Sunday, November 25, 2007

Second Annual Indiana Thanksgiving Extravaganza

This week is coming to a close, somewhat against my wishes. With it, Heather and Chad left for Iowa today and our normal routines will resume tomorrow.

Tuesday night they arrived and we collected our hungry charges to commence the second annual "Visit Eric and Faith for Thanksgiving because they don't have enough days off to drive to Iowa and back in order to have quality time with family" extravaganza!

Wednesday, Heather and I enjoyed a tour of the South Bend Chocolate Company. If you recall, I first traveled there in May with another sister, but as it was on a weekend, we missed seeing it in action. This time, we didn't have to imagine employees; instead, the machines were rolling out chocolates and people were individually setting almond slivers into the tops of the chocolates as they emerged from the conveyor belts. We both posed for the following picture:

Naturally, the requisite campus sightseeing was accomplished, and the Snite Museum duly visited. When we were collecting Eric from the library, Chad and Heather's reaction was comical as the elevator doors opened to reveal the following sight:

I was prepared for the emptiness, as this is an overflow floor, but there were some comments as to whether the university money was spent in all manner of ways so as to preclude books, or whether our pupils are so studious so that all printed materials were in constant circulation.

Thanksgiving was a treat. One downside, however, is that since we partake of a catered meal, we don't get the turkey and ham leftovers for sandwiches and the like. Nevertheless, we still managed to find enough food around to keep us happy. After all, we had to bribe them with shrimp and cheese balls so they'd make the trip.

The remainder of the time was spent creating stitch markers and making cards, watching movies and Heroes, knitting, cheering on Notre Dame, having a date with my sister, and watching our gentlemen play a PS2 college football game with numerous team match-ups -- I'm sorry to report that Notre Dame lost against Iowa State, Stanford (twice), and pretty much everyone except for Wofford College. Even fantasy games left me with the desire to get this season over with so we could move on to the next.

Now, with the house to myself, I am getting caught up on laundry and dishes and am trying to decide if I'm catching a bug. As such, I'm indulging in the following scene: I am wrapped in a quilt as I sit in an armchair with a classic book, sipping from a large mug of black tea, listening to various music, and turning my head to see snow floating down outside my window.

Yup, it's going to be hard to leave this and exchange it for work tomorrow morning.

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Book Recommendation: The Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger

A couple months back, while discussing favorite books with a friend, she urged me to begin blogging about them since there wasn't paper readily accessible to jot the titles down and this would serve as a reminder. So I begin with The Catcher in the Rye (affiliate link).

I have read this book twice, with five years in between. I experienced a decided dislike with the first read-through, although I did enjoy a couple nostalgic passages. Willing to give it a second chance, my second experience was nearly opposite the first. While I feel there are some things that could have been altered, and the protagonist is not someone I readily relate to, I understood him. Perhaps it took losing my brother to be able to identify the barricades he was using to distance himself from others: his crass mouth, his fighting defense, his outrageous lies. But I began to see his hurt, his inability to communicate and how he struggled in his isolation and fought against phoniness. I see this as a study of grief, how he has not yet come to terms with mourning his brother and the downward spiral that commenced.

One of my favorite passages from the book is when he's relating to his sister what he'd like to do in the future:
Anyway, I keep picturing all these little kids playing some game in this big field of rye and all. Thousands of little kids, and nobody's around -- nobody big, I mean -- except me. And I'm standing on the edge of some crazy cliff. What I have to do, I have to catch everybody if they start to go over the cliff -- I mean if they're running and they don't look where they're going. I have to come out from somewhere and catch them. That's all I'd do all day. I'd just be the catcher in the rye and all. I know it's crazy, but that's the only thing I'd really like to be.

In spite of his abrasive personality, Holden Caulfield is sensitive and wants to care for those around him. He's just stuck and no longer knows how to be himself. Early on, when writing an essay for a classmate, he turns nostalgic and gets mocked and debased for what he writes. So he shuts down and reverts to his fists.

I read too much into these things, but I imagine some of my former students as Holdens, lost without someone to side with them. They found it was easier to be labeled the troubled child and let it define them and their future actions. I valued the moments I had with those students (sometimes while monitoring detention) when I caught a glimmer of the true person inside, when they let their defenses down. But it was hard to continue that when they returned to my class and their peers, because their peers didn't know of the small steps taken to change.

In one case, a student switched sections, to one where he didn't have close friends. Then he started to learn to be himself and stop belittling his every failure for the amusement of those around him. Of course, I don't know what ended up happening to this modern-day Holden, as he was removed to live with an aunt in Texas.

Saturday, November 03, 2007

Humble Pie

Warning: Football Post Ahead. (Also, please watch your step for the overused parenthetical.)

If ever there was one, this was a week to get your hands on often-elusive Notre Dame tickets.

I heard of someone who bought two legitimate tickets for $20. One university employee who receives from their dean two tickets to some game in the season received five. Instead of the familiar scene of fans with hands raised, fingers showing the number they wanted, there were countless individuals with their tickets waving to anyone interested. One fan, looking for a singular ticket, had his hand up for all of one minute before he found one.

In our department, countless faculty were trying to find takers, and the ticket office had at least thirty alumni return their tickets through express mail on Friday. After the ticket office refused to accept any more tickets due to the number they already had on hand (seriously, that never happens), a coworker offered me both of hers for free. She was going on vacation and didn't want them to go to waste.

The weather outlook was beautiful, so Eric and I walked to campus. It was eerily quiet on our way and I felt as if I were in a Twilight Zone episode. The streets weren't all blocked off like normal, and the crowds were missing from their regular haunts. Once inside the stadium, the eeriness wore off, as it was still a full house as far as I could tell.

It was a good game. There were frustrating times (Sharpley's fumble that was returned for the touchdown that finally put Navy in the lead), but we made Navy earn the end to their losing streak.

In triple overtime, Navy finally bested us. If it wasn't for the pass interference, I think we would have headed to quadruple overtime. As it was, we couldn't perform the two-point conversion from 1.5 yards, and above you see our final play. (You can also tell our vantage point. Pretty good seats for the first and third overtime, especially.)

We're nursing our wounds, trying not to dwell on the sorry losing streak we find ourselves in, and I'm trying to keep Eric from focusing on when we could have earned points in the game that would have kept us from being tied at the end of regulation (namely, at 4th and 15, faking a field-goal attempt to try and run for the first down; no surprise, we turned it over on downs).

There now. Maybe I have this out of my system. I might even be able to make it to the end of the season without another blog reference. (As an aside, I really enjoy how I can find myself in a nitty-gritty football conversation at work with half a dozen other women -- only in South Bend.)