap; ACK! Ok, so even though I purchased this book because of the jacket, the text looks pretty good, too! Life in 1906--my grandparents were children--was hard, but it held promise. And then...I can't imagine the destruction people saw in 1906 California.

So I need to start my "summer retirement." I'm off to read. Or to clean something. Or cane a chair. Or maybe to shine a red laser pointer light on the ground next to the neighbors' incessantly barking dog. Maybe it'll go crazy and forget how to bark.

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