Sunday, December 7, 2014

"The Good Life"

Sharing this link to The Dish's poem of the day, "The Good Life," by Mark Strand, who died earlier this week. A lovely little poem that made me think and smile.

Saturday, November 1, 2014

Halloween Cats!

The boys in their Halloween ties. Don't judge (too much)! I got a good deal: $2.50 each and free shipping!

Galway Kinnell

The wonderful poet Galway Kinnell passed away earlier this week. I've always been very fond of this poem, and am thankful that Andrew Sullivan's blog pointed me to video of him reading it. So often, students will complain that so much of what we read in classes is sad and depressing. This poem is in my catalog of responses to that criticism. I love the details like the too-tight pajamas that the boy still wears and the touching immediacy and intimacy of the line "his face gleaming with satisfaction at being this very child." It's cozy and sweet and just lovely.

(Special shout-out to a loyal reader who recently asked me to post something, anything. It's been hard to get back into regular posting, but I promise to try harder!)

Thursday, October 2, 2014

"Fiction, Gossip, Theatre, Jokes, and all interesting"

I found this blog post about the little magazine T.S. Eliot started when he was ten years old very charming. A lovely bit of precocious sweetness. It makes me smile to think of Eliot as a little boy since, in my head, I (somewhat problematically) conflate Eliot with Prufrock.

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Rainy night music...

"If I could through myself set your spirit free
I'd lead your heart away
See you break, break away
Into the light and to the day..."

Just a bit ago, as I was working on some notes for a project, U2's "Bad" came up on the Pandora station. I realized I hadn't heard this song in some time and found even more appreciation for it (and I already loved it). The energy, the frustration, the sadness, the elation, the crescendo...amazing.

Sunday, September 28, 2014

"...we can know many things that are very hard to bear"

Since my brother died, I've had this urge to wrap everyone I love in bubble wrap. (Not really, but you get my point.) Anyway, connected to that, I just had to share this "Quote for the Day" from The Dish. Marilynne Robinson is a longtime favorite of mine, and this quotation really speaks to me:

“I think one of the poignant things about human beings is that they’re so undefended, physically. And that there’s an absolute relationship between that defenselessness and everything that’s impressive about them. I think a lot of us would like to be turtles and porcupines, and I think that in a way one of the impulses of human beings is to defend themselves in a way that nature did not. But I think the other impulse is to just love the experience with nothing to protect oneself, and actually feeling in fact no barrier. People know about their mortality in a way that we can’t know that any animal knows. They know about Earth being a ball in space. Intelligence of the high human sort could be translated as defenselessness, because we can know many things that are very hard to bear,” – Marilynne Robinson, in an interview included in A Door Ajar: Contemporary Writers and Emily Dickinson.

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

This guy...

Today's been a rough day for a lot of reasons. But for a lot of other reasons, it should have been a good day: I got a ton of work done, I got a good long walk in, I had a great conversation with Rita on her birthday. But yeah...I was still feeling pretty bad.

Then this guy jumped up, curled himself around my arm, and fell asleep. He doesn't usually sit with me like this. He'll lay on me when I am on the couch or in bed, but he isn't big on lap--or lap desk--sitting. But he jumped on up and made me smile. I'm still a bit glum, but he's good for what ails me.

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

"A nice day on the water"

For a number of reasons, yesterday was kind of rough. My parents sent a picture of the marker that has recently been installed at Ryan's grave. It looks nice enough, but that image and what it represents sent me (and the rest of the family) into some dark moments. I still click on the link to his online obituary and sometimes click through all the pictures. Last night, I found myself wanting more and did a google search for my brother's name. His name is relatively common (lots more Ryan Hanrahans than Heidi Hanrahans, for instance), so there were lots of hits, but other than copies of his obituary, nothing came up that was about/by/for him. After all, Ryan never did Facebook or had much of an online presence. Then I added the phrase "Rocky Point" and came across this link. It's just one post on a fishing site, but there's no doubt that Ryan wrote it.

"I took the kayak out this evening and did very well with bluefish with poppers on the fly. The fish were blitzing in schools about half an acre in size. I put down the fly rod and drifted below the surface with a spro bucktail and scored a 43 inch bass. my penn 4300 drag assembly blew apart during his first run but managed to land him after a long battle. It was a nice day on the water."

The entry is dated August 9, 2003...over 11 years ago. He would have been 28. I would have been about to turn 26. He was living with my parents and working in landscaping. I was in graduate school in Greensboro. I keep trying to remember more about what he was like then.What was our relationship like then? Was this a stretch when he was happy? It seems like it was. How did he feel about himself and his life then? What did he think about as he was out on the water? Why didn't he post on the site again? I wish there was more to read. More glimpses of him like this, doing what he used to love doing so much. There wasn't much fishing in the last years of his life, something that I always found so sad and frustrating.

But I do have this little paragraph to hold onto, a time when he was happy enough to actually write about it and share it. For that I am grateful.

Thursday, August 21, 2014

The next place...

Back in January, I made a resolution of sorts to write a post for each day of 2014. To motivate myself and try to keep from falling deeper into a sort of emotional funk I was feeling even in January, I decided to do a (sort of cheesy) “year of thanks” theme. Though sometimes I had to do a catch-up post or two, I was right on track to make it to 365 posts. In my mind, it had been challenging year so far, the dental drama (which is still going on, by the way) serving as a perhaps silly symbol of that persistent funk. But through it all, the blog, which really made me focus on blessings in my life, had been a bright spot. So there I was, posting away, a bit proud of myself for keeping it up in the midst of some challenges…

…until July 26, the day I learned that my brother Ryan had died. Words fail to describe what this has been like. In a future post, I think I’ll share what I said about him at his funeral. For now, it’s enough to say that my brother was one of the most amazing people in the world. I’ll miss him forever. 

Since then, I just haven’t been able to come back to this silly little blog, though it’s been on my mind nearly every day. I can’t exactly explain why. Because every day since my brother died, even on the hardest days, there have been so many moments and people for which to be thankful: the old friends who reached out to tell me they were thinking of me; my brothers’ junior high teachers, who at the wake explained how much they loved Ryan and how clearly they remembered him, over 20 years after he was in their classes; the moment I looked up at the funeral and saw some of my dearest friends there; the drive home from New York, when this silly song came on the radio and made me smile and cry at the same time; attending a two-year-old’s birthday party, surrounded by life and love and happiness; fishing with my nephews, who would have made their uncle quite proud; the friends who provided me with distractions (board games, walks, movies) when I otherwise might have been wallowing in grief; the peace I feel on the aimless drives I find myself taking nearly every night; the gorgeous sunset I saw on my walk tonight. Even in these last few weeks, the hardest weeks of my life, I am reminded daily of how blessed I am. 

But still, I couldn’t get myself to come to this blog and post. It seemed, I don’t know…not right. I wasn’t ready. I am not even sure if I am ready now. One day last week, I spent the better portion of the day writing thank-you notes and letters to friends who have been so kind. Dozens and dozens of notes. I found comfort in that, telling myself, “This is a step towards…getting to the next step.” Not “closure,” since that won’t come for a long time, if ever—but what seemed to me an inevitable progression to some ineffable new place in this process. Get the notes done and the formality of it all (yes, I can see myself calling upon Dickinson) will be over. The ceremony, the ritual, the “this is what you do when someone dies.” And then I’d move on…to what, I didn’t know, but there I was, hoping I was almost there. What a fool.

That very night I had a dream…one of those typical dreams where characters and scenes and actions switch almost seamlessly. I found myself moving from one space to another, suddenly walking out onto the deck at my parents’ house. And there he was: Ryan, sitting with my nieces and nephews, almost like in the picture below, one of my favorite pictures of him, a picture that’s been on my mind since Tara first showed it to me while we were putting together photo collages for the wake. In the dream, it was immediately clear to me that he was alive—that we had all been mistaken and he was about to explain it all, how it was all a big misunderstanding. The look on his face—a warm smile—made it all clear. 

I don’t remember what happened next…I know I didn’t wake up right away, but the scene must have switched. And eventually, I did wake up--devastated. And I realized that “next place,” whatever it is…I wasn’t there yet. And I realized that this is how it will be. Steps forward, steps back, never knowing what will send you one way or another.

So no posts.

But today our department had its annual retreat, a sure-fire sign that the semester is about to start. I saw my dear colleagues and was reminded how lucky I am to work with them. How lucky I am to have work that I love, that always makes me happy. Tomorrow, faculty are to “report to campus,” meet the new first-year students, and attend convocation. On Monday, classes begin. I know in my bones that stepping back in the classroom will be soothing. I am so very eager to get back into the swing of things. It feels a bit like I am getting to some sort of next place.

I am also sure that there will be dark moments, steps backward. I still can’t wrap my mind around a world without Ryan in it. I still feel these gut punches when I least expect them. I still don’t know what to say to my poor shattered parents.

A new semester. I probably won’t make it to 365 posts for 2014. But I’ll see what I can do. 

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Evening drive...

22 July 2014: This evening I found myself feeling a bit glum and restless, so I hopped in the car for a drive. I didn't even know where I wanted to go, but I started with a run to the post office. I didn't go anywhere too exciting ultimately--just over to Martinsburg, where I ended up getting a sandwich at a Sheetz--but the drive was good for what ailed me. And this song, which popped up on my ipod, helped a lot, too. I might have put it on repeat and sang along. It might not seem like a "pick-me up" song, but it sure is soothing and pretty, and it worked for me.

Monday, July 21, 2014

"We've forgotten James Powell."

21 July 2014: It's been a quiet but good day here. With A&R and summer school over, I've got a lot of unstructured time on my hands and have the brain-space to really get back to some of my scholarly projects--which makes me happy. And, for the first time in a couple of weeks, I took a good, long walk. On that walk, I heard this episode of one of my favorite podcasts, The Memory Palace. It's  excellent: beautifully written and performed, sad and moving, and given some national conversations, very timely.

Road Trip wrap-up...

20 July 2014: A traffic-free, event-free, and fun ride back home after our road trip: the perfect end to a perfect road trip!

Road Trip: Downton costumes and Hamlet!

19 July 2014: Saturday was a nearly perfect summer day. My friends Anna, Hannah, and I took a mini-road trip to Delaware to see the Downton Abbey costume exhibit at Winterthur. In planning the trip, I realized that the Delaware Shakespeare Festival was putting on Hamlet that evening--outdoors, picnicking encouraged. What more could three English-minded folks ask for?

The trip up was fun and traffic-free. The exhibit was fun and interesting. The play was great. The weather was perfect. I mean, picnicking outdoors in July sounds like a risky proposition, but it was pleasant and breezy and lovely. Before the show started, the stage manager came out and made some general announcements. He mentioned that although the forecast called for a 0% chance of rain, if it did rain, the policy is to continue in light rain and, if it gets heavy, stop for twenty minutes and reassess. But again...0% chance of rain, right?

...Until Act 4, Scene 7 (really close to the end). And a light rain started. And the actor playing Laertes, in the really dramatic and sad scene where he learns of his sister's drowning, says the line" Too much of water has thou, poor Ophelia." And the whole crowd cracked up. The actor, God bless him, broke just a bit, briefly smiling and suppressing a chuckle before recovering quite well. It was a terrific moment. You could feel everyone--the actors, the crew, the audience--just hoping and pulling for the show to finish before the rain picked up. It actually ended (more or less) by the sword fight in the final scene. Anyway, a great night and a great day!

Oh--and I won the drawing for a free t-shirt!

Some pictures:

Cora's outfit from Baby Sybil's christening. 

Mary and Matthew's outfits from the cricket match.

Daisy and Mrs. Patmore's dresses.

Sigh! Mary and Matthew's outfits from their engagement scene. The scene itself was playing on a large scene in the background, with snowfall projected all along the wall. Very emotional!

One of Matthew's suits.

Sybil's shocking pants!

Sybil and Mary's dresses from Edith's (canceled) wedding. Edith's dress was there, too, but my picture didn't come out.

The exhibit had memorable lines of dialogue on the walls. This one made me laugh.
 Anna and Hannah picnicking before the show.


18 July 2014: After the successful end of the final A&R session, I had dinner with my some of my favorite people from work. We had a great time, laughing and being a bit silly, especially after sharing and watching this ridiculous video.

You know you are lucky when you have friends you can laugh with like this.

"All Will Be Well"

17 July 2014: After first hearing it on one of my favorite episodes of Parks & Rec, I really fell in love with this song. I (finally) used an mp3 credit from Amazon to download it and have been playing it frequently, including as my "wake-up track" on Thursday morning (and every morning since then). It really is a great way to start the day--soothing, reassuring, and just lovely.

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

A toddler's birthday party...

16 July 2014: Today my friends' daughter turned one and they had a little party for her. I actually haven't hung out with these friends in a while, so it was lovely to catch up with them, see their kids, see some other friends and their kids, and just relax a bit. And it was a gorgeous day today: low 80s, no humidity. A perfect afternoon/evening!

Tooth drama continues...

15 July 2014: So this tooth thing continues to be...well...a thing. The pain still hasn't ever really been excruciating (thank God!), but it is still not fun. I found myself getting really down and anxious about it on Monday night. So on Tuesday, I called the dentist and he (amazingly) fit me in again. This time we are going with some antibiotics, hoping they do the trick (it's a bit more complicated than that, but I am simplifying). And just like that--with a new plan of action and a blessedly open schedule starting on Monday (A&R ends on Friday, so no more worrying about scheduling any appointments around other commitments), I am feeling optimistic. 

Monday, July 14, 2014

Bonus friends...

14 July 2014: Today's post connects so nicely to yesterday's. Anyway, right before I went to work today, I checked the mail and saw that I had a card from Jane's mom; just a sweet "I'm thinking of you" note that really made my day. So yeah, in addition to having a BFF like Jane, I am blessed with a bunch of Bonus Friends in my life: her awesome family. (And Jane's Mom: if/when you read this, thank you so much. I can't say enough how much your card meant to me. I'll reciprocate soon!)

Super Jane!

13 July 2014: Once again, my dear friend Jane emerges just when I need her, really making my day brighter when we spoke on Sunday. She always knows just what to say, the right balance of humor, empathy, and understanding.

Sunday, July 13, 2014

PA Trip, Day Two

12 July 2014: Day Two of my visit was just as much fun as Day One. We went to the Arts Festival, had lunch, played yard games, and even some vintage Sonic the Hedgehog. And I got to hang out with this kid.

What's not to love?

Take me out to the ballgame...

11 July 2014: On Friday, I drove up to Erin and Eric's second home in Pennsylvania. They invited me for a visit and I had a lovely time. The highlight of Friday night was seeing the State College Spikes play a home game. There's nothing like a baseball game, especially with some of my favorite people.

"Summer Nights and Days"

10 July 2014: A bit of blogging catch-up to do, but I do recall that on Thursday night, this poem, by Rachel Hadas, really spoke to me. As an adult, summer is so strange for me, emotionally. Anyway, this poem kind of gets at that strangeness, which I appreciate. Give it a read-through.

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Good for what ails ya...

9 July 2014: I had round two of my root canal today. As I said earlier today in a text to a friend, it was "Root Canal 2: The Sequel. This time it's deeper, longer, and ouchy-er." Unexpected twists included a previously undetected nerve (perhaps why I was still having pain after Round 1, some instruments that seemed more appropriate for mining and others that seemed like something out of science fiction, and the promise of Round 3 later this month. Anyway, the dentist warned that I might be pretty sore the next day or so and while it isn't awful (yet?), it ain't pleasant, either.

But as my post's title suggests, there are some things in my life today that have been good for what ails me. Pain medication (duh!), the couch, Netflix (working my way through Season Two of House of Cards), and this guy...


He's been my sweet little shadow since I got home. (He's even sleeping next to me now, having found me upstairs in the guest room.)

I am pretty sure I've violated a self-imposed rule from earlier in the year, when I said I'd use cat-related things only once a month for these "year of thanks" posts, but it's been a long month (more than a month, in fact) with this tooth thing, and I can't help myself. I mean, look at these feet!

Plus, the medicine might be making me a bit loopy.

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Catching up with a good friend...

8 July 2014: Liz W. ("Wilkie"), one of my dearest grad school friends, now lives all the way in Minnesota, so we don't get to see each other very often. Especially frustrating are those times when she's back on the East Coast, visiting her family in Northern Virginia and we still can't work out a get-together. Such is the case with her most recent visit. She's flies back to Minnesota tomorrow and we didn't get a chance to hang out. But we did manage to have a great phone conversation just a little while ago. Talking with her always makes me smile. And laugh my butt off. Example? I told her about my dental issues (sigh...) and, at the end of our conversation, she said, "Good luck with all things oral." I am still laughing at that sign-off.

Monday, July 7, 2014

My "camp" friends...

7 July 2014: I know I've posted before about how much I enjoy getting back to Summer A&R every year, but today I am especially appreciative of the folks I work with in these sessions. I had a lot of non-advising things on my mind today, but being with and working with them was a happy distraction. I am really quite grateful.

Tim's birthday...

6 July 2014: Last year I posted about my first visit to Daedalus Books in Maryland. On Sunday, I went back again with Tim and some other friends to once again celebrate his birthday. I spent less this time, but still brought home a nice stack of books. More than that, though, it was great to see Tim and my other friends.

Trimmed trees...

5 July 2014: My parents and my brother Ryan stopped by on Saturday afternoon. They helped me fix a piece of my fence that had blown off in a bad storm last week. Then I asked Ryan for some help with a couple of little trees in yard. He's a tree expert, after all, with years of experience in landscaping. You see, the trees had grown bottom heavy (if that's the right set of words???) and needed to be trimmed so that they'll grow taller. He got right to it and did a great job. In general, my brother is an awesome guy, but he showed an extra streak of awesome when he helped me out with this.


4 July 2014: While at the supermarket getting supplies for our cook-out, Vogel and I tossed a package of cheap sparklers into the cart. Something about sparklers brings me back to my youth. Once it got good and dark, we sat outside, watched fireworks in the distance, and burned the sparklers. It was a cool end to a fun day.

Holiday weekend kick-off...

3 July 2014: Vogel came into town on Thursday, complete with her new dog, Lucy. It was nice to see them both and spend the 4th with them. Things were kind of mellow on Thursday night, since I had a root canal earlier that day and was both a bit sore and a bit loopy, but you know a friend is a good friend when you can put up with each other--and actually enjoy each others' company--in such circumstances.

A successful Session A...

2 July 2014: Session A (the first of five) of this year's A&R went really well. My group was small, but great and the registration process went perfectly. One down, four to go!

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

Look who's ten!

1 July 2014: My awesome nephew turned 10 today. Although I didn't get to celebrate with him in person, we did talk on the phone and my sister sent me a picture of him with the gift I sent him. (Also worth noting: he's wearing the gift I gave him last year.) Anyway, I love this little guy a lot, and talking with him was one of the best parts of my day.

Bing's Burgers...

30 June 2014: Monday morning and early afternoon were, for a variety of reasons, stressful and kind of emotional. By Monday afternoon, though, things had calmed down enough for me to relax and kick back with Bing and Wes. So here's Bing on the bed, watching Bob's Burgers on the Kindle.

Greek Tragedy and Good Friends...

29 June 2014: On Sunday afternoon, I saw the Rude Mechanicals' production of Iphingenia at Aulis. It was terrific, as are all of their productions. Some friends joined me for the play. Afterwards, we took at walk down to the Rumsey Monument and just sat and talked for a bit before grabbing an early dinner. Sunday afternoons/nights can get me a bit down, so this was a lovely alternative.

Day in DC

28 June 2014: On Saturday I visited the National Gallery of Art with a couple of friends. We saw an Andrew Wyeth exhibit, a Mary Cassatt/Edgar Degas exhibit, and spent some time with the Impressionists. (The museum has a special Van Gogh on loan.) After the National Gallery, we had lunch and then wandered down to the American History Museum and spent some time there. Then we headed home. It was a lovely day, and yes, once again, just what I needed.

Back to Advising & Registration, aka "Summer Camp"

27 June 2014: On Friday, we had our annual workshop/training session for Advising and Registration (where we help the incoming first-year students make their first-semester schedules and introduce them to campus). I always look forward to the workshop and the five A&R sessions because I get to hang out with some colleagues I don't see a lot during the regular year. It's a bit like a summer camp reunion.

Thursday, June 26, 2014

A healthy Wesley...

26 June 2014: Well, we have survived the stress-fest that is Wesley's yearly vet visit. After he had to be sedated last year, I knew it would be more of the same this year. In fact, he kicked it up a notch this time, so out of control that they couldn't just use gas but had to give him an injection to put him under. Lovely. But he's home now and healthy (and got an unexpected teeth cleaning while under). He's been in a strange mood since he's been home--very clingy and vocal. And Bing's been hissing at him. It's been very dramatic.

Still, two healthy cats make very happy and grateful.

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Final summer grades: DONE!

25 June 2014: When you only have eight students, it's really easy to get through the final exams. Exams handed out at 10:20 a.m. Exams handed in by 11:30. Exams graded by 2:00 p.m. Sweet.

Chair-dancing song? Since the Dreamgirls soundtrack came up on my ipod this morning, this particular track has been in my head all day.

A perfect evening...

24 June 2014: I started the day off thinking I would be getting a root canal. And--get this--I was actually disappointed when that didn't happen. (Long, boring story, but the short version is that I am holding off on any further action until my regular dentist gets back--so long as the pain doesn't get worse. Right now, it's still quite manageable with ibuprofen and Tylenol PM.) Still, I am physically, mentally, and emotionally ready to be done with all of this and it was frustrating to realize that that's not happening anytime soon.

Anyway, I got home from the dentist by 9:00 a.m. and was exhausted--I think from not having slept well the night before and just being a bit overwhelmed. I crashed for most of the morning and had a kind of gloomy day. Then I got over it and realized that the lack of a major dental procedure meant that I could go to my buddy Tim's for dinner, something I was really looking forward to and probably would have had to skip if I had the root canal. Dinner at Tim's is always amazing. And I got to visit with some of my favorite people, including Tim's partner, Kevin, and Cory and Hannah, some former SU students who are great friends.

So yay for no root canals (yet) and for good friends.

Monday, June 23, 2014

Wrapping up the summer session...

23 June 2014: We've still got a couple of days left for this summer session (including a final exam on Wednesday), but it really has flown by. I just finished grading their creative/critical essays (one of my favorite assignments to give) and, for the most part, they were pretty strong and a pleasure to read. I am thankful for the opportunity to teach this material every summer--and for the ways the students help me see this literature that I love in new and fascinating ways.


22 June 2014: A good dose of ibuprofen helped me enjoy an evening with my friends Anna and Joshua. We had dinner, played Trivial Pursuit, and most importantly, played some intense badminton. It was so much fun. Definitely the highlight of my day.

Abigail's birthday party

21 June 2014: As I keep mentioning, this stupid tooth thing isn't going away (yet), but fortunately, it isn't incapacitating. I was able to go to my dear friend Amber's house on Saturday for her daughter's birthday party. I even got to drive the second half of the way with Jane. I got to see Amber's family, who was like my second family in college. I got to relax, laugh, and have fun. A good day.

Friday night dinner...

20 June 2014: I had dinner with some good friends on Friday night. It was, as I've mentioned earlier, another strange week. This tooth thing isn't getting any better and I was really feeling weary with worry by Friday. But being with these friends makes everything a bit better. I am very lucky.

More summer TV

19 June 2014: Not to be too repetitive, but darn it if Rectify coming back on Thursday didn't make me happy. It's an amazing show...quiet and moving.

A healthy Bing...

18 June 2014: Wednesday's big event was Bing's annual visit to the vet. He wasn't happy about it, but he did just fine and got a clean bill of health. (Wesley goes this week...ugh.) Anyway, a healthy Bing is indisputably the thing for which I was thankful that day.

A panel comes together...

17 June 2014: Tuesday found me finalizing the details for the Hawthorne Society panel at SAMLA this year. One of the panelists is a former student of mine who is about to begin his MA work at Lehigh. He's presenting on a paper he started in my Hawthorne class and then revised more, first for his capstone project, then for his grad school writing sample. Being on a panel with him will be a terrific experience. He makes me proud.

Summer TV!

[A ton of catching-up posts to do...sorry--another strange week...]

16 June 2014: I am remembering back to Monday and stretching my memory a bit, but I do remember one thing that made Monday nice: the return of The Fosters, which is such a sweet show. It makes me happy.

Sunday, June 15, 2014

Needed this today...

The "quote for the day" over at The Dish:

“God is the most obvious thing in the world. He is absolutely self-evident – the simplest, clearest and closest reality of life and consciousness. We are only unaware of him because we are too complicated, for our vision is darkened by the complexity of pride. We seek him beyond the horizon with our noses lifted high in the air, and fail to see that he lies at our vary feet. We flatter ourselves in premeditating the long, long journey we are going to take in order to find him, the giddy heights of spiritual progress we are going to scale, and all the time are unaware of the truth that ‘God is nearer to us than we are to ourselves.’ We are like birds flying in quest of the air, or men with lighted candles searching through the darkness for fire,” – Alan Watts, from Behold The Spirit: A Study in the Necessity of Mystical Religion.

Saturday, June 14, 2014

Family time...

14 June 2014: Got to spend some time today with my parents, Erin, Eric, and Krista. After a morning spent feeling a bit down, it was nice to see them and get out of my own head for awhile. It's extra nice that I got to see my dad right before Father's Day, too. He's a pretty cool guy, after all.

My big brother...

13 June 2014: It's been a rough week, but a highlight from yesterday was talking to my brother, Christian, on his birthday. He's just a great guy and I love him a lot. Talking to him made me happy and I am lucky to have him in my life.

Another great podcast...

12 June 2014: All this walking I've been doing has a way of draining my supply of podcasts, so I am grateful to have found a new one to add to the rotation: Slate's "DoubleX Gabfest." Give it a try.

Back to the dentist...

11 June 2014: Wednesday found me back at the dentist to get the temporary crown adjusted again. Even though something is still going on and I'll almost certainly be back at the dentist again, I am still going to call out my dentist and his staff as source of Wednesday's gratitude. Once again, he was so kind and understanding. I mean, do I wish the darn thing would just feel NORMAL? (It's been like ten days..) Yeah, but it's not his fault and I have faith that he'll help me get it back to normal. This will be a bit challenging, since he's on vacation and I'll almost certainly have to see someone who is covering for him...and a root canal might be involved...but yeah, he still rocks.

They never fail...

[A lot of catching-up posts to get through. Sorry about that. It's been a strange week...this stupid tooth thing is really cramping my style.]

10 June 2014: The summer schedule means that I have to cover a lot of material each day in class. Tuesday brought us to Dickinson and Whitman. It's a bit overwhelming and exhausting to cover them both on one day (and no, it isn't even close to actual "covering"), but it's also always exhilarating. Easily the highlight of my day.

Monday, June 9, 2014

If you need a dentist...

9 June 2014: If you live in this area and need a dentist, take my advice: go to Dr. Seidman in Hagerstown. He's amazing. Everyone in his office is amazing, too. They are beyond competent, very kind, so accommodating, and (always a plus for me) pretty funny, too.

I had a temporary crown put on on Wednesday, but since then, it never felt right. It wasn't full-on pain, but more like pressure, throbbing, general "not-right-ness." I was really scared that it might turn into something really bad--big old pain. So I called today and they told me to come on in when I could. They'd fit me in. So, after class this morning, I drove over.

Dr. Seidman examined me, said the temporary crown was too high, fixed it, and answered all of my questions. He did so with patience, good humor, and reassurance. One of my big fears when it comes to all things medical/dental is being a hypochondriac or a bad patient. It's kind of ridiculous. But Dr. Seidman said all the right things: that I was right to call, right to come in, that it would have gotten worse if I hadn't.

Of course, there might be something else going on with the tooth. But if there is (and please, let's hope there isn't!), I feel better knowing I've got a doctor who wants me to bug him about it. Long story short: these folks rock and I am lucky that someone recommended them to me.


8 June 2014: I ain't gonna lie: we had a tornado warning yesterday that scared me. It came out of nowhere (even the weather guys said no one was anticipating severe weather). And it was freakily specific. When the Emergency Alert System took over the TV, the only impacted area listed was little old Shepherdstown. Shepherdstown is tiny, so when you hear it's in the bulls-eye, you feel, well, targeted.

Bing, Wes, and I took cover in the downstairs bathroom for about 20 minutes. As I sat there (with two not-happy cats), I felt very vulnerable. What can you do in that situation besides pray and hope for the best? In the end, it turned out to be no big deal. The storm did most of its damage in Martinsburg and even that wasn't too bad, but still, it's not an experience I am eager to repeat. I am, of course, quite thankful for that boring, uneventful outcome.

When a song brings you back...

7 June 2014: I suppose I was still feeling angsty and a bit uneasy for most of Saturday (and most the weekend, in fact), but while I was out for a walk, this song came up on my iPod. I know it's not the coolest song, but it always calms me down and makes me happier. And it always reminds me of a particularly happy stretch of days not too long ago. (Not to be cryptic...nothing scandalous, I promise...) Like I said, hearing it didn't instantly make everything better, but it helped, and I appreciated that quite a bit.

(And yes, I know there is one line in this song that doesn't make sense: when he says "God-forsaken right to be loved," he means "God-given," but I like the song so much that I overlook it. That's saying something!)

Saturday, June 7, 2014

Getting out of your own head...

6 June 2014: Days like yesterday, where I don't have anywhere to be, can be a blessing and a curse. Sometimes I get tons done, make progress on a project or two, or simply enjoy doing nothing. Other days, I can get too much into my own head, which isn't always a good place to be. So I was grateful yesterday to have something to do that took me out of that head-space: dinner with some friends at Awok. It was just what I needed.

Perfect walking spot...

5 June 2014: It might sound strange, but I think I've found a really good spot to get some good walking in: an old practice field on campus (I think it's the intramural field--maybe?). On my daily walks, I sometimes will do three or four laps around the circumference before getting back on the regular roads/paths. It's green, quiet, and really pretty, surrounded by woods on three sides. I especially like all the animals I see: groundhogs (who run away really quickly), deer in the woods (every once in a while), bunnies, all kinds of bird (lots of bluebirds!), and great big dragonflies.

Wednesday, June 4, 2014

Dinner at Kazu

4 June 2014: Another long, strange, not-entirely-great day, this one highlighted (sarcasm intended) by a visit to the dentist to get started on a new crown. (This was a long time coming--a tooth that has two big, old fillings in it and needed to be taken care of sooner or later...) So yeah, not great. But I had something fun to look forward to: dinner in the evening with my friend, Tim. It's always great to get a chance to see him over the summer (he lives about an hour away and doesn't come to campus that often between semesters). We hadn't hung out since we got back from Massachusetts, so it was nice to catch up. Suddenly a not-entirely-great day got a lot better.

Tuesday, June 3, 2014

A bit of humor

3 June 2014: I feel like this work week, not even half over yet, has been a rough one. I know part of it is because of what I posted about yesterday. But it seems to be even more than that...maybe it's the world/national news (so frustrating and depressing, as usual), the weather (hot, humid, and threatening), or just a bit of a summer funk I'm going through. Regardless, when this kind of stuff hits me, it's always nice to come across some good-humored wit like in this piece. It lifts the soul a bit.

Comfort in sadness

2 June 2014: Yesterday I learned that a friend from graduate school experienced an unthinkable tragedy: her only daughter, just six years old, died suddenly. I hadn't met the little girl--just seen pictures and posts on Facebook--but the news cast a pall over the day. A true English nerd, though, I found a bit of comfort in poetry, specifically this famous sonnet from Donne.

Holy Sonnet 72
John Donne

Death, be not proud, though some have called thee
Mighty and dreadful, for thou art not so;
For those whom thou think'st thou dost overthrow
Die not, poor Death, nor yet canst thou kill me.
From rest and sleep, which but thy pictures be,
Much pleasure; then from thee much more must flow,
And soonest our best men with thee do go,
Rest of their bones, and soul's delivery.
Thou art slave to fate, chance, kings, and desperate men,
And dost with poison, war, and sickness dwell,
And poppy or charms can make us sleep as well
And better than thy stroke; why swell'st thou then?
One short sleep past, we wake eternally
And death shall be no more; Death, thou shalt die.

Summer reading

1 June 2013: Finally got into a book I bought a few months ago--a book that isn't connected in any way with teaching or research. You know, reading just and only for fun. I don't get as many chances to do that as you might think. This is not a big complaint--I really love the reading I do for teaching and scholarship, too. But it sure is nice to read to enjoy some low stakes, just for fun reading.

Saturday, May 31, 2014

Happy birthday, Walt!

Always happy to commemorate Walt's birthday. (And my parents' 45 [!] anniversary.)

Hanging with the little niece...

31 May 2014: After I left Herndon today, I headed over to Erin and Eric's and got to hang with them and Krista, who is talking up a storm. New words (well, new to me!) included "hot," "cold," "duck," and her own name, which she says with real relish. And, because she's a toddler, her favorite word, repeatedly again and again, is "no." Good thing she's cute and fun.

Herndon Festival...

30 May 2014: I spent yesterday evening (and lots of today) hanging out with Jane and her family, hitting Herndon Festival, playing Cards Against Humanity, and just having fun. I am very lucky to have not just Jane, but her awesome family in my life. They always make me feel welcome--and I am grateful for that.

Friday, May 30, 2014

Pizza and a movie...

29 May 2014: Looks like most of the posts this week are going to be friend-related, which is fine by me. Anyway, yesterday a couple of my friends came over for pizza and a (kind of silly) movie. (Said movie is still worth seeing for Adam Scott and Lizzie Caplan, who elevate just about anything they are in.) After the movie, we watched the equally silly but fun Hollywood Game Night. A fun evening!

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

The perfect relaxed dinner...

28 May 2014: Today wore me the heck out. I think part of it is that I didn't sleep all that well last night (and the night before). Then, after a long-ish day at school (for the summer, anyway), I rushed home to get the lawn mowed before the rain started. (I am a bit pathological about this--about getting the whole thing done in one shot.) And that meant hurriedly mowing the lawn in hot, gross, and humid weather. But I did it--and beat the rain (and it still hasn't rained, which is kind of annoying). I took a shower, did some other work, and then went to meet my friend Anna for dinner.

I found myself a bit worried that I wouldn't be a good dinner companion--I was feeling so tired and mellow and chill. But it was actually a lovely time--the perfect way to spend an evening that I would have otherwise spent vegging out on the couch or something. We went to a pretty mellow restaurant, which helped. More than that, though, I am grateful for a friend with whom I can just be kind of tired and yawn-y (new word?) and still have a good time.

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Summer session: here we go!

27 May 2014: Summer school started today and it was a great first day. I've got a small class this time (only 8 students!), but they seem like a fun group. These summer sessions are always a bit of a whirlwind, but I am grateful for the discipline they bring to my otherwise free-form summer schedule. And yeah, they are also fun.

Monday, May 26, 2014

Memorial Day

26 May 2014: For Memorial Day, I won't even try to out-do those who always say it better than I can. I'll just paste one of my favorite Whitman poems.

"Vigil Strange I Kept on the Field One Night"
Walt Whitman

Vigil strange I kept on the field one night;
When you my son and my comrade dropt at my side that day,
One look I but gave which your dear eyes return’d with a look I shall never forget,
One touch of your hand to mine O boy, reach’d up as you lay on the ground,
Then onward I sped in the battle, the even-contested battle,
Till late in the night reliev’d to the place at last again I made my way,
Found you in death so cold dear comrade, found your body son of responding kisses, (never again on earth responding,)
Bared your face in the starlight, curious the scene, cool blew the moderate night-wind,
Long there and then in vigil I stood, dimly around me the battle-field spreading,
Vigil wondrous and vigil sweet there in the fragrant silent night,
But not a tear fell, not even a long-drawn sigh, long, long I gazed,
Then on the earth partially reclining sat by your side leaning my chin in my hands,
Passing sweet hours, immortal and mystic hours with you dearest comrade—not a tear, not a word,
Vigil of silence, love and death, vigil for you my son and my soldier,
As onward silently stars aloft, eastward new ones upward stole,
Vigil final for you brave boy, (I could not save you, swift was your death,
I faithfully loved you and cared for you living, I think we shall surely meet again,)
Till at latest lingering of the night, indeed just as the dawn appear’d,
My comrade I wrapt in his blanket, envelop’d well his form,
Folded the blanket well, tucking it carefully over head and carefully under feet,
And there and then and bathed by the rising sun, my son in his grave, in his rude-dug grave I deposited,
Ending my vigil strange with that, vigil of night and battle-field dim,
Vigil for boy of responding kisses, (never again on earth responding,)
Vigil for comrade swiftly slain, vigil I never forget, how as day brighten’d,
I rose from the chill ground and folded my soldier well in his blanket,
And buried him where he fell.

Sunday, May 25, 2014

Walk through the neighborhood

25 May 2014: I felt the need to really stretch my legs this morning and get a good walk in. The weather is gorgeous so lots of people were out and about. It's quite nice to wave to folks mowing their lawns, playing with their kids, walking their dogs, etc. I still can't believe sometimes that I get to live in this community.

Catching up with friends...

24 May 2014: I drove to Frederick yesterday to catch up with my friends Hannah and Cory. We had dinner at a place I'd never been before (yummy!) and then just spent some time talking and catching up. I actually first met these two through school--Hannah was a super-star SU English major--but we've kept in touch since she's graduated and started grad school at American. The good thing about hanging out with other literature-minded folks is that I can really let my nerd-flag fly. Topics included Jhumpa Lahiri, Frederick Douglass, teaching literature pedagogy, and lots o' TV.

I realize that a lot of these posts are about lunch/dinner/drinks/hanging out with friends and sometimes I wish I could add a bit more variety, but then I talk myself out of it. If what I am trying to do is be actively aware of the parts of my life for which I should be grateful, it's quite nice to see how blessed I am when it comes to great friends. It might not make for great reading for anyone but me, though. Hmm...

Friday, May 23, 2014

Cure for cynicism...

23 May 2014: Tonight I had dinner with some friends/colleagues (some of the group from this picture). We drove to a place over in Hagerstown where I'd never been before. Great food, great conversation, and a fine time all around.

It was a great day for a drive, too: perfect weather and everything green and blooming. On the way back, as I sat in the back seat and my friend Amy sat in the passenger seat, my friend Kathy, who was driving, talked about her life, her family, and, specifically, her marriage. She and her husband have been together for nearly forty years and have been through so much together. It does my heart good to hear these kinds of stories. The world can make you awfully cynical about love and commitment, so it's quite nice to be reminded that there are people who make it work.

Thursday, May 22, 2014

Early morning thunderstorm

22 May 2014: I had an awful time falling asleep last night. And just when I was really drifting off (close to 4:00 a.m.), a loud thunderstorm rolled through. Needless to say, I've been dragging a bit today.

But still, the storm was beautiful. First the winds began to pick up, blowing the curtains and dropping the temperature. Then lightening, illuminating the room. Then the thunder, loud enough to send the cats hiding (that part made me feel bad). Then the downpour.

When I was little, storms like this used to scare me. Then, when I got just a bit older, I grew to love them, starting with the time my dad and I sat out on the porch of the house we rented for a week's vacation in upstate New York. From far away, we watched a storm roll in. Sitting with him, feeling simultaneously safe and thrilled, is something I hope to always remember. 


21 May 2014: I saw this poem posted on Facebook and, having had a similar experience once, immediately connected to it. It's a terrific poem about love, about sympathy, and about language, and I am grateful to have read it.

Craig Arnold

Of many reasons I love you here is one

the way you write me from the gate at the airport
so I can tell you everything will be alright

so you can tell me there is a bird
trapped in the terminal      all the people
ignoring it       because they do not know
what do with it       except to leave it alone
until it scares itself to death

it makes you terribly terribly sad

You wish you could take the bird outside
and set it free or       (failing that)
call a bird-understander
to come help the bird

All you can do is notice the bird
and feel for the bird       and write
to tell me how language feels
impossibly useless

but you are wrong

You are a bird-understander
better than I could ever be
who make so many noises
and call them song

These are your own words
your way of noticing
and saying plainly
of not turning away
from hurt

you have offered them
to me       I am only
giving them back

if only I could show you
how very useless
they are not

Mr. Herrero's band...

20 May 2014: You'll want to give this story a listen to. I heard it (thanks to the NPR "Story of the Day" podcast) on Tuesday and found myself cheering out loud towards the end. I am glad to have heard it and will think about these kids for a long time.

Back to the office...

19 May 2014: After being away for a week, I made it back to the office on Monday and got started on some projects for the summer. It felt good to be back and start checking some items off my to-do list. What I am most thankful for, though, is the enthusiasm I feel for a new project for SAMLA in Atlanta in November. There's a Hawthorne story I've been wanting to write about for awhile and on Monday, I think I found my way in. Yay!

Sunday, May 18, 2014

Sunday morning...

18 May 2014: After being gone a week, it sure was nice waking up in my own bed, with Bing and Wes cuddled up next to me. It was even nicer not having anywhere to be and just relaxing and enjoying being home.

Home good neighbors

17 May 2014: We had a great trip back on Saturday--perfect weather, no traffic. When I got home, though, my lawn was on its way to being a wilderness. I guess a week was too long to go. I got to work mowing it right away. It was so long, though, that the mower kept stalling and eventually stopped completely. My terrific neighbor brought over his mower to finish it. He didn't even hesitate. I constantly feel like I won the "neighbor lottery" and for that, I am very thankful.

(My mower did start working just needed to cool for a long time.)

Last full day...

16 May 2014: Our last full day found us in Pittsfield, visiting Arrowhead, where Melville wrote Moby Dick. Despite some rain, it was a great day. By Friday, we had all fallen into such a comfortable rhythm with each other. I am so grateful for having such wonderful travel companions. This trip caused me such anxiety beforehand, but it really turned out to be lovely.

Dickinson Day

15 May 2014: Thursday found us in Amherst, visiting the two houses at the Emily Dickinson Museum and the archives at Amherst College. I hadn't toured The Evergreens (Austin and Susan Dickinson's house) before and hadn't seen any of the objects at the archives. Both experiences were fascinating and moving. I found myself getting emotional seeing, for instance, little Gilbert's velocipede (tricycle), or the manuscript of "Tell all the truth--." And, making it even better, the students were enthralled. And we were visiting on the anniversary of Dickinson's death, a cool (if morbid) coincidence. A good day, indeed.


14 March 2014: On Wednesday, we went to Walden. What else is there to say? So thankful to have the chance to visit this place again.

Seeing it again...

13 May 2014: So about Tuesday: First, anyone who knows me pretty well knows that I can be a worrier and that I am creature of habit to such a degree that a big challenge or disruption (like a trip in which you are in charge of everything) can bring out a lot of anxiety. Second, everything we saw and did on Tuesday was something I had done or seen before on my previous trip to Concord. Third, without going into any details, I was not feeling well at all on Tuesday. Those three factors might have made Tuesday a less-than-pleasant day.

But it was actually quite lovely. One chief reason is that I got to see all of these sites again through their eyes. That made me excited to see them again. It made me feel better, feel relaxed. It helped me have fun.

At The Old Manse.

Alcott's grave at Sleepy Hollow Cemetery.

Thoreau's grave at Sleepy Hollow Cemetery.

Salem, MA

12 May 2014: Monday found us in Salem, MA, a place I hadn't been to before. We had a blast.

Students at The House of the Seven Gables.

Hawthorne Birthplace.

Pretty flowers at The House of the Seven Gables.

Duck statue at The House of the Seven Gables. 

The Custom House. As a Scarlet Letter-loving nerd, this really excited me.

 Hawthorne statue in Salem.

I'll focus my specific "year of thanks" shout-out on my friend/colleague, Tim, who joined me as a second chaperone (not that you need chaperones in the traditional sense when traveling with college students). I am really so blessed to have him in my life. He's smart, kind, funny, and always there for me when I need him. Having him on this trip made it exponentially better--for me and the students.

It was inevitable. He proposed at the Witch Museum. Ha!

Lovely travel day

11 May 2014: Sunday found us traveling most of the day on our way to Massachusetts. It was a lovely day to travel, which made some of the tension and traffic much easier to handle.


10 May 2014: Graduation is a day that makes it quite easy to feel thankful: for my job, my friends/colleagues, and for the students who have achieved so much. And, for the heck of it, I'll include this picture of some of my favorite colleagues.

Lots of catching up...

Here comes a barrage of posts...I was out of town on that Prominence of Place trip last week and didn't want to post from the road. (Because I didn't want robbers to know I was gone or something crazy like that.) Anyway, here we go...

Saturday, May 10, 2014

"Why Developmental English Breaks My Heart"

9 March 2014: I went to graduate school with the woman who wrote this. She was a couple of years ahead of me. She's amazing--one of several women who served as role models for me in those early grad school days.

Happy hour!

8 April 2014: After a workshop on Thursday, my colleagues and I got together at the Blue Moon Cafe for some drinks. We sat outside at a long table with two benches and just talked and laughed. It was a lovely reminder of how many cool people are in my department.

A day with no appointments...

7 May 2014: I am catching up on some posts and found myself straining a bit to actually remember Wednesday--how I spent the day, what I got done. And then I realized that, with the exception of a car inspection in the morning--I had *nothing* on my planner for that day. It was a lovely, relaxed, lazy day. Now the truth is, I don't do very well with lots of these kinds of days; I need structure and a regular schedule. But every once in a while, it sure is nice.

Time to garden...

6 May 2014: I spent much of Tuesday finally cleaning up the flower beds, spreading mulch, and generally getting the yard ready for summer. It was tiring (and sometimes gross) work, but I am grateful for the time and energy to have done it.

Monday, May 5, 2014

"In the Thriving Season"

5 May 2014: Today I'm thankful for this moving poem by Lisel Mueller, which I hadn't heard before. I am especially appreciative of it on a lovely spring day, and on the day when a couple of old friends (poets themselves) shared the news of their baby's birth.

Catching up on EW

4 May 2014: I spent a couple of hours (!) yesterday catching up on back issues of Entertainment Weekly. We're talking going back 12 issues. That's how busy the semester can get at times. Anyway, I let myself spend part of Sunday reading non-work-related stuff and it was lovely. So thankful for lazy summer* Sundays.

*Yes, "summer" means something different in academia.

Saturday, May 3, 2014


3 May 2014: The spring 2014 semester is done (except for some meetings next week and graduation next Saturday). I finished my grading yesterday, but had to wait for a tardy colleague to get me some capstone grades before I could submit my last set. Now that that's done, I have plans for some fun stuff today: dinner and a movie with friends. I also have work to get done for the summer session, which starts soon, and for the trip to Massachusetts I am taking with some students in a week or so. But for now...chair dancing!

Dinner with friends

2 May 2014: I know I've used this one before, but I am so thankful for the great group of friends I've started having dinner with on certain Friday nights. Last night, we tried a place in town I've never been before (and this is pretty extraordinary given how small Shepherdstown is!) and it was really good. An excellent way to end the semester!

Thursday, May 1, 2014

Warm and sunny...

1 May 2014: April showers really do bring May flowers? I dunno, but after days of cold rain, the sun really came out today and warmed everything up. Instantly, my mood improved. So thankful.

Wrapping up ENGL 446

30 April 2014: My ENGL 446 class had its last meeting yesterday during the final exam time. We had a few more presentations to get through and also used the occasion for a celebration of sorts. People brought food (so many chocolate chip cookies!), etc. When the presentations were over, folks were a bit reluctant to leave, myself included. It's been a strange, often difficult semester (for a number of reasons), but that class was always a bright spot (my classes always are, but this one really was). I'll miss it and I'll miss seeing them. I think some (most?) of them feel the same way. That's a bittersweet feeling to have at the end of the semester, but I'll take it any day over "thank God that's over!"

(Alternate post: an equally sappy meditation about all the amazing students who are graduating this year. I'll save that one for graduation day, maybe.)

Cheesiest "year of thanks" post yet...

29 April 2014: Serious cheese alert. We're talking multiple layers of cheese involving high school nostalgia, Bette Midler, and Glee. Consider yourself warned!

So I was watching Glee on Tuesday night, and Rachel sang "The Rose." (Side note: hard to believe it took them this long to get to that point!) Instantly, I was brought back to eighth grade choir, singing that song. I mean, it all came back--every word, the way the teacher unabashedly loved the song, the harmonies, visual memories of the actual sheet music, even the way we all begrudgingly came to love it. And those memories--eighth grade was a pretty epic year in my mind--are still so wonderful. It's awfully nice to have them to go back to.

Monday, April 28, 2014

Final exam...

28 April 2014: Today I gave a final exam to one of my sections of ENGL 204. The last student to finish is a young woman who has been kind of quiet all semester, but was definitely engaged. I could tell--at least I thought I could tell--that she was enjoying the class and getting something out of it. At least that's what I hoped. As she handed in her exam and got her things together, I told her that I hoped she had a good break. She stopped and said some lovely things about the class. She didn't need to say them (this wasn't flattery to get a good grade) but man, did they make a difference to me. Just a small gesture on her part, maybe, but it meant so much.

Sunday, April 27, 2014

Spring in the yard

27 April 2014: I spent most of today inside grading papers, which kind of stinks, but I did get some joy from seeing this pretty tree blooming outside.

I'm also fond of this patch of tulips by the mailbox. I don't remember planting the yellow ones in the fall, though of course I know I did. They sprung up like a pleasant surprise. I don't even mind the dandelions that are everywhere. They complement the tulips nicely.

Fancy dinners at school...

26 April 2014: As part of my duties as a member of the SU Foundation Board of Directors, I get invited to the McMurran Society dinner held every year, honoring people who have remembered Shepherd in their estate plans or are sponsors of named awards/scholarships. I had the opportunity to sit at a table with some wonderful people. I won't go into the specifics of their connection to the school, but will say that not very long ago, they lost a family member who was quite young and have established a scholarship in her memory. They were wonderful people: friendly, kind, and funny. It always moves me to meet people who have had such a tragic loss yet go on with such grace.

To Kill a Mockingbird

25 April 2014: The folks at the Shepherdstown Film Society invited me to be introduce and lead a post-film discussion of their last show of the year, To Kill a Mockingbird. I've lead discussions for the Film Society before and it's always fun and interesting, though I confess to always being just a bit nervous beforehand--afraid someone will ask some intricate film-studies kind of question. Really, though, once people get talking, the job of leading a discussion isn't that different from what I get to do in the classroom on a good day: listen, answer some questions, pose some more questions, and help people think about important issues. It was a nice way to end a long week.


24 April 2014: Thursday night, we had our department's last set of Senior Capstone presentations. We have twenty students this semester and all twenty did a fine job presenting their work. This week was long and tiring, but it's hard not to be thankful for a chance to see our students grow, mature, and complete senior-level work they can be proud of. It's a wonderful part of my job.

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

"Take the love you have for me and spread it around'"

23 April 2014: This video from the guy behind "Humans of New York" is so lovely.

Dinner with my "work husband"

22 April 2014: [Here comes another "just what I needed" post.] This week is kicking my butt (as did the week before). There just aren't enough hours in the day and I find myself cranky and impatient with those who are not stepping up the way they need to (yeah, I mean students--lots of them...not a majority, but a pretty noisy minority). I feel myself carrying all this tension and anxiety.

Yesterday, at the end of a long day at school, Tim, my "work husband," asked if I wanted to grab some dinner. I can't say enough about how lucky I am to have a friend like Tim in my life. And yeah, having dinner with him last night was just what I needed.

Late afternoon conference, Part II

21 April 2014: Remember the student from this post? He came back again on Monday to talk about another set of papers. He's done this all semester long. They still aren't where he or I want them to be, but darn it if he doesn't keep pushing and working. In a week where I've spent way too much time grading and dealing with students who are angry or flummoxed or just unhappy about their grades--students to whom I want to say, "And how come you didn't worry this much BEFORE you handed it in?"--it does my heart good to work with students like this guy.

Sunday, April 20, 2014

"Easter Vision"

21 April 2014: This video is terrific. Give it a look!

Saturday, April 19, 2014

Holy Saturday

19 April 2014: Even when I was a kid, I would struggle a bit about how to feel/act on Holy Saturday. It's a day that has always felt like it was filled with two diametrically opposed sets of feelings: the somber reflectiveness of Good Friday and the joyous anticipation of Easter. As a child, I can remember feeling that I still ought to be filled with "Good Friday" thoughts, but couldn't help being excited for Easter the next day. For me then, of course, Easter also meant hanging out at my cousins' house, Easter egg hunts, and candy--and that made the anticipation even more exciting--not quite Christmas-Eve-levels of excitement, but you get the idea...

This week I've found myself thinking a lot about the Holy Weeks of my youth, a youth spent in religious schools that taught me so much about myself, my faith, and my values. Even today I have vivid recollections of Holy Week chapel services--songs, verses, sermons that I still remember, that moved me so deeply when I was just a kid. So today something that I am quite thankful for are those times at church and school. I feel so very blessed to have grown up immersed in those worlds.

Good Friday

18 April 2014: Matthew 27: 45-54
"Now from the sixth hour there was darkness over all the land unto the ninth hour. And about the ninth hour Jesus cried with a loud voice, saying, Eli, Eli, lama sabachthani? that is to say, My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me? Some of them that stood there, when they heard that, said, This man calleth for Elijah. And straightway one of them ran, and took a sponge, and filled it with vinegar, and put it on a reed, and gave him to drink. The rest said, Let be, let us see whether Elijah will come to save him. Jesus, when he had cried again with a loud voice, yielded up the ghost. And, behold, the veil of the temple was rent in twain from the top to the bottom; and the earth did quake, and the rocks rent; And the graves were opened; and many bodies of the saints which slept arose, And came out of the graves after his resurrection, and went into the holy city, and appeared unto many. Now when the centurion, and they that were with him, watching Jesus, saw the earthquake, and those things that were done, they feared greatly, saying, Truly this was the Son of God."