Friday, December 30, 2016

"I told the truth in my sister’s obituary, so that others might choose to live"

30 December 2016: This piece in Washington Post speaks to a truth: when someone dies to suicide, families often don't want to talk about it. But doing so does a disservice to both the lost loved one and others who struggle with depression or addiction or some other mental illness. Silence means more people die. So yeah, this piece is today's good thing, especially this part, which I try to share whenever I can: "Here is the truth: You have value. You have worth. You are loved. Trust the voices of those who love you. Trust the enormous chorus of voices that say only one thing: You matter. Depression lies. We must tell the truth."

Bonus good thing: Believe everything you've heard about Fleabag, the terrific show you can stream on Amazon Prime. I finally watched it all yesterday and today (there are only 6 episodes, all less than 30 minutes). It's hilarious, so well-acted, and ultimately a very profound meditation on grief.

Thursday, December 29, 2016

Blueberry pancakes

29 December 2016: It's quite nice to start the day with two delicious blueberry pancakes from Betty's Restaurant, but it was even nicer to do so while catching up with two of my favorite former students, one of whom is now the city editor at a local paper (moving up so quickly!) and the other who is home for the holidays from her position with AmeriCorps.

Wednesday, December 28, 2016

"The Individualism and Fist-Pumping of George Michael's 'Freedom '90'"

28 December 2016: I've written before about my love for NPR's Linda Holmes--and I do think we'd be friends if we met (does that sound stalker-ish?). She is such a talented writer, especially of course about pop culture and I delight in reading her work. So it is no surprise that this piece on George Michael's "Freedom '90" is just terrific. And today's good thing.

Tuesday, December 27, 2016

A deep bench

27 December 2016: My trivia team was down to just two members for tonight's game--just my friend Amy and I. Everyone else is out of town for the holidays. So I called upon my friends Anna and Josh and they joined us for the night. And having them play with us was delightful. We did pretty well (tied for second place with a bunch of other teams) and, more importantly, just played a fun, relaxing game. And it's good to know our bench of trivia players is a bit deeper than we thought!

Monday, December 26, 2016


26 December 2016: I have always adored George Michael and always loved the heck out of this song. In honor of George, I sang my heart out as I drove back from NY today (even more than usual).

Awkward Family Photos Game

25 December 2016: This game, a gift from Erin and Eric, made a nice Christmas Day even nicer. We had a blast playing it.

As good as we can get...

24 December 2016: Here is the best shot I was able to get of all six grandkids. Like herding cats. But still, we'll call this the day's good thing.

Walking with Dad

23 December 2016: After driving up to NY for the holidays, I was a bit stir crazy on Friday and wanted to get some steps in. So I drove up to the track at the local high school and my dad came along. It had gotten a bit cold that evening, but not too bad and the night was clear and bright. He could only do about three laps, but it was nice to walk with him, just the two of us.

Thursday, December 22, 2016

"A Small Needful Fact"

22 December 2016: Searching for another Ross Gay poem ("Sorrow Is Not My Name") led me to this poem, "A Small Needful Fact," and it stopped me in my tracks. Sometimes when I think about Eric Garner, I think about my brother. They were, at the end of their lives, similar in size and suffering from breathing issues. I remember my mother saying that if Ryan had been held down like that, he might have died, too. And, like so many black men who have recently died in police shootings, my (white, obviously) brother struggled with mental illness and addiction issues. (I am not saying that about Garner.) I wonder if we might have lost him much sooner had he been black, especially when he got into trouble.

And then along comes this poem which tells me something I didn't know about Garner--that he, like my brother, worked in landscaping. He, too, planted things in the earth. I don't know how to tie this all together in some elegant, profound way. I suspect that there isn't a way to do so...something about connection despite differences, but also about the protection that privilege offers... I don't know. But I like this poem for making me think about all of this as I sit here tonight.

Wednesday, December 21, 2016

“The Height to Be Superb Humanity”: Walt Whitman’s Christmas Greeting to a New Democracy

21 December 2016: My former colleague (whose work I've linked to before) does it again with this wonderful piece on Whitman's Christmas poem to Brazil. Whitman has been on my mind even more than usual (which is a lot) these days, so this essay spoke to me. Some highlights:

 And this is perhaps the big nugget of spiritual truth at the center of Whitman’s secular Christmas greeting: Meaningful participation in a self-governing society requires the same things of us that the spiritual Kingdom of God requires: loving our enemies, turning the other cheek, and doing unto others as we would have them do unto us. And it also requires charity, or the belief that our political opponents are, like us, decent human beings doing their best with limited understanding–and not fundamentally flawed human beings who are crazy, stupid, or evil.... other words, love thy political opponents.

All of this runs against the non-superb elements of human nature. But democracy calls us to be better than ordinary. So, too, did the one whose birth we celebrate on Christmas Day. He taught us to reject what was natural, and therefore easy, and to undergo a mighty change of heart. He taught us to seek first the Kingdom of God. And he showed us that the Kingdom of God was within us. And, perhaps most importantly, He taught us that there was no distinction we need to notice between God and other people.

Tuesday, December 20, 2016

Lin-Manuel Miranda reads Oscar Wao

20 December 2016: I had no idea that this happened, but it makes me want to buy the audiobook.

Monday, December 19, 2016

Sunday, December 18, 2016

"The Hilarious World of Depression"

18 December 2016: Just took a long (and cold!) walk through my neighborhood while listening to a what seems to be a great new podcast (which I heard about from "Pop Culture Happy Hour"): "The Hilarious World of Depression." The first episode features "Wait, Wait"'s Peter Sagal. Definitely worth a listen!

Saturday, December 17, 2016

Do you wanna build a snow globe?

17 December 2016: Today's good thing is this super-cool snow globe I made at Anna and Josh's house tonight. That's Jayne from Firefly chilling in there. Pretty darn cool.

"You're Welcome"

16 December 2016: Today's good thing is this catchy song from Moana, which I took Krista to see today.

Thursday, December 15, 2016

American Crime: Season 2

15 December 2016: I am a bit late on getting on the bandwagon and singing the praise of the second season of American Crime, but I am there now, having started watching it a couple of days ago. I am up to episode 8 (out of 10) and I can't look away. It's amazing: powerful, sad, full of tremendous performances. It's a master class on acting. It's a troubling social commentary. It's timely and smart. It's important. Watch it.

Wednesday, December 14, 2016

Jadon and Anias

14 December 2016: I've been following this story since just before the boys were separated. So much about it captivated me: the loving parents and their brave decision, the riskiness of the surgery, the idea that they had never been able to hold their babies and the beauty of them finally being able to do so, the picture of the boys seeing each other for the first time, And now they are taking another step on their journey. It's just beautiful and hopeful and today's good thing.

Tuesday, December 13, 2016


13 December 2016: Look, I don't much care for football, but I loved learning about "Scorigami" on this week's Hang Up and Listen podcast. So much fun!

Monday, December 12, 2016

On the radio...

12 December 2016: Thanks to my neighbor, I got to be on the radio today, talking about Emily Dickinson. Not a bad way to start the day.

Great leap forward?

11 December 2016: It is amazing how many posts I have about the slow, slow, slow progress with Veronica. I mean, she's doing fine in so many ways: happy, healthy, playful, always out and about, follows me around, etc., but she still doesn't let me do much more than a nose bop and she hasn't slept on the bed since the morning I grabbed her and took her to the vet to be spayed (true story).

But when I went to sleep last night (and it counts as today's good thing because it was after midnight), she--out of nowhere--jumped right up when Wesley did and promptly went to sleep between my knees. And she stayed there for hours. I have no idea why or if/when she'll do it again, but that little leap is definitely the good thing for Sunday.

Sunday, December 11, 2016

Peppermint cocoa

10 December 2016: Saturday's good thing was the cup of peppermint cocoa that Jane made for me after we spent the day shopping and just hanging out in Alexandria. It was my first cocoa of the season, which seemed noteworthy and the capper to a fine day with one of my favorite people.

Friday, December 9, 2016

Fall 2016 Grading: Done!!!

9 December 2016: Another semester in the books. This was a strange one, to put it mildly. But also a good one, to continue the string of vague adjectives.

Time for some chair dancing...

Thursday, December 8, 2016


8 December 2016: Today's good thing? An acceptance letter from Appalachian Journal for my Ron Rash article. I have some revisions to do, but man, I am thrilled. This one feels really good.

Wednesday, December 7, 2016

I'll take it?

7 December 2016:

I will confess to never getting into the Harry Potter world, but this comment from an ENGL 101 student's portfolio reflection letter, is a good thing, right? It made me laugh.

Tuesday, December 6, 2016

"EHG 137: Going All In On The Family With This Is Us"

6 December 2017: A new episode of Extra Hot Great is always one of the best things in any day, but this week's episode, which featured a great discussion of This Is Us and of the infamous (crappy, horrible) finale of How I Met Your Mother really hit the spot on a cold and rainy day. I listened to it while I took breaks from grading to do some chores: clean the house, make some chicken soup (yup, looking for nature's medicine at this point...and I had some leftover chicken), balance the checkbook, etc. Always a delight to hear these folks!

Monday, December 5, 2016

Honey-lemon cough drops...

5 December 2016: Yeah, so today's post, combined with this one from a couple of days ago, illustrates a certain recurring theme in my life these past few weeks. I'm on the tail-end (I hope?) of a nasty cold, one that started up less than a week after another departed. Ugh. I barely made it through the final exam I gave today, having to get up every ten minutes (and often much more often) to cough up a lung. The only way I made it through? Lots of water, pacing the hall until I stopped hacking, and a never-ending stream of honey-lemon cough drops. After packages and packages of cherry-flavored drops, I am grateful for the refreshing change.

Doughnut dipping, Part II

4 December 2016: Sunday night brought yet another Midnight Breakfast at Shepherd, the event that kicks off exam week every semester. I was eager to be back at the same station as last semester, dipping doughnuts. And that's where I was, working the fixin' bar. It was, once again, so much fun.

Emily, Amy, and I before the students arrived--ready to go!

Saturday, December 3, 2016


3 December 2016: Today's good thing and (let's hope?) MVP is Robitussin, which I am hoping/praying will get me through this nasty cough/cold, and more importantly, my friend's play tonight. I really want to go and support her, but I am dreading having multiple coughing fits. Here's hoping for an aisle seat, cough drops with wrappers that don't crinkle too much, and medicine that works. So far, so good--the coughing fits are getting a bit less severe and frequent. Time for a new dose!

Cats in bow-ties...

2 December 2016: I am not the kind of person who puts cats in costumes. But once a year, for the Sigma Tau Delta holiday party I host at my house, Bing and Wesley (briefly) done their sparkly red bow-ties. (Bing kind of likes his. Wesley tolerates it, but barely.) Anyway, this year's party was a success. The house was filled with bright, friendly, and gracious young people. Yet another reason to love my job...

Thursday, December 1, 2016

Video of the day....

1 December 2016: Well, this video made my day. It stars, among others, two of my most beloved professors. There's Dr. Hanstedt, who guided me through my first major independent research project and helped me get into grad school, and Dr. Miller, who led my study abroad experience at Oxford. So yeah: they changed my life. And you'll also see the guy who taught my first ever college class at Roanoke: Computer Science 101, which met at 8:00 on MWF. It's hilarious. Go Noke!