Friday, July 21, 2017

"Shattering The Blue Velvet Chair"

21 July 2017: “Well, who else is gonna do it?...When I think back to those days I think of this ferment, this activity, in people’s kitchens and living rooms…[They were women who said] ‘We’re not gonna wait. We are going to recognize ourselves and each other.’” –Joan Larkin, in the latest episode of the Poetry Off the Shelf podcast. I blogged about a previous episode here.

Thursday, July 20, 2017

"You've Got to Hide Your Love Away"

20 July 2017:

"Everywhere people stare
Each and every day
I can see them laugh at me
And I hear them say
Hey you've got to hide your love away." --John Lennon, "You've Got to Hide Your Love Away" (though the version I heard today was the fans one by Eddie Vedder)

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Everything is Wonderful

19 July 2017: "Forgiveness is the spine of life." --Esther to Miriam, in Everything is Wonderful, a CATF play I saw today. It's a really fine exploration of forgiveness, redemption, and community.

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

Double-check those figures?

18 July 2017: "Thousands." --my niece, Krista, telling me how many guests she was going to have for her birthday party in November, when she turns 5. Love that optimism!

Monday, July 17, 2017

"The Pool and the Stream"

17 July 2017: “Architecture and its details are in some way all part of biology. Perhaps they are, for instance, like some big salmon or trout. They are not born fully grown; they are not even born in the sea or water where they normally live. They are born hundreds of miles away from their home grounds, where the rivers narrow to tiny streams. Just as it takes time for a speck of fish spawn to mature into a fully-grown fish, so we need time for everything that develops and crystallizes in our world of ideas.” --Alvar Aalto, quoted in this episode of 99% Invisible

I finished listening to this one this morning on my walk. It's a fun and charming episode, connecting modern architecture, swimming pools, and skate boarding. Give it a listen.

Sunday, July 16, 2017

The Big Sick

16 July 2017: “I am completely overwhelmed by you." --Emily to Kumail, in The Big Sick.

Man, did I love this movie! And that line made me swoon a bit because that's what it's like when you are really into someone new, right? (And I am such a softy...) But seriously: see this movie!

Saturday, July 15, 2017

Jane Austen Tea Party

15 July 2017: “You must allow me to tell you how ardently I admire and love you." --Darcy to Elizabeth, Pride and Prejudice

Today my friend Carrie and I led a discussion of Jane Austen at a library fundraiser. The above passage--on lots of people's "favorites" list--came up during the discussion. To tell the truth, I was a bit nervous going into the event, not knowing what to expect. But I should have expected that the people of this cool little town would show up with their A games, and they sure did.

Friday, July 14, 2017

"If We Were Vampires"

14 July 2017:

"If we were vampires and death was a joke
We'd go out on the sidewalk and smoke
Laugh at all the lovers and their plans
I wouldn't feel the need to hold your hand
Maybe time running out is a gift
I'll work hard 'til the end of my shift
And give you every second I can find
And hope it isn't me who's left behind" --Jason Isbell, "If We Were Vampires"

Heard about this song on the latest episode of Mark and Sarah Talk About Songs (the episode is actually about Ben Folds' "The Luckiest") and the hosts' lovely personal reflections on it convinced me to have a listen. It's an absolutely sigh-worthy song even if it makes me a bit (or a lot) envious about relating to it only in an aspirational sense.

Thursday, July 13, 2017

Catching up...

13 July 2017: "I gave a snake a bath." --my friend Bethany, talking about her adventures working at a pet store. That's a sentence I will never say.

Catching up with her tonight put a nice stamp on an otherwise quiet day.

Wednesday, July 12, 2017

"We are not scared..."

12 July 2017: "We are talking about our lives here. When the NRA issues a public call to their constituents inciting violence against people who are constitutionally fighting for their lives, we don’t take that lightly. We know that we are not safe. But we are not scared, either.” --Funmilola Fagbamila, BLM LA

Tuesday, July 11, 2017

"Like Castanets"

11 July 2017:

"Across the Mapocho
Santa Lucia
Barrio Bella vista
San Cristobal
Across the Mapocho
La Moneda
La Casa de Neruda

And on the cable car I climb
Up to the sacred virgin shrine
This city's smothered in the smog
The snippy-snap of wild dogs
Like Castanets" --Bishop Allen, "Like Castanets"

Two Bishop Allen songs in a week? I know...not a lot of variety, but as I find myself plugging away at my portfolio for promotion (to full professor--yikes!), I also found my feet doing some serious bopping and dancing (chair-dancing, of course) as this fun number played in the background--especially once the lyrics above start. It's a perfect little mellow summer song, I think--also perfect for doing sort of mindless yet important paperwork on a hot summer day.

Monday, July 10, 2017

Spider-Man: Homecoming

10 July 2017: "Can't you just be a friendly neighborhood Spider-Man?" --Tony Stark, to Peter Park, in Spider-Man: Homecoming.

I don't normally go for super-hero movies, but I always enjoy Spider-Man films. I was talking with my friend about this today (after we saw the latest one) and I think it's because of who Spider-Man is--just a nerdy kid from Queens...just a "friendly neighborhood Spider-Man," as the cliche explains.

Sunday, July 9, 2017

20th Century Women

9 July 2017: "I thought we were doing just fine, though, just me and you." --Jamie, to Dorothea, his mother, in a very sweet moment in 20th Century Women.

Feeling that usual Sunday-evening malaise coming on, I decided to watch 20th Century Women, about which I had heard so many good things. It's a lovely movie--and yes, Annette Bening deserves so many awards.

Saturday, July 8, 2017

"If you have to be a floor..."

8 July 2017: "If you be a room, be a room where people dance. If you have to be a floor, be a dance floor." --Nate DiMeo, in this lovely yet bittersweet episode of The Memory Palace.

Friday, July 7, 2017

"Butterfly Nets"

7 July 2017:

"Up & up you go
For to steal the secrets of the heavens
Will you share them with me
My bright & brilliant spy?

Should you be blown back
Know that i will always run to greet you
Still surprised to catch you
Every time
Still surprised to catch you
By & by & by & by --" --Bishop Allen, "Butterfly Nets"

Thursday, July 6, 2017

"when you have forgotten Sunday: the love story"

6 July 2017:

"—And when you have forgotten the bright bedclothes on a Wednesday and a Saturday, 
And most especially when you have forgotten Sunday— 
When you have forgotten Sunday halves in bed, 
Or me sitting on the front-room radiator in the limping afternoon 
Looking off down the long street 
To nowhere, 
Hugged by my plain old wrapper of no-expectation 
And nothing-I-have-to-do and I’m-happy-why? 
And if-Monday-never-had-to-come— 
When you have forgotten that, I say, 
And how you swore, if somebody beeped the bell, 
And how my heart played hopscotch if the telephone rang; 
And how we finally went in to Sunday dinner, 
That is to say, went across the front room floor to the ink-spotted table in the southwest corner 
To Sunday dinner, which was always chicken and noodles 
Or chicken and rice 
And salad and rye bread and tea 
And chocolate chip cookies— 
I say, when you have forgotten that, 
When you have forgotten my little presentiment 
That the war would be over before they got to you; 
And how we finally undressed and whipped out the light and flowed into bed, 
And lay loose-limbed for a moment in the week-end 
Bright bedclothes, 
Then gently folded into each other— 
When you have, I say, forgotten all that, 
Then you may tell, 
Then I may believe 
You have forgotten me well." --Gwendolyn Brooks, "when you have forgotten Sunday: the love story"

I heard this poem first thing this morning, listening to this audio version, and kind of took my breath away. You see the ending coming--the title gives it away--but it builds and builds through accretion of detail as this feeling of inevitable loss competes with a sense of hope. The speaker is holding onto the idea that her beloved will not forget these Sundays--she can't imagine that he would--but she's also imagining just that. And the fact that it's a war poem adds more layers of complexity. Stunning.

Wednesday, July 5, 2017


“These are the words that Amanda used. But even at the time none seemed to fully capture the feeling Amanda has about her child and her child’s death. Those feelings were larger than the concepts could contain. They floated in and around her, a great indistinct mass of pleasant and painful sensations.” –Alix Spiegel in the first episode of the latest season of Invisibilia.

This bit comes towards the end of the episode—a fascinating discussion of rethinking the entire idea of emotions—as Alix reflects on a grieving mother’s complex emotions years after the loss of her little child. It also serves as a lovely reminder of what makes language both exciting and limiting. In fact, though I have just started the season today, I think it might be quite interesting to someone interested in deconstruction—the way language creates thought and meaning, etc. 

Tuesday, July 4, 2017

Master of None

4 July 2017: "I don't even know if it's about her. I just--I miss that feeling. When we were together doing all that stuff...I felt really connected to somebody. And it felt good. Now I just feel fucking alone." --Dev to Arnold, in the last episode of Master of None.

Oh man, this season of Master of None was just amazing. I can't say enough about it. Tonight, I finished it up watching the last two episodes, those focusing on Dev's relationship with Francesca. They are sweet, funny, stunningly romantic and heartbreaking. What a great example of art that is so very specific yet, through that specificity, taps into something universal. The way the tension builds and builds in the penultimate episode but doesn't resolve...that's life, isn't it? And Dev making lists in the finale to help him get over her? Well, as a compulsive list-maker, let's just say I could relate.

Apparently, Aziz says they might be done with this series. If they are, I get it. I am just grateful for the 20 episodes we got, especially these last ten.

Monday, July 3, 2017

Firefly therapy...

3 July 2017:

"When I saw you standing there on the street
I found myself by your side
I started wanting you again
There's just no way to hide from that old
Loving You feeling again
It's really got me reeling again
It only seems to stop to start all over again with you." --Roy Orbison and Emmylou Harris, "That Lovin' You Feeling Again"

Feeling a bit out of sorts tonight, so I sat outside as it cooled down, watching fireflies, listening to my iPod, and just thinking. Emmylou's music, particularly her duets, kind of hit the spot.

Sunday, July 2, 2017

"It is so beautifully written, it sings itself"

2 July 2017:

"The song opens with the line 'I may not always love you.'

Forget for a moment the audacity of beginning a love song with that phrase. Consider what it means when hitched to what follows:

I may not always love you,
But long as there are stars above you,
You’ll never need to doubt it.
I’ll make you so sure about it.

We see two people here, together, at this moment and what they have is profound, and as long as the universe exists, whether or not they remain together, she will know the depth and strength of his love.

Why? Because he needs her...

'God Only Knows' is, at the same time, a mature proclamation of love and another desperate plea. And it’s a distillation of what much of Pet Sounds is about: the sense that if we surrender to an all-consuming love, we will never be able to live without it. And, though we’re uncertain that the reward is worth the risk, we yearn to surrender."

Today's entry is a combo listening/reading post, I guess. I was feeling Sunday-afternoon-serious-and-contemplative and stumbled across this perfect close reading of one of my favorite songs. I remember as a kid, the first time I actually thought about that first line and went "huh?" And then I listened more closely and admired the turn it takes, even if (as a kid) I didn't quite get it. I think the piece's writer has got it here: it seems so foolish to hope for/in love, but we kind of can't help ourselves and just want to risk it and beat those odds.

Saturday, July 1, 2017

Blueberry picking...

1 July 2017: "This is fun." --my friend's daughter, while we were blueberry picking earlier today. It is really nice to have some kids around every once in awhile, especially cool kids like my friend's. They help you see things anew, you know?

Friday, June 30, 2017

Took me a second...

30 June 2017: "My grand re-debut to Mikey was like Simone Biles trying to ride a roller coaster after the park closed. Too little, too late." --Titus in the final episode of the latest season of Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt.

Took me a second to get it, but when I did, I burst out laughing. Now it's onto the latest season of Master of None, which I have been saving as a treat. Since I finished everything on my "May/June To-Do List" a week early, thank you very much, I think I have earned it. (Don't ask me why I waited until today to reward myself...)

Thursday, June 29, 2017


29 June 2017: "That night, he had lain down next to her, and in the dark had told her that this was love, if love there was—having the courage to abandon the present for a future that one could only imagine. He had assured her that her husband loved her." --Edwidge Danticat, "Seven"

Finally let myself listen to this episode of the New Yorker Fiction Podcast, Junot Diaz reading Danticat's story. I had read it before--back when I read The Dew Breaker for the first time--but it felt even more resonant today, hearing it again as the evil travel ban goes into effect and this video is making the rounds.

Wednesday, June 28, 2017

"New Slang"

28 June 2017:

"And if you took to me like
A gull takes to the wind
I'd've jumped from my tree
And I'd've danced like the king of the eyesores
And the rest of our lives would've fared well" --The Shins, "New Slang"

Heard this one today after not hearing it in a while. Just digging how smart the lyrics are.

[Two song postings in a row...sorry...]

Tuesday, June 27, 2017


27 June 2017:

"Set me free, leave me be
I don't want to fall another moment into your gravity
Here I am, and I stand
So tall, just the way I'm supposed to be
But you're on to me and all over me" --Sara Bareilles, "Gravity"

A good day overall, but man, this song gets to me and makes me feel stuff. And Pandora seems to think that I need to hear it all the time, so I guess it can work for today's "listening" entry.

Monday, June 26, 2017

"What I Have"

26 June 2017:

"At lunchtime a woman famous for her ability
to praise the ineffable
                      says she can’t believe anyone returns
to where they came from.
            But of course they do. In fact
some do nothing else. & what is it they leave behind?
            Perhaps not the meaning of time,
but the time of meaning, & the fact that whatever
happens, tomorrow
                      will change it." --Seth Abramson, from "What I Have" (audio here)

Sunday, June 25, 2017

Isla's Baptism

25 June 2017: " Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? Yet not one of them will fall to the ground outside your Father’s care. And even the very hairs of your head are all numbered. So don’t be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows." --Matthew 10: 29-31

Little Isla was baptized today and I had the honor of standing up as her godmother. This line from the Gospel reading stood out to me, especially in the context of the entire chapter, where Jesus sends the disciples out. He is telling them that their work will be hard and even dangerous, but that they will be okay, even if they lose their lives. Very powerful words and big, deep thoughts on the day I stood up and promised to help this child live a Christian life.

Saturday, June 24, 2017

Desire Paths...

24 June 2017: "As the name suggests, desire paths are these unplanned paths that people really wanna take and they are shaped by repeated use." --Kurt Kohlstedt talking to Roman Mars on this episode of 99% Invisible.

I never knew these things had a name, so I was thrilled to hear that they do--and that it is such an awesome name. Stick around for the hosts' discussion ow what desire paths can teach us about design.

By the way, I blogged about a desire path way back in 2011.

Friday, June 23, 2017

Playing House is back!

23 June 2017: "Hotel spaghetti in a white blazer? This woman is fearless!" --Emma in the second episode of the new season of Playing House.

This show, which celebrates female friendships, is so great. More people need to watch it and appreciate its hilarious brilliance.

Thursday, June 22, 2017

Keep talking about it...

22 June 2017: “I told him [my son], ‘Your uncle had a brain disease…and it killed him,” because I wanted to protect my five-year-old, but I also wanted to tell the truth…And I thought, ‘People need to talk about this,’ and I’ve been trying to talk about it in any venue I could find since.” –John Moe, in this episode of The Hilarious World of Depression, a discussion with Ana Marie Cox.

I've already blogged about this podcast before, but until this episode, I didn't realize that the host also lost a brother to addiction, mental illness, and suicide. It is (almost) always strangely comforting when hear someone else say these things, especially about the need to keep talking about it.

Bonus "listening" thing: the first segment of this episode of Nancy (though the second segment is fun and also worth listening to). In it, a classroom of third graders reach out to Gavin Grimm, sending him their love and support. It had me tearing up as I took my walk today, filled with hope for our future if these kids are even a bit representative of their generation.

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Summer Grading: DONE!

21 June 2017:

"It just takes some time
Little girl, you're in the middle of the ride
Everything, everything will be just fine
Everything, everything will be all right" --Jimmy Eat World, "The Middle"

Just clicked submit on those final grades! Always feels good and the fact that this silly but fun little song came on made me smile as I commenced some chair-dancing.

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

"Why do we do this?"

20 June 2017:

“These books are so stupid.”

“Is that just dawning on you? This whole process is stupid! Why are we sat in the dark? What’s happening?”

“Why do we do this? It’s so weird, isn’t it?”

“It’s such a waste of everyone’s potential! Think what we could be doing!”

“It’s like normalized behavior now. It’s just what we do. Why can’t you just come around for dinner like a normal friend?”

–Jamie, Alice, and James, in perhaps my favorite exchange from this week’s episode of My Dad Wrote a Porno. These three just kill me every week, but I especially loved this exchange because they are having so much fun laughing about the whole endeavor and you get such a sense of their friendship.

I spend a large part of my day laughing with folks I consider friends. Any day you can say that is a good day.

Monday, June 19, 2017

Parent sessions...

19 June 2017: "It's hard...I tell her, 'You have to go. You are ready.'" --the mom of one of our incoming students, during the parent session of today's Advising and Registration activities.

I always tell parents in these sessions that I can't imagine what it's like to send your kids to college. You spend 17 or 18 years making sure that kid has what he or she needs and then you have to let go in a kind of major way. I mean, even the most hands-off parent must feel strange about it, whether their kid is super-excited to go or not. (Same goes for the parents' levels of excitement...or if they've had other kids go to college already. It must always feel significant.)

But if your child is shy or scared or has some special needs, it must be...a lot for you. So I always try to give voice to those emotions, admitting that I can't understand it completely, not having kids myself. But I do know what to do to help their kids succeed and I do my best to help them help me do it.

This group--Session C (the third of four)--is a small one for me: only three students, one in Communications, one in Spanish, and one in English. But they seem great: focused, smart, and friendly. Tomorrow (the day we build schedules) should go well.

Sunday, June 18, 2017

Father's Day...

18 June 2017: "I'm just sitting here with Sug, reading the paper." --my dad's update on his afternoon.

Happy Father's Day to my dad, a pretty great guy who absolutely deserves to spend some time in the AC, reading and hanging out with the dog. In some of the best ways, he's a simple guy and I'd like to think that I inherited a few of those traits. (You know, organized and a bit fastidious, more introspective than not, careful with my money, having my stuff arranged just so, fond of reading and black raspberry ice-cream and running errands for the satisfaction of getting them off the list of things to do...and some other stuff, too.)

As I check in on Facebook today, I see lots of people posting tributes to their dads and their children's fathers. But I also see a couple of friends posting on this first Father's Day without their dads. I know how lucky I am to still have mine and to get to hear his quiet little updates about his day.

Saturday, June 17, 2017

It's still got it...

17 June 2017: "Welcome to the Litchfield Community Library..." --Brooke to some of the other prisoners, showing them her tribute to to Poussey, in season 5, episode 7 of Orange is the New Black.

Okay: so this line was designed to make people like me get emotional and it worked, but overall, 7 episodes into this season, I am really loving it. ("Enjoying" isn't always the right word, since some of it is pretty dark...)

Friday, June 16, 2017

Wynonna Earp

16 June 2017: "That's wonderful...Can you teach me how to use voicemail?" --Doc, to Jeremy, on this week's episode of Wynonna Earp. This fun and silly show has been nice surprise, with Buffy-like plots and laughs--and some really attractive people. It's fluffy and kind of stupid (in a good way) and a nice way to spend an hour on an otherwise quiet Friday night.

Thursday, June 15, 2017

"Real Fine Place"

15 June 2017:

"Somethin' is goin' on
I can't explain but sure can touch.
It's callin' both of us,
Stronger than any fear or doubt,
It's changin' everything I see,
It's changin' you, it's changin' me." --Sara Evans, "Real Fine Place"

I hadn't heard this song in years, I think, until I heard it again today while driving. (It's such a great driving song!) It hit me right in the middle of a pretty good day, so I thought it was worth being the subject of today's "listening" post. It's that good kind of nostalgic for me, especially since it's embedded in a hopeful and fun song about looking towards the future.

Wednesday, June 14, 2017

"Interpreter of Maladies"

14 June 2017: "Mine is probably 'Interpreter of Maladies,' because that guy was so ridiculous..." --a student in my class today, in response to my asking which of the stories in Lahiri's collection was her favorite.

I loved this response because, though it doesn't make much sense out of context, it speaks to what makes this story--and the entire collection--so strong. The characters are frustrating, fallible, and so completely real and recognizable. Think about it: to say that a story with a "ridiculous" main character is your favorite means that you understand that ridiculousness--that it is familiar and memorable.

Tuesday, June 13, 2017

Birthday boy...

13 June 2017: "It feels like 1996." --my brother Christian today, as we talked on the phone today about the amazing season the Yankees are having, particularly the young talent who are just amazing the heck out of us.

Today's "listening" post incorporates two of my favorite things: baseball and my brother, who celebrated his birthday today.

Monday, June 12, 2017

"Everything Changed..."

12 June 2017: "It was like a different form of family. It was like a chosen family." --a patron of the Pulse Nightclub, being interviewed for this episode of Nancy, describing what made that place so special to him and so many others. It's been a year since the shooting...seems like less time, in some ways. But this comment just got to me: this was a place where people felt at home, comfortable, maybe even safe. And then it was shattered. We should keep listening to these stories...the stories of these lives forever changed that day.

Sunday, June 11, 2017

Now she tells me...

11 June 2017: "Yeah. And I am afraid of heights." --my friend Amy, about 8 feet in the air on a precarious ladder, helping me clean a bird's nest out of my dryer vent. This encapsulates pretty darn well what kind of person she is: waiting until she's up there to admit that she wishes she weren't. She's just so's astounding.

But it also reminds me that I need to ask more questions and listen a bit better for clues before my friends go out of their way to help me. After all, I am so very blessed to have amazing friends and I ought to be mindful not to take them or their generosity for granted.

We did get the nest out (not much a nest--made mostly out of dryer lint, we think and no eggs or baby birds) and get the vent cover back on, though the bird keeps coming back and trying to get through the duct tape we used to seal it the edges. (I voted for efficiency over aesthetics, at least for now.) But for most of the rest of our work, I tried to be the one on the ladder.

Saturday, June 10, 2017

Orphan Black Season 5

10 June 2017: "Is that the emergency loon call?" --Donnie, on Orphan Black.

Orphan Black's final season premiered tonight and it's so nice to have it back. I still have a hard time keeping track of the mythology sometimes, but Tatiana Maslany is just a goddess. And Donnie, married to the best clone, always makes me laugh.

Friday, June 9, 2017

"When To Break Up With Culture And Advice With Mallory Ortberg"

9 June 2017: "When you watch soap operas, it will make you forgive decline and shark-jumping... Soap operas basically come in on a shark." --Audie Cornish, on Pop Culture Happy Hour, discussing sticking with a piece of entertainment versus quitting.

Though it doesn't follow the usual episode format, this episode of Pop Culture Happy Hour is pretty darn terrific, featuring both the wonderful Audie Cornish and the amazing Mallory Ortberg. Give it a listen.

Thursday, June 8, 2017

Off it goes!

8 June 2017: "All done." --my friend Amy today, as she hit the button submitting the final version of our article, accepted for publication in Feminist Teacher.

Always a sweet moment to hit "send" on that final version of a publication, but this one--in a great journal, on a topic I really love, written with a fantastic colleague and friend--is a different flavor of sweet. And working with someone else like this--when writing is so often a solitary activity for me--involved so much listening, so today's post really hits this year's theme.

Wednesday, June 7, 2017

Bing in quarantine!

7 June 2017: "Anytime there's a cat bite, I prescribe antibiotics, even without this redness." --the doctor I saw today at urgent care.

So remember yesterday's "happy" post, which had a throw-away comment about Bing biting me? Well, that bite got kind of nasty looking over the past 24 hours and some friends convinced me to go to urgent care. This launched a whole series of consequences, including a visit from animal control and Bing under (home) quarantine for the next ten days. But the good thing is that I got some medicine and I learned (again) to be a bit aggressive with these things. And my hand is all wrapped up, which sometimes looks bad-ass to me--until I remember that it's from a silly cat bite.

Tuesday, June 6, 2017


6 June 2017:

"I think the universe is on my side
Heaven and Earth have finally aligned
Days are good and that's they way it should be" --Echosmith, "Bright"

A couple of good days around here, I think: an accepted publication, a successful advising and registration session, and just some other stuff that makes me happy. And this song, which just came on, had actually been running through my head, so it will work just fine for today's entry.

My good mood is even pushing me through a literally painful experience I just finished...Bing misbehaved quite a bit at the vet, including biting the heck out of my hand, something he's never done before. I don't think the vet tech realized how bad it was because I played it tough. Ha. But he got his shots and all still seems pretty healthy. (There was an attempt to do blood work, but they gave up, so let's just hope it's all okay...)

Monday, June 5, 2017

Let the Dead Bury Their Dead

5 June 2017: "I just don't understand what we're supposed to do with they all fit together..." --a student in my ENGL 355 class today, opening up our last day of discussing Randall Kenan's Let the Dead Bury Their Dead.

Let the Dead Bury Their Dead might be the most difficult text we read in ENGL 355. It's dark and disturbing at times, full of different voices and styles. And these interconnected stories of the fictional town Kenan creates operate one way individually, but other ways in conversation with one another. But how they connect and what we are supposed to do with those connections...I always have a hard time articulating it. So I was glad that this student made explicit what is so difficult about this work. It led us to keep working on coming up with answers during class...I think we got somewhere, but even if we didn't, the attempts were fun and rewarding.

Sunday, June 4, 2017

Bangka Island Massacre

4 June 2017: "Chin up girls. I'm proud of you and I love you all." --Matron Irene Drummond, to the 21 nurses she supervised, right before all were killed in the Bangka Island Massacre.

I had never heard of this event, or of Vivian Bullwinkle, the surviving nurse, subject of one of the recent "Six Impossible Episodes" of Stuff You Missed in History Class, but I sure am glad to have heard of her and Drummond. You really should listen to the episode and the way that the host's voice pauses with emotion as she shares Drummond's words (about 18 1/2 minutes in). And what amazing words they were--words of love and encouragement and support to these women as they walked to their deaths. It's one of those stories that gives you hope even as it devastates you.

Saturday, June 3, 2017

Wonder Woman

3 June 2017: "You should be honored!" --Wonder Woman, the first time she has ice cream, to the vendor who sells it.

What a fun movie this was--and I don't usually go for these sorts of films. But this silly line quoted above actually captures some of what I liked about it: the gorgeous and captivating Gal Godot kicked some serious butt, but also played "newcomer to this world" scenes in such sweet ways. Even the romance had me swooning a bit. Fun stuff.

Friday, June 2, 2017

Happy hour with crayons...

2 June 2017: "Ummm...we prefer 'gay-liens,' thank you!" --my friend Jonathan, joking about what to call the gay aliens we added to a picture we were drawing at a local bar tonight. Other highlights included an orange cat roasting a marshmallow, a squirrel drinking wine, an escaping handmaid, and a Ghost of Shepherdstown. Trust me: they all make sense.

Our friends Mark and Erin are moving (sad!), so we were saying good-bye to them. Erin suggested using the crayons to make them a drawing for their new refrigerator and we were happy to comply. Yes, I realize this all sounds ridiculous and silly, but it sure was fun.

Thursday, June 1, 2017

More on The Handmaid's Tale

1 June 2017: “If this is a story I’m telling, I must be telling it to someone. There’s always someone, even when there’s no one.” --June, in episode 8 of The Handmaid's Tale.

Though some episodes are better than others, this show continues to give me so much to think about. Right now I keep thinking over this interesting comment on storytelling and audience--who June imagines herself talking to and why...

Wednesday, May 31, 2017

More on Cover Stories

31 May 2017: "The Pearl Jam performance of 'Again Today,' it's just got such an urgency to it. It says that complacency will catch up with us. There's a new urgency to it because they did it in the style of The Ramones. It was like a power ballad before, when I did it, and now it's so fast and such a call to arms. That's a potent performance that reminds me of why we made the record in this way." --Brandi Carlile talking about one of my favorite tracks on this terrific album.

Listen to the whole interview with Brandi here.

Tuesday, May 30, 2017

"The Human Voice"

30 May 2017: "So I say 'Sir or Madam' to the baby, 'What is your opinion of the human species?' Well what does a baby do? Baby starts giggling! I say, 'Thank God for the sound of a human voice!'" --Studs Terkel in a StoryCorps interview.

Monday, May 29, 2017

It's back!

29 May 2017: "So yeah: the world is in turmoil. I think we can all safely say that's true. But one shining light is Belinda." --Jamie, one of the wonderful hosts of My Dad Wrote a Porno, opening up the new season.

One of my absolute favorite podcasts is back, as hilarious and filthy as ever. And as silly as it sounds, Jamie is right: this brilliant little show always raises my spirits.

Good Cop, Bad Cop

28 May 2017: "Girl, get you a gun!" --my friend Hannah, giving me advice as we played a new game, Good Cop, Bad Cop.

Another day, another fun get-together, this time at Tim's house. We were there basically all day long and could have stayed even longer, if not for a long-ish drive home.

Saturday night cook-out...

27 May 2017: "My ants tasted like chocolate..." --my friend Adam, participating in a strange and hilarious conversation about eating bugs (both accidentally and on purpose).

On Saturday night, I hosted a get-together for some former students/current friends, some of whom I haven't seen in quite a while. Though the weather didn't cooperate completely, it a nice night and a lovely reminder of how lucky I've been to have so many wonderful people in my life.

Friday, May 26, 2017

"Just Breathe"

26 May 2017:
"Yes I understand that every life must end, uh-huh
As we sit alone, I know someday we must go, uh-huh
Oh I'm a lucky man to count on both hands the ones I love
Some folks just have one, yeah others they've got none
Stay with me...
Let's just breathe..." --Pearl Jam, "Just Breathe"

A quiet day so far, more or less: running errands, doing laundry, doing some writing (that part going a bit more slowly than I might like...), and just doing a lot of thinking. This song works.

Thursday, May 25, 2017

The Souls of Black Folks and Modernism

25 May 2017: "I know it's a bit early, but I kept thinking you can see Modernism at work here." --a student in my class this morning, making a pretty cool connection between DuBois's The Souls of Black Folk and Modernism. I hadn't thought about this before--I'm used to thinking of the text as Realist--but so appreciated this way of seeing it. After all, consider the ways DuBois blends genres and incorporates both the personal and the academic.

Wednesday, May 24, 2017

Manchester aftermath..

24 May 2017: "They want to divide us, don't they? They want us to turn on our neighbors. Won't ever happen." --Ian, a man from Manchester, outside a blood donation center.

Watch the whole thing. I love that he is angry, but it's a good kind of anger--fierce, determined, and fueled by love, not fear.

Tuesday, May 23, 2017

Summer school's in session...

23 May 2017: "I just keep thinking about Thomas Jefferson and how much worse his actions look in this light..." --a student in my ENGL 355: American Ethnic Literature class this morning.

We were discussing Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl, specifically Dr. Flint, in my opinion one of the greatest and most interesting (and I don't mean that with admiration) villains in American literature. But I hadn't had a student make this connection to Jefferson before. I could see where he was coming from: Jacobs's text shows us just how trapped a female slave was by her master--how little control she had over her own life, her own body, her future. You feel that pain and horror when you read her book. And then you think about Jefferson, one of the most important and fascinating and complicated figures in our history and realize that he put slaves in similar positions (even if he wasn't as evil, whatever that means)...and it shakes you.

So yeah...two days into the summer session, I'd say it's going well.

Monday, May 22, 2017

"spring song"

22 May 2017:
"the green of Jesus
is breaking the ground
and the sweet
smell of delicious Jesus
is opening the house and
the dance of Jesus music
has hold of the air and
the world is turning
in the body of Jesus and
the future is possible" --Lucille Clifton, "Spring Song"

Love Lucille Clifton. This poem, though, was new to me until I heard it today on the Poem of the Day podcast. What a treat!

Sunday, May 21, 2017

"The Mighty Atom"

21 May 2017: "And when it was over, there were 18 American Nazis on their way to the hospital and there was one Jewish-American walking home with only a black eye and holding a baseball bat, a Hank Greenberg signature model Louisville Slugger." --Nate DiMeo on the latest episode of the Memory Palace, delivering a heck of a story about "The Mighty Atom," who punched lots of Nazis (in self-defense, it must be noted). The Memory Palace is always great, but I love it when Nate is basically subtweeting on our current historical moment.

Saturday, May 20, 2017

The Handmaid's Tale

20 May 2017: "Nolite te bastardes carborundorum, bitches." --Offred, in episode four of The Handmaid's Tale.

Got all caught up on this amazing show today (having previously watched the first three episodes). It's so good and keeps surprising me in fantastic ways.

Wedding day...

19 May 2017:
"Two are better than one,
because they have a good return for their labor:
If either of them falls down,
one can help the other up." --Ecclesiastes 4: 9-10

My sister read the above passage at my cousin's wedding. Lovely words, lovely bride, lovely service!

Thursday, May 18, 2017

"This is Chance"

18 May 2017: "What is safety anyway? Genie seemed to be conceding that there is only randomness—only chance. And if everything beyond us is chance, maybe the only force we have to survive a world like that is connection. By then, it must have seemed so obvious to her: it’s a good idea to hold on to each other." --Jon Mooallem, part of the recent amazing episode of 99% Invisible. You must listen to it.

Wednesday, May 17, 2017

"Becoming Anne Bradstreet"

17 May 2017:

"We say home truths
Because her words can be at home anywhere—

At the source, at the end and whenever
The book lies open and I am again

An Irish poet watching an English woman
Become an American poet." --Eavan Boland, "Becoming Anne Bradstreet"

This poem, which I heard for the first time today on the Poem of the Day Podcast, does a fine job capturing what makes Bradstreet's poems so powerful. Four hundred years later, her poems speak across time.

Tuesday, May 16, 2017

Keeping track

16 May 2017: "I think they have to be cataloged. Look, every touchdown seems like every other and we catalog those. This is important and it's far more important." --S.L. Price on this week's episode of Hang Up and Listen, talking about his articles on two players from the 1972 Miami Dolphins team who are experiencing cognitive decline.

This was a fascinating interview to listen to. Price's point above struck me as especially poignant. So many football enthusiasts spend so much time studying every little thing during the game, but seem reluctant to spend time on what happens to the players after the game.

Monday, May 15, 2017

An Unofficial Ambassador For Gen Z

15 May 2017: "Feeling as though we don't even choose to intake all of this information, but it just happens. I remember seeing the Philando Castile live stream and not knowing what I was looking at. Somebody had tweeted it and I clicked on it. And just being like, 'Oh, that person is bleeding. Oh wow.' And I just remember that moment of freaking out and not knowing what to do and not knowing how to process what's happening...If you are just now coming of age in which you are an active citizen, how are you just going to be thrown into that world?" --Yara Shahidi, who plays one of the kids on Black-ish, talking on a recent episode of Code Switch about her generation and their response to being inundated with the world's news.

This entire episode is worth listening to--the first part features a conversation with Kenya Barriss--but Shahidi impressed the heck out of me. She's only 17 but so smart and interesting and engaged.

Sunday, May 14, 2017

Just in time...

14 May 2017:

"If I were a flower growing wild and free
All I'd want is you to be my sweet honey bee.
And if I were a tree growing tall and green
All I'd want is you to shade me and be my leaves" --Tristan Prettyman, "All I Want is You"

I was just about to slide into some serious Sunday melancholy and this sweet little song came on, jolting me back into some spring-time optimism.

Saturday, May 13, 2017

"Days and Days"

13 May 2017:

"Don't you come back here
I didn't raise you
To give away your days like me." --"Days and Days" from Fun Home

Today Jane and I saw Fun Home at the National Theater and it was terrific. The song quoted above is one that stood out to me in a new way this time--the idea that this mother wanted her daughter to have a different life, so she pushed her's very powerful.

And, not that it needs repeating, but Jane is the best. I am so lucky to have her in my life.

Friday, May 12, 2017

"Tough Mother"

12 May 2017: "We never say we love you. We expect you to see it through our actions. But I'm learning. When I go away from this life, I want you to remember my love for you. That's all." --a mother on StoryCorps. This one (like so many episodes) got to me--tears in the kitchen as I listened.

Thursday, May 11, 2017

"Let It Be Me"

11 May 2017:
"That's when you need someone,
Someone that you, you can call,
When all your faith is gone,
It feels like you cant go on.
Let it be me." --Ray LaMontagne, "Let It Be Me"

This lovely and dreamy song came on in Panera on this rainy day and just made me sigh.

Wednesday, May 10, 2017

Dramatic Yelp Reviews

10 May 2017: "Looks like there are holes in your story AND your teeth." --Aziz Ansari, doing dramatic readings of Yelp Reviews.

Loved this. Aziz never disappoints.

Tuesday, May 9, 2017

Sweet days of May...

9 May 2017:
"If I could make a wish,
I think I'd pass.
Can't think of anything I need.
No cigarettes, no sleep, no light, no sound,
Nothing to eat, no books to read..." --The Hollies, "The Air That I Breathe"

These days of May--between graduation and the start of summer school--are often some of the sweetest: good weather, a relaxed pace, and just a general sense of all being well, at least for a moment. These past couple days have been especially lovely and this song, which came on today, seemed tone-appropriate.


8 May 2017: "The next one...." --Frank Lloyd Wright, when asked which of his buildings was his favorite.

Yesterday (posting a day late here) I got to do something I've wanted to do for a long time: visit Fallingwater. Amy and I drove up and toured the house, along with some other Wright and Wright-inspired home in the area. Every bit of the trip was wonderful.

Sunday, May 7, 2017

Good bye to some friends...

7 May 2017:
"A bottle of white, a bottle of red
Perhaps a bottle of rose instead
We'll get a table near the street
In our old familiar place
You and I, face to face..." --Billy Joel, "Scenes from an Italian Restaurant"

Today I attended a sort of going away party for a couple of my friend, Mark and Erin.They are heading to Plattsburgh, where Mark has a new job. I've only known them for about two years, but I'll miss them (and their fantastic dinner parties) terribly. Anyway, this old Billy Joel song came on while we all were talking which lead to a fun discussion of favorite Billy Joel songs...then Elton John...then Bruce Springsteen. You get the point.

Saturday, May 6, 2017

Graduation 2017

6 May 2017: "My first piece of advice: choose love." --Jessica Salfia, the speaker at today's Department of Education pinning ceremony, the first ceremony I attended today as part of commencement celebrations. Jessica is a Shepherd grad, English adjunct, and from everything I've heard, a simply amazing teacher. Her words of advice to our graduates who are about to enter the world as teachers were just terrific.

Commencement is such a special day, which I know sounds cheesy, but I guess what I mean is that it's just a day of so many emotions: pride (in our students, our university, and our own hard work), joy (celebrating their achievements, seeing their families), and sadness (I will miss some of these folks so much it hurts). But it also reminds me of something I am lucky to be reminded of so often: I am blessed to have this job. It lets me choose love every day.

Friday, May 5, 2017

Guardians of the Galaxy: Volume 2

5 May 2017: "I don't use my head to fly the arrow boy..." --Yondu, from Guardians of the Galaxy: Volume 2.

What a fun movie! And the line above, without giving anything away...I'll just say that it got to me, but I am, of course, a big old mush inside.

Thursday, May 4, 2017

"Ask a Very Grown Woman"

4 May 2017: "Because even the worst advice from a friend comes with a second message and that's just 'I got your back.'....She had my back. I had hers. Which in the end, of course, is more important than anything." --Ira Glass, remembering his friend, Mary.

I am behind on my This American Life episodes, but found myself quite moved by this one, including the great segment with comedian Chris Gethard and his dad and the fun part in the beginning on the "Ask a Grown" videos. This show gets some flack for being kind of predictable in its tones and structures, but boy, do they do what they do really well.

[I did skip the segment about Trump supporters getting angry with the Dallas journalist because I just couldn't bear to hear from them on a day when this administration is about to celebrate both taking away health care from people and signing a horrifying "religious freedom" order. I know that's not the most healthy response in a democracy, but I need a break.]

Wednesday, May 3, 2017

"A Change of World, Episode 2: Books that Broke Down Barriers"

3 May 2017:

"We are, I am, you are
by cowardice or courage
the one who find our way
back to this scene
carrying a knife, a camera
a book of myths
in which
our names do not appear." --Adrienne Rich, "Diving into the Wreck"

As I took a long walk this morning, I really enjoyed listening to this episode of Poetry Off the Shelf, which features great discussions of Plath, Sexton, Rukeyser, Lorde, and Rich. Something about my mind this morning latched especially onto Rich and this amazing poem. I feel like I get it more and more every time I read it, though "getting it" is ultimately sort of not the point. I guess what I mean is that you are never really going to understand the wreck itself, but that process of diving in and really looking around--that I get more and more.

Tuesday, May 2, 2017

"What I Wouldn't Do"

2 May 2017:

"If we were children I would bake you a mud pie
Warm and brown beneath the sun
Never learned to climb a tree but I would try
Just to show you what I'd done

Oh what I wouldn't do
If I had you, babe, I had you
Oh what I wouldn't do
If I had you, babe

If I were old, my dearest, you would be older
But I would crawl upon your lap
Wrap a blanket 'round our frail little shoulders
And I'd die happily like that

Oh what I wouldn't do
If I had you, babe, I had you
Oh what I wouldn't do
If I had you, babe, if I had you

So lace your hands 'round the small of my back and I will kiss you like a king
I will be your bride, I'll keep you warm at night
I will sing, I will sing

It was now and we were both in the same place
Didn't know how to say the words
With my heart ticking like a bomb in a birdcage
I left before someone got hurt

'Cause it was what I wouldn't do
If I had you, babe, I had you
It was what I wouldn't do
When I had you, babe, when I had you" --A Fine Frenzy, "What I Wouldn't Do"

Quoting the whole thing here because it seems wrong to excerpt it and disrupt the complete little story it tells. Such a sweet sounding song, but with a sad kicker at the end. And for someone like yours truly, who is never very good at making big moves...well, it hits close to home.

Monday, May 1, 2017

Yup...another podcast reference...

1 May 2017: "It allowed me to imagine an adult version of myself, which was huge..." --Sarah, a guest on this episode of the Nancy podcast. I won't give too much away here, but you want to listen to this conversation she has with someone important from her childhood.

Sunday, April 30, 2017

New 'do...

30 April 2017: "High five!" --the little kid getting his hair cut next to me today, thrilled with how his spiky mohawk turned out, giving the stylist some grateful affirmation. This whole process was so cute to watch. He was maybe two or three years old and at first was scared to be in the chair, but some reassurance from his parents and a lollipop from the stylist settled him in. And then as she worked on his hair and he saw it becoming just what he wanted, he got so smiley and confident and happy. I mean, my haircut is pretty good--I like it just fine--but I wish I could feel a fraction of the way that little dude felt as he saw the finished product.

I also like that today's post is about a little kid and yesterday's about someone over 90 years older than that kid. Here I am, in the middle, listening to them both and trying to learn what I can.

Saturday, April 29, 2017

The people you meet...

29 April 2017: "We been together 49 years...He's 98..." --a wonderful and interesting man I met at a Shepherd University Foundation event today, talking about his relationship with his partner.

Meeting this couple--one a retired teacher and the other a retired psychologist--was lovely enough, but to hear that they had met relatively late in the life of the older partner and that they had had so many years together...well, it just made me happy.

Friday, April 28, 2017

Spring 2017 Grading: DONE!

Just entered my last grades! Commence chair dancing: Frank Sinatra, "You Make Me Feel So Young." Off to bounce the moon just like a toy balloon!


Just had a brief conversation with my work husband about the need for a word like “hangry,” but for grading. It took us about a minute to get there. “Grage”: the feeling when the work you are grading fills you with rage. Feel free to use it in a sentence today. Fortunately, I haven’t had much need to use it this week (thank you, dear students!), but folks might want to stay away from Tim for a few hours/days. 

Cover Stories

28 April 2017:

"And I wish I could lay down beside you
When the day is done
And wake up to your face against the morning sun
But like everything I've ever known
You'll disappear someday
So I'll spend my whole life hiding my heart away
And I can't spend my whole life hiding my heart away" --Brandi Carlile, "Hiding My Heart"

I suspect that lines from this new cover album of The Story might be popping up in several posts in the coming days. It's amazing and has got me torn between listening to the covers or the originals on repeat. This morning, though, I am really feeling these lines from "Hiding My Heart." Sigh.

Thursday, April 27, 2017

"Little Garcon"

27 April 2017:

"I don't care where you go
As long as it's with me

& I don't mind just what you do
As long as it's with me, too" --Born Ruffians, "Little Garcon"

Today was just a good day: great weather, some lovely company, lots of productivity, a good, long walk down by the river. And this little song, which always makes me smile, came up as I was sitting here feeling pretty darn good.

Wednesday, April 26, 2017

Ynes Mexia

26 April 2017: “And those plants are still with us—in drawers mostly, herbariums, old museums, the basements of botanical societies—dried and preserved, labeled, meticulously catalogued, glued just so to white pages now yellow with age, like she had learned to do in a classroom at the age of 52. And each one of them—each flower she saw poking out of the dirt and said ‘That one,’ each leaf she had stop on tiptoes to take, each blade of grass she had pulled from the hillside with her fingertips—is a moment in her life and a choice she made.” --Nate DiMeo in this wonderful episode of The Memory Palace.

Every episode of The Memory Palace is a work of art, but this one--about someone I hadn't heard of before who, in Nate's words, didn't have a very dramatic life--is exceptional. It's a profound meditation on age, agency, choice, and the ways we can effect the world. Wonderful.

Tuesday, April 25, 2017


25 April 2017:

Long afterward, Oedipus, old and blinded, walked the
roads.       He smelled a familiar smell.       It was
the Sphinx.       Oedipus said, “I want to ask one question.
Why didn’t I recognize my mother?”        “You gave the
wrong answer,” said the Sphinx.      “But that was what
made everything possible,” said Oedipus.     “No,” she said.
“When I asked, What walks on four legs in the morning,
two at noon, and three in the evening, you answered,
Man.      You didn’t say anything about woman.”
“When you say Man,” said Oedipus, “you include women
too. Everyone knows that.”       She said, “That’s what
you think.”

--Muriel Rukeyser, "Myth"

Listen to the poem here.

Monday, April 24, 2017

"Giving Up"

24 April 2017:

"What if we stop having a ball?
What if the paint chips from the wall?
What if there's always cups in the sink?
Oh what if I'm not what you think I am?
What if I fall further than you?

What if you dream of somebody new?
What if I never let you win,
And chase you with a rolling pin?
Well what if I do?

'Cause I am giving up on making passes and
I am giving up on half empty glasses and
I am giving up on greener grasses
I am giving up" --Ingrid Michaelson, "Giving Up"

I've heard this song a million times before, but never really listened to the words all that closely. Today I finally did. Lovely--a bit of hope hiding in plain sight and sort of perfect for a rainy spring day.

Sunday, April 23, 2017

Colin's First Communion

23 April 2017:

"On the evening of that first day of the week, when the disciples were together, with the doors locked for fear of the Jewish leaders, Jesus came and stood among them and said, 'Peace be with you!' After he said this, he showed them his hands and side. The disciples were overjoyed when they saw the Lord. Again Jesus said, 'Peace be with you! As the Father has sent me, I am sending you.' And with that he breathed on them and said, 'Receive the Holy Spirit. If you forgive anyone’s sins, their sins are forgiven; if you do not forgive them, they are not forgiven.'" --John 20: 19-23.

How wonderful that when Jesus first meets the disciples after the resurrection, as they are hunkered down in fear, he greets them with peace. And then he sends them out to love and forgive. Hearing these words again in church today--and seeing my nephew take his first communion--gave me a lot to think about on my drive back to WV this afternoon/evening.

Saturday, April 22, 2017

"Maps," again

22 April 2017:

"Maps show you what is simple and true
Try laying out a bird’s eye view
Not what he told you, just what you see
What do you know that’s not your dad’s mythology?"

Had to head up to NY today for a super-short visit for my nephew's first communion. Going home can be...emotionally loaded. I often find myself feeling like an angst-ridden teenager again...not a good thing. This song, which I heard as I drove down the Long Island Expressway,--in part about being an adult and trying to find out your own truth--hit the right note today.

(I've already blogged about this song before.)

Friday, April 21, 2017

Looking forward, looking back...

21 April 2017: "I called my friends and I was like, 'This article is really interesting!'" --a student in my ENGL 301 class, reflecting on her experience compiling her annotated bibliography.

The Annotated Bibliography is the big, semester-long project in ENGL 301, introducing them to citation and research. It's a bear: they complete three sets of entries, each with four sources, revise them all, and then hand in the completed version at semester's end. Most of them are easily 20 pages. Again, a bear! But they are proud of those bears.

Anyway, we had our last regular class of the semester today and were done reviewing for the exam with about 15 minutes left. So I asked them if we could talk about the class as a whole--what worked, what they liked, what they would change. Because they are awesome, they were eager to participate. I shared some of my ideas, too. And a lot of the comments were about the Annotated Bibliography. The quotation above reflects a common idea from students: they spend all semester creating these things but don't do much with them beyond that. And they kind of want to do more--they want to make their own arguments with/against/towards these critics. That's awesome.

So we talked what that kind of an assignment would look like, how it could fit into the class (something would have to go to make room for it), etc. It was a terrific discussion and I think I have some good ideas for moving forward.

Thursday, April 20, 2017

Cute little protector...

20 April 2017: "That's my baby sister." --a little boy at Panera today.

This little man spoke up when his baby sister turned around in her high chair and smiled at me. I smiled back, waved, and said, "Hi!" The boy--who couldn't have been more than 5--was "watching" his sister while his mom went to pick up their food at the counter. His adorable comment--he wanted us to know he was in charge of her and that he was proud of the fact--made us (my friend Amy and I) smile. We told him he was doing a very good job watching her and he nodded his head in agreement.

Wednesday, April 19, 2017

When you know it's working...

19 April 2017: "Yes and no. I mean, I finally feel like I know what I am doing..." --a student in my ENGL 301 class, sharing a sentiment his classmates agreed with, in response to me asking if they were sad that today was our last peer review session of the semester.

I like this response because it showed me that--at least for some of them--so much of what we have been working on this semester is clicking. It hasn't been easy (that's the "yes" part of his response--being glad it's done), but that is actually even more validating for me.

I've bragged about this group a lot this semester, but they have been a very strong class overall and I'll miss them.

Tuesday, April 18, 2017

iZombie is back!

18 April 2017: "It's called being supportive. You should try it some time." --Major, on iZombie, really feeling the teenage-girl brain he ate earlier.

Look, I am not even going to pretend that what I wrote above will make a lick of sense to someone who never watched iZombie, but trust me when I tell you that this line--and the entire scene it was a part of--was terrific. Laugh out loud funny. And Major has never been a character that made me laugh before. I actually missed that this show came back, so I had to catch up on the first two episodes on demand, and I am glad I did.

Monday, April 17, 2017

Starting to wrap up the semester...

17 April 2017: "It just felt so...empty." --a student in my ENGL 204 class, reflecting on "Sexy," by Jhumpa Lahiri and how she felt at the end of the piece.

This quotation, a kind of echo of this one from last week, stood out to me after another attempt at trying to teach this story. It's a story I love, but it is really hard to talk about with students because it is so subtle and small (not in a bad way) even as it embraces the world in its symbolic gestures. The next time I teach it, I am going to try to remember what this student said--so simple and true--and see if we can build off that emptiness with which the story leaves u.

Sunday, April 16, 2017


16 April 2017: "What's the prognosis?" --my incredibly precocious four-year-old niece today, while we were playing with her animal hospital kit. She's got quite the vocabulary and always makes me laugh.

Some Easter pictures...

Saturday, April 15, 2017

"The Shape I Found You In"

15 April 2017:

"You were delivered to me
We were closed as the stores on Christmas Eve
So I felt around in the dark
Building rope ladders into your heart
Climbing hand over hand to get in
That's the shape I found you in" --Girlyman, "The Shape I Found You In"

Always loved this song and smiled when it came up on shuffle today. So quietly hopeful and beautiful.

Friday, April 14, 2017

"Ain't No Grave"

14 April 2017:
"Ain't no grave can hold my body down
When I hear that trumpet sound I'm gonna rise right out of the ground
Ain't no grave can hold my body down" --Claude Ely

This episode of the Radio Diaries podcast, about Brother Claude Ely and his music, seemed especially appropriate for Good Friday.

Thursday, April 13, 2017

Wesley at 13

This handsome little guy turned 13 yesterday. He continues to seem more like a kitten than an old dude to me and he continues to be such a blessing in my life. 

In defense of being proactive...

13 April 2017: "They are all on the same track!" --my nurse practitioner today, explaining why all the nodes on the left side of my head and neck are swollen.

I am not one to get sick a lot or go to the doctor before things get bad, but I had a hunch that I ought to go when stuff kept getting and staying swollen (since Monday). And I have this weird bump, painful bump on my head, on the left side, right above my hairline. I kind of figured that the head bump, which felt different and isn't a lymph node was a sort of red herring.

Today everything felt just achy enough to make me get nervous. I called for an appointment and got right in. In about two minutes, the NP diagnosed foliculitis (the bump on my head) which my body is fighting, thus the swollen lymph nodes. One (pretty darn expensive) antibiotic prescription later, and I should be on my way to feeling better.

So I guess today's "listening" post is about listening to two voices: the NP's, who connected the dots of what was going on (I literally said, "Oh! I see!" in response!) and the voice in my head telling me to get checked out.

Wednesday, April 12, 2017

"The Old Chief Mshlanga"

12 April 2017: "It's just so...sad." --a student in my ENGL 301 class, reacting to the ending of Doris Lessing's powerful story in which a young girl realizes the injustice of colonial oppression, but finds herself unable to do anything but watch.

Sometimes I think that as a teacher, especially in ENGL 301 when I am trying to get them to learn theory and practice that theory on a text, I lose sight of the ways a text can move readers. So this student's comment--one instantly echoed by her classmates--was a good reminder not to do that.

Tuesday, April 11, 2017

"Man in Space"

11 April 2017:

"All you have to do is listen to the way a man
sometimes talks to his wife at a table of people
and notice how intent he is on making his point
even though her lower lip is beginning to quiver,

and you will know why the women in science
fiction movies who inhabit a planet of their own
are not pictured making a salad or reading a magazine
when the men from earth arrive in their rocket,

why they are always standing in a semicircle
with their arms folded, their bare legs set apart,
their breasts protected by hard metal disks." --Billy Collins, "Man in Space"

I hadn't heard this poem before, so I was delighted to hear it today while driving home from running errands. Well done, Billy Collins.

Monday, April 10, 2017

Better Call Saul is back...

10 April 2017: "For ten minutes, Chuck didn't hate me. I forgot what that felt like." --Jimmy to Kim, on tonight's premiere episode of the new season of Better Call Saul.

This show breaks your heart again and again, but this line, full of sadness and yearning, just kind of killed me.

Sunday, April 9, 2017

Senior Capstones

9 April 2017: "Only the forest can tolerate such foolishness." --one of our English students, during the Q&A after his senior capstone presentation today.

I liked this comment (about A Midsummer Night's Dream), a bit of silly fun, quite a lot. Of course, we had so many good lines to choose from--there were 21 (!) presentations, all quite successful.

Saturday, April 8, 2017

Three quick good things...

It's been a long and sometimes stressful week. And we are just gearing up for the big, crazy, busy dash towards graduation. So deep breaths and all that... But in the midst of the not-so-great stuff, I want to share three pretty good things...

1) The redbud tree in the backyard, more beautiful this year than ever before. 

2) This pin, given in recognition of my TEN years at Shepherd. TEN YEARS? Wow. 

3) This card, given to me by the two students I took to Louisville last week. They are just terrific and boy, did this make me smile. 

Plan Be

8 April 2017: "Everything that we had planned last year and having to cancel so much--it became like Plan B, right? And then I realized one day, 'Oh, it's actually the word BE. It's Plan Be. Just be.' And somehow...that just helped."

This insight from Rosenthal, shared during a StoryCorps interview with her daughter, just floored me. What a beautiful and poignant insight, especially moving because she is talking about the return of her cancer, a cancer that recently took her life. What an amazing woman. Listen to the entire interview here and follow the links in the article, too.

Friday, April 7, 2017

When you feel a bit a good way...

7 April 2017: "I'm not ready to leave yet!" --a student in my ENGL 301 today. They were working on their final annotated bibliographies. These are massive, semester-long projects--real badges of honor for students once they are completed. I set aside this day of class for them to bring all their stuff (sources, drafts, revisions, laptops) and just work, asking me for help as needed.

And then--to my delight--they really didn't need me that much. They worked diligently on their own and--unprompted--with each other. It was kind of amazing to listen to them talk out questions and issues, offer advice, and help each other out. They hit their grooves and were working so hard that I had to prompt them to leave the room.

I was about to write that I'll miss this group, but then I remembered that I will see most of them in other classes next semester or in the semesters to come. They are a special bunch.

Thursday, April 6, 2017

Farm to Fork & Sustainability

6 April 2017: "If I take care of the land, it takes care of me....These are my people; my farm--I want it to go to these folks." --a local farmer at a presentation I went to tonight on sustainability and farming. I have said this many times, but this is such a special town and community, full of interesting, caring, smart, and creative people. I am very lucky to live here.

Wednesday, April 5, 2017

On Trickster Figures...

5 April 2017: "I'm all for it. Pimp the system. Whatever you gotta do." --a student in my ENGL 301 class, during our discussion of Charles Chesnutt's "Po' Sandy." He was responding to my question about the ethics of the trickster figure in the story, a former slave who uses emotional manipulation to get what he wants from the wealthy white characters.

I find this particular student quite charming. He's from inner city Baltimore and, to put it mildly, he's seen some stuff, so he speaks with a refreshing kind of honesty, as revealed in this comment. He's also the guy who sent me to this song.

And yet another example of students putting things better than I could have put them myself...

Tuesday, April 4, 2017

"I Choose You"

4 April 2017:

"There was a time when I would have believed them
If they told me that you could not come true
Just love's illusion.
But then you found me
And everything changed
And I believe in something again.

My whole heart
Will be yours forever
This is a beautiful start
To a lifelong love letter" --Sara Bareilles, "I Choose You"

Sigh. Love this little song and its simple joy, optimism, and faith. And I heard it at just the right time today.

Monday, April 3, 2017

An apt description...

3 April 2017: "He's so aggressively's annoying." --a student in my ENGL 204 class today, discussing Stanley and Blanche's first interaction in A Streetcar Named Desire.

I teach this play every time I teach ENGL 204 (and that's a lot!). It's hard to get students to articulate right away what's so unsettling about this character (and shout out to the film version, which is so amazing and helps make the point). But this kid got it and said it very well. I even quoted her in the afternoon class and was delighted to see a bunch of students in that section nod their heads in agreement.

Sunday, April 2, 2017

It's back!

2 April 2017: "No one is every as alone as they imagine." --"Older Jenny," narrating tonight's episode of Call the Midwife.

Lord, how I love this show. And this particular line stuck out to me on a Sunday night, a night where I tend to feel a bit lonely. But today was also a good day in other ways, one that I spent around some people who mean a lot to me. So's good to remember those words above for those moments when I might feel a bit blue.

Saturday, April 1, 2017

New dance move...

1 April 2017: "It's a Juicy Drop Pop." --Brianna, one of the two students who went to Louisville with me, on our trip home today, telling us about this ridiculous candy thing she got when we stopped for gas. To me, this sounded like a dance move more than something you eat, so I requested that she and/or the other students in Sigma Tau Delta develop such a dance move. We shall see...

Otherwise, we are home safe and sound after a good trip. Glad to have it in the rear view mirror, but even more glad that everything went well.

Friday, March 31, 2017

Full day of convention-ing...

31 March 2017: "A kind of guerrilla feminst..." --Student at a session today, discussing Rebecca Harding Davis. I really loved this idea and the images it brings with it.

It's been a good day at the Sigma Tau Delta Convention, and a day that has given me lots of time to embrace this year's blog theme and just listen. The students here are so bright and energetic and have so much to say. And they are worth listening to. I could have listed any half dozen smart lines like the one above. I just picked that one because it came early--during an 8:00 a.m. session. If these students are representative of what English departments across the country are putting out there, then we can feel pretty good about ourselves.

Of course, I am a bit biased about two of the best: these fabulous Shepherd students and my travel companions.

Thursday, March 30, 2017

Off to Louisville...

30 March 2017: "I want a biscuit!" --Julia, one of my Sigma Tau Delta students, voicing her opinion for our lunch stop today. I am currently in Louisville, Kentucky with Julia and another student, Brianna, for the Sigma Tau Delta Convention. That meant spending most of today in the car driving here. But at long last, I finally experienced a West Virginia delicacy: lunch at Tudor's Biscuit World. And yes, it was very good.

These two students are a lot of fun: funny, smart, and sweet. I mean, think about it: we were in the car with each other for over nine hours and I wasn't tired of them. (Not sure that goes both ways!)

Wednesday, March 29, 2017


29 March 2017: "The response rate today? 8%." --Dr. Slocum-Schaffer, discussing the response rate for political polls today versus the 1970s, when the number was 80%, at today's Teach-In on fake news and polling, sponsored by the Political Science department. Just in case you *never* wanted to trust a poll again...

And a runner-up entry for today's "listening" post: "I feel like I should write 'I don't know what I am talking about' in the header to my Deconstruction paper." --a student in my ENGL 301 class. So I had to intervene on that one. Ha.

Tuesday, March 28, 2017

"Where the Streets Have No Name"

28 March 2017:
"I wanna run, I want to hide
I wanna tear down the walls
That hold me inside.
I wanna reach out
And touch the flame
Where the streets have no name." --U2, "Where the Streets Have No Name"

Heard this song, which I've always loved, at just the right time today--at a moment when I was feeling incredibly overwhelmed. It's been a strange day, with emotions all over the place, but this song lifted me when I needed it to.

Monday, March 27, 2017

When it gets meta...

27 March 2017: "I mean, I might be way off...but I think the space represents silence." --a student in my ENGL 307 class today, as we discussed Brown Girl Dreaming, specifically a poem called "How to Listen: #10."

The "How to Listen" poems are all haiku form, and all interesting as we read about how the main character becomes a writer. This last one is different from the others as there is a gap between the second and third lines:

"Write down what I think
I know. The knowing will come.

Just keep listening."

The student who shared the observation above is one of the more quiet ones in the class. And she was sort of slow to raise her hand here and even a bit reluctant to share her idea. But her comment is so insightful: leaving space for silence is a key part of listening.

Sunday, March 26, 2017

One last NEMLA session...

26 March 2017: "[These films] demand that the dispossessed deserve a hearing." --a speaker on the last panel I attended at NEMLA, this one on horror films. This speaker looked at movies like Sinister, Amityville Horror, and The Haunting in Connecticut 2 and argued that they demonstrate guilt over landownership and possession, both of which are based on dispossession of someone else. Terrific paper. Terrific panel.

Saturday, March 25, 2017

Hamilton at NEMLA

25 March 2017: "['My Shot'] is coded as both opportunity and violence." --a presenter discussing Hamilton at a session all about the musical that I attended at the NEMLA Convention in Baltimore today. I am probably not getting the quotation right, but this particular presentation, about hip-hop and history in the play was amazing. I could have talked with the presenter for hours.

Friday, March 24, 2017

The things you learn...

24 March 2017: "It felt very sneaky...I have fond memories of hiding things from my grandparents." --a student in my ENGL 307 class today, discussing how, when she was little, her family hid the fact that the kids went trick-or-treating from her grandparents. (They disapproved for religious reasons.)

This made me laugh--and it did have some context, as we discussed Brown Girl Dreaming and the little girl's Jehovah's Witness upbringing. It's always neat to see the ways students connect with material.

Thursday, March 23, 2017

"TV Typos: Part Tw"

23 March 2017:

Clue: "Well kids, I reckon it was like this: before your Aunt Robin came along, your mom and I were in the Donner Party and one thing led to another..."

Answer: "How I Et Your Mother???" --Game Time on this week's Extra Hot Great.

Man, the Game Time on this week's Extra Hot Great was terrific. Made me laugh my head off. This week's game involved guessing a TV show title from a description of what that show would be if one letter in the title was changed.

Wednesday, March 22, 2017


22 March 2017:
"I like cartoons, southern cities with large moons
Faith healers, ex-female drug dealers and art booms
Apologize for my weird mix
What taste like hot dogs and tear drips
And looks like pantomime and clear bricks." --Lupe Fiasco, "Mural"

Look, I never heard of Lupe Fiasco before today, but a student I am really fond of mentioned him today (he's crazy about the guy) and I told him I would check out this song. It's not my usual taste, of course, but this is a heck of a song with some really impressive lyrics. Yeah, I am old and it's not written for me, but I am glad to have listened to it.

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

"All I Ever Wanted"

21 March 2017:

"In the middle of my life
it was right to say my desires
but they went away. I couldn’t even make them out,
not even as dots
now in the distance.
                                         Yet I see the small lights
of winter campfires in the hills—
teenagers in love often go there
for their first nights—and each yellow-white glow
tells me what I can know and admit to knowing,
that all I ever wanted
was to sit by a fire with someone
who wanted me in measure the same to my wanting.
To want to make a fire with someone,
with you,
was all." --Katie Ford, "All I Ever Wanted"

Love this so much it almost hurts. Listen to/read the whole thing here.

Monday, March 20, 2017

Proud sister...

20 March 2017: "What do we do and where do we go from here?" --my sister Erin, during her presentation at Shepherd today. Her question is an important one: in light of recent Supreme Court decisions on juvenile sentences, how do we move forward as a society?

And what a joy it was to see my sister shine in this venue. I mean, I knew she was smart and decent and kind, but to see her "do her thing" just made me so happy--even regarding such a vexed topic. She's amazing and I am lucky to call her my sister.

Sunday, March 19, 2017

"I'll Be Seeing You"

19 March 2017:

"I'll find you in the morning sun
And when the night is new
I'll be looking at the moon
But I'll be seeing you" --Billie Holiday, "I'll Be Seeing You"

Another day, another entry about a bittersweet love song. Maybe a bit of rut at this point, but it is what it is.

Saturday, March 18, 2017

"Mr. Jones"

18 March 2017:

“Mr. Jones and me stumbling through the Barrio
Yeah, we stare at the beautiful women
She's perfect for you
Man, there's got to be somebody for me
I wanna be Bob Dylan
Mr. Jones wishes he was someone just a little more funky
When everybody love you
Ah son, that's just about as funky as you can be…” –Counting Crows, “Mr. Jones”

I have always loved this song. It came on today while I was riding with my friend and, man, it just made me happy, even though the song itself is based just as much in sadness as in joy. But something about that was perfect for the moment, so I sang along and just felt the moment. And that was enough.

Friday, March 17, 2017


Bing is 15 today. Hard to believe. This little dude and I have been through a lot together and he makes my life better every day. And he still insists on jumping in a box or tote bag or whatever is available every time I clean the closet in my office. Every darn time.

Irish Pride...

17 March 2017: "And four decades before Lady Liberty lifted her lamp, we were the wretched refuse on the teeming shore. We believed in the shelter of America, in the compassion of America, in the opportunity of America. We came and we became Americans. We lived the words of John F. Kennedy long before he uttered them: We asked not what America can do for us, but what we could do for America. And we still do." --Irish Prime Minister Enda Kenny, doing some lovely explaining with Trump standing feet away. Watch the whole thing here.

Thursday, March 16, 2017

"I'm On Fire"

16 March 2017:

"At night I wake up with the sheets soaking wet
And a freight train running through the
Middle of my head
Only you can cool my desire
I'm on fire..." --Bruce Springsteen, "I'm On Fire"

I've always loved this song and then just tonight I heard this dreamy cover. Swoon.

(Yes, another romantic song, I know...)

Wednesday, March 15, 2017


15 March 2017:

"I never loved nobody fully
Always one foot on the ground
And by protecting my heart truly
I got lost in the sounds
I hear in my mind
All these voices
I hear in my mind
All of these words
I hear in mind
All this music
And it breaks my heart" --Regina Spektor, "Fidelity"

I've been on a song kick with these posts, I know. Blame the relative isolation that Spring Break and snow brings. I am spending lots of time in my own head...never a completely good thing. But, to put it simply, I am not talking with that many people these days. And yes, the posts have also pulled towards the romantic and wistful, but I am who I am and my mind has been preoccupied with such matters lately (for better or worse).

Incidentally, this song will always have a soft place in my heart for a bunch of reasons (including playing in a sweet romantic scene from Veronica Mars). My favorite reason, though, is that I had treated myself to the Begin to Hope, the album it appears on, right in the midst of the job search craziness of 2006/2007. And I loved this song. It was in heavy rotation. I remember getting back in my car at the Clarion Hotel in Shepherdstown, heading back down to Richmond after completing my interview at Shepherd. This song came on and I just sang along and smiled. I had a good feeling about that interview. And I was right.