Monday, August 25, 2014

Beth's Summer Reading Break Down

This summer I had a great time reading books-- and I thought it would be interesting to share. I hope you find the list useful! 

Some are fluff, some are transformative. All were rewarding in some way.  Taking the time to read the book was step one, but also going back to look over my notes/ my highlighted sections proved to be a meaningful step in processing some of the more informative selections. I generally read on a kindle because I want to keep the books for reference but don't have an inch of spare space in my little cottage to expand a hard copy library.  It works well for me. 

In a Dry Season (Inspector Banks Novel) by Peter Robinson
A good old fashioned murder mystery that takes place in England in a town where American soldiers had been stationed during World War II. I liked the depictions of that era in history and how they tied it into a murder mystery that was discovered decades later.  This was the perfect antidote to the heavy thinking I was doing in Labanotation Teaching Certification course.

Etched in Sand by Regina Calcaterra: This book broke my heart.  It is the true story of a family of neglected children as they vied to stay alive and out of the foster system.  Their mom would abandon them for weeks at a time and they had to learn to lie, steal and care for themselves.  I of course have heard stories of neglect and abuse, but this book put it all into perspective, teaching me about the broken government social system, the scars that are left behind these tragic situations and the resilience of the human spirit.

Abducted (a Lizzy Gardner series) by T.R. Ragan: Ok, I thought I was purchasing another book.  So, I got it wrong. Anyway, I did read it. Total fluff.  Not that well written, but, I still took the time to finish it, so it must have been giving me something (crude entertainment).  If you need mindless and still mildly interesting, it could be a possibility. 

The Great Gatsby by F Scott Fitsgerald
I hadn't ever read it before! And, I wanted to read it before I saw the recent film.  Really a strange novella about pretty dysfunctional people.  I liked it.

Easily Amused by Karen McQuestion: Really quite terrible in my opinion. Super fluff. 

The Aesthetic Brain: How We evolved to Desire Beauty and Art by Anjan Charterjee
This was a rich and extremely informative book that is nevertheless easy to read and fun.  It traces how our brains respond to beautiful things and artful things.  My favorite lesson was in regards to our differentiated systems for liking something and wanting something (pleasure vs. desire).  In the art world we can really mix up these responses, and it can get muddy as to why we like what we do.  Do we like this jazz dance because we like the artful craft of the design or because we desire the young dancer? The book covers much more than this, and I am brimming with ideas about implications for dance as art and commodity. 

Sound of Waves by Yukio Mishima: this was a re-read. My college roommate had it and recommended it to me way back in the day. I did read it, but re-reading it proved to be like reading it for the first time.  It is beautiful. Simple. Elegant.  Romantic.  There is a purity to the descriptions as it depicts a fascinating island culture in Japan in the 1950's and the love between two young islanders. 

Autopilot: The Art and Science of Doing Nothing by Andrew Smart
I chose this book in part because of my sabbatical. How was I going to "do" or rather "not do" my year away from instruction? Autopilot builds a convincing argument for our need for downtime, relaxation, day dreaming and general unfocused time.  The science behind our need for rest is fascinating and the implications for our quality of life is fascinating. If you have ever felt guilty for taking naps, staring off into space or sitting in your garden for extended period of time, you need to read this book.

Currently reading: 
Seeds of Virtue, Seeds of Change edited by Eido Carney: (Anthology of lessons by 27 women in Zen Buddhism). Each chapter is a gift. So wonderful! And, my own Zen teacher Jane Schneider is one of the contributors!
Thinking, Fast and Slow by Daniel Kahneman: about the difference between our intuitive and automatic decision making process and our deliberate logical (effortful) decision making.  I'm just at the beginning of this one, but it is certainly promising. 
If you read a fantastic book this summer, please let me know in a comment below.  Reading is one of my top priorities while on sabbatical this year.

Note: I don't have cable or satellite. And, my internet connection is pretty slow living on the edge of town so Netflicks downloads are out of the question. My forms of entertainment are a bit limited in number.  But, I wouldn't have it any other way! My husband Dan and I decided to get rid of cable over 3 years ago so we would have more time to read, take walks and be generally more active. I highly recommend it for anyone who feels they don't have the time to read. 

Monday, August 18, 2014

Sabbatical - Day 1: Being Accountable to Self

I am a hard worker.  I always liked school. I enjoy investigating projects. I like finding solutions. I enjoy my work and I enjoy the people with whom I work. 

I am reliable. 

. . . to other people.

On day one of my sabbatical I actually set my alarm! Because I am using this year to learn how to be accountable to myself.  I have dreams and visions of how I want to lead my life, interact with others and change the world (one dance at a time).  I have always used my obligations to others as motivation for my work. And, this is not a bad thing. I have made great choices and accomplished a lot by living my life this way (See Blog post Healthy Obligations). 

What is new and wonderful (and scary) about this upcoming year is that I will have a chance to return to the childlike wonder I remember in my formative years.  I am a product of Montessori schooling (for my k-5 years).  I distinctly remember my classroom for grades 1-3 taught by Miss Susan Lindert.  I loved learning. I was allowed to love learning. I was given the space to discover, imagine, and play.  The Montessori classroom was based on the work cycle.  I had my own list of tasks each day-- reading, cursive/writing, math, geography.  I got to choose which to start with, and I was allowed to spent as much time on each of them as I needed, keeping in mind the goal of finishing all of the tasks.  I always finished my work cycle with tons of time left over.  And, it was at this point that I was set free to be anything, to learn anything, to play and discover. 

The Montessori classroom was covered in materials for discovery.  Displays on Egypt, waterways, farm animals, musical bells, books, and books, and books, plants, languages, etc.  And, I could do anything I wanted.  I often got sucked into my Laura Ingalls Wilder books or would dream stories in my notebook.

I remember wandering around the room and just looking at the possibilities

Looking back I see that the most important lesson was not the content I learned, but the sensation of free-form learning that I remember. I had hours each week in which I was only accountable to myself, my interests, my passions, my drives.   

I was never burdened with a feeling of "I have to. . . "

Waking up this morning, I felt transported to Miss Lindert's classroom again.  Excited to learn, to do the work, to discover.  These drives are part of my nature.  They are real, and they are wonderful. I don't need to worry about being accountable to myself.  I can trust my internal passion for discovery to move me forward.

Interested in reading additional posts related to this topic? Click below.

The Burden of Expectation (First day of Summer before my year long Sabbatical)
The Power to Choose
Time: Your Most Valuable Currency
Agency: Remembering You Have It 
Finding Success
Giving Yourself Permission
On Being a Better Over-Achiever