Friday, February 28, 2014

"My Yellowing Notes, My Class and Me"

28 February 2014: Up and at it early this morning and I've already found my "year of thanks" subject. This column from hit the right spot today.

Words of comfort...

27 February 2014: It's been a kind of emotional few days. But these words brought me some comfort yesterday, and I am grateful for that: John 14:27: "Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid."

On the mend...

26 February 2014: (Catching up again.) My sister Tara, one of my favorite people, had some minor surgery for her carpal tunnel problems on Wednesday. Everything went well (although she was pretty uncomfortable when I spoke to her that night).

So this one is short and simple: I am very thankful that things went well and that she'll soon be feeling better. She deserves nothing but the best.

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

"You don't have to go home, but you can't stay here..."

25 February 2014: This post's title comes a song that has been in my head since my ENGL 301 class ended today. Here's the story...

My students were peer-reviewing each others' response papers, the first time we've done this in this particular class. The first peer review session is always a little bit tense--will students be willing to be honest with each other? will they be prepared?--but this group handled the task with real skill and charm. They all seemed to enjoy it, too--they liked talking with each other, helping each other.

With about ten minutes left in the class period, I announced that if the groups were finished, they could leave a bit early. And--I am not kidding you here--no one left. Even the group that was done--that had been done--didn't leave. They all stayed until the actual "end of class" time.

And get this--I even had to kind of shoo a couple of groups out of the room.* They were that into talking and working with each other. (Thus, the "You don't have to go home, but you can't stay here..." line.)

I don't think I had a single thing to do with this. I just got lucky and had a great group in this class today. (They aren't all always that great...) And I am thankful for that.

*Ordinarily I'd let them stay in the room, but our classroom is mostly used by the Education department, and I have to lock the room when we are finished with it.

Birthday boy...

24 February 2014: My nephew Aidan turned 9 yesterday (yes, another late post!). After a long day at work, he and I had a quick but sweet phone conversation. He's a pretty cool little kid and talking to him makes me smile.

Sunday, February 23, 2014

Parks and Rec Dance!

23 February 2014: Got to see Krista, Erin, and Eric today, which always rocks. We had lunch, played, and even went to the park. And it looks like the love for Parks & Rec runs deep in our family.

Mini heat wave...

22 February 2014: It won't last, but we've had a lovely couple of days here. Yesterday (Saturday), I got outside and enjoyed it, as did most of the neighborhood, it seemed. Kids playing basketball, families taking walks together, and fresh air for everyone: something to be quite thankful for!

"Everything is awesome!"

21 February 2014: Friday was a day full of things to be thankful for: a great day of teaching (part of a full week of uninterrupted teaching! no snow days!), some good meetings with students, and an interesting workshop at school (complete with a free lunch!). But it got even better: I met a friend for dinner and then we saw The Lego Movie, which was so much fun. It made me want to search my parents' basement the next time I am at their house and dig out my old Legos. Pure joy! And you know this has been in my head since then...

"So let us melt..."

20 February 2014: [Major catching up posts here...and I really meant to post this one on time on Thursday!]

Today I taught John Donne's "A Valediction: Forbidding Mourning" in my ENGL 301 class, using it to talk through conceits specifically and metaphors in general. This has always been one of my favorite poems, one of those poems I can remember reading and understanding for the first time. I remember feeling that "oh, *this* is what poetry can do" feeling. It's still a pleasure to go back to, especially when you can see students having those "oh, I get it!" moments.

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Good old Walt...

19 February 2014: Walt Whitman has been the subject of conversation these past two days in ENGL 204. As you can imagine, that makes me happy all on its own. But there's more...

As I've noted before, all the snow days this semester have made establishing a good class rhythm and report a bit difficult. Today, though, students who hadn't had much to say before responded--and responded well--to Whitman.

"What," I asked them, "do you remember that we covered last time when we talked about Whitman?"

"Swagger!" one student answered. I love this answer because it is a response to this little presentation I always do, showing students images of other nineteenth-century poets (traditional head or shoulders-and-up shots of men in suits gazing off into the distance) versus this iconic picture of Whitman.
In response, we talk about how this visual representation of the poet--the representation he gives us in place of a name--echoes the themes he'll celebrate in his poems. And we talk about that swagger, (although I didn't use that exact word, at least not before today). How that swagger is his, but how he wants you, his reader, to have it, too.

I could go on and on, but I won't. I'll just say that the classes--both sections--were awesome today. Walt never lets you down.

Drive-by hug...

18 January 2014: I saw my niece Olivia yesterday. She's such a sweet kid--full of energy, enthusiasm, and love. At one point, she randomly got up, came over to me, hugged me, and told me she loved me. Made my day.

Happy birthday, Christopher Marlowe!

17 January 2014: Sometime this month, Christopher Marlowe will turn 450. To commemorate the occasion, Sigma Tau Delta held a little reading and birthday party--complete with cake (Devil's Food, of course!) made by yours truly. It was silly and nerdy and delightfully fun. One more cool aspect of my job!

Sunday, February 16, 2014

Best craigslist ad ever?

16 February 2014: This evening, with Bing and Wes sleeping on the bed near me, I read this post, in which the current owner of a dog talks to the people who abandoned her (in a neglected and abused state) dog three years ago.

I don't know much about owning a dog or the debates over pit-bulls. Here's what I do know--and what this post affirms in such a lovely way: the animals that some people throw away, animals like this dog (and like Bing and Wes), can change our lives in ways we never anticipate. We don't know how long we'll have them in our lives, but every day (even the hard ones) is a blessing.

Saturday, February 15, 2014


15 February 2014: Went with some friends to see the SU women's basketball team play. It was senior day, where they honor the graduating senior players, who are escorted on the court by their parents. Very sweet. The game itself was a bit of a blowout in favor of the other team, but it was still a fun way to spend a couple of hours. Just another benefit of living/working in a college town.

Friday, February 14, 2014

Valentine's Day

14 February 2014: No school again today, which was kind of a bummer. We have missed so many days and it's been really hard to get and keep a rhythm going this semester. Moreover, I count on work to you know, actually see people. So, I was ready for it to be a kind of gloomy day--solitary, a bit depressing.

But today also brought lots of sunshine, which really helped with the roads in town. I went back outside to dig away the 2 feet of snow the plow deposited in my driveway. Sigh. While I was shoveling, a neighbor I hadn't talked to before came by with her dog and we had a nice conversation. Then I had a great phone call with my friend Jane, which always makes me feel better. By the afternoon, people were slowly venturing out onto the roads. They were cleared up enough that I was able to meet some friends in town for dinner.

And, all in all, it turned out to be a lovely day.

Little moments from a snow day

13 February 2014: We got slammed with snow yesterday (about 18 inches). Not fun--especially the digging out afterwards. However, there were a couple of lovely moments for which I am grateful.

First, I watched my neighbors and their dogs (two groups) playing in the snow. The neighbors' son tossed their playful puppy deep into the snow. The dog loved it, jumping back up and barking his request to get tossed again. Pure joy.

Second, as I was shoveling, I watched some students who live in the apartments up the road a bit start to walk to the path that cuts over to campus. A girl came first, but right behind her, a guy (her boyfriend, it turns out) ran up. He playfully knocked her down into the snow and laughed and laid there for a moment, then got up and walked together. It was very sweet.

Lovely little moments in an otherwise gray day.

Wednesday, February 12, 2014


What else is there to say about all this freakin' snow??? We have already closed for tomorrow and I am thinking Friday won't happen either.

But I am trying to be less stressed and less depressed about all of this than I have been in the past. And, much to my students' chagrin, I am sure, I have already emailed them a detailed assignment to make up for the class we'll miss tomorrow.

A long to-do list might save me from cabin fever and winter despair. Ha!

Simply awesome

12 February 2014: You know I don't care much for football, but here's a football related post I can support. Watch this clip. It's the best thing I've seen today--and I am very thankful to live in a world where a old white guy from Dallas can speak out in support of a black gay athlete and do so while quoting Audre Lord. Amazing.

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

"The Quiet World"

2 February 2014: Today, I am thankful for this poem.

"The Quiet World"
Jeffrey McDaniel

In an effort to get people to look
into each other’s eyes more,
and also to appease the mutes,
the government has decided
to allot each person exactly one hundred   
and sixty-seven words, per day.

When the phone rings, I put it to my ear   
without saying hello. In the restaurant   
I point at chicken noodle soup.
I am adjusting well to the new way.

Late at night, I call my long distance lover,   
proudly say I only used fifty-nine today.   
I saved the rest for you.

When she doesn’t respond,
I know she’s used up all her words,   
so I slowly whisper I love you
thirty-two and a third times.
After that, we just sit on the line   
and listen to each other breathe.

Birthday wishes...

10 February 2014: (A bit late in posting, again!) Today's "year of thanks" posting is pretty easy: it's my sister Tara's birthday. She is one of the coolest, bravest, most amazing people that I know. I am so thankful for her.

Sunday, February 9, 2014

Snowy walk...

9 February 2014: Most people know how much I hate snow--at least when it disrupts my normal routine. And because it's been a long few weeks with so much cold weather and so much wintery precipitation, these days, I am not alone. Today, though, I went out for a walk before the latest round of snow had gotten started.  By the time I turned onto my street and was almost home, it really did start coming down. No stress. Nowhere I had to be. I just walked and watched it come down. For those last couple of blocks, it really was quite beautiful.

"A Life That's Good"

8 February 2014: Yesterday I downloaded a copy of this song. I love the way these girls sing and this song just makes me happy--a nice, quiet kind of happy. I needed that yesterday. Give it a listen. The words are really simple and beautiful. (And this video clip features the amazing Connie Britton.)

Avenue Q

7 February 2014: Saw a great production of Avenue Q on campus on Friday. I hadn't seen it before and found it fun, weirdly moving, and ridiculous. That's a great combination in my book. These kinds of opportunities are a pretty cool aspect of my job and living in a university town.

Thursday, February 6, 2014

Electrical problems...

6 February 2014: So, a bunch of outlets in my kitchen stopped working on Sunday. After trying to fix them on my own, (consulting the fuse box, clicking various buttons on outlets), I called an electrician, who tried to talk me through fixing them over the phone. That didn't work, so he came out for a service call this morning. As I suspected, he fixed the problem in about 30 seconds by pressing the button I had been pressing. Apparently I wasn't pressing it right. Sigh. (I had a feeling...)

And, of course, he had to charge me for the call. I get it--I knew he would. It's not like he didn't try to talk me through the "free solution" on the phone. So...that was one expensive button-push.

But I am choosing to make this my "year of thanks" thing for the day because A) it made me laugh out loud (and made the electrician laugh, too), B)  I do have the money--something I am so grateful for and, C) I was also prepared for it to be something bigger and more expensive. When all is said and done, $67.50 isn't too bad for a lesson learned, a good laugh, and an appreciation for what I have.

"How to Cash in on an English Major"

5 February 2014: (Another late one...) The post's title comes from a presentation my dear friend and colleague Tim has done several times for our English majors, most recently for the groups of students in our senior capstone class. He did the presentation yesterday and, even though I've seen it before, I still enjoy it every time. It's funny, informative, and valuable. And he's so very good at presenting it. As I watched him, I thought how fortunate I am to have him as a colleague and friend. He didn't even hesitate when I asked him to do it again. He's just always there when I need him. That's awesome.

[These posts have been awfully schmaltzy lately, huh? In fact, Tim said to me today, "You are just a big old heart, aren't you?" Sometimes, I guess I am...]

Phone date...

4 February 2014: (A couple of days late with this one!) Got to catch up with my dear friend Heather on Tuesday night. She's all the way in Arkansas and we don't see each other very often, but each time we talk, it's like no time has passed. At the same time, I find myself so impressed at the person she has become as the years have gone by. I mean, she was always terrific, but she seems to get better every year. Her family is dealing with some challenges, but she handles them with such grace and humor. How lucky I am to have her in my life!

Monday, February 3, 2014

An old friend...

3 February 2014: On another snowy day, with even more nasty weather being forecast, it would be easy for me to fall into those familiar winter blues, where I lament being stuck "alone" at home. But this afternoon, I found myself sending a quick email to a friend, someone I have recently reconnected with after falling out of touch for a couple of years. In so many ways, it is like not much time has passed. I am reminded of Thoreau, who tells us "the value of a man is not in his skin, that we should touch him." I have a feeling it will be a long winter, so I appreciate the reminder that even when we are physically alone, we are still connected to the people we care about.


2 February 2014: Football doesn't do much for me...I could go on and on about why. But I did go over a friend's house last night to watch some of the game. Looking back on it today, it is pretty cool that I could have a nice time watching a sport I don't like. That says something about the great group (well, groups, technically) I have here. And I am thankful for that.

Also, check out what I brought: peanut butter football dip. I got the recipe here. It was delicious!

Saturday, February 1, 2014

A clean car...

1 Februrary 2014: Like everyone else around here, I've been driving around in a filthy car (filthy on the outside--I keep "Little Blue Car"* pretty darn clean inside). I stopped by the car wash today and found the line five cars long for the "drive-through." (And all the do-it-yourself stalls were full, too.) So I waited, listening to some of my favorite podcasts, took my turn, and drove home in a shiny clean car. The whole process probably took 30 or 40 minutes, but I didn't mind.

Time to think. Time to do a bit of people-watching. Time to listen to some good stories. The zen experience of watching the car wash do its thing when it was my turn. The satisfaction of having something lovely and clean. All of these are good things.

Not such a good thing? All the nasty weather predicted for this week, including a snow storm which seems to have caught our weather forecasters by surprise. Grumble. And so much for the clean car. Oh well. Focus on the good, right?

*"Little Blue Car" is the only name I've ever come up with for the car. It works quite well.