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.