on my nightstand…

This week’s books-in-progress (click on the book covers to connect to the titles on amazon):

Highly recommended for those of us who are struggling to keep writing academic articles amidst our other busy-nesses.

Enjoying this historical-fiction book immensely. It’s got a bit of everything that I love: ocean explorers, early America, science, feminism, and engaging characters. Nothing like that other book that Gilbert is so famous for writing.

And speaking of Elizabeth Gilbert, here she is again on my nightstand. I haven’t yet started this one, but I aim to later this week.

I’m skimming this one as part of my resolution to worry less about money. I’d prefer to enjoy money rather than fret about it obsessively.

sycamore canyon, in tent

on NOT getting things done…

I’m a sucker for productivity tips, and was just reading yet-another article in this vein, when it hit me: almost all of my “resolves” for 2014 are really about decreasing my productivity.

I want to:

-sleep more

-cook most of my meals at home

-plant a bigger veggie garden

-fret less about money

-read more books

-take long walks

-write for pleasure

-own less stuff

-do yoga, daily

-go camping, monthly

-be a better friend/neighbor/colleague/family member

-live closer to where I work

This week, on my nightstand

What I’m reading right now*:

I loved the Yiddish Policeman’s Union, so I picked this one up a few months ago.  But I’ve not found it nearly as engaging as I’d hoped–I’m having to push my way pretty hard through to the end.  The characters of this one just aren’t grabbing me and keeping me interested.


Jared Farmer’s recent SoCal lecture about Trees was one of the best that I’ve heard in a long time.  I’ve been dipping in and out of his book and find it to be one of the best-written history books that I’ve encountered this year.  And, the landscape around the OC looks so different to me after reading Jared’s tome.


My officemate recommended this book to me after she learned of my interest in western history.  It’s about the Indian Wars, which is an era of history that’s not easy to digest.  The writing is accessible (i.e. not for a historian-audience) and breezy.  If you enjoy western history, I’d recommend that you add this one to your nightstand.


And then there’s Tom Zoellner’s latest, Train.  I haven’t started it yet, because I’ve got to finish a few of these others first.  But I can’t wait!


*Click on the book images to visit the amazon pages for these books.

getting things done…

This past weekend was my first one home in SoCal since the holidays.  It felt so good to be able to attack the long list of “to-do”s that were waiting for me, that I kept at it all weekend.  Among those was tidying my closet (and making rainbows of my scarves & sweaters):

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I planted a few seeds in the garden, enjoyed a long outrigger paddle out on the ocean with my team, spent quality time with Catgirl, ran errands, and had plenty of sleep and homecooked meals.  Not to mention the several loads of dirty laundry that are now clean and put away.

And…I got caught up on all of my snailmail and paperwork, including the many (many) financial forms for the kids’ college funds.  Then, at lunchtime today I filed both my federal and state taxes(!)–the earliest ever.

Whew.  What a great feeling, to have accomplished so much.

time for reflection

Cape Cod

Cape Cod

“We don’t have any time for reflective practice,” explained my brother-in-law, a junior high school science teacher.  He went on to say that he and his colleagues were just barely keeping their heads about water with their teaching loads so they rarely had time to thoughtfully consider changes to their methods or curriculum.

This was in response to my telling him that I had just finished teaching for the semester and was in the phase of considering what had gone well and what I’d like to change for the next time around, and was amending my syllabus accordingly.  I hadn’t considered before that this was a luxury, to have time for reflection at the end of the term.  But I suppose it is–I only teach one class at a time because the rest of my day is spent on administrative duties.  So that one class garners the lion’s share of my mental attention and I consider each of my successes and frustrations in the classroom fairly closely.

This was on my mind as I read AHA President Ken Pomeranz’ article “Some Habits of Mind Historians Keep Hidden” in the recent issue of Perspectives.  Like my research practices, most of my teaching practices tend to be “hidden habits” rather than techniques that I discuss often with colleagues or friends.  And I plan to change that, because I’ve had some rather remarkable experiences in the classroom during my time at Chapman, and I’d like to discuss some of what I’ve learned–in the hopes that it will not only be of interest to my readers, but also to help me to improve my own teaching as I reflect on what has worked best for my students’ learning.

any way you say it…

Reading Boone’s post about the pronunciation of his name made me think about how people say my name….

I was raised as Jana with a hard J.  When I got to high school my friends played a joke on our chem teacher and told him that I was a foreign exchange student from Czechoslovakia and that my name was pronounced “Yawna” (apparently I did not then know enough English to speak for myself).  That nickname stuck and I was Yawna or “Yawna Banana” to my high school friends.  I loved that name and how playful and foreign it sounded to my ears.

When I went to college I became Jana, hard J, again.  Though I was rarely Jana to my ex (only in the most serious of conversations), I was not Yawna again until a few years ago, when my social circle expanded to include many European friends and colleagues.

I love being Yawna.  Again.