Friday, January 31, 2014

"Thoughts on Poetry in Winter"

31 January 2014: Read this piece. It's beautiful and I am grateful to have encountered it. Be sure to savor the "Five Anecdotes" at the end.

Thursday, January 30, 2014

Course release!

30 January 2014: This morning I received an email that I have been awarded a course release for the fall semester. This will allow me to focus a bit more on my scholarship and get some serious work done on my book project. It isn't easy to balance the demands of teaching, research, and scholarship at Shepherd (and teaching is most important here--which is great, because that's what I love the most!), so this course release, combined with a (fingers crossed) productive summer will really get me on the right track.

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Jon and Cara

29 January 2013: We've got two new full-time lecturers in our department this year. This is, for a bunch of reasons, a great development for our department, our students, and our university. We had a department meeting today (always interesting...) and I found myself thinking again how lucky we are to have snapped up these two fabulous teachers. I feel like we hit the jackpot and that I'm extra lucky because I consider both my friends. I've been thankful about that since they first got to campus, but I am extra thankful today.

The perfect avocado...

28 January 2014: It was, once again, cold as heck yesterday (posting a day late again!). But the avocado I enjoyed with my dinner made me think of spring and warmer weather. Kind of amazing that you can get an avocado in West Virginia in the middle of winter.

Monday, January 27, 2014

Winter night sky...

27 January 2014: When I got home this evening, my mind was on a work issue (nothing major--just persistently annoying) and I felt distracted and tense. As I walked back towards the house from the mailbox, I happened to look up and found myself thinking of some lines from one of my favorite Whitman poems:

"..How soon unaccountable I became tired and sick,
Till rising and gliding out I wander’d off by myself,
In the mystical moist night-air, and from time to time,
Look’d up in perfect silence at the stars."

Suddenly, everything seemed better. 

A bit of sunshine...

26 January 2014: It wasn't out all day yesterday, but it did peek through the clouds every once in a while. After so many cold and cloudy days, it made a difference.

Sunday, January 26, 2014

Dinner with friends...

25 January 2014: Went to a lovely dinner party at a friend's house last night. Just perfect.

Saturday, January 25, 2014

Back to business

24 January 2014: Got to actually drive to work yesterday and drive home (although even on that short drive, there are still treacherous spots!). Got to teach my classes and see my students (Bradstreet and Emerson on the syllabi: pure happiness!). Got to see my friends and colleagues (some of whom I hadn't seen in a week). Got to meet with my capstone students (and talk about their exciting projects).

So, all in all, a normal day. And I am grateful for a return to normalcy and for a life where a normal day gives me such satisfaction.

Thursday, January 23, 2014

A cold walk...

23 January 2014: Even as I was typing this post earlier today, I kind of anticipated it would lead to today's gratitude posting. After being stuck inside for the past couple of days, I was itching for fresh air, exercise, and just a bit of freedom. So the walk to and from my office today are the things I am thankful for today.

It was cold: walking home the temperature was 16 degrees, with a windchill of 5 below, the kind of cold that hurts a bit. But it was also invigorating. And the scenery was beautiful. Plus the walk gave me time to listen to most of the latest episode of Radiolab. Not bad at all.

(I still wouldn't mind spring coming a bit early, though!)

Is it spring yet?

After being snowed in for two days, I woke up really restless today and in a bit of a funk. I need my routine, my normal schedule, and you know, actual human contact. So I thought I'd get to school earlier than I needed to (I don't have class until 3:15). I got everything together for a productive, full day at school, got in the car, drove a block, and found myself unable to make a right turn. That's how bad the roads still are. In fact, the guy in front of me at the intersection got stuck and had to wave me around him. So, I turned left, thinking I'd go down a block, turn into the shopping center, turn around, and then try to make *that* right turn. After all, that particular intersection is a busy one, with our town's only traffic light (ha!). Bad move. Now it was my turn to get stuck. I had to back up, turn around, and make my way home on some sketchy back roads.

I do want to point out that there's not that much snow. It's just crappy/non-existent snow-removal techniques, combined with cold weather, has led to quite a mess. So frustrating. 

So I suppose I'll walk to school today. Not a big deal--and I am really lucky that I live so close, but man, I hate winter.

These guys...

22 January 2013: I get a bit down when I'm snowed in for more than a day. It would be so much worse without these two.

P.S. I am really determined not to rely on Bing and Wes posts for my year of thanks posts. So I think I'll limit myself using anything related to them to once a month.

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Good neighbors

21 January 2014: Another blast of winter weather has hit us today. Around 4:00, I headed out to shovel the driveway. I had barely started before the kid next door showed up, shovel in hand, to help out. He does this just about every chance he gets. He won't take "I got this" for an answer. And he helps out the whole neighborhood. He's really an amazing young man--and another reason I love this neighborhood.

Monday, January 20, 2014

"One family, two sacrifices"

20 January 2014: At the beginning of this moving article about a family who has lost two sons in war, the writer reminds us of an important difference between the "war on terror" and earlier wars: "Unlike in World War II, when the draft meant that nearly everyone had family members and friends risking their lives, the battles in Iraq and Afghanistan have been waged by 2.5 million volunteers — less than 1 percent of the U.S. population." This is something I think about often: how little my own life has been touched by these never-ending wars, how such a small population of the country has paid such an enormous price. In the face of such sacrifice, I find that again and again, words fail me. It seems the very least one can do is simply be grateful and thankful for the Wise family, specifically Jeremy and Ben. And pray for peace.

Frozen at the Alamo

19 January 2014: I finally saw Frozen* yesterday and loved it. And I finally saw a movie at the Alamo Drafthouse. How in the world does one go back to the normal movie experience now? The best part part of yesterday, though--the thing that I am really thankful for because it made all the other stuff possible--was spending time with a great group of friends from work.

*And I've had "Let it Go" in my head ever since...

Sunday, January 19, 2014

Game night!

18 January 2014: Had a blast playing games with some friends. That really is my idea of fun! And now I am addicted to this game. I am itching to play again!

One week down!

[Catching up a bit on a few "year of thanks" posts...]

17 January 2014: The first week of classes was long, packed with work, but ultimately, successful and invigorating. On we go!

Thursday, January 16, 2014

Re-reading Emerson

I spent this morning re-reading Emerson's Nature, which I hadn't read since 2007 or so, the last time I taught it. Today, though, I remembered when I first read it--back in my senior year at Roanoke, back when I really fell in love with nineteenth-century American literature. I have this clear memory of walking back to my room one night after getting off work in the spring of 1999. I looked up at the stars and thought of this passage:

"To go into solitude, a man needs to retire as much from his chamber as from society. I am not solitary whilst I read and write, though nobody is with me. But if a man would be alone, let him look at the stars. The rays that come from those heavenly worlds, will separate between him and what he touches. One might think the atmosphere was made transparent with this design, to give man, in the heavenly bodies, the perpetual presence of the sublime. Seen in the streets of cities, how great they are! If the stars should appear one night in a thousand years, how would men believe and adore; and preserve for many generations the remembrance of the city of God which had been shown! But every night come out these envoys of beauty, and light the universe with their admonishing smile."

It was a scary, kind of uncertain time of my life--finishing college, getting ready to start the next part of my life, leaving my friends, and a place that had become home to me. Those words from Emerson brought me comfort and courage, as so many of these Transcendentalist texts did and still do. And now, nearly 15 years later, I am glad to have that memory.

Children of Uganda

15 January 2014: I was blessed to see the Children of Uganda perform at Shepherd last night. Amazing music, unbelievable dancing--just two hours of joy.

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

"The Red Handle"

14 January 2014: This one is a bit of a cheat since I technically first read the piece last night, but I've been thinking about it a lot today and I am just so glad that someone wrote it. Linda Holmes is one of my favorite pop culture critics. She's smart, kind, reasonable, and a heck of a writer. Anyway, give this a read. It's amazing.

Monday, January 13, 2014

First days...

13 January 2014: This one is a bit obvious, but that's okay. Today I am thankful for the energy and excitement of the first day of the semester. It's always a bit hectic and even a bit scary (I still get butterflies the night before), but I am so blessed to have an exciting and fulfilling job that comes with built in "reset" buttons twice a year (more, if you count summer teaching).

New students (and lots of returning students), new classes, old texts and assignments made new again because of those new students: what's not to love?

"The King of Norway"

...still running a bit behind, so this post is a day late.

12 January 2014: Driving home from my friend's house (a three hour trip), I found myself listening to the "New Yorker Fiction Podcast." (I've blogged about this podcast before.) Given recent events, I was a bit down, contemplative, somber. The story I listened to, Amos Oz's "The King of Norway," hit all of those notes, and was on my mind the rest of the day.

I keep thinking about Zvi, one of the story's characters, who always announces the news of world tragedies to his companions. When another character asks him, "Why do you take all the sorrow of the world on your shoulders?", he answers, "Closing your eyes to the cruelty life is, in my opinion, both stupid and sinful. There's very little we can do about it. So we have to at least acknowledge it." I am pretty sure I don't agree with all of that sentiment, but this character, so broken and sorrowful yet with some kind of quiet nobility, will stick with me.

So, today, I am grateful for this author, this story, this character, all coming to me courtesy of this podcast. 

Sunday, January 12, 2014

Good dog

(This one is a bit late, but here's yesterday's "year of thanks" post.)

11 January 2014: Yesterday, I was there when my good friend's dear old dog passed away. He was a very nice dog who had a good, long life and he brought joy to people who met him. So it was a sad day, but I am thankful for knowing him.

Friday, January 10, 2014

Dinner with friends...

10 January 2014: Last semester, one of my friends/colleagues invited me to be part of a group of women (who also work at the university) who have dinner together on Friday nights every couple of weeks. I am glad I've started going since it's always a good time, including tonight's dinner. Classes start on Monday, so this was a nice way to get back in gear.

Thursday, January 9, 2014

Academic Kindness

9 January 2014: A piece on today brings a great new blog to my attention: "Academic Kindness," where people post about acts of kindness they've benefited from in academia. Looking over the blog made me smile and I've bookmarked it. The site is a lovely and important project, I think. Over the course of my career as a student and teacher, I've encountered so much more kindness than unkindness, so much more charity than selfishness. It's great to concentrate on the good to correct the assumption that it's anomalous or rare.

Wednesday, January 8, 2014

Back to school...

8 January 2014: Today I worked a first-year advising session (for students who haven't been to college before and are starting at Shepherd this semester). I had the pleasure of working with a 30 year-old student, just back from overseas, starting school on the GI Bill. He's a pretty cool guy: eager, cooperative, professional, and clearly grateful for the chance to go to college. Some (although not many) of the students I work with in these sessions have this weird sense of entitlement or, conversely, disengagement. This guy--who had every right to feel entitled to his education--couldn't have been more pleasant, understanding, and appreciative. He kept saying things like, "I just want to do well" and "I'll do whatever I need to do to succeed." The entire experience was quietly remarkable to me.

So, today I am grateful for students like him, for his service, and for a job that lets me meet and work with people like him.

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

"A very treasured Christmas present..."

7 January 2014: Today I am thankful for this radio story, which I actually heard while catching up on my NPR "Story of the Day" podcast. It was one of those "driveway moments," as I sat in my car until it was over. Give it a read/listen. It's a beautiful story.

Monday, January 6, 2014


6 January 2014: On a night like this, as the wind rages outside and we are going to see temperatures lower than we've seen in 20 years, it's hard to think of something I am more thankful for than a place where I can be safe and warm. (A shout out to those who have given me the slippers, blankets, and sweaters for Christmas presents in years past that are playing supporting roles tonight!)

Also thinking about this poem...

Sunday, January 5, 2014

Saturday, January 4, 2014

Paw prints

4 January 2014: This post from Andrew Sullivan (featuring his three-legged dog in the snow) made me smile just when I needed it.

Friday, January 3, 2014

Beans and rice...

3 January 2014: Thankful for people who take the time post recipes online. There's a certain generosity involved in that, isn't there? I made a modified version of this one this evening and it was pretty yummy.

Friendly postal worker...

2 January 2014: Just a regular stop at the post office, but the lady behind the counter was so cheerful and friendly, it put a smile on my face.

Meals with friends...

I am not big on New Year's resolutions, but I do like the thought behind ideas like this one. Basically, I am going to try to post here, each day, one specific thing I am thankful for. I finalized the idea last night while trying to fall asleep, so I am already a couple of days behind, but I figure that's okay for now. So here we go...

1 January 2014: I got to have breakfast with two of my best friends from my college days. Then I had dinner with one of my best friends from graduate school. A great reminder of how blessed I've been to find terrific friends at each stage of my life; an amazing way to start the new year.