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Archive for June, 2007

On Ithaca

I was introduced to an amazingly powerful poem today, and I thought I’d share it, along with my thoughts.  Note: I added bold to the lines that had the greatest impact on me.

Ithaca by Constantine Cavafy

When you start on your journey to Ithaca,
Then pray that the road is long,
Full of adventure, full of knowledge
.
 

Then pray that the road is long.
That the summer mornings are many,
That you will enter ports seen for the first time
With such pleasure, with such joy!
Stop at Phoenician markets,
And purchase fine merchandise,
Mother-of-pearl and corals, amber and ebony,
And pleasurable perfumes of all kinds,
Visit hosts of Egyptian cities,
To learn and learn from those who have knowledge.
 

Always keep Ithaca fixed in your mind.
To arrive there is your ultimate goal.
But do not hurry the voyage at all.
It is better to let it last for long years;
And even to anchor at the isle when you are old,
Rich with all that you have gained on the way,
Not expecting that Ithaca will offer you riches.
 

Ithaca has given you the beautiful voyage.
Without her you would never have taken the road.
But she has nothing more to give you.
And if you find her poor, Ithaca has not defrauded you.
With the great wisdom you have gained, with so much experience,
You must surely have understood by then what Ithacas mean.

I’ve been a driven, ambitious person my entire life.  I pushed myself almost to the breaking point to achieve most of my goals.  That method worked; I am successful in many aspects of my life. 

The thing that has come up recently for me is the need to find balance.  Get a life.  Be more than just my job.  To look back on my life when I’m on my deathbed and think, I did great things, not just, I was a great teacher.  I want to do, be, explore, enjoy, find, give, seek, and most of all, I want to LIVE.

This poem speaks to that deep-rooted desire within me. 

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“Your view on things is always so positive and uplifting. Is it even possible to be grumpy around you? 😛 Even with your new-pinchy-shoes and being misdirected a few times, you still came across as a very positive person. 🙂 You must be a very positive influence at your school!”

Now, before I explain that quote, let me give you some background:
As part of my summer job, I belong to a blogging group. Besides working on our assigned fellowship projects, we’re supposed to write 3 blog entries and respond to at least 5 entries made by other bloggers per week. (Both the entries and the responses have to be at least 250 words, which is usually no problem for me). I did it last summer, and I have to say, it was one of the things that kept me sane. The thing I like best about it is that I get to reflect on my summer fellowship, on my teaching practice, and once in a while, on life in general. Reading the other people’s blogs helps me learn a bunch of new ideas or just confirms some things I’ve known for a while.

So…one of the bloggers wrote that after I wrote about my first day at my summer fellowship. It was actually pretty hilarious, and I mentioned that it was definitely a comedy of errors that day. One thing after another, plus the fact that I had on these peep-toe shoes that were hurting my feet. As I talked about ther rest of my day and what I was learning, I guess I stayed pretty positive, even though I was making fun of myself through most of it.

The thing is, I try to think of myself as a positive person, but after this crappy year that had so many negative aspects to it, I was worried that I was getting too snarky for my own good. I faced a lot of challenges professionally this year and also had to deal with quite a few personal tradegies, the worst of which was the very untimely death of my uncle. Sometimes it felt really hard to look at all of the good things I had going on in my life, like my incredible family and friends. Plus, my grad school work and English teacher grading kept me fairly isolated from a lot of the fun times I would’ve liked to partake in. All of this tended to make me feel like I was in a downward spiral.

This comment really made me feel good. Sure, I can get sarcastic and make “smart-ass” comments all the time, but I don’t think that necessarily takes away from being a positive person overall. I like to think of my sarcasm as part of my charming personality. 😉

It was really nice to have someone write this about me after having only a few interactions with me. Hmmm…maybe that’s way. I wonder if my closest friends would also consider me positive?

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I’ve never been one to read self-help books, thinking they were filled with “knowledge” that anyone over a certain age should already know. Then, I began to look at my life and noticed all of the things I wanted to change or improve, and I thought to myself, “what I’ve been doing hasn’t brought me the ‘success’ I’ve been hoping for, so why not read a few books and see what I can gain from them?”

And so the massive shopping spree at Borders Books began.

First, I bought The Best Life Diet by Bob Greene. I had seen Bob on Oprah numerous times, and always thought the things he said about weightloss and living a healthy life made sense. Some of it was a common-sense approach, but other things seemed truly unique. Plus, he had gotten all of these food companies to put is “Best Life Diet” logo on their products (everything from Yoplait yogurt to Cheerios), so there must be some amount of confidence in what he was saying. It seems anything that is associated with Oprah hits it big, and I wanted to be able to read his book for myself. The two most important ideas that I got from the book were 1) to weigh yourself at the beginning of the whole thing and then not again for a month. Bob’s philosophy was that when you begin to make any sort of change to your diet and exercise, you’re going to experience ups and downs in your weightloss from week to week and checking all the time might become discouraging. Sure, you might lose 8 pounds the first week (I wish!), but most of that would be water weight. Once you start working out and using weights, you may gain a pound, which can cause a huge amount of disappointment to someone who’s working hard to make a change. After about a month of living with this new diet and exercise routine, all of the initial fluctuations should be normalized, and you will start seeing an accurate reflection on the scale. This made sense to me, although I haven’t put it into practice yet, because I really like checking in on the scale to see my progress. 2) Bob recommends beginning with exercise and then moving towards changing your eating habits. This was a new concept to me, because WW and almost any other diet plan I’ve been on has always said to begin with the food and then incorporate exercise into it. I think Bob changed the order because it’s difficult to begin too many changes at once. Exercise is the hardest part for many people, me included, so if you can get a routine down that works for you, you’ll soon want to start eating healthier. Why put a bunch of junk food into your system if you’ve just spent an hour on the elliptical machine trying to burn calories, right? Again, it makes sense. As for the rest of his ideas on dieting, they may work for some people, but I really like WW and I’m used to it, so I’m going to stick with that program, because I think it will work well for me.

Next up was a book that I hadn’t purchased, but that BFF lent to me. You’ve heard the title before and probably cringed at the “knowledge” it conveys: He’s Just Not That Into You. BFF gave it to me right after the “break up” with Mr. Done. I was so distraught that she thought it was time for me to read the book. I did read it, and some of the ideas were sound. The main thing I got from this book was that if a guy is interested in you, you’ll know it. You won’t have to do crazy manipulations or over-analyze his every word to decipher his feelings. He’ll show you by his actions and his words. If only the book had told me where to find one of these guys that might be into me, then I’d be in business.

ChrissyG sent me a website that she thought might be interesting, called Secrets of a Former Fat Girl. (The blog from the site is now on my blogroll, if you’re interested in checking it out). It turns out that Lisa Delaney also wrote a book, and with a name like that, how could I not buy it? I loved this book, mainly because so many of the things that Lisa wrote were things I had done or still do. She was amazingly honest about a subject that so many people try to hide. She “got” what it was like to be a fat girl. (Even though at 180, she wasn’t anywhere near my current weight). Still, much of her story and her experience was similar enough to mine that I could completely relate. Lisa also started exercising first, long before she began to think about what she ate. It wasn’t until she noticed that exercise alone wasn’t going to do the trick in losing the weight she wanted. She began WW, too, but she says in her book that people should find whatever healthy eating lifestyle works for them. I like that she’s not touting a certain diet or exercise program. She’s giving her experience and trying to help people with ways that they might overcome this battle. I’m really glad I got this book, because it was the impetus I needed to know that it could be done — I can lose weight — if I’m willing to take the steps needed to achieve success.

Also in the book bag was The Beck Diet Solution: Train Your Brain to Think Like a Thin Person. This one was recommended by Amy of Southern Fried Fatty. (Also in my blogroll). She really feels that the ideas that Dr. Beck outlines in her book are the key to successful weightloss. Again, Dr. Beck isn’t touting a diet, but more of a way of thinking about approaching a diet and weightloss program. The plan can be incorporated with any food program. I have only just begun to read this book, so I can’t give any more specific details about it, but once I’m finished with it, I will update this paragraph.

Finally, I bought a book that I’m almost embarrassed to reveal, but in the spirit of full disclosure, I will. (Good thing this blog is anonymous). It’s called The MANual by Steve Santagati. This was another book that I heard about on Oprah. The funny thing is, I never watch Oprah. Both of the times I had it on by chance, two books were discussed, and I guess I found them interesting enough that I bought them. I’m only in the opening chapters of this book, so again, I have to update this later. So far, Steve says that he’s a self-proclaimed Bad Boy and that all women secretly want Bad Boys. He makes a clear distinction that Bad Boys are not Players, at least not necessarily. The book is very down-to-earth and no-nonsense, so if I glean something from it that helps me with my dating dilemmas, I’m all for it. Plus, Steve is pretty easy on the eyes, so that helps.

So, there you have it. A bunch of self-improvement books to add to my bookshelf. Since I’m in the middle of reading a couple of them, I’ll make sure to make an update entry to let you know what I got out of them (if anything) and how my progress is going in improving my life.

The main thing I get out of all of this is that I’m at a point in my life where I want to be a better me — physically and emotionally. I am happy with myself and know that I can be even better than I am, which is completely positive and refreshing.

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I was reading the paper this morning. Not today’s paper, mind you, but I think it was either Sunday’s paper, or maybe even last Sunday’s paper… it’s been that kind of a month. The style section had an article about this new type of flip-flop called FitFlops.

The claim is that they help build muscle strength and create “leaner legs” simply by wearing them when you’re out and about walking around. Hmmmm…this sounds a bit too good to be true, but I had to find out more about them. I read on, and apparently they’ve completely sold out in the U.S. at Bath and Body Works and Bliss stores.

I was just in Bath and Body Works about 3-4 weeks ago, and I didn’t see these shoes anywhere.  True, I wasn’t looking for them, or maybe they were already sold out.  I am usually really up on the latest trends (even if I don’t partake in them), so it feels really strange to be out of the loop like this.

The reporter tried out a pair as she walked around Capitola on a lazy Saturday. She said that she liked them because they were so comfortable, and she would wear them all the time regardless of whether they “worked” or not.

Given my goal of losing weight and looking better by the fall, I may just have to get myself a pair. I actually think the black ones are pretty cute, in an weird looking flip-flop kind of way.

Thoughts?

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For some odd reason, that song has been stuck in my head ever since Friday. Do you think it could have something to do with the fact that SCHOOL IS OVER?

It feels so good to be free of the endless hours of grading. I really put in some marathon sessions these last few weeks, but I’m happy to report that I got everything done. And I didn’t skim over one thing. Each and every essay and project was read carefully. Whew. I have never been that behind at this point in the year, but I guess that all those papers I kept putting off because I had grad school work to do really caught up with me. I have to figure out a better system next year because I don’t want to relive this hermit lifestyle. I won’t do it. I’m sure I could cut back on a few assignments, and I could probably be a bit better at setting aside 2 hours each day to grade right after school, rather than saving things up and doing all night grading sessions on the weekend. That method was so unhealthy.

I’ve been looking forward to summer for so long. Since the middle of January, I think. I have so many plans of things to do “once summer’s here.” These things include:

  • Working in industry. I’ll be working at a well-known company  writing and creating a website that will outline how to become involved in their volunteer and community programs. It should be really interesting, and the best part is that my finished product will be available on their website worldwide. Nothing like a little exposure. Plus, the money I make this summer pays for grad school for next year and then some. It allows me to have a little more financial freedom than I’m used to, which is a glorious thing.
  • Living like a “normal person.” To me this means that when I finish with work for the day, I’m done with work. I will have time to go out with friends, spend time with family, see a movie, or do absolutely nothing without the guilt that I should be grading papers.
  • Losing a serious amount of weight. I started WW a while ago and things were progressing well, if slowly, and then I hit a bit of a snag. Well, let’s say that I went off program about the time my grad school final exhibition was due and I never got back on. I’m sure I gained the little bit of weight I had lost and then some. But, it’s ok. I am back to counting points as of today, and I feel great about it. I really like feeling in control of my eating and my weightloss, and following WW has been great for that. I want to go back to school in the fall and have people say, “How much weight HAVE you lost? You look great!” I want to lose as much as I can so that people notice a big difference in the way I look.
  • Creating (and sticking to) a workout regimen. Working out is not one of my favorite activities, but I do like the feeling of accomplishment I get after a hard workout. I haven’t been very diligent about keeping to any sort of workout routine all year. Sure, I’d be great for a couple of weeks, but then other things would take priority, and you know the rest of the story. So, I want to get into a groove of working out and make it stick. I know that once I get into a routine and start seeing great results I won’t want to quit. One of the things that’s going to help me keep this up into the school year next year is that I’ll have a 1st period prep, which means I can go in to work later every “A” day. (Every other day). So on “A day” mornings, I’m going to go workout before school. This worked really well for me the year before last when I had the same schedule, and I’m looking forward to keeping up with it again. I love the feeling of getting the workout done in the morning and having the rest of the day to do whatever else I need to do. Plus, it really did give me more energy throughout the day. My schedule this summer is flexible enough that I can do the same thing. So, tomorrow begins the new morning workout sessions. I’m actually looking forward to getting into it again.
  • Quit smoking. The plan is to quit the day after my birthday, July 3rd. I have been smoking since my trip to Italy in 1995. I was a late-bloomer when it came to smoking: I was 23 when I started. So, I’ve smoked for about 13 years, and I know that’s 13 years too long. With all of the laws about where you can’t smoke, the price of cigs, and the fact that it’s so bad for my health, it just feels like the right time to quit. I am worried about being able to give up this nasty habit, but I’m hoping that I’ll have the strength of mind to do it. I go all day at school without smoking, but that’s because my mind is occupied and I’m engaged. The moment I get bored, I feel the craving to smoke. Or, when I’m drinking. Or, when I’ve just finished a great meal. Or… well, you get the picture. But, since I’m trying to change my lifestyle to be healthier, this is the next logical thing to give up. I’ve tried using the patch, but it sent my heart racing. The gum made me sick to my stomach. And cold turkey just left me panicked. So I think I’m going to try using the Commit lozenges. One of my friends, Ms. LM, quit by using these 5 years ago. I tried one of hers one day, and they really did help curb my craving, so we’ll see. I like to think that I have a decent amount of willpower when I put my mind to something, so I am telling myself that this is one of those things I WILL do.
  • Dating. I re-joined Yahoo Personals about two weeks ago in anticipation of having time to actually go on dates with new prospects. I’ve already had a few interesting people contact me, so I hope that my social calendar stays full all summer long. Beyond this, I ‘d love to meet a potential The One, but that may be too much to hope for one summer.
  • Re-joining my family. Actually, this one is my mom’s wish. She called me up last Saturday while I was in my big push to get all the grading done and she said, “do you think you’ll actually be able to re-join our family once summer starts?” Nothing like a bit of Italian-Catholic guilt. I know she said this because she’s worried about me and how overwhelmed I was this year. I had to turn down a lot of family dinners and other get-togethers in the name of grad school work or grading.
  • Enjoying all of the free summer concerts. My city has a fabulous program of free concerts every week in the summer. Free live music, summer weather, a few drinks, and time with friends — it doesn’t get better than this on a weeknight. I hope to go to quite a few of these fun musical experiences.
  • Using my Netflix membership the way it was meant to be used. I joined Netflix in February, but have had these same 3 movies for months. Not exactly the best use of money, right? I just didn’t have much time to watch all the movies in my queue in addition to the shows I usually watch on TV. Now that summer’s here and we’re in the midst of reruns, I’ll have plenty of time to put my Netflix membership to full use.
  • Reading whatever I want. I always have a book or two going, but summertime is the time when I can read with giddy abandon. Fiction, self-improvement (there’s a whole blog I have to write about this), philosophy, magazines… I can read whatever I want to and whatever tickles my fancy. This is freedom to me. I do have one assigned book for grad school, but I plan to finish that soon. I have about 5 books waiting for me on my bookshelf, but if any of you have any recommendations, please leave them in the comments. I love discovering new titles.
  • Decorating this duplex. As I wrote in an earlier blog entry, I moved in here in the middle of October, with grad school and teaching in full swing, so I was lucky to unpack the boxes and put a few things up on the walls. My place doesn’t really look the way I’d like it to, so I want to spend time this summer getting it to reflect my style. Plans for painting the bedroom, bathroom, kitchen, and dining nook are all in the works. Colors have to be selected, but I have a basic idea of what I want. I also plan to buy a new couch. The current one was a donation from my friend who used to live here. It’s functional, but UGLY. I thought that I wanted to get a paprika-colored couch, but now I have been thinking that maybe something more neutral might serve me better. Plus, with the tangerine duvet, I might already be incorporating enough color into my house. My parents and sister bought me the new down comforter, duvet, pillows, and other accessories for my new tangerine bed, and I can’t wait to put it all together. I’m going to wait until I paint, though, so the full effect can be reached. There are a few other odds and ends that I plan to buy to create a feeling of “me” in this house. I can’t wait to start decorating!

I know there are a lot of other things that I told myself I was going to do this summer, but this is a hefty list as it is. I feel like an enormous weight has been lifted from my shoulders now that I have so many fewer responsibilities, and I cannot wait to finally BREATHE.

Here’s to summer!!!!

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Lulu of Land-of-Lulu gave me this idea for a quick blog post. You go to google, type in your name and the word “needs” and see what comes up.

1. Bella needs to undergo chemotherapy to get rid of her own abnormal marrow. Yikes! Scary. I hope this is never the case.

2. Bella needs to find a job. Unless there’s something I don’t know about, I think my current job is secure. Ah, tenure is a beautiful thing.

3. Bella needs good vibes. I’ll take as many good vibes as I can get. Always.

4.  Bella needs to read your response to him.  Why, yes, I do.  I’m sure it would be quite interesting. There are actually a few “hims” waiting in my queue on Yahoo personals that I need to respond to.

5.  Bella needs to escape.  Do I ever!!  I would love to escape this grading and do something absolutely fun this weekend.  (1 more week of school to go!!  June 15th, here I come!)

6.  Bella needs clothes.  This couldn’t be more true.  I was just thinking about going shopping tomorrow morning and trying to see how much of a spree my budget could handle.

7.  Bella needs a home!  Actually, Bella just needs to get some time to decorate her current place, which is full of old fashioned “charm.”

8.  Bella needs our help.  Yes, I’m sure I do.  If you have a red pen and some time on your hands, I’m sure you could help me with a stack or two of papers. (The stacks are actually dwindling into a very manageable, albeit still enormous, pile).

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