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 ever 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.