Monday, October 31, 2016

"San Junipero"

31 October 2016: My ENGL 301 students are in the process of learning about both deconstruction and queer theory. One of the points we've been discussing is how much overlap there is (naturally) between the two lens. I also just finished watching the "San Junipero"episode of Black Mirror and remembered seeing a headline for a piece I wanted to go back and read after I saw the episode. I am glad I waited to read it (spoilers abound!) and really glad I read it today, when I've been thinking about these two lens. The piece does an excellent job employing both a deconstructive and queer theory reading and it's a pleasure to read.

Sunday, October 30, 2016

"The Loving Legacy"

30 October 2016: The news has been kind of depressing these past few days (weeks, months...), so this piece from The Washington Post, about five interracial couples on the eve of the release of The Loving Story, made me smile.

4:00 p.m.

29 October 2016: Yesterday's good thing was 4:00 p.m., when I pulled into my driveway after a successful Sigma Tau Delta conference and a successful recruiting of docents for the Bodice Project event. These two events--which actually had me needing to be in two places at once that day--were on my mind as two that I just need to get through to catch my breath again, so that moment of getting home was a sweet one.

Pre-conference dinner

28 October 2016: Friday was a packed day, ending with a two-hour shift sitting with some of my best students at the Bodice Project event (the students were serving as docents), followed by last-minute prep for our Sigma Tau Delta conference the next day. In between the docent-ing and the prepping, I took these students--all leaders in Sigma Tau Delta (and the folks who organized this event)--to dinner as a way to thank them. I was tired as all heck at that point, but it was still a lot of fun. These are some impressive, hard-working, and funny young women and we are lucky to have them at Shepherd.

Thursday, October 27, 2016

From prison to bodices...

27 October 2016: What a strangely eclectic day today has been. First, my two co-teachers and I took our Intro to Women's Studies class to the women's prison in Maryland, just as we do every time we teach the class. The trip is so powerful and moving...sobering and memorable. So that's how it started.

Then I came home, graded some papers, and crashed for a bit.

Then it was off to a reception Women for Shepherd University was hosting for our Fall Event: a exhibition of works from The Bodice Project at Popodicon, the president's residence. It was also powerful and moving...sobering and memorable. So that's how today ended (at least the public part of it).

I am not sure which of these two things (the trip or the reception) wins today's "good thing," so maybe I'll cheat a bit and call my weird, amazing, "never-can-tell-what-I'll-be-doing-next" job today's good thing?

A great colleague...

26 October 2016: I have a colleague, Jim, who is one of the most decent and interesting men I've ever met. I've never heard him say a bad thing about anyone and his stories--which include time he spent driving a cab in Chicago in the 60s--are always terrific. But he's not just a talker; he's a fantastic, curious listener. When he asks you questions, you can tell he really wants to know more about you, your life, your ideas. It's good for the self-esteem. Jim and I had lunch yesterday--right smack in the middle of a busy day for both of us--and it was probably the best part of my day.

I say it all the time: my job--my colleagues, my students, my work--is such a blessing and I am so very lucky.

Tuesday, October 25, 2016

Gilmore Girls Trailer

25 October 2016: Another no-brainer for today's good thing. This trailer had me smiling the entire time. I cannot wait.

Monday, October 24, 2016

When Forgiveness Changes the World

24 October 2016: This wonderful piece by my former colleague is absolutely today's good thing.

Some good stuff:

"The main point of both of these stories, as I read them, is that forgiving someone who has done one a great wrong is unnatural. It defies expectations because it defies human nature. Over millions of years, both nature and culture have endowed us with a strict sense of justice where our own interests are concerned. We want the people who have hurt us to suffer, and, the vast majority of the time, our poets gratify our passions. The suitors all die by the hands of Odysseus and Telemachus. Gaston plummets to his death while trying to kill the Beast, Voldemort sort of blows up. The bad guys all get their comeuppance.

Except when they don’t. In the the occasional work of literature like Atsumori, or the story of Joseph, we get a sense of what a rare and wonderful thing true forgiveness can be, both in the seeking and in the granting. When it happens in literature, it frustrates our expectations and forces us to re-examine our tastes–and if we are lucky it makes us better people. When it happens in real life, I suspect, it has the potential to change the world."

Sunday, October 23, 2016

He's just the best...

23 October 2016: Aziz saying what needs to be said.

Saturday, October 22, 2016

"He's just the kindest, most loving boy..."

22 October 2016: I moved to North Carolina in 1999, just around the time the Rae Carruth case was breaking. Since then, I've often thought about the little boy who entered this world in such a violent and sad way. This profile of Chancellor Lee and his extraordinary grandmother, amazed me. What a joyful and determined young man and what a loving and strong grandmother. They provide quite an example for the world.

Hamilton's America

21 October 2016: How could this PBS special not be the day's good thing? It was amazing--such a joy to watch.

Thursday, October 20, 2016

The Witch

20 October 2016: I first saw The Witch when it opened back in March--and enjoyed it very much (though perhaps "enjoy" is the wrong word for such a dark film). I couldn't stop thinking about what a perfect depiction it was of Puritanism taken to its most dramatic extreme and how much it reminded me of two of my favorite American poets: Anne Bradstreet and Edward Taylor.

So when some students and a professor in the History department asked me if we (my students and I) wanted to be a part of an event they had planned for tonight, a screening of the film followed by a discussion, I happily agreed to do my part, offering all of my students extra credit for attending and preparing some remarks beforehand on Puritan literature and the connections I saw in the film. To be honest though, as this day started, I wasn't exactly looking forward to it--it's been a long and busy week. But man, I am glad we planned this darn thing. It went so very well--great audience, great discussion.

Wednesday, October 19, 2016

"Schedule Scramble"

19 October 2016: I've been the faculty sponsor for our department's chapter of Sigma Tau Delta since 2008 and have had the chance to see several cycles of members and leaders move through the ranks. It's always interesting and sometimes even fun to see the ideas that the new folks come up with.

The event these new leaders hosted today--something they called "Schedule Scramble"--really impressed me. Basically, they made a bunch of breakfast food (who doesn't love breakfast for dinner?) and invited students who had questions about building their schedules for next semester to come by, get some dinner, and get some advice.

In the end, there was just as much socializing as advising, but it was still a great success. I stopped in three times over the couple of hours (didn't want to be the teacher in the room who interrupts students being themselves) and each time, it was lovely to see them all having fun. Well done.

Tuesday, October 18, 2016

"Sort Of"

18 October 2016: So it's not an uplifting song, but man, do I love this track. It sort of sweeps me up in its story and emotions. And, at the same time, it calms me down. It came on my iPod this morning just as I was feeling kind of anxious about a project I was working on. It took me away from that moment and gave me the pause I needed.

Nobel Prize Panel

17 October 2016: Last night, I attended a panel discussion of this year's Nobel Prizes. For each prize, a member of the faculty got up and explained who the winners were and why they won. It was terrific and made me appreciate once again the fabulous teachers I work with. I mean, my friend the physicist was able to explain her field's prize in a way I could understand (well, at least sort of understand). So too did the folks in Economics, Biology, Chemistry, Political Science, and (of course) Literature. An excellent event!

Sunday, October 16, 2016

"11 Years of Poetry Out Loud"

16 October 2016: I caught up on the "Poetry Off the Shelf" podcast this morning and found myself charmed by this episode on the Poetry Out Loud project. It's just sweet and fun to hear students recite and talk about reciting poetry.

Science with Jane!

15 October 2016: Hung out with Jane today, which is always the best. We had lunch, stopped by the Renaissance Festival in town, tackled the corn maze at Ridgefield Farm, and then came back home to finally complete an experiment we began planning last year: finding out which version of Reese's holiday products is the most delicious. The hypothesis was that the pumpkins were the best.

 The test materials...

Blind taste-testing... 

Taking notes...

Hypothesis confirmed!!! Pumpkins all the way!

Saturday, October 15, 2016

Caught ya!

14 October 2016: I had suspected that Baby Cat might be occasionally sneaking on the bed between Bing and Wes when they are sleeping up there. The thing is, I was also pretty sure that she was jumping down when I got up there. Yesterday, I got photographic proof...and she's even snuggled up (a bit) against Bing. Yay!

(Please ignore the unmade bed...)

Thursday, October 13, 2016

Push-back from Liberty U students...

13 October 2016: So glad to hear that students at Liberty are pushing back against their hypocritical leadership. Lately the world feels upside-down when it comes to what evangelicals are willing to tolerate, so this feels like a step back towards sanity.

"Desiree's Baby"

12 October 2016: Wednesday was a long and busy day, but like so many others, a good one. One of the highlights was teaching "Desiree's Baby" in my ENGL 204 class. This is probably in my top five of the pieces I teach in this class. It never fails and teaching it is always energizing and exciting. So we'll call this story Wednesday's good thing.

Tuesday, October 11, 2016

Heck of a rant...

11 October 2016: This twitter rant is today's good thing. I see so much that I recognize here--this was me not too many years ago, realizing that I could no longer defend or identify with the part that I used to love.

Monday, October 10, 2016

Sometimes humor really saves you...

Here are some more great ones from last night's debacle.

Sunday, October 9, 2016

Midterm grading: DONE!

9 October 2016: Made it through this stack of grading.

Now heading home to mow the lawn, get some more work done, and get ready for whatever the heck will happen during the debate. But first, some chair dancing.

Happy birthday...

Thinking a lot about this guy today. Wishing I could talk to him, buy him a present, tell him I love him. He would be 42 today.

Canadian Thanksgiving

8 October 2016: After another long day of grading (midterms week, y'all), I found myself enjoying yet another lovely dinner break, this time with some friends/colleagues who invited people over for Canadian Thanksgiving. My Canadian host and his American wife are just wonderful people and this dinner was a perfect extended pause on what has been a crazy couple of weeks.

Kelsey and Emily

7 October 2016: After a long day of grading, the highlight of my Friday was definitely having dinner with Tim and Kelsey and Emily, two of our former students. Emily is now kicking butt as a reporter for the local paper and Kelsey is about to head to California and start a position with AmeriCorps. Quite simply, they are the best. We miss having them around every day, but moving on is what they are supposed to do. (It's one of those wonderful/sad things about this job...the good ones leave, too, but then they go out and make the world better...) Anyway, it's lovely when they keep in touch.

Friday, October 7, 2016

Anthony Ray Hinton

7 October 2016: I have been to a lot of terrific events at Shepherd, but I've never been to an event like the one I attended on Thursday. Anthony Ray Hinton, who spent 30 years on death row for a crime he didn't commit, was like no speaker I'd seen before. I was riveted, as was the entire audience.

Check out this article about his talk--an article written by one of my all-time favorite former students, by the way.

And cheers to Shepherd's Common Reading Program. I am proud to have been a part of this committee since my second year at Shepherd and I continue to be excited by the work we do.

Wednesday, October 5, 2016

Graduation application

5 October 2016: I met today with one of my advisees who has, as I told her, one of my all-time favorite advising stories. Basically, we first met when she was a freshman and a major in another department. She took my ENGL 101 class and did just fine. I do remember thinking she seemed to have a bit of an attitude and seemed kind of angry (often signs of immaturity), but otherwise, she was fine. After that, she (understandably) fell off my radar.

Imagine my surprise when, over a year after I met her in that class, she showed up on my list of new advisees, returning as a student on probation--and one who had now declared an English major. She had, the previous semester, been forced to sit out. Now here's the deal: lots (most?) of the students who return and are on probation...they don't do well. So I was really skeptical.

And I was proven so completely wrong.

Each semester, she took just what she could manage, knew her limits, applied herself...and freakin' killed it. She's been amazing. And today we filled out her graduation application. I love being wrong when it's like this.

Tuesday, October 4, 2016

"Down to the River to Pray"

4 October 2016: Heard this song mentioned on one of my favorite podcasts and then listened to it while walking down by the river today. Quite a nice moment.

Monday, October 3, 2016

That student...

3 October 2016: It is always a pleasure to work with that student--the one who stood out to you from the first day you met her. The one who pushes herself to do even better than you expected. The one whose writing makes you nod your head emphatically, stop and think, and sometimes say "wow" under your breath because she's that good. When that student comes to your office hours to talk about her done-three-days-early midterm essay because she wants to make it even better, that meeting--which will be a blast--is definitely that day's good thing.

Sunday, October 2, 2016

"Wherever Is Your Heart"

2 October 2016: Today's good thing is this Brandi Carlile song, one that got my day off to a good start and helped me get a lot done, some of it work-work, some of it house/yard work, and some of it just relaxing.

Saturday, October 1, 2016

Don't Breathe

1 October 2016: Today was another chilly and rainy day, which isn't great. However, seeing Don't Breathe today with my friend Amy was great, and maybe the gloomy weather (on the first day of October, no less!) added to the effect. It's a heck of a film: disturbing but really ambitious and fascinating.

Reading Emily Dickinson

30 September 2016: I got to participate in a really cool event on Friday night: an annual fundraiser for the Shepherdstown Public Library. It's an evening of poetry and music and I was invited to read Emily Dickinson's poetry. (All of the other readers are actual poets who read their own works.) Honestly, I was a bit nervous before taking the stage, so to speak, which is strange because I speak to big groups all the time. Maybe the difference this time was that these folks had paid good money to be entertained? Once I got going, though, it was a blast. Emily never fails to entertain. What fun!