Saturday, January 30, 2016

Two brilliant pieces (slices?) from The Toast

This one is funny and so very true: "If Josh Hutcherson Were Your Boyfriend."

This one is quietly devastating and so very true: "The Princess and the Pea, If the Pea Were a Small Piece of Mild Criticism."


30 January 2016: I'm working a guest lecture in a friend's class. This poem, by Richard Blanco, is high on my list of texts to include. It's just terrific.

A complete draft

29 January 2016: What a great feeling to have a draft you feel good enough about to send off to a friend to read! Clicking "send" on that email on Friday evening felt so satisfying. It's not done, but we're getting there.

Thursday, January 28, 2016

This face...

28 January 2016: "Don't know if you noticed, but there's a clear issue here in front of me. I'll just sit here and see if you decide to do anything about that."

Wednesday, January 27, 2016

Creeping towards normal...

27 January 2016: Today's good thing is a sure sign that we are on our way back to normal after all that snow. Thanks to a day of abundant sunshine, some friends were able to come over here (the most "in the middle," most shoveled-out location that people could drive/walk to) and we played Pandemic. At one particular moment when I burst out laughing, I couldn't help but say, "I missed you guys!" It's only been a bit over a week since we all hung out, but it felt longer.

Tuesday, January 26, 2016

Sweet freedom!

26 January 2016: The roads are still a mess here and my car ain't going nowhere. But my dear friend (also named Heidi) has a four-wheel drive and picked me up today so we could have lunch. She brought along her kids and had also picked up our friend, Cyd. Trivia was canceled tonight, the university is still closed tomorrow, and who knows when things will get back to normal. But getting out for a bit today sure was nice.

Toni Morrison and Junot Diaz

25 January 2016: Stumbled across this interview (in podcast form) about a week ago. Just got around to listening to it on Monday. It's amazing; made cooking dinner a lot more pleasurable.

Sunday, January 24, 2016

Attempted larceny

Adorable little cat tries to steal cookie. News at 11:00.


24 January 2016: If you had asked me around 2:00 what my "one good thing" post for today would be, I would have been certain that it was this, a photo of my cleared driveway. It ain't easy to move 40.5 inches of snow all by yourself in about two hours, but I did it and I was proud as a peacock. I mean, I wanted to play the Rocky theme.


Then I found out my sister Erin is having another baby, a little girl due in July. That's the good thing for the year.

(Right now they are calling her "Sourdough." They called Krista "Nugget," especially cute since their last name starts with a "Mc." Who doesn't love a Sourdough nugget pretzel? Thus, this post's title) 

Saturday, January 23, 2016

Skyping with the Little Man

23 January 2016: Best part of today? No, it's not the 30+ inches of snow. I mean, that's just obscene. It wasn't the hour and a half of shoveling I did to clear about 1/3 of my driveway, even as the snow kept pouring down. It wasn't the time I was in snow up to my butt, fell over, couldn't figure out how to get up for a moment, and thought, "So this is how I die..."

It was Skyping with Colin up in NY. They are getting walloped, too, though not quite like here. Every story I told him--about the towers of snow, about the untouched roads, even about the fall--either made him laugh or say "Lucky!" It's fun to spend time with a kid, even virtually, and be reminded that this stuff is still joy-inducing for them.

Friday, January 22, 2016

Like chocolate and peanut butter...

22 January 2016: Let me be honest: today was a weird day for me emotionally. We are in the beginning of this awful snowstorm which just bums me out. I managed to teach 3 of my 4 classes today before having to cancel and felt so down about pulling into the garage, thinking, "When am I going to get to get out there again and see people?" But I am doing better than I usually do in these situations. I think part of the reason why is that I had this to listen to while getting ready in the morning and cooking dinner tonight. I love it when two great things come together. So what a treat it was today when Sarah D. Bunting of the awesome and its terrific podcast, Extra Hot Great, was the guest on today's episode of Pop Culture Happy Hour. My two favorite podcasts coming together? Heaven!

Thursday, January 21, 2016

"Loved the opium."

21 January 2016: This post's title comes from one of my student course evaluations from last semester. Evaluations are problematic assessment tools for so many reasons, but for now, they are what we've got at Shepherd. My are never problematic (again, not patting myself on the back--they are flawed mechanisms of evaluation), but I still have some butterflies in the stomach each time they arrive in my mailbox. Silly, I know. Anyway, this time they were completely in line with what they always are, if a bit funnier than usual. My favorite line came from a student in my Victorian Lit. seminar, the line in the post's title. Lots of opium in Victorian Lit., after all. Made me laugh out loud.

Wednesday, January 20, 2016

"Thou ill-formed offspring of my feeble brain..."

20 January 2016: I got to teach some Anne Bradstreet poems in my beloved ENGL 204 classes today. I haven't taught that class in a year and I forgot how much flippin' fun it is to teach her. The post's title comes from one of my favorite lines from her poetry, the first line of "The Author to Her Book." Bradstreet is just so awesome: a woman balancing so many competing identities with skill, humility, humor, and a deep and abiding faith. For me, she puts a very human face on the Puritans. And Lord help my students because on Friday (assuming we have class...stay away, Blizzard of 2016!) we get to my favorite Puritan poet, Edward Taylor. The forecast calls for major geeking out.

"Remarkable messes..."

I just stumbled upon this interview with David Sedaris, focusing mostly on his sister's suicide several years ago. The interviewer, Blake Bailey, also a writer, also had a sibling who committed suicide. The conversation is moving and engrossing and just so worth reading. I found myself nodding as I read, experiencing that surprising desperation to find little moments of connection with people who have been through similar losses. Sedaris's "Now We Are Five" came crashing back into my head right after Ryan died and I still find myself thinking about it in quiet moments. I remember emailing the link to my other siblings and talking with them about it.

Every case is different, but the similarities hit right in the gut. Sedaris's sister, Blake's brother, my brother...messes indeed, but remarkable, too.

Tuesday, January 19, 2016

New 'do

19 January 2016: Today was a productive day on lots of levels. I am especially glad I decided to pop into the salon and get my hair cut. I thought about waiting until next week, but I had this vision of being snowed in and grabbing some scissors in frustration. Anyway, it's done and I think it looks pretty good.


Just ordered an expensive snow shovel from Amazon. Should be here by Thursday. So it probably won't snow on Friday. Sorry everyone.

(But not really...and if it does, at least I'll be prepared.)

Have I mentioned how much I still hate snow?

Monday, January 18, 2016

"Mom Jokes"

18 January 2016: What a fun long weekend it's been! Each day, I spent lots of time with some of my favorite people. Today I was back in Rockville for a bit, having lunch and playing a game at Tim's house. As I drove home, I listened to the latest episode of This American Life. The segment below, featuring the awesome Tig Notaro, made me laugh out loud as I drove.

[For some reason, I can't link to the specific segment--but the Tig segment is Act II. You should listen to Act I, though, too. It's so fascinating--more memorable and important than the rest of the episode. It's just that Act II made me laugh more.]

Brandi Carlile on The Tonight Show

17 January 2016: Sunday's good thing came late in the day--a day full of good things including some productivity in the morning, a walk in the park with my friend Amy and her dog, having some friends over for dinner, Pandemic, and some TV. After everyone left, I found myself walking circles around my downstairs rooms to get my 10,000 steps in. Watching and listening to Brandi Carlile's performance on The Tonight Show as I did so made those last 700 steps or so much more fun and reminded me of hearing her sing the same song when Erin and I saw her in July.

Pretty pastries

16 January 2016: Today's good thing is the pastry on the right, which I enjoyed after seeing Carol  (which was amazing!) with Tim and Kevin. A lovely ending to a perfect afternoon.

Friday, January 15, 2016

"Oops! We're at your door!"

15 January 2016: That moment when you and two other friends just show up at a fourth friend's house on a Friday night when she isn't answering her calls/texts. You're pretty sure she's fine--she just isn't checking her phone--but you want to make sure and you don't want her to miss out on the fun. So you stop by, pulling into her driveway just as she finally texts you back. And she says in that text that what you thought is true--she wishes she could have joined you, but it's probably too late and she's got her pjs on. But you knock on the door anyway. And she protests a bit because she's in her jammies and hasn't cleaned and you laugh and blow off her concerns. And you all charge in and end up playing the game you were planning on playing at her house. And you all have a great time.

And later you realize--when you think about how silly and comfortable you all are with each other--that you all really are good friends.

Thursday, January 14, 2016

A good win

14 January 2016: Our team won trivia tonight (the game got moved from Tuesday to Thursday). Of course, it's always more fun when we win, but I don't usually mind when we lose so long as we did our best. I know that sounds incredibly cheesy, but I really do mean it. I give credit to my Lutheran school upbringing: years of lessons in good sportsmanship and being happy for the other team. It sunk in. But we did win today, in part because we worked out some answers together. I love when that happens.

Wednesday, January 13, 2016

Best Work Husband Ever

13 January 2016: So Tim, my work husband, is amazing. There's no argument here. But today's good thing is an email from him about possible plans to see a movie this weekend. In said message, he identifies not only show times, but the most "civilized" theater, a list of "amazing" restaurants nearby, and even venues for dessert, "should we not like the dessert selections at whatever restaurant we choose." He's a keeper.

Tuesday, January 12, 2016

Walk in the snow

12 January 2016: I am still me--not a fan of the white stuff. But today on my walk, a brief snow squall started up. It was a bit crazy, a bit bewildering, but also quite pretty. I felt like a kid for a bit.

Monday, January 11, 2016

First day of classes

11 January 2016: As I've always said, first days of the semester are fun and awkward, a bit lot a string of first dates. But today was a good day, just like any day I get to teach. One little moment that made me smile: I've got an upperclassman (well, upperclasswoman?) in my core-curriculum (non-major-level) class. She has no reason to be there, or so it seems. She's beyond the 200-level. Her reason? "Well, I needed more credits and I love you." Made me smile. And maybe she'll learn a thing or two. Ha.

Sunday, January 10, 2016

Pardon me, might I have some more?

Won't let me hold her or pet her but will never stop begging for whatever I am eating.


10 January 2016: Today's good thing is one of my favorite ordinary objects--one of my many to-do lists with everything crossed-off. This one is the list I made in mid-December, an ambitious plan of stuff to get done over the break. You can't tell now because, duh, the items are crossed off, but included on here were task ranging from syllabi and course prep to assessment to research projects to reading three books for Common Reading consideration to SSAWW matters. And, as of about 6:00 tonight, they are all done.

The new semester starts tomorrow, which means all kinds of new lists. Off we go!

Saturday, January 9, 2016

"Surprisingly Awesome"

9 January 2016: My name is Heidi and I am a podcast addict. I mean, seriously. But at least they make me smarter (maybe?). Anyway, on my walk today I dove into "Surprisingly Awesome," a fun new podcast on my list. Who knew, for instance, that mold, concrete, and free throws were so interesting? (Actually, I've always been fascinated by free throws...)

"Of All Commandments: Sitting Beside My Neighbor"

"When I scroll through radio stations, I hear Rush Limbaugh arguing that if schools weren’t gun-free 'liberal utopias,' that if more people were armed to the tooth and ready to kill, we’d be safer. It’s redundant and exhausting, at this point, to even argue with what these men are saying. Their argument isn’t safe, it isn’t pro-life, and it doesn’t reflect any kind of Christianity that I’ve ever known."

This piece, where I found the quotation above, speaks to me. Teaching is about relationships, about trust, about working with others to make the world better. This writer gets it--and how sad it is that some people believe guns need to be part of that process.

Sweet return

8 January 2016: [Posting Friday's "good thing" on Saturday--a sign of a busy and good day.] I have lots to choose from for Friday's "good thing," but I am going to go small here. We had our Spring 2016 convocation yesterday, welcoming our new students and kicking off the semester. It's always a fun event, followed by a small reception. As I sipped some really delicious hot chocolate at the reception, surrounded by some of my favorite colleagues, I realized once again how lucky I am.

Thursday, January 7, 2016


7 January 2016: So I know the post title doesn't sound like a good thing, but trust me here--hanging out with some great friends and playing this game is always a good thing. There's so much I love about this game: how you play with each other to beat the game, how it involves planning, debating, and figuring out the best moves, how one set of awesome friends introduced it to me, how I taught another set of friends and got them addicted, too. In short, this game reminds me of a whole lot of what's good in my life lately. 

Wednesday, January 6, 2016

Pictures and notes

6 January 2016: You know what made me smile the most today? These notes and pictures from my niece and nephew.

Here are Olivia's:


The picture is entitled "Christmas Day" and is a pretty accurate depiction of her family room. The note cracks me up. Some highlights: "How did you know I love Taylor Swift? Her perfume is amazing." (Those are actually double underlines.) "My mom likes it to, so I've let her use it a couple of times. Then she talks about how she's reading the book I gave her, even identifying an "interesting character!" These documents are so very Olivia: bright, frenetic, energetic. 

Here are Colin's: 

The picture is careful and controlled, as is his handwriting in the note. It's Colin in document form. The picture also has a title that cracks me up: "Good Life." Awwww...Little Man trying to sound grown up. His note is also great: first he talks about how "it will be interesting to learn about the history of the presidents" in the book I gave him. Then he says, "You would also not believe how cool the light is. There are different colors and it looks like you are underwater! Perfect for a dance party!"

These kids rock.

Tuesday, January 5, 2016

Mid-week movie

5 January 2016: Finally saw Mockingjay: Part II this afternoon with my friend Carrie, who has seen every other movie in the series with me. It was worth the wait.

Monday, January 4, 2016

Rejected pretzels

4 January 2016: Veronica, who still doesn't let me pet her or hold her unless she is absolutely compelled to do so, nevertheless always begs relentlessly for whatever I am eating. In the past, this has included not just traditionally-appealing-to-cats food like chicken or beef, but stuff you wouldn't expect like pretzels, potatoes, and even corn chips. When I really think about this, it makes me a bit sad, realizing that in her early days, she was desperate enough to eat just about anything. So it's cute, but also kind of a bummer.

So today, I was doing some reading, absentmindedly eating some pretzels and sharing small pieces with her, tossing them onto the carpet whenever her head would pop back up and her paw would reach out. About an hour later, when I got up, I saw this trail of pretzel bits on the ground. Apparently she begged (and kept begging), but has decided that she actually doesn't like pretzels, thank you very much.

Looks like she isn't that desperate anymore. And that makes me happy. It's today's good thing.

Sunday, January 3, 2016

"Nothing more significant...than the human Other that one encounters"

3 January 2016: Today's good thing is this terrific interview with Marilynne Robinson. I love her take on why democracy is the best political form: " assumes the sacredness of any other, in a human being. It assumes the direct, very powerful relationship between any human being and God, whether that human being is aware of it or not. It’s a huge investment in respect for other people, because you assume that God respects them, and a huge assertion of their value that society should accommodate."

Saturday, January 2, 2016

"elegies turning into comets"

2 January 2016. Today's good thing: I read these lines from Nathalie Handal's The Republic: "...I know now that distance isn't a broken letter; it's a dazzled heart, elegies turning into comets."

Friday, January 1, 2016

New Year/New Blog Resolution: One Good Thing

A couple of years ago, I tried to do 365 posts (one for each day in 2014) about little things for which I was grateful. I got to about late July and then, well, things fell apart. Since then, my posts overall have been pretty sporadic, but I think I want to give this whole thing another go. My theme this year is even more simple: "one good thing." Each day (or at least, for each day--some might be late), I am going to post about one thing in my day that was good.

Look, the English teacher/lit critic in me realizes that "good" and "thing" aren't very fancy words. I've been thinking about this for a couple of weeks now, but it's what I keep coming back to. I like the simplicity of "good" (Hemingway was onto something, I think) and the vagueness of "thing." I think that will allow me the versatility that was lacking in "year of thanks." For that series, it was kind of hard to find something that was appropriate without also veering full speed into cliche. Lord know I can fall into a sentimental cliche and just luxuriate in it.

I welcome the challenge to spend a moment every day pointing out one good thing that happened to me--just something good that I experienced, that I saw, heard, tasted, touched, or smelled. Life is filled with these moments, even on the worst days. So I'd like to record them. And maybe this will lead me to more blogging about other stuff (posts not on the theme). Who knows?

So here's #1 of, I hope, 365.

1 January 2016: This is an easy one. It's the delicious everything bagel I had this morning at Panera. What made it extra delicious? Sitting across from me in the booth was my best buddy, Jane.